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Illegal mining in Moga village: Punjab to recover Rs 65 lakh from sarpanch, panchayat secretary

An HT team that visited the village on Saturday found bare, hollowed-out and scarred landscape on the land in question.

punjab Updated: Feb 25, 2018 20:58 IST
Gagandeep Jassowal
Gagandeep Jassowal
Hindustan Times, Moga
Illegal mining,moga,Punjab
Swaran Singh, a local farmer, showing the scarred landscape after the illegal mining near Janer village in Moga district.(HT Photo)

Three months after a state government inquiry indicted Janer village sarpanch, Malwinder Singh, and panchayat secretary, Harcharan Singh, of misusing their position and allowing illegal mining on 21 acre of panchayat land, the state government has moved to recover the loss of Rs 65 lakh caused to the exchequer from the duo.

The inquiry had found illegal mining to be rampant during 2014-16 in the village, which is just 7km from the district headquarters. The inquiry was started in October 2017 after the general manager-cum-mining officer gave his assessment that illegal mining was taking place on the panchayat land. An HT team that visited the village on Saturday found bare, hollowed-out and scarred landscape on the land in question.

The inquiry report had also raised concern over the role of the then BDPO, Jagir Singh, in the illegality for alleged negligence.

Now, in the first week of February, Moga deputy commissioner Dilraj Singh has written to director, rural development and panchayat department, to recover Rs 65 lakh loss to the state exchequer due to the illegal mining. He has also recommended legal action against the duo.

The inquiry committee comprised block development and panchayat officer (BDPO) Kot Isse Khan, Jagir Singh; patwari Nirvair Singh and Rajan Arora from the district industries department. They visited the panchayat land. Their inquiry also found that around 3,30,000-tonne of sand had been illegally mined from 21 acre of panchayat land during 2014-16 when the SAD-BJP government was in power.

The inquiry report had also raised concern over the role of the then BDPO, Jagir Singh, in the illegality for alleged negligence. Jagir is now retired. Sources claimed that the market rate of the illegally mined sand could be Rs 3 crore and if the stolen sand was used to make bricks, the loss to the exchequer could go up even further.

“Janer sarpanch had the political backing of an influential SAD leader. The state vigilance department must look into the matter,” alleged Barinder Singh of Janer, claiming to be the whistle-blower in the case. “I am being framed due to political vendetta. No illegal mining took place,” said sarpanch Malwinder. However, he was evasive when asked to explain that where did the sand from the panchayat land go?

Moga DC Dilraj Singh and director, rural development and panchayat department, Sibin C, did not respond to repeated calls. Punjab rural development and panchayat minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said, “I will look into the matter.”

First Published: Feb 25, 2018 10:19 IST