As Punjab CM Amarinder Singh ordered a judicial probe into acquisition of sand mines by “employees” of Irrigation and Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) termed the move a bid to let the minister off the hook. The opposition party also called for immediate sacking of the minister to ensure a fair probe. SAD spokesperson Daljeet Singh Cheema said that Rana had “come out with a lame excuse that the employees had left his service recently. This is unbelievable”. “Instead of sacking the minister immediately, the government has gone in for a commission. This has sent out a message that the government wants to let Rana Gurjit off the hook. This will not be tolerated at any cost,” said Cheema, adding that SAD would take all steps to ensure “just legal punishment to Rana Gurjit for abusing the trust of the people and subverting the entire sand mining process in the state”.
Asked about the judicial probe, he said: “This is a clear case of corruption, benami deals and possibly even hawala transactions. It would have been in the fitness of things if Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had handed over the case to the Enforcement Directorate, besides involving the Income Tax authorities. These agencies would have been able to investigate and bust the money trail which allowed paupers with few pennies to acquire sand mines. Obviously, all this was done at the behest of Rana Gurjit. If the minister is not sacked it is likely he will be able to influence key witnesses and a fair investigation of the case would not be possible.”
Stating that the new government had failed to send out a clear message against corruption and nepotism, the Akali leader said: “Public confidence in the new Congress government has been severely shaken by the naked manner in which Rana Gurjit has misused his power to acquire sand mines in the name of his employees.” The SAD leader also pointed out that no action had been taken against the officials who had facilitated Rana Gurjit’s alleged benami transactions. “Such officials should be identified and strict action should be taken against them also,” he added.