The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Vigilance Bureau (VB) probing the alleged ‘procedural lapses’ in the land acquisition for the Jalandhar-Chintpurni national highway, visited the affected villages on Friday.
The three-member team led by its chief Shiv Kumar Verma (DIG, VB) visited Piplanwala village, where, as reported by the HT through a series of reports, notified land for the road project was sold by SAD-BJP leaders by allegedly showing it as residential colony to pocket higher compensation.
After Hindustan Times highlighted the scam, the chief minister constituted the SIT on June 24.
Sources said many villagers complained that before the start of the acquisition process, a few property dealers led by local SAD leaders had come and convinced them to sell the land. The team also recorded statements of revenue officials involved in the process of registries of the notified land in the name of ‘land sharks’.
“Prima facie, some procedural lapses have been found. But only records will reveal if any loss to exchequer has occurred or not,” disclosed an SIT member on the condition of anonymity.
On June 25, the SIT had raided offices of the Hoshiarpur SDM and revenue department and sealed the records pertaining to the scam. “We asked the villagers to lodge complaints with us if they have any grievances relating to the acquisition. The probe will be completed in six weeks,” said the DIG (VB) Verma.
Former SDM to be summoned
Sources in the SIT confirmed that after analysing the records over the next few days, the then Hoshiarpur SDM, Anand Sagar Sharma, who after the expose was transferred, may be questioned as the entire acquisition was conducted by him. Sharma is now the Gidderbaha SDM.
Yardsticks differ in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur
The latest documents procured by RTI activist and whistle- blower in the case, Rajiv Vashisht, have revealed that the Hoshiarpur SDM and Jalandhar SDM-1 (who conducted land acquisition in the road stretch falling in this district) adopted different yardsticks for compensation to the land owners.
As per the acquisition Act, 10% interest is paid to the owners on the compensation amount from the date of first notification done to acquire the land. This interest is paid as the payments generally get delayed.
In Jalandhar, the interest was paid on the market value of the land, whereas in Hoshiarpur, the interest was paid on the compensation amount. “In Hoshiarpur, the compensation cost `10 crore more as interest was paid on the total compensation amount,” said Vashisht.