The probe conducted by the Punjab vigilance and anticorruption bureau into the multi-crore Hoshiarpur land scam has found the then Hoshiarpur subdivisional magistrate (SDM) to be its mastermind, who “misused his position to fudge, tamper with and fraudulently prepare revenue records to benefit Akali leaders and property dealers”.
SDM Anand Sagar Sharma, a Punjab Civil Services (PCS) officer, went to the extent of issuing compensation on commercial rates for agricultural land to benefit Akali leaders and property dealers where even the change of land use (CLU) was not applied, states the FIR registered against him and 12 others at the VB’s economic offences wing in Ludhiana on February 10. Being the SDM, Sharma was the nodal officer under the National Highway Authority of India Land Acquisition Act.
Sharma is at present the SDM of Gidderbaha, where he was transferred after HT exposed the scam in June last year. Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had constituted a three-member special investigation team (SIT) led by VB inspector general Shiv Kumar Verma for a probe.
In Khawaspur village, Sharma had issued compensation on commercial rates on the basis of verification conducted by a patwari, Daljeet Singh, who has also been named in the FIR registered after the SIT probe.
“In this case, the patwari was appointed to verify... after the owners (Akali leaders and land sharks) raised objection to the acquisition claiming that their land was not agricultural but residential area where plots have already been sold. But in the probe, the land was found to have no residential records. Tehsildars were not consulted in this process and the SDM issued direct verbal directions to patwaris,” reads the probe report mentioned in the FIR.
The SDM office, in fact, had no record of official directions issued to the patwaris. The verification letters issued by the patwaris, which were attached to the records, were also found without any date of issuance.
According to the FIR, an extra amount of Rs 23.19 crore was paid as compensation in only two villages — Khawaspur and Piplanwala — where the Akali leaders and other land sharks purchased the already notified land, in the names of their kin, from farmers at throwaway prices during the acquisition process.
The VB has booked 12 people, including Hoshiarpur market committee chairman Avtar Singh Johal, councillor Harpinder Gill, and district co-operative bank chairman Satwinder Pal Singh Dhatt and “land sharks” Devi Ram, Jaswinder Pal Singh and Prateek Gupta, besides the SDM. They are facing charges of criminal breach of trust, cheating, forgery, and criminal conspiracy besides under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
AAP CANDIDATE GOT HEFTY COMPENSATION
The VB probe also found the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Hoshiarpur, Paramjit Sachdeva, received a hefty compensation for acquisition of agricultural land that was shown as commercial in records.
Sachdeva, a property dealer, had bought the land before the final notification for acquisition, and later moved an application stating it was an agricultural land. The AAP candidate has been let-off in the FIR.