Is Durga Shakti really wanted in Punjab? (Punjab Newsletter)

By Jaideep Sarin, Chandigarh, Aug 9 : She opted for a change from her parent IAS cadre Punjab and shifted to Uttar Pradesh. Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, who recently hit the national headlines after the Uttar Pradesh government unceremoniously suspended her for taking on the sand mafia, can perhaps draw solace from the Punjab government going on record to say she will be welcome if she opted to return.

But is she, or officers like her, really wanted in Punjab or any other state?

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has said that Durga Shakti would be "welcome to come back if she wished to".

The young IAS officer, who served out her probationary period in Mohali, adjoining Chandigarh, from June 2011 to August 2012, had opted for a cadre change after getting married to Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS officer Abhishek Singh.

But the question being asked in political and other circles in Punjab is whether the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal bosses would really like to have an officer who showed courage to go after the politically well-connected and moneyed sand mafia in Uttar Pradesh. If Durga Shakti comes back to Punjab and starts doing the same things that she was doing as "part of duty" in Uttar Pradesh, it could spell trouble for many influential people in Punjab.

Illegal sand mining in Punjab is rampant and the Punjab and Haryana High Court is seized of the matter. Leaders of the opposition Congress have been shouting from the rooftops that the Parkash Singh Badal government and some of its ministers are openly running or supporting the sand mafia. Just how effective will be the ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal remains to be seen.

In Punjab, by conservative estimates, the illegal mining and monopolisation of sand is worth several crore rupees on a daily basis. The money is being allegedly pocketed by influential people, especially from the ruling elite. A public suit before the high court has pointed out that illegal mining in Punjab is worth Rs.10,000 crore annually.

The high court, earlier this week, set a six-week deadline for the special investigation team (SIT) probing illegal mining in Punjab to submit its final report. The court stated that it was "highly disappointed" with the SIT report submitted earlier, adding it would hand over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) if a final report did not cover the entire ambit of the nexus in illegal mining.

The bottomline is that so long as the politician-bureaucrat-mafia nexus is not broken, illegal activities like mining will blatantly continue and upright officers like Durga Shakti will continue to have their run-ins with the high and the mighty - whose only aim seems to be to make money at the cost of the country and its citizens.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.sarin@ians.in)

--IANS (Posted on 09-08-2013)

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