The report of Justice J S Narang Committee’s probe into alleged irregularities in auction of two sand mines in Nawanshar district, along with the action taken report, was submitted in the Punjab Assembly Wednesday without any discussion taking place on it.
The action taken report says the Department of Mines and Geology has started the process to cancel the provisional acceptance of bids with regard to the two mines.
The action taken has been mentioned in only one of the five recommendations of the Commission while the other four, which give a clean chit to former irrigation and power minister Rana Gurjit Singh, have only the comment ‘noted’ against the recommendations.
The report was tabled in the House seven months after it was submitted to the CM, who had then said the action taken report would be made public within two weeks.
No discussion on the report was allowed by the Speaker, who cited paucity of time even as Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Khaira demanded that time be allotted for a discussion on it.
The Commission was set up on May 30, 2017, to probe allegations that the two successful bidders for Saidpur Khurd and Mehadipur mines, Amiot Bahadur and Kulwinder Paul Singh, were employees of Rana Gurjit Singh acting as frontmen of the minister who had influenced the auction using his position.
The action taken report states that the committee formed to look into the report has no reason to differ with the findings of the Commission and hence recommends that provisional acceptance of the bids is not sustainable in favour of Amit Bahadur and Kulwinder Paul Singh and that no contract can be signed with them. “The department shall accordingly take necessary action for cancellation of provisional acceptance of the bids, as per rules and terms and conditions of e-auction,” it states.
The report is silent on the key issue of the refund of earnest money as 50 per cent of the bid amount that has been paid by the bidders through a company, Rajbir Enterprises. The rules of the auction which took place in May 2017 state that the earnest money will be forfeited if any bidder violates the rules during the e-bidding.
It is not clear in the rules if the 50 per cent of the bid amount is also to be forfeited. Rs 26.52 crore was the highest bid for the Saidpur Khurd mine while Rs 9.21 crore was bid for the Mehadipur Mine.
Speaking outside the House, Khaira said the action taken report by the government made it clear that efforts were afoot to refund the entire amount to the bidders. “The intention of the government is clear because they did not allow any debate to take place in the house. What use is holding this inquiry if the bidders who flouted rules will walk away without facing any penal action and with the money which had been paid by front men like tainted vigilance contractor Gurinder Singh who had given Rs 5 crore for the purpose,” he asked.