While the fate of two sand mines allotted to the controversial Rajbir Enterprises hangs in the balance, the government has not issued a permit to a third mine won by the company in the mid-2017 sand mining auctioning in the same neighbourhood although it was not the subject of a government-ordered judicial investigation.
It is unclear why the government has not yet issued the permit for Behloor Khurd, the mine in question. The permit is necessary for operations to begin at any mine.
Officials in the mining department claimed they did not know. The company’s managing partners, who are associates of the Power and Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, did not answer phone calls or messages.
Rajbir Enterprises, which includes three entities — Rajbir Enterprises, New Rajbir Enterprises and Rajbir Enterprises Mohali — bid Rs 23 crore for Behloor Khurd. The bid was made by Ajit Pal Singh Gill, who is a “working partner” in New Rajbir Enterprises.
Saidpur Khurd and Mehdipur, the two other sand mines that Rajbir Enterprises won in the auction, were investigated by the Justice (retired) JS Narang Commission for allegations of “impropriety” against Minister Rana Gurjit. Behloor Khurd was not included in his terms of reference.
The government had first withheld the permits for Saidpur and Mehdipur pending the probe, and then pending a decision on whether to accept the commission’s recommendation for cancellation of the allotments. That decision is still awaited.
A visit to Behloor Khurd confirmed the mine was not operational. Residents of Behloor Khurd said there was not much sand deposited by the rains at the site in Sutlej river. “I wonder why the bidders paid in crores for this mine. It will not yield much to them,” said Maghar Singh, a resident of the village.
General Manager-cum-Sand Mining Officer, Nawanshahar, Chaman Lal, confirmed the permit was not given to the mine allottee as yet but said he did not know the reason. “I do not know anything. I received the Environment Clearance (EC) about two months ago, completed all the procedure then and sent it to the Sand Mining Directorate for ‘pakki parvanagi’ (final approval). But I did not get the permit back. You can check from the Directorate about the delay. I have now relinquished the charge of the GM. My successor will looks after these matters now,” he said.
No explanations are forthcoming from anyone in the Sand Mining department for the rationale behind withholding the permit for the third mine, which was not investigated.
Secretary (Industries) R K Verma, when contacted, said, “I do not know specific details of the case. You get in touch with the sand mining directorate.”
As per the rules, a successful bidder has to deposit 50 per cent of the bid amount as a security deposit for the mine. Rajbir deposited a total of Rs 29.75 crore as security deposit — 50 per cent of the total bid amount — for the three mines.
The bid amounts were Rs 23.41 crore for Behloor Khurd, Rs 9.2 crore for Mehdipur, Rs 26.51 for Saidpur.
The allottee has to pay 25 per cent the bid amount at the time the permit is issued to him. The balance 25 per cent has to be paid three months after the permit is issued.
Gill is an employee of Capt JS Randhawa, a close friend of Rana Gurjit. He is a working partner in New Rajbir Enterprises that has Randhawa’s son Sanjeet Singh Randhawa as its managing partner along with Sahil Singla, son of the minister’s chartered accountant.
Sanjeet and Sahil are also managing partners in two other linked companies — Rajbir Enterprises, and Rajbir Enterprises Mohali — in which the “working partners” are respectively, Amit Bahadur, and Kulwinder Paul Singh, both ex-employees of Rana Gurjit. While the Amit Bahadur was the bidder for Saidpur, Kulwinder bid for Mehdipur.
Neither Randhawa nor Singla were available for comments despite repeated attempts. There was no response to the text messages sent to Randhawa.