Rural Development & Panchayat department exposes ₹121 crore scam; officials to be charge-sheeted, 4 banks to be blacklisted

Minister Laljit Singh Bhullar said, “The zero-tolerance policy against corruption adopted by the chief minister led to unearthing the biggest scam in the department."

ByAayush Goel

Published Oct 14, 2023 | 11:58 AMUpdatedOct 14, 2023 | 11:58 AM

Punjab Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Laljit Singh Bhullar

Punjab Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Laljit Singh Bhullar, on Friday, 13 October, exposed a scam of about ₹121 crore in the department. 

Taking strong exception to the scam, the minister directed the officials to immediately charge-sheet around a dozen officials of the Rural Development and Panchayat Department, along with six sarpanches.

He further directed to blacklist four private banks, including HDFC Bank, Yes Bank, Equitas Bank, and Axis Bank, which did not cooperate during the investigation.

‘Recovery of money has been initiated’

While instructing the the Vigilance Bureau to probe further, Bhullar said, “The zero-tolerance policy against corruption adopted by Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann’s government led to unearthing the biggest scam in the Rural Development and Panchayat department.”

He added, “The process of recovering the money spent without departmental approval from the accused officials and sarpanches has been initiated.”

Bhullar said that panchayats of Salempur, Sekhewal, Selkiana, Bounkar Gujran, Kadiana Khurd, and Dhanansu of Block Ludhiana-2 had received an award of ₹252.94 crore after the acquisition of hundreds of acres of panchayat land of these villages. However, ₹120.87 crore was withdrawn from this amount with the connivance of some corrupt officers and employees of the department, along with sarpanches.

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Details of the scam

Elaborating on the scam, he said that the investigation revealed that with the mutual collusion, Block Development and Panchayat Officers (BDPOs), Panchayat Secretaries and sarpanches have withdrawn ₹120.87 crore from the fixed deposit (FD) at their own level and the amount was spent without administrative and technical approvals of the department. 

“No one has any right to withdraw such FD without the approval of the government. Only the interest received from this FD can be spent on development works of the village after taking administrative and technical approval,” the minister added.

On blacklisting the banks, Bhullar 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 were also reluctant to provide the records. 

He 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.

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