The locked house of Jheurheri sarpanch Gurpal Singh in Mohali. (Express Photo) The locked house of Jheurheri sarpanch Gurpal Singh in Mohali. (Express Photo)
Kabootran wala sarpanch (sarpanch who keeps pigeons) is how 32-year-old Gurpal Singh, the sarpanch of Jheurheri village is identified when one asks for direction to his home near the international airport. Gurpal was booked by the Vigilance Bureau along with Mansa Additional Deputy Commissioner and two other officials for the land scam on Tuesday.
When Chandigarh Newsline visited Jheurheri village on Wednesday, Harpal’s house was locked. His neighbours said the family had left on Monday evening. Narata Singh, who lives close to Gurpal’s house, said the latter used to keep around 350 pigeons in specially designed cages. When one visited the place where the pigeons were kept, it was also locked.
“The entire village knows that Harpal Singh fed his pigeons with dry fruits. If you go inside the house, you will find packs of cashews and almonds. He owned around 25 acres in Patiala which he bought after his land was acquired for the airport. Harpal was a normal farmer. How can he keep costly pigeons and feed them costly stuff? He even installed CCTV cameras where he kept the pigeons,” wondered Narata.
Narata also said that recently Gurpal gifted four buffaloes, gold chain and a Royal Enfield bike to one of his masters, who taught him the art of training pigeons for competitions. “We came to know that he gifted all these items to one Ballu at Mauran village near Bhawanigarh in Patiala district. Gurpal bought the land in that area. He used to hold competitions of pigeons and spend money on such activities,” said Gurnaib Singh, one of the complainants in the case.
Gurnaib said Gurpal became sarpanch in 2013 and he always courted controversy for some reason or the other. “Gurpal once sold a small piece of land in the village in 2012. When the matter reached the police, I was the one who helped him. Since he was not the sarpanch, no case was registered against him,” he stated. Gurnaib informed that around 17.5 acres of land were owned by some farmers. Though the land was acquired for the airport, Gurpal got the compensation issued in the name of Bhag Singh and Kesar Singh.
“That money belonged to us. He cheated us following which we lodged a complaint against him and the accused officers in 2017. When we last lodged the complaint in 2016, nobody was ready to accept it. But, we are happy that these people have been booked finally,” he added.
Some of the panches were allegedly kept in the dark by Gurpal and his accomplices about the purchase of land in question. Somnath, one of the five panches, said Gurpal never discussed with them that the panchayat was going to buy land in other villages and added that they were never called to the meetings. “He came to me once and asked me to sign on a resolution. When I refused, he said he would lodge a complaint against me,” said Harinder Singh, another panch of the village.
Amarjeet Kaur, also a panch, said she was never told by Gurpal about any purchase of land. Gurpal, along with relatives Darshan Singh, Surinder Singh of Mulepur, Fatehgarh Sahib, and other accused Mohamad Sohel of Sector 79, Mohali, and Swarn Singh of Tiwana village in Fatehgarh Sahib are all on the run.
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