Chandigarh : Punjab Rural Development and Panchayat Minister S. Laljit Singh Bhullar, on Friday, exposed a scam of about Rs.121 crore in the department. Taking strong exception of the scam, the minister directed the officials to immediately charge-sheet around dozen officials of the Rural Development and Panchayat Department along with six sarpanchs. He also instructed to hand over the further probe to the Vigilance Bureau.
The Cabinet Minister categorically said that the zero-tolerance policy against corruption adopted by Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann’s government led to unearth the biggest scam in the Rural Development and Panchayat department.
- Laljit Singh Bhullar said that panchayats of Village Salempur, Sekhewal, Selkiana, Bounkar Gujran, Kadiana Khurd and Dhanansu of Block Ludhiana-2, have received an award of Rs.252.94 crore after the acquisition of hundreds of acres of Panchayat land of these villages, but Rs.120.87 crore were withdrawn from this amount with the connivance of some corrupt officers and employees of the department along with sarpanchs.
The Rural Development and Panchayat Minister said that when the matter came to his notice, he immediately ordered a thorough probe into the matter and an investigation team was formed under the supervision of a Joint Director level officer.
The Cabinet Minister informed that the investigation revealed that with the mutual collusion, Block Development and Panchayat Officers (BDPOs), Panchayat Secretaries and sarpanchs have withdrawn Rs.120.87 crores from the fixed deposit (FD) at their own level and the amount was spent without administrative & technical approvals of the department, whereas the policy and guidelines issued by the department, bound the village Panchayat to deposit the award money of acquisition of its land, in the State Bank of India as Fixed Deposit. No one has any right to withdraw such FD without the approval of the government. He informed that only the interest received from this FD can be spent on development works of the village after taking administrative and technical approval with the advice of technical officials.
The Minister said that it is crystal clear in the departmental instructions that if any officer/employee or sarpanch will spend such amount without the approval of the government, such amount will be declared as ineligible expenditure and the amount will be recovered from concerned officer/employee/sarpanch.
- Bhullar informed that a total 299 acres land of in village Dhanansu was acquired and the panchayat received Rs.104.54 crore as award money, of which Rs.61.23 crore was spent without departmental approval. Whereas Sekhewal panchayat spent Rs.29.50 crore out of total Rs.64.82 crore received as award money for the acquired 81 acres of land. Village Salempur was received Rs.5.63 crore for 86 acres of land acquired, of which Rs.1.53 crore was spent. Similarly, Rs.42.56 crores award money was given for the 416 acres of land acquired in village Kadiana Khurd, of which the Panchayat spent Rs.3.36 crores without departmental approval, while village Bounkar Gujran panchayat withdrew Rs.25.25 crores out of total Rs.31.63 crores received as award money for 27 acres land acquired. He said that out of the total Rs.3.76 crore award money received by the village Selkiana panchayat, the record regarding the amount spent without approval is yet to come.
The Cabinet Minister categorically said that about 58 houses were built without any departmental policy and approval by village Dhanansu panchayat and no record was furnished in this regard.
While asking for strict action against the accused as per the preliminary investigation, S. Laljit Singh Bhullar directed the higher officials of the department to immediately charge-sheet BDPO Rupinderjit Kaur, Gurpreet Singh, Gurpreet Singh Mangat and Simrat Kaur, Panchayat Secretary Gurmail Singh (now retired), Harpal Singh Randhawa, Bagga Singh, Jashandeep Chandel, Harpal Singh Sahjomajra and Harjit Singh Malhotra and Sarpanch Dhanansu Sudagar Singh, Sarpanch Salempur Neha, Sarpanch Sekhewal Amrik Kaur, Sarpanch Bounkar Gujran Mukhtiar Singh, Officiating Panch Bounkar Gujran Gurcharan Singh, Sarpanch Selkiana Harpreet Kaur and Sarpanch Kadiana Khurd Rajinder Kaur.
While directing the officials to hand over the further investigation to the Vigilance Bureau, the Minister said that the process of recovering the money spent without departmental approval from the accused officials and Sarpanchs, has been initiated.
The Cabinet Minister also directed to blacklist four private banks, including HDFC Bank, Yes Bank, Equitas Bank and Axis Bank, which did not cooperate during the investigation. He said that the award money of these panchayats was deposited in the branches of these banks, but the bank managers did not cooperate with the investigative team and also reluctant to provide the records. The Minister directed the officials to immediately withdraw funds from these banks and deposit the same in the bank prescribed as per the guidelines and write to the concerned DGM for action against the bank managers.