Ghost of discretionary grants haunts Gabria
The second consecutive report submitted by the three-member panel constituted under district development and panchayat officer (DDPO), Ludhiana, confirmed embezzlement of funds in the discretionary grants distributed by senior Akali leader Hira Singh Gabria, now the chairman of the Ludhiana District Planning Committee, during his tenure as a cabinet minister from 2007 to 2012.
Of the Rs 8 crore grant disbursed by Gabria, Rs 5 crore was paid out in Ludhiana alone. Additional deputy commissioner (development), Ludhiana, Supreet Gulati submitted the report to the director, rural development and panchayats, in May 2015 but no action has been initiated to date. Another probe conducted two years ago had indicted Gabria for gross misuse of discretionary grants. However, the Punjab vigilance bureau has not registered a first information report (FIR) against the Akali leader despite having evidence.
INQUIRY MARKED IN 2013
A Ludhiana-based right to information (RTI) activist had filed a complaint with the vigilance bureau after HT exposed misappropriation of funds by Gabria in November 2012. However, the vigilance bureau didn't respond to the online complaint for three months. HT persistently followed the case following which the vigilance bureau marked an inquiry to the rural development and panchayat department, Punjab, in February 2013 from where it was sent to the district development and panchayat officer, Ludhiana.
A three-member inquiry panel was constituted by the then DDPO, Amandeep Singh Bains, in September 2013 and the report was submitted within a month to the deputy director (rural development). However, the deputy director marked an objection stating that the panel should give details of embezzlement and submit a fresh report. The vigilance department also sent four demi-official letters to the rural development department in 2014, but to no avail.
It has been alleged that some of the grants were received by Gabria's personal assistant Mohan Singh Goga and his wife Kulwinder Kaur, representing two organisations.
REPORT SENT TO DEPUTY CM
As the authorities failed to take action on the second report carrying details of embezzlement by the inquiry panel, RTI activist Khaira forwarded it to the vigilance bureau and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal in the last week of May. Khaira received a reply from the deputy CM's office on July 17 stating that a demi-official letter had been sent on July 14 from the office of the joint secretary, vigilance, to director, vigilance bureau, Punjab, V Nirja to take immediate action on the complaint and apprise him about the same.