Badals score a first as govt sells land for funding amenitie

Jaswinder Singh Baidwan

Akhran da mureed
Staff member
Extreme situations, extreme measures — trust a government starved of funds, and perceivably, popularity, one-and-a-half years ahead of Assembly elections! Heard of the Optimum Utilisation of Vacant Government Land (OUVGL) scheme in Punjab? Here's what it is: sell 'non-productive' government land to fund civic amenities in the state. And who should come first for such largesse? No prizes for guessing -- the Badals.
Sources said the Punjab government has cleared funding of about Rs 192 crore for paving the streets and drains in 65 villages of Lambi and Jalalabad, represented by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son-cum-Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal. This way, Bathinda MP 'Badal Bahu' Harsimrat Kaur Badal also gets her due: The Lambi constituency falls in the Bathinda parliamentary seat. She got the highest lead of over 30,000 votes from this segment out of the total nine in the parliamentary seat in 2014 elections.
Sources said an empowered committee of the OUVGL in his 43rd meeting held recently approved the project. The Tribune accessed the papers and found 29 villages under Lambi and 36 under Jalalabad constituencies have been selected for development work. Manvesh Sidhu, chief administrator Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA), which runs the OUVGL scheme, justified selling government land for development.
"The optimum utilisation of government land was started in 1997. It was found that vast stretches of government land brought no revenue. The PUDA was tasked to sell those lands and use funds for developing infrastructure. The scheme has produced good results."
He dismissed allegations that funds were being used only in constituencies represented by the Badals. "Such funds are being used for constructing district administrative complexes also. We are in the process of constructing new jails as well," he said.
"We are improving the government functioning. All these improve the status of the state and bring in investment besides helping in faster transportation," said Sidhu.