Allegations have been raised against Balbir Singh Sidhu, Health Minister, Punjab, over a prime 10-acre panchayat land allotted to an NGO linked to him. While raising the allegations that Sidhu proposed to build a banquet hall at the land allotted for Gaushala, former Punjab legislative assembly speaker Bir Devinder Singh and ex-minister Bikram Singh Majithia of Shiromani Akali Dal demanded CBI inquiry into the alleged land grab attempt by Sidhu.
The said land is located in Balongi panchayat, district Mohali, Punjab. It has been allotted to the Bal Gopal Gau Basera Welfare Society at Rs.25,000/acre per annum for 33 years which is remarkably less compared to the current market price.
While raising the allegations against Sidhu, Majithia in a public meeting said, “Balbir Sidhu has grabbed panchayat land worth crores in Balongi and now, in connivance with his brother, as mayor of Mohali, is going to legalise his garbbed land by including Balongi into MC limits. We demand a CBI inquiry into the matter.”
Echoing with his allegations, Bir Devinder said, “A mega land scandal involving the Punjab health minister has come to the fore, in which a suspicious trust, headed by Balbir Singh Sidhu, has usurped the common panchayat land of Balongi village in Mohali district, worth Rs 100 crores, with the active connivance of minister for rural development and panchayats Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa. To legalise it, he is also including Balongi into MC limits, which must be probed by CBI.”
Documents suggest there was a proposal to build a banquet hall
English Daily Tribune got hold of the documents submitted by the Bal Gopal Gau Basera Welfare Society, the NGO that got the land. The documents suggest that a resolution, signed by its general secretary Naresh Kansal, was prepared last year in October in which there was mention of Gaushala, Mandir, diagnostic centre and banquet hall to be built on the land. The official address of the NGO is Sidhu’s residence at Mohali, and he is the president of the NGO as well.
Activists and villagers cried foul
Parvinder Singh Kittna, RTI activist, sent a letter to Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and demanded an inquiry into the matter. He alleged it was a case of land grabbing. Another activist, Satnam Daun, added that the land mafia has been eyeing the prime land of several villages in Mohali. He alleged panchayats are being forced to pass resolutions to hand over prime lands to private individuals.
The panchayat and villagers are reportedly not ready to allow construction of anything other than Gaushala on the said land. Bahadur Singh, Balongi Sarpanch said in a statement that they got a proposal only for Gaushala and nothing else. “There was no mention of either banquet hall or a temple,” he added.
Minister denied allegations
Health Minister Sidhu claimed that the land had been allotted solely to build a Gaushala and take care of stray cattle. He assured me there would not be any commercial activities on the premises. While addressing the media at NGO on Friday last week, he said that the land would only be used for charitable purposes. “If anyone wants to know the purpose, he may visit the site to see the commercial activities running there,” he added.
Sidhu rubbished the claims made by the opposition leaders and said, “Is it a mistake to construct a gaushala after I made a commitment to the people of Mohali that I will make this city stray animal free so that the road mishaps could be prevented and precious lives of innocent people, as well as animals, can be saved.”
He further added that the land was encroached upon by people, but after the construction of Gaushala, the panchayat will get income from the lease. He said that the NGO is trying to establish a state-of-the-art semen lab at the Gaushala to commence research on foetus transplant to ensure only female calves are born.”
NGO claims there would be no commercial activities
Kansal claimed that the banquet proposed in the plan was not for commercial activities, but it was meant to be a community hall for poor people so that they can hold their functions and festivities. He added that the trustees have been working tirelessly for the last four years to provide the best care for the stray cattle in the area. In 2017-18 the NGO was managing the Municipal Corporation Gaushala, but it lacked space, facilities and diet for the cattle, Kansal added.
Anurag Aggarwal, a trustee of the Bal Gopal Gau Basera Welfare Society, claimed that trustees have donated money and raised funds via donations to construct the Gaushala with an investment of Rs.1 crore. He added that the aim is to establish a diagnostic-cum-health centre along with a community hall for the poor. The NGO said that they would invest a total of Rs.5 crores in completing the project.