Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana KP Singh personally handed over the allotment letters of five marla plots to the beneficiaries at his house in his native village Khatana recently, say the families who were selected under the Punjab government’s scheme to provide plots for the landless and homeless. The scheme, introduced when the SAD-BJP was in power, provided five marlas of land to Scheduled Caste families who do not have any land or their own home.
The plots allotments in Khatana has run into controversy after it emerged that out of the 14 plots allotted in the village recently, six of the beneficiaries are living on Rana’s property in the village and are known to him. Among the other beneficiaries are two panchayat members and the brother of another panchayat member.
The six beneficiaries personally known to the Speaker include two brothers, Bhupinder Singh and Satnam Singh, living on Rana’s farmland in Khatana village with their families; and four members of a Gujar Muslim family, Sharif Mohammad, his daughter Salma and sons Salim and Suleman, who are living on another property on the Speaker’s agricultural land.
The families living in Rana’s property said they had collected their allotment letters from the Speaker at his home in the village. Rana, while talking to The Indian Express on Tuesday, had distanced himself from the controversy saying it was an “issue created out of a non-issue” and that he had nothing to do with it, nor had he made any recommendations.
Rana was not available for comments on Wednesday. The Indian Express found that so sure was beneficiary Satnam Singh of getting the allotment that he had even arranged for construction material such as bricks, sand and iron rods well before the actual allotment. However, he could not start construction work because of protests by a section of villagers. The construction material is still lying on the road where the plots have been allotted.
Satnam Singh confirmed he had arranged for the material several months back but could not start construction due to “partybazi” (political opposition) by a section of the villagers.
Satnam is a school bus driver and Bhupinder works as driver with a tipper truck. Both belong to a scheduled caste. The two brothers, their wives, daughters and sons said they had applied to be registered as voters in the village recently.
Bhupinder Singh’s daughter, a BA second-year student, said she was 21 and would be voting for the “first time” after applying as a voter in the village. The family said the Speaker had been “telling them to get registered as voters in the village for past few years”, but they had decided to enrol as voters this time. Satnam’s daughter, also a BA second-year student, said she would also be “a first-time voter” once she was registered as voter in the village.
“We will have nine votes in the family,” said a family member, counting the votes of family, including Kartar Kaur, the 70-year old mother of Bhupinder and Satnam.
An Akali leader, Chuhar Singh, who once was with the Congress leader and was associated with Speaker Rana before he switched parties, is the complainant in the matter, in which he has alleged irregularities in allotments saying beneficiaries living in Rana’s property were “outsiders” and were given the “largesse” by the Speaker to gain political mileage in forthcoming panchayat polls. He said there were 40 other Scheduled Caste families in the village who deserved to get plots.
Bhupinder said he once owned a house in the nearby village of Tibba Tiprian, but had to sell it to arrange for the treatment of his father who had cancer and eventually died. The brothers trace their family roots to Fatehgarh Sahib before they moved to Tibba Tibrian, and from there to their two-roomed dwelling Speaker Rana’s farm about “five years ago”.
On another piece of land owned by Rana, Mohammad Sharif’s family is upset at the controversy. Salma, the daughter of Sharif who is married to Liaqat of Himachal Pradesh, said, “This whole controversy is uncalled for.” She said the family has been a supporter of Rana KP Singh for long and allotment of plots had made “no difference”.
Asked for contact numbers of any among Sharif, Salim and Suleman who were not at home, Salma said she could give phone number of “Bibi ji”, who she explains is the Speaker’s mother who lives in the village. Sharif’s wife Ghulam Fatima said their family, which has a dairy farming business, had moved to Punjab from Rampur in Himachal Pradesh about 20 years back and had been staying in Khatana village for last five years. Fatima said the family members were already registered as voters.
“We do not want such plot when fingers are raised due to party politics. I would rather prefer not to have it,” said Fatima. Salma and Fatima said all four beneficiaries in the family had their own “separate families”.