The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal might be crying hoarse denying political patronage to Maninder Pal Johar alias Sunny, the main accused in the assault on AIG (counter-intelligence) SS Mand on December 24, but his alleged encroachment on over 1,000 square feet of government land worth crores belies the claims.
Presently housing the office of Goodwill Transport owned by Johar, the land along the Sidhwan Canal belongs to Ludhiana Municipal Corporation (LMC). However, scared of inviting the wrath of political masters, LMC authorities did not initiate action against Sunny Johar.
The Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT), which originally owned the land, had handed it over to the civic body more than a decade ago.
Interestingly, while replying to a RTI query of activist Col Jagdish Brar (retd) the MC authorities maintained that the encroached land belonged to irrigation department. However, documents procured by Col Brar verify that the land falls under green belt cover and was in possession of the MC.
Assistant Town Planner (ATP) SS Bindra, in his reply to the RTI applicant, instead of referring to the said land as encroachment by Goodwill Transport dubbed it 'jhuggi jhopris' (shanties). Significantly, land adjoining the office of Goodwill Transport has been encroached by slum-dwellers.
Johar has also been accused of 'usurping" a community centre in BRS Nagar. Despite complaints from joint action committee formed on the matter by area residents, the district administration has done nothing but conduct inquiries.
"Election of a new team of BRS Nagar East Welfare Society office-bearers was scheduled in 2006, but it was not held and some influential area people declared Sunny Johar its president," alleged Col Brar.
Thereafter, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal gave funds to the then area councillor during 'sangat darshan' programme in 2008 for the renovation of the community centre. "Little was spent on renovation in 2009 and the bulk of fund was bungled," he claimed.
The joint action committee submitted a complaint to Ludhiana deputy commissioner Rahul Tewari in July 2011 on the missing details of utilisation of Rs. 50 lakh grant by the "self-proclaimed" welfare society. The complainants also pointed towards dubious role of LMC officials who did not monitor use of funds for renovation.
The complaint also pointed out that area residents were allegedly not allowed to use the community centre and that Sunny Johar was instead using it for holding marriage parties and other private functions. "He was charging hefty amounts for letting out the community centre for private functions. Neither corporation authorities nor the district administration moved an inch to act against Sunny Johar," Col Brar alleged.
It is pertinent to mention here that Seattle-based NRI Hardial Singh Hundal has claimed that Sunny Johar had taken illegal possession of his house in Ghumar Mandi and demolished it to construct a restobar 'The Hub'.