Even after Punjab’s Irrigation and Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh wrote to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to order a probe into irregularities in the “desilting and cleaning” project at the Harike Headworks and Punjab Vigilance Bureau began investigating the alleged scam, his department continued to pay Gurinder Singh, the contractor who was being investigated.
Documents accessed by the Indian Express reveal that Gurinder received payments amounting to more than Rs 4 crore from the department from April until July. Power & Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh on Saturday released a letter he wrote to the Chief Minister, asking for a probe into suspected irregularities at the Harike Headworks that he came to know about when he visited the area on April 13, 2017, days after taking over as minister. While releasing the letter, he said it was due to his efforts that the Rs 1000-crore scam in the department came to light.
The minister released the letter to the media following a report in The Indian Express that Gurinder Singh had partially funded a sand mine auction bid by Rajbir Enterprises, a company with which the minister has financial transactions, and whose directors and partner are all known to him.
The Indian Express has learnt that though the Congress government was prompt in ordering a vigilance enquiry against Gurinder on the basis of Rana Gurjit’s letter, the department that he heads continued to make payments to Gurinder. On April 18, an amount of Rs 18,69,970 was transferred in Gurinder Singh’s account in HDFC by executive engineer of drainage department in Patiala, who also transferred another amount of Rs 7,02,691, and Rs 283864 to his account the same day. On April 20, Rs 12,67000 was transferred by the irrigation department to Singh’s account.
On May 10, three payments of Rs 5,64154, Rs 10,000 and Rs 10,000 were made by the irrigation department to Gurinder Singh. Similarly, an amount of Rs 3,43,08886 (3.43 cr) was transferred to Singh on May 15 by executive engineer, investigation division, Hoshiarpur. On June 5, executive engineer of drainage construction division transferred Rs 51,47,505 in Gurinder’s HDFC account. Similarly another amount of Rs 29,93,427 was transferred.
The next day, on June 6, another payment of Rs 27,567 and on July 28, another payment of Rs 1,66,43655 (1.66 cr) was made by executive engineer of the investigation Division. The VB had already raided Harike Headworks on April 17, days after Rana Gurjit’s letter to the Chief Minister.
Rana Gurjit Singh, when contacted, said, “I have not released the money. After the Vigilance inquiry, whosoever would be found involved, action would be taken against him. They will check all this and if any payment is made unlawfully, it would be recovered. What has the minister got to do with these payments if a payment order is prepared by the officers of under secretary, secretary level? Nobody asks the minister. Payments are done at a lower level.”