In what could be the tip of the iceberg in a multi-crore land scam, it has come to light that the Jalandhar Improvement Trust (JIT) "illegally" allotted two residential plots worth a total of Rs 1 crore to a "dead" person under the locally displaced person (LDP) category, and that too for peanuts. Within two months of allotment, these plots were hurriedly sold off, again "illegally".
Then JIT chairman and senior Akali leader Baljeet Singh Neelamahal allegedly allotted two plots of 250 square yards each in the posh Surya Enclave locality here to a local resident, Mewa Ram, even though the latter and Ram Lal Gupta, to whom the special power of attorney was given, died several years ago.
Balbir Singh and Pritam Singh, both Model Town residents, had jointly moved an application with the JIT on November 9, 2010, claiming that they had Gupta's special power of attorney (SPA), concealing the fact that the latter died in 1998. They submitted the SPA's photocopy and claimed that Ram was allotted plot No 39 in JP Nagar for being displaced during the land acquisition process to carve out this residential locality. Ram made Gupta his attorney through the SPA registered at New Delhi in 1959.
Since the plot's possession was not handed over to the allottee till date, the duo, on the deceased Gupta's "behalf", demanded the allotment of a new plot. The SPA's validity expires immediately with the death of the person who issues it. Though Gupta and Balbir were residents of Jalandhar, they preferred to get the SPA registered at Adampur, 20 km from here.
For obvious reasons, Neelamahal approved the duo's request without even asking the applicants to produce the original SPA and verifying whether Ram and Gupta were alive or not, alleged Ajay Sehgal, an RTI activist, who procured documents under the Right To Information (RTI) act to expose the scam.
Neelamahal asked JIT officials to seek public objections to the allotment of the new plot through newspaper notices. But the residential addresses of Ram and Gupta were not made public in these notices, probably to conceal their identities, Sehgal alleged, adding that nearly 100 plots were illegally allotted under the LDP category.
Within 42 days of moving the application, Balbir was handed over the allotment letter issued in Ram's favour for two plots (647-A and 668-A, Surya Enclave) for just Rs 73,353.
Instead of mentioning Ram's address, the allotment letter had Balbir's New Jawahar Nagar residential address, while Pritam's name was given a miss despite him being a joint applicant.
Officials later found plot number 668-A already allotted to someone else. Instead of cancelling that allotment, officials issued a clarification that plot number 668-A should be "read" as 670-A in the allotment letter. Then JIT chairman preferred to clear the file and subsequent proceedings thereof, despite then executive officer preferring not to sign several file notings in this regard. There was no policy to allot two plots to an LDP applicant, who is actually entitled to one plot only.
Balbir was later allowed to sell off these plots, as the chairman approved the same on March 11, 2011. Again, officials didn't verify whether Ram was alive, or whether his legal heirs had authorised Balbir to sell these plots.
Refuting the allegations, Neelamahal said his political opponents were trying to tarnish his image to spoil his chances for re-appointment as the JIT chairman. "The Gujarat high court had ruled that the SPA is valid even after the death of the person concerned. We followed all norms in this allotment," he said.
Suresh Kumar, principal secretary, local bodies department, said an inquiry would be conducted into the matter, following which appropriate action would be taken.