After a year-long probe, the Punjab vigilance bureau (VB) has finally identified government officials who either connived with the mining mafia or turned a blind eye to the plunder of 95 acres of Jodhwal village panchayat’s agricultural land in Ludhiana district for the past more than a decade.
The VB’s special investigation team (SIT), formed in September 2014, submitted its final probe report in November 2015 to chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal, recommending the registration of an FIR against eight officials of the mining wing and the departments of industries, revenue, rural development and panchayats, and power, besides 42 alleged members of the mining mafia, including more than 10 mining contractors of Ludhiana.
The officials to be named in the FIR are deputy director, industries department, Vishav Bandhu; block development and panchayat officer (BDPO) Rana Partap Singh; tehsildar Surinder Singh; Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) sub-divisional officer (SDO) Prem Singh; and four others, VB sources told HT.
When contacted, secretary, vigilance, Vivek Pratap Singh confirmed the development. He said the FIR would be lodged as soon as he returned from leave next week after getting the go-ahead from the chief secretary.
“It (illegal mining) is a very serious issue and we do not want members of the mining mafia to go scot-free. The probe report has been revised by VB officials to ensure that all accused are named in the FIR,” the secretary, vigilance, said.
The main accused among the 42 others involved in illegal mining or illegal mutation of plundered panchayati land include Ludhiana-based mining contractor Puneet Joshi, Jodhwal village residents Balbhadar Singh, Balraj Singh, Krishan Singh, Darshan Singh, Channan Singh and Prem Singh, and 18 persons from adjoining Issapur village.
The SIT that conducted the probe was headed by Ludhiana VB senior superintendent of police (SSP) Satinder Singh, who is presently posted in Jalandhar. It was in June 2014 that then VB chief director Suresh Arora had initiated the process to identify the officials behind illegal sale deeds of Jodhwal village common land and the mining activity there. The SIT was notified in September 2014 and given two months to complete the probe, but its members kept seeking extension, citing issues such as non-cooperation of the accused and time needed for the scrutiny of old revenue records related to the land.
Whistle-blower Lakhveer Singh Rana of Jodhwal village had been raising the issue of illegal mutation of panchayati land and its plunder by the mining mafia since 2005. In an assault in October 2012, he suffered fractures in the legs and right arm. Rana had also been seeking timely completion of the VB probe.
Before the VB set up the SIT, then Ludhiana additional deputy commissioner (development) Rishi Pal had come out with a preliminary report in October 2012, indicating that officials aided land-grabbers and ignored illegal mining.