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Scam unearthed in purchase of land by Mohali panchayat

A scam has also been unearthed in the purchase of 6,700 sq yard commercial land by the Jhiurheri panchayat at Sanauli village in Zirakpur for Rs 10.11 crore.

punjab Updated: Aug 31, 2017 11:55 IST
Vishal Rambani
Vishal Rambani
Hindustan Times, Patiala
Scam unearthed,purchase of land,Mohali panchayat
The market rate of the land in question was between Rs 15 lakh to Rs 17 lakh per acre.(Representative image )

At a time when the real estate sector was all-time low and developers were struggling to sell land, the panchayat of Jhiurheri village of Mohali purchased 36-acre agricultural land by spending a whopping sum of Rs 23.76 crore at a rate of Rs 55 lakh per acre against the prevailing collector’s rate of Rs 9.77 lakh.

Even the market rate of the land in question was between Rs 15 lakh to Rs 17 lakh per acre.

A scam has also been unearthed in the purchase of 6,700 sq yard commercial land by the Jhiurheri panchayat at Sanauli village in Zirakpur for Rs 10.11 crore.

An inquiry into the utilisation of Rs 54 crore received by the Jhiurheri panchyat for acquisition of land for Mohali airport has unearthed the scam wherein several officials of the rural development and panchayats department have been indicted for siphoning off funds, which the panchayat had got for acquisition of land for the Mohali airport. The inquiry was initiated after MLA Balbir Singh had raised a question in the Vidhan Sabha in this regard.

After the initial inquiry, Anurag Verma, secretary, rural development and panchayats, has recommended a vigilance probe in the matter, apart from initiating a departmental action against the erring officers.

Those indicted include Malvinder Singh, a block development and panchyat officer (BDPO), who was earlier booked in a MNREGA scam in Patiala, exposed by Hindustan Times.

The others, who were indicted by the probe, are village development organiser (VDO) Ravinder Singh and sarpanch Gurpal Singh. The then district development and panchyat officer (DDPO) Gurvinder Singh Sarao is also in the dock, as he overstepped his jurisdiction to ‘allow’ panchayat to spend Rs 25 crore on purchase of land, even though such power is vested with the director or secretary-level officer.

“I have submitted the report to the minister, while recommending an FIR by the vigilance bureau and a through probe. Many more skeletons will tumble out during the investigation by the vigilance,” said Anurag Verma.

Fatehgarh Sahib deputy commissioner Kamalpreet Kaur Brar, who visited the villages Karimpura and Kandipur in tehsil Bassi Pathana, where the land was purchased, in her report to Verma, said, “The gram panchayat in league with officials has purchased 36 acres of land at Rs 54 lakh per acre, while the prevailing collector rate is 9.77 lakh.”

“Going by the prevailing market prices, the land is easily available at Rs 15 lakh to Rs 17 lakh per acre. For this purchase at an exorbitant rate, BDPO Malwinder, along with the VDO and the sarpanch, is responsible.”

Similarly, Dera Bassi SDM, in a report, said the land was purchased at Sanauli at a rate higher than the prevailing market rate, and that too from such a land chunk which was ‘Sanjha Khaata’ (joint land of several owners), and arbitrary payments were made without knowing the names of proper land owners. The report also held the department officials responsible for this purchase.

Director, rural development and panchayats, C Siban said the land was purchased without the permission from the government. Usually, a committee headed by ADC (development), comprising DDPO, BDPO, Tehsildar and panchayat head, finalises a proposal and rate for purchase and sale of land and later the government gives permission in this regard. However, in this case, the DDPO had given ‘permission’ for spending Rs 25 crore for purchase of land.

“The land deals were fictitious and prices were inflated to pocket the money. A vigilance probe will unearth a bigger scam,” said an official privy to the probe.

First Published: Aug 31, 2017 11:54 IST