Within nine days of Hindustan Times' complaint to the Vigilance Bureau (VB) regarding land mafia allegedly encroaching upon government land estimated to be worth Rs. 2.5 crores, the district administration and Jalandhar Municipal Corporation (MC) finally came out of long slumber to demolish seven shops and residential buildings illegally being built on the public property here on Thursday morning.
The administration team led by nail tehsildar Parveen Chibber formally took over the possession of nearly 38 marlas of government land in Sanjay Gandhi Nagar on Jalandhar-Amritsar national highway after MC team razed illegal structures to the earth.
After VB's recent initiative to introduce toll free number 1800-1800-1000 for registration of telephonic complaints with regard to corruption in government offices, this correspondent used the facility to lodge complaint against municipal corporation and revenue officials for allegedly conniving with the land mafia to usurp government land worth Rs. 2.5 crores.
“Though the local media in Jalandhar city had been reporting for the past nearly a month to highlight issue of seven shops being built on the government land in an illegal manner and sale of residential plots carved out of public property, but the officials concerned had miserably failed to act for obvious reasons. Even the formal complaints of the BJP councillor Kishan Kochar Minta submitted to the MC officials against illegal shops failed to evoke the response as per the law. The VB should inquire into the role of the officials concerned and take suitable legal action against them while making arrangements to save government property from being usurped,” the complainant demanded.
The VB official recorded the statement and told that the SSP of the economic offence wing at Jalandhar would contact him for further initiating the investigations to unveil the land scam. On January 29, the VB sleuths in Jalandhar contacted this reporter, who got his statement recorded in this regard. The VB sleuths, subsequently, visited the spot and photographed the illegal structures at Sanjay Gandhi Nagar.
On January 30, HT informed the deputy commissioner Shruti Singh that a VB complaint had been lodged against revenue officials for deliberately turning a blind eye towards encroachment on government property worth crores of rupees and not taking possession by removing the illegal entities. She said that the MC Commissioner Vinay Bublani had already been ordered to remove these encroachments but the civic body was yet to implement the same.
Bublani too was informed about initiation of inquiry by the VB sleuths on role of MC officials in conniving with the land mafia. He clarified that the civic body had demolished illegal structures some months back and a report was submitted to the DC office for taking possession of the land. “But the civil officials did not care to take over the possession and some unknown persons had again encroached upon the same chunk of land. We are under process to demolish illegal structures,” Bublani had said.
On January 31 morning, the administration and civic body started a joint operation to demolish seven shops, a house and boundary walls of several plots carved out of government land.
Interestingly, the naib tehsildar Parveen Chibber did not prefer to set up a warning board on the site to declare that this is a government property and trespassers would be prosecuted.
Besides, the civil officials fail to make a boundary wall or fix barbed wire around the boundary to ensure that the public property should not be encroached upon again. SDM Iqbal Singh said that the warning board and barbed wire would be affixed positively by tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the VB sleuths had recorded the statements of the residents of the colony and other witnesses. “We will submit the report about corrupt practices to the head office tomorrow,” sources said.
A renowned city builder had allegedly purchased the government land after paying the illegal occupants a sum of Rs. 90 lakhs in the recent past. Besides, the builder allegedly got favour from a ruling party MLA to ensure that the civic body should not take punitive action on his commercial project. He started construction of seven shops and carved out residential plots measuring over 2 marlas each. Initially, the area councillor lodged complaint with the civic body about illegal construction of shops.
The matter was duly highlighted by the local media. The city mayor Sunil Jyoti however told the media persons that the chief vigilance officer of the local bodies department had been conducting a probe in this regard and requisite action would be initiated after receiving the report. Interestingly, construction work was meanwhile allowed to continue.
Though area councillor later preferred not to pursue the matter, a BJP councillor, Kishan Kochar Minta, a close aide of the former local bodies minister Manoranjan Kalia, took the command to lodge a formal complaint with MC in this regard. He pursued the matter in media as well throughout the month, but of no avail. Jyoti is a close associate of the chief parliamentary secretary KD Bhandari, who is a political opponent of Kalia.
The senior officials finally ducked the political pressure and planned to demolish illegal shops and residences on Wednesday evening soon after they learnt about the ongoing VB probe.