After extensive reportage by Hindustan Times on revenue collectors failing to collect rent of 159 shops allotted by the panchayat samitis in Moga, the authorities have finally taken an action after the non-collection of rent has cost over Rs 1.25 crore to the state exchequer.
According to a source in panchayat department, the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Moga Surinder Kaur summoned both the block development and panchayat officers (BDPOs) of Moga-1 and Moga-2 in her office on Monday, along with all the records. The concerned BDPOs are Kirpal Singh of Moga-1 and Charanjit Kaur of Moga-2.
The shops, owned by the panchayat samitis, and given on lease to businesspersons for commercial development, are located at prime locations near the bus stand and in major markets. Due to the negligence on the part of the authorities, the shopkeepers have not been paying rent for past many years.
Finding irregularities in the collection of rent, the district development and panchayat officer (DDPO) had also taken up the matter with the director of the state rural development and panchayat department, stating that employees of the panchayat samitis had not been collecting the outstanding rent arrears worth Rs 1.25 crore of the shops given on lease for a long time.
According to two letters issued by DDPO earlier this year, a copy of which is with HT, the officer had further pointed out that even if the rent of some shops was being collected, it was not going to the state exchequer, but only finding its way into the pockets of employees of panchayat samitis.
In the two letters regarding 90 shops in Moga-1 and 69 shops in Moga-2 samiti division, the DDPO had sought the setting up of a special investigation team (SIT) to inquire into the matter.
The concerned authorities failed to take cognisance of the DDPO’s letters.
The sources said that DC Kuldeep Vaid had demanded all details regarding the pending rents of all the shops, after which officials of the Moga-2 panchayat samiti came up with details but Moga-1 officials did not follow suit.
They said that after repeatedly reminding the Moga-1 authorities that DC had been demanding records of shops, they failed to come up with records, saying that they do not have any record with them. They also said the deputed rent collectors rake in the rent from the tenants but the money did not find its way to the state exchequer.
SDM Surinder Kaur, when contacted, has confirmed that she has summoned both the BDPOs in her office along with all the details of shops.
“After getting records, I will go through it and then further action will be decided,” she said.
Rent not revised
Officials said that the rent had never been revised by the department. “It has also been learnt that original leaseholders have further sublet their shops and milking huge rent amounts,” officials said. Meanwhile, the rent of the shops is still the same that was decided decades ago and ranges between Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 a shop.