Bathinda: Apparently fearing arrest after the state Vigilance Bureau booked him in the infamous multi-crore land scam of Hoshiarpur district, Gidderbaha Sub-divisional Magistrate (SDM) Anand Sagar Sharma, who is also the Returning Officer of Gidderbaha assembly constituency, has gone ‘missing.’
The VB probe has found Anand Sagar Sharma to be the mastermind of the multi-crore scam, with also declaring that he “misused his position to fudge, tamper with and fraudulently prepare revenue records to benefit some leaders of the ruling party and property dealers.”
Sharma, as learnt, has proceeded on long leave with also switching off his mobile phone. His office staff claims to be unaware of his whereabouts but maintains that he was not seen in the campus since February 9, a day before the VB officially registered criminal case against him.
In his absence, the SDM office at Gidderbaha as well as the district administration complex (DAC) is abuzz with a variety of gossips related to Sharma. It is learnt that while leaving the place he had got the application sanctioned from the Deputy Commissioner but as on that date there was no case registered against him. And as his office staff is unable to contact him, all are expecting him to remain in hibernation mode for indefinite period.
The district administration has given the charge of his office to Assistant Commissioner (General).
This 2012-batch PCS officer was posted at Hoshiarpur as SDM when the scam reports, appeared in media few months ago, drew the attention of Prime Minister Office (PMO). The Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal then ordered VB inquiry in the matter, reportedly in compliance with the direction of the PMO only. To ensure the probe gets conducted in a free-and-fair manner, Sharma was transferred to Gidderbaha in Muktsar disrict.
The VB probe that is completed recently has found Sharma to be the mastermind of the scam, with also declaring that he “misused his position to fudge, tamper with and fraudulently prepare revenue records to benefit some leaders of the ruling party and property dealers.”
According to the FIR, an extra amount of Rs 23.19 crore was paid as compensation in only two villages – Khawaspur and Piplanwala – where a group of people having political affiliation in collaboration with some big property dealers purchased the already notified land, in the names of their kin, from farmers at throwaway prices during the acquisition process.
Since the probe is over, the VB has booked 12 people, including Hoshiarpur market committee chairman Avtar Singh Johal, councillor Harpinder Gill, and district co-operative bank chairman Satwinder Pal Singh Dhatt and “land sharks” Devi Ram, Jaswinder Pal Singh and Prateek Gupta, besides the SDM.
It is also learnt that the SDM in question Anand Sagar Sharma had gone to the extent of issuing compensation on commercial rates for agricultural land to benefit some Akali leaders and property dealers where even the change of land use (CLU) was not applied, states the FIR registered against him and 12 others at the VB’s economic offences wing in Ludhiana on February 10.
Being the SDM, Sharma was the nodal officer under the National Highway Authority of India Land Acquisition Act.
According to details, in Khawaspur village Sharma had issued compensation on commercial rates on the basis of verification conducted by a patwari Daljeet Singh, who has also been named in the FIR registered after the SIT probe. There was a controversy related to residential plots too but in the probe, the land was found to have no residential records.
Officers of the VB informed that during the probe it was also ascertained that the Tehsildars were not consulted in this process and the SDM had issued direct verbal directions to patwaris. The verification letters issued by the patwaris, which were attached to the records, were also found without any date of issuance, as learnt.