Starting a formal investigation into the multi-crore-rupee land-acquisition scam, a special investigating team (SIT) of Punjab Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau on Thursday took the relevant record into its custody.
Led by Jalandhar superintendent of police Praveen Kanda, the SIT came to the office of the subdivisional magistrate (SDM) in the evening to collect the documents. Formed a day ago, the squad includes deputy inspector general (DIG) of police (vigilance, Chandigarh) Shiv Kumar Verma and Ludhiana senior superintendent of police (vigilance) Rupinder Singh. HT had reported how the land notified to be acquired for a four-laning project on the Hoshiarpur-Jalandhar road was sold cheap to influential people, who had then sold it off to the government for an inflated compensation.
The beneficiaries, including some leaders of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), made a killing in the deal. Suspecting the collusion of some officials, the state government had transferred Hoshiarpur’s SDM, tehsildar, and naib tehsildar and ordered a vigilance inquiry that the SIT has been asked to complete in six weeks.
Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal was in town when the SIT gathered the record. On his way back to Jalandhar, he probably had a look at the controversial site. Interacting with the media earlier, he ruled out handing over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and asked the opposition parties to wait for the vigilance report. SAD leaders Satwinder Pal Singh Dhatt and Avtar Singh Johal, who are alleged to be involved in the land deal, were present on stage when the question was put to the deputy CM during a ‘sangat darshan’ (public contact) programme at Mangarh village.