Panchayat dissolution letter leaked, Punjab govt mired in social media blame game


Following the suspension of two senior IAS officers after the Punjab government rescinded its decision to dissolve 13,000 Gram Panchayats across the state, a file page containing the signatures of several ministers and bureaucrats surfaced online on Friday. Politics and blame games have since ensued as major players point fingers at each other over who gave orders for the dissolution of panchayats in Punjab. In addition, Opposition parties have been trying to nail the Aam Aadmi Party government over the issue ever since a signed copy of the letter surfaced online.
The suspension of both DK Tiwari, who was until yesterday the Financial Commissioner of Rural Development and Gurpreet Singh Khaira, Director for Rural Development, has created a stir within the state government. The copy has the signatures of Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and Rural Development Minister Laljit Singh Bhullar, alongside those of two other bureaucrats. The two IAS officers were suspended on Thursday following the Punjab government’s U-turn in the state High Court over the early dissolution of panchayats across Punjab.
The Congress party along with Akali Dal has begun questioning the government as to why only the officers are being punished while the ministers who gave their signatures of approval have been spared. A significant amount of resentment has arisen in the corridors of the state bureaucracy, with many anxious officers claiming that the two officers placed under suspension were only following instructions of their political bosses. However, the Chief Minister’s office on Tuesday issued a clarification that stated that the CM and the minister only approved what the officers had put on the file and “how can [the Ministers] be held responsible for the actions of the officers?”
Congress stalwart and Leader of Opposition, Partap Singh Bajwa tweeted: “It is shameful that @BhagwantMann who signed off on the decision to dissolve the Panchayats has tried to scapegoat two bureaucrats to protect himself and his Minister. If CM had any morals, it is he who should own moral responsibility & resign forthright!” Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira also tweeted a copy of the letter saying, “What a shame for @BhagwantMann & @BhullarLaljit Panchayats Minister to approve dissolution of Panchayats according to official noting doing the rounds on social media and then make IAS officers scapegoats for their foolish actions. I urge the bureaucracy of Punjab not to become part of their unconstitutional designs bcoz they don’t have the courage to defend you and ultimately you’ll have to face the music later-Khaira @INCIndia @INCPunjab”
The government suspended 1994-batch IAS officer Dhirendra Kumar Tiwari, Principal Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayats; and 2009-batch IAS officer Gurpreet Singh Khaira, Director, Rural Development and Panchayats and ex-officio Special Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayats; under the provisions of Rule 3(1) of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, according to an official order issued on Thursday.