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Punjab ex-minister, IAS officer booked in industrial plots scam

Sunder Sham Arora (L) and Ms. Neelima (R)

Chandigarh: The Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) has registered a criminal case against former minister Sunder Sham Arora, Ms. Neelima, IAS, and 10 government officers for illegal bifurcation of an industrial plot measuring 25 acres to benefit a real estate company and to allow it to establish a township in violation of the allotment conditions.

Three partners of the firm, Gulmohar Township Private Limited have also been booked in the case filed on Thursday.

Indianarrative.com was the first to report about the PSIEC plots scam involving not only one but 3 IAS officers who had played a role in the creation of a fake letter and passing it off as written by the then Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordering constitution a committee of IAS officers to examine findings of Vigilance Bureau inquiry in the plots scam. This committee had finally filed a closure report for the VB probe that allegedly accepted by the then CM. But with the Aam Aadmi Party coming into power in March 2022, the VB reopened the case resulting in an FIR.

In this case, the VB has arrested seven officials of PSIEC which included Ankur Chaudhary Estate Officer, Davinderpal Singh GM Personnel, JS Bhatia chief general manager (Planning), Ashima Aggarwal ATP (Planning), Parminder Singh Executive Engineer, Rajat Kumar DA and Sandeep Singh SDE for conniving with each other to provide undue benefit to the realtor firm.

Disclosing this a spokesperson of the state VB said aiming to promote the industry, the Punjab Government had allotted 25 acres of land to Anand Lamps Limited through a sale deed in the year 1987 which was later transferred to a firm named Signify Innovations. This plot was then sold to Gulmohar Township through a sale deed by Signify Innovations after procuring a no objection certificate from the Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC). On March 17, 2021, the then industry and commerce minister, Sundar Sham Arora forwarded a letter to then MD PSIEC, received from Gulmohar Township for further bifurcation of plots.

He further informed that the MD PSIEC constituted a departmental committee to examine the proposal of the realtor firm which included SP Singh Executive Director, Ankur Chaudhary Estate Officer, Bhai Sukhdeep Singh Sidhu, Davinderpal Singh GM Personnel, Tejveer Singh DTP, (deceased), JS Bhatia chief general manager (Planning), Ashima Aggarwal ATP (Planning), Parminder Singh Executive Engineer, Rajat DA, and Sandeep Singh SDE.

The committee headed by SP Singh approved the proposal of the realtor firm to bifurcate 12 plots to 125 without taking notice of the proposed project report, articles of association, and memorandum of association in this regard. In addition to this, the committee recommended the proposal of Gulmohar Township without consulting the Punjab Pollution Control Board, Municipal Corporation, Electricity Board, Forest Department, and State Fire Brigade.

During the investigation by the Forensic Science Laboratory, it has also been found that two pages of the noting on file didn’t match with the rest of the pages attached in the file. It was found that the committee members attached fake documents and didn’t scrutinise the file thoroughly. According to the deed of 1987, this plot was to be used only for industrial purposes and the said Gulmohar Township has no such background.

He further added that according to the rules of the PSIEC, the fee for plots was to be charged at the rate of Rs. 20 per yard and Rs. 3 per year from the year 1987, which was a total fee of Rs.1,51,25,000 for a total of 1,21,000 square yards. It was astonishing that the accused firm had already attached a pay order of Rs 27,83,000 with the application while no one from the PSIDC had demanded it. Due to this, the Punjab Government has incurred a financial loss of Rs. 1,23,42,000.

Also read: PSIEC stalling Chandigarh Police probe into industrial plots scam