The Rural Development and Panchayats Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa on Tuesday directed the department officials to chalk out a plan for annual open auction of the village shamlat lands. The Minister asked the officials to take all preventive measures issued by the health department to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Notably, the Punjab Panchayats department holds auction for 1.40 lakh acres of village shamlat land annually.Presiding over a meeting with officials of the department here, Mr. Bajwa also appealed to the general public that only the auctioneers should participate in the proceedings and the Department officials would also ensure strict compliance of social distancing protocol and other preventive measures.Appreciating the Department's efforts to save the villages from the pandemic, the Minister said that the Department has completed the 3rd round of sanitization campaign in villages and the next round of the spray of disinfectant in villages would be scheduled after the consultation and advisory from with the Health Department.Giving instructions for taking care of the 550 saplings planted in each village of the state on the auspicious occasion of the 550th Prakash Purb of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Mr. Bajwa said that MGNREGA workers would take care of these plants.Congratulating the Department officials and staff working in the field to check the spread of COVID-19, Mr.Bajwa gave his nod to hold meetings through video conferencing for Departmental promotions. He also stressed that the lockdown should not be allowed to create hindrance in the promotions.He also directed to immediately release the arrears of MGNREGA. On this, the authorities apprised the minister that all MGNREGA payments, which are due till March 31, would be released soon.The meeting was attended by Financial Commissioner Rural Development and Panchayats Ms. Seema Jain, Director Mr. DPS Kharbanda, JDC Mr. Vipul Ujwal, Additional Director Mrs. Ramider Kaur Butter, Deputy Directors Mr. Joginder Kumar and Mr. Sanjeev Garg.