Amritsar panchayat land ‘scam’ Probe panel that Dhaliwal formed questions Bajwa’s intention, pegs loss at 1 crore

A three-member team that Panchayat and Rural Development Minister Kuldeep Dhaliwal had formed to probe into the alleged scam of handing over prime panchayat land to a “coloniser” by his predecessor Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa at throwaway rates has questioned the Congress leader’s intentions even as it drastically reduced the worth of the scam, it has been learnt.

While Dhaliwal had alleged that Congress leader Bajwa’s move of “unethically” approving the transfer of land at a time when the model code of conduct was in force in Punjab had led to a loss of 28 crore to the exchequer. In stark contrast, a report prepared by the probe team that Daliwal Thursday handed over to Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has pegged the loss at not even Rs 1 crore.

The report has been prepared by assistant development commissioner Amit Kumar, assistant director rural development Sarabjit Singh and senior law officer Joharinder Singh Ahluwalia. The minister had announced the formation of the probe panel on June 11. The same day he had alleged that as Panchayat Minister, Bajwa had illegally allowed the sale of waterways and pathways in Bhagtupura village of Amritsar even though model code of conduct was in force.

The letter for this permission was issued on March 11, the day the then Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi-led Cabinet was dismissed following Congress loss in the Punjab Assembly election,the results of which were declared on March 10. The registration of the panchayat land was done on April 19, Dhaliwal had said.

The minister alleged that waterways and pathways were being considered as a hindrance in setting up of Alpha International City Colony, a private project spread over 150 acres adjacent to Amritsar City. Dhaliwal alleged that Bajwa had connived with the coloniser to sell the waterways and pathways at Rs 43 lakh per acre while its market value was 7.5 crore per acre.

The waterways and pathways constituted 32 kanal and 16 marla land. Dhaliwal had alleged that due to the permission granted by Bajwa, the state exchequer suffered a loss of Rs 28 crore.

Ironically, a month before he levelled the allegation, Dhaliwal had found noting wrong in the land sale.

When asked about alleged scam, Dhaliwal on May 14 had told reporters in Amritsar that it had come to his notice that land of gram panchayat Bhaktupura in the area of residential colony Alpha City had been sold at cheap rates.

“The case has been investigated by me and it has come out that the 41 Kanal 10 Marla land had been sold at the rate of Rs 43 lakh per acre by the gram panchayat only after approval from the government. All the action in this regard was done by the previous government. The revenue generated after selling the land has been deposited as FD (fixed deposit) in the name of the gram panchayat…the gram panchayat can only use the interest on this amount,” Dhaliwal had then said.

Bajwa, on the other hand, has denied any wrongdoing.

Talking to The Indian Express, Bajwa said due process was followed in carrying out the deal. “The deputy commissioner had all the rights to decide on which price land would be sold. The new DC in AAP government has fixed the price of same land at Rs 47 lakh per acre. So where is the corruption or wrongdoing? These are baseless allegations. Dhaliwal is just indulging in political vendetta against me. He had contested elections against me in 2012 also. There is nothing more than political rivalry in this issue. Let them take some action (against me) and then I will make my move. Initially, Dhaliwal had himself given clean chit in this case. Later he made the U-turn,” said Bajwa.

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