As Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, under pressure from the Opposition and even his own party, ordered a probe by a retired judge into allegations of “impropriety” against Irrigation and Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh in sand mining auctions conducted by the state government, the son of a businessman-friend of the minister claimed he was the investor in the mines that had been allotted to Rana Gurjit’s former employees. Sanjit Singh Randhawa, son of J S Randhawa, said three of his companies had invested Rs 30 crore in the auction. Asked why he had not made this claim earlier, Sanjit Singh said: “No one contacted me.”
The three firms, Sanjit Singh claimed, were formed in 2015 but none had any experience in mining. He claimed that Amit Bahadur, a former employee of Rana Gurjit, was a “working partner” in his company Rajbir Enterprises. He said it was this company that had invested in the sand mine in Saidpur Khurd, Nawanshahr that was acquired in the name of Bahadur during the auction. He said it was not possible for investors “to stand in the sun and supervise mining operations and truckers”, so an employee of the company had been made a working partner, and that he would be sharing a percentage of the profits.
In a statement emailed to media organisations, Sanjit Singh also claimed that another of his companies, Rajbir Enterprises Mohali, put in money for a second sand mine in Mehadipur in Nawanshahr, acquired by one Kulwinder Singh for Rs 9.2 crore. Kulwinder had also been linked to Rana Gurjit, but Sanjit Singh said he was an employee of Rajbir Enterprises Mohali, who had been made a “working partner”. A third company called New Rajbir Enterprises, Sanjit Singh said, was behind the successful bid of Ajitpal Singh Gill, who made a successful bid of Rs 23.41 crore for Behloor Khurd in Nawanshahr. Gill was also described as a “working partner”.
Sanjit Singh said the money had been “arranged” by his father J S Randhawa and Sahil Singla, a partner in the three firms. He said neither Amit Bahadur nor Kulvinder Paul Singh had invested their own money. His statement said that Amit Bahadur never served or worked as a cook anywhere — Bahadur was said to have been a cook with Rana Gurjit’s firm Rana Sugars. The statement said Bahadur was a labour contractor and his annual income was to the tune of about Rs 9 lakh. Sanjit Singh made these claims as Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered an inquiry into the allegations.
The inquiry has been handed to Justice (retd) J S Narang who has to submit his report within a month. The terms of reference for the inquiry commission, formed under the Commission of Inquiry Act, will be notified soon, according to a press release. Rana Gurjit, the release stated, had offered to resign to ensure free and fair investigation, but the Chief Minister asked him “to continue till the outcome of the judicial probe”. The announcement of the inquiry came hours before the AAP’s planned dharna outside the Chief Minister’s residence on Tuesday.
The release stated that that the Chief Minister had taken suo motu cognizance of media reports charging the minister with acquiring certain mines in the names of his company’s staff. It also said though Rana Gurjit had denied any links of his company, Rana Sugars Limited, to the auctions, and had stated that his company had no stake, direct or indirect, in the sand mining business, the Chief Minister decided “in the interest of ethics and propriety” to get the matter probed at the highest level. “There was no question of allowing any deviation from the government’s avowed policy of providing clean governance,” said Captain Amarinder, adding that he would take “all steps to ensure that there is no violation of the trust reposed by the people of Punjab” in his government and the Congress.