Mann govt under fire after two Punjab AAP MPs found illegally occupying State land worth crores

Two Rajya Sabha Members – Ashok Mittal, Vice-Chancellor of Lovely Professional University (LPU) and Balbir Singh Seechewal – are under the scanner for illegally occupying government land worth crores

File photo of Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann
File photo of Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann

Bipin Bhardwaj

Some leaders of the Punjab unit of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are on the receiving end of efforts by its own government to get Panchayat land vacated from illegal possession of influential people across the state.

With two newly-nominated Rajya Sabha Members – Ashok Mittal, Vice-Chancellor of Lovely Professional University (LPU), Phagwara and Balbir Singh Seechewal, environmentalist – coming under the scanner for illegally occupying government land worth crores, the Bhagwant Mann-led Punjab government has come under fire.

On July 30, Mann supervised his government’s drive to take possession of 2,828 acres of illegally-encroached prime land worth Rs 350 crore in Mohali district on the periphery of Chandigarh from 15 ‘influential’ encroachers including newly-elected MP from Sangrur Simranjit Singh Mann’s sons.

Bhagwant Mann had said that the prime land is situated in the foothills of the Shivaliks and was illegally occupied by several influential officers and politicians for a long time.

Since May 1, the state government claims to have taken possession of 9,053 acres of illegally encroached prime land. Mann said that his party had promised that ‘all influential illegal encroachers who have plundered wealth mercilessly will be brought to book’.

Interestingly, LPU, owned by Ashok Mittal, came under the scanner for allegedly grabbing Panchayat land after the issue got highlighted in the media on August 1.

The Punjab government’s Department of Rural Development and Panchayats had been “going slow” on getting the land vacated, even after the issue was raised at a meeting chaired by Minister for Rural Development and Panchayats Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal on June 3.

Though the minister instructed the officials concerned to act immediately to get the Panchayat land vacated from the possession of LPU, the department has been dragging its feet on the issue.

Balbir Singhy Seechewal has been accused of occupying government land for decades in Kapurthala district.

Taking a dig at the AAP-led Punjab government for going slow against its own leaders and MPs accused of grabbing government land, senior Congress leader Sukhpal Singh on Thursday wrote to Bhagwant Mann and state revenue minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal demanding action against LPU for illegally exchanging 13.25 acres of prime commercial land worth Rs. 100 crore of Chehru village and Ek Omkar Charitable Trust, owned by Balbir Singh Seechewal, for illegally occupying 21 acre of provincial government lands in Jamewal and Fatehwala villages in Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala district.

Meanwhile, LPU has refuted the allegation, contending that the Chehru land exchange had been approved as per the law. Even the Punjab and Haryana High Court had dismissed a petition filed by the Nanak Nagri Panchayat in this context a couple of years ago, LPU vice president Aman Mittal claimed.

MP Balbir Singh Seechewal, however, did not deny the fact that the Trust had Panchayat land in its possession.

"This chunk of land was given to the Trust by Block Samiti Chairman Rajinder Singh. We are currently using it for growing green fodder for the cattle in our gaushala. We have even paid two or three installments for the land in question but if the Mann government wants to get the land vacated, we have no objection,” said Seechewal.

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