Punjab’s rural development secretary SR Ladhar has discovered a new way of earning money and, perhaps, some fame. Field officers of his department have been asked by him, orally, to sell two copies each of his book — autobiography-cum-memoirs in Punjabi — to all 13,040 panchayats of the state.
The book, entitled ‘Sherni da Dudh’ or Lioness’ Milk, is priced at Rs 150. On its back cover, it says the book starts “a new genre of writing in Punjabi”. If each elected village body buys two copies, Ladhar, 58, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Punjab cadre, would garner Rs 39 lakh. All district development and panchayat officers (DDPOs), who have got the directions, are yet to receive the copies, but have already conveyed to block officers to sell these to the sarpanch or the panchayat secretary concerned.
At least one DDPO posted in a district of Malwa region has refused to follow the instructions, even as these have been made by Ladhar’s office and, in many cases, by the officer himself, sources said. At least six DDPOs from different districts contacted by HT confirmed, on the condition of anonymity, that they have been asked to sell the book that was released in January this year by former chief election commissioner of India SY Qureshi.
The book does not have any direct link with rural development, but is based on Ladhar’s personal experience in the government sector where he started his journey as a sub-divisional officer (SDO) and got to the IAS in 1991.
Ladhar, when contacted, denied having issued any orders regarding promotion of his book. “However, since my book has been a great hit, I have received a lot of queries from my department as well. Many officers have voluntarily decided to buy the book,” he said.
It’s not for the first time that the officer has reportedly misused authority to make personal monetary gains.
While posted as divisional commissioner in Jalandhar in 2006, Ladhar had charged fee for conducting arbitration in various cases of disputes between private parties and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) regarding land acquisition. He had gathered Rs 3 crore. In October 2012, after HT busted the scam and the matter reached the Punjab and Haryana high court, the state government asked Ladhar to return the money with interest. By August last, he was yet to return around Rs 1 crore.