Amritsar, June 11
Days after the arrest of former minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the AAP government accused former Congress minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa of wrongdoing and causing a loss of Rs 28 crore to the treasury nodding on the sale of panchayat land on the outskirts of the holy city just a day after his government lost assembly elections.
Speaking to the media here on Saturday, Rural Development Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal claimed that Tript had authorized the sale of panchayat land in Bhagtupura village on GT road at a time when the model code of conduct was in effect. .
Announcing an investigation into the sale of the land, the minister said the panchayat pathways and water channels created an obstacle to a nearby settlement, spread over 150 acres. He said a sarpanch from Akali came up with a sale resolution in 2015. The former Congress minister allegedly colluded with the colonizer and authorized the sale of trails and water canals at a measly Rs 43 lakh per acre, when the market rate was Rs 7.5 crore, he claimed, adding that he did not rule out the collusion of officials.
The minister said the canals and waterways together constituted 32 kanals and 16 marlas, adding that due to the sale, the government suffered a loss of Rs 28 crore. He claimed that Tript signed the brief on March 11, a day after Congress was defeated (March 10).
He said a three-member team, including Joint Development Commissioner Amit Kumar; Deputy Director of Rural Development Sarabjit Singh and Senior Legal Officer Joharinder Singh Ahluwalia are reportedly investigating the matter.
The minister said all settlements developed over the past 15 years would be reviewed and government channels cleared. The government had so far freed 5,500 acres of panchayat land from illegal occupation.
This is the same land on which allegations were made against Dhaliwal that he sold panchayat land. When the matter was investigated, during a preliminary inquiry, it became clear that the brief was signed by the former Congress minister, Dhaliwal said.
He pointed out that the 41-acre proposal was put forward in 2015 when the Akali government was in power. However, when the land was registered in March 2022, it was only 38 acres, resulting in a loss of Rs 28 crore for the government.
Former Minister of Rural Development and Panchayats, Tript Bajwa, at a press conference in the evening, denied the allegations. Calling it a diversionary tactic from the AAP government, he challenged Dhaliwal to reject the registry and sell the land on the open market. He added that the land could not even reach a price of Rs 10 crore.
He said the value of the land was set by a high-level committee that did not even include officials from his department.
He said it was wrong of Dhaliwal to say that the panchayat land must be sold within six months of the setting of the rate by the committee headed by the deputy commissioner. He said the rule only applied to leasing panchayat land for 33 years. He said it was road and ditch land that was in the middle of a private residential development that had no other buyer.
Tript claimed there was no wrongdoing in clearing the file on the last day of his ministry. He said he accepted the recommendation made by the junior departmental officer to the secretary.
He refuted the minister’s allegation that the file was withdrawn in accordance with the applicable code of conduct when in fact the ballot code was withdrawn on March 11.
The former minister against the charges
Dhaliwal: Sale of panchayat land allowed when the electoral code was in force, i.e. on March 11
Dhaliwal: Trails and water canals sold at just Rs 43L/acre, against market rate of Rs 7.5 crore
Dhaliwal: All settlements developed in 15 years will be screened and government pathways will be cleared
Travel: No wrongdoing in the liquidation of the case on the last day of the department. The code was removed on March 11
Travel: Land value set by a high-level panel that had no officials from my department
Travel: A diversionary tactic to win the bypoll by claiming to have launched a crusade against corruption