Punjab’s Irrigation and Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, who is already under fire after being accused of proxy bidding for sand mines in the state, faced fresh allegations from the main Opposition AAP, whose Bholath MLA Sukhpal Khaira said Wednesday that the minister had also usurped 142 kanals of village land in the periphery of Chandigarh by getting it registered in his and his family members’ names in violation of law and had taken over another 458 kanals of common land in the same village.
Flanked by AAP MLAs at a press conference after the Assembly session, Khaira alleged that the minister, his brother Rana Ranjit Singh and his sister-in-law Sukhjinder Kaur had got 142 kanals in village Seounk near Mohali registered in their names in violation of the East Punjab Land Holdings Act, 1948, which was passed by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha in 2007. “According to section 42 A of this Act, no village common land/Theh Shamlat land or Hasab Rasab can be partitioned or its title changed to any person or persons,” said Khaira. Khaira said this land was purchased between 2014 and 2017. He also accused the minister of raising a loan worth Rs 109 crore allegedly in connivance with officials of Union Bank of India’s Sector 35 branch by mortgaging this land whose market value was not more than Rs 50 lakh.
Khaira further alleged that the minister had also got the ‘girdawri’ of 458 kanals of land (shamlat land/Gair Mumkin Pahad) in favour of his brother and sister-in-law fraudulently. The AAP MLA refused to elaborate how Rana Gurjit Singh managed it. Khaira alleged that one Kulwinderpal Singh, who won a Rs 9.56-crore bid for a sand mine, had the power of attorney during the execution of sale deed relating to the 142 kanals in favour of the minister’s family in May this year. Khaira said this belied the minister’’s claimthat he no longer had anything to do with Kulwinderpal.
The AAP MLA said his party would file a complaint with the CBI with regard to this “scam” and seek a detailed probe into into all these land transactions. He also alleged that it was part of this loan money that was funnelled to Amit Bahadur, an ex-employee of the minister and another sand mine allottee, who bid Rs 26 crore for a mine. However, holding his own press conference shortly after Khaira’s, Rana Gurjit rubbished the allegations. “Your better shut up”, a visibly perturbed Rana told the assembled journalists even as he asked his son Rana Inderpartap Singh to sit besides him to clarify the allegations with respect to bank transactions.
Referring to the allegations of having purchased the ‘shamlat’ land, Rana said the court of ADC (Development) SAS Nagar had ordered on July 1, 2016, that the land in question did not vest with the gram panchayat. Rana Gurjeet also said he had not taken any loan in his name from any bank. “The loan of Rs 109 crore has been taken by a company, Superior Foodgrains Private Ltd, three years ago. Rs 55 crore was a term loan and Rs 40 crore the working capital. The loan was taken against the company itself. The land was pledged for additional security for the comfort of the bank,” he said.
Referring to Khaira’s allegation that the last payment was made by the bank on April 17, 2017, Rana said if the AAP MLA proved it, he would resign. On the involvement of Kulwinderpal in the deal, Rana said he held a power of attorney and he did not need to be an employee of any company to do that.
Rana said that Khaira had earlier alleged that one Amit Bahadur had used ‘benami’ and ‘hawala money’ for purchasing the sand mines. “Now, he says the money taken as loan might have been used for purchasing the mines. Isn’t he contradicting himself in sheer frustration? He can’t be correct on both occasions,” the minister said. Terming Khaira as a “frustrated man”, Rana said that having been sidelined by AAP, Khaira was trying to defame him for “cheap publicity”, the same way as he tried to defame his own leader Bhagwant Mann “by using his foreign touts to damn Mann as drunkard and drug addict”.