Punjab’s big guy said goodbye after 31 years of service
Kanwar Inder Singh/ royalpatiala.in/ Chandigarh
Kahan Singh Pannu, a Punjab cadre Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer , Secretary, Agriculture; Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration; and Mission Director, Tandarust Punjab and a big guy in bureaucratic circles, said good bye, after 31 years of service.
Born on August 6,1960, a native of Neelpur village near Rajpura, Pannu is son of Akali leader Jaswant Singh, started as a probationary officer in a nationalised bank and joined the Punjab government as deputy registrar cooperative department in 1989 and promoted as IAS in 2005.
Kahan Singh Pannu has many notable achievements to his name. Some of them including finding a solution to the problem of crop burning among the state’s farmers, resolving the dropping groundwater level concerns, exposing a scam in the education department and cracking down on the adulteration of milk, among others.
Due to his workaholic nature, Pannu held key positions in both Akali and congress regime. He remained deputy commissioner of Amritsar from 19-03-2007 to 18-05-2008, from 02-06-2008 to 10-09-2008, from 02-10-2008 to 10-02-2009 and again from 25-05-2009 till 16-06-2011 i.e for more than four years and in these years he introduced Panghura (cradle) scheme which has received about 200 abandoned children; the upgrade of the Amritsar airport; getting five lakh saplings planted and the introduction of e-rickshaws.
However, his reputation as a no-nonsense and rule-abiding civil servant really took off in 2013 when as Director General of School Education, he exposed serious corruption in the purchase of books and science kits for primary and upper primary students, worth crores. He exposed the nexus, the education scam allegedly involving Punjab Education Minister Sikander Singh Maluka, when he found that the contract for publishing textbooks to be used in school libraries was given to a pipe factory based out of Sardulgarh. These textbooks were supplied at inflated rates. After this he was shifted to Agriculture department.
While looking after the agriculture department he set up the Punjab State Farmers Commission to guide agriculture policy in the state. He was the commission’s first member secretary. As agriculture secretary, he managed to shift 12.5 lakh acre from paddy to basmati and cotton, and experimented with rain-gun technology for irrigating direct seeding rice (DSR). He was instrumental in drafting a law that banned transplantation of rice before June 10 to save ground water.
He remained Chairman of Punjab Pollution Control Borad (PPCB) and fearlessly took on a powerful liquor contractor Jasdeep Kaur Chadha, whose sugar mill in Gurdaspur was responsible for the leaking 10,000 litres of molasses into the Beas River. Despite apparent pressure from all quarters, the sugar mill management was served with a Rs 5 crore fine, besides facing legal criminal proceedings.
He also held additional charge of head of chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s pet project Tandarust Mission and tightened the noose around food adulterators. The Golden Temple Street, Amritsar, was declared as the state’s first clean street food hub by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, and its credit goes to Pannu. The state also bagged the ‘Certificate of Achievement’ on World Food Safety Day due to his efforts.
In June 2013 he was assaulted by a group of stranded pilgrims from Punjab at Gobind Ghat in Uttarakhand, after both sides got into a heated argument over shifting of the pilgrims to another place. He was leading a team of officers from Punjab to oversee rescue and evacuation of at least 5,000 pilgrims, who were trapped on way to Hemkunt Sahib shrine, after a cloud burst.