Updated: June 28, 2021 7:06:45 am
A VIDEO posted by a Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader alleging illegal sand mining in the premises of a thermal plant on Sunday provoked a strong reaction from multiple Punjab Congress leaders, who then trained their guns not at the opposition party, but at each other.
SAD leader from Bathinda Sarup Chand Singla on Sunday morning did a Facebook live session from inside the Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant, Bathinda complex, in which he accused Bathinda MLA Manpreet Singh Badal and his brother-in-law and Congress leader Jaijeet Singh Johal of being involved in alleged illegal sand mining.
Shooting the video in an area where trucks were being loaded, he said: Look at this area and jija-saala have made it a way of illegal sand mining. Everything is clear now.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, he said: “It was the area where fly ash is dumped. Truckers take out fly ash free of cost from that area. Deep pits have been dug, from where inferior quality sand is being taken out and is even being used on government projects…it is an irony that the thermal plant was closed down and now sand mining is being done there…once can imagine the quality of works being done in the city with this sand…while I was making the video near a JCB machine, the driver even tried to hit me and hence it was an attempt to kill me. I have posted that video to Punjab DGP, chief secretary, Punjab CM, Bathinda SSP etc. On Monday I will file a written complaint on this issue and an attempt to kill me, at Bathinda SSP’s office.”
On his Facebook page, Singla wrote: “Scam exposed…loot of government treasury – thermal plant Bathinda). Mafia team also tried to attack me, but…we will not fear these goons.”
Hours later, the same video was shared by Gidderbaha Congress MLA Amarinder Raja Warring on his Facebook page. The post said: “Dudh da dudh ate pani da pani hona chahida hai…Captain Amarinder Singh Ji jinna lokan uppar eh elzam han ohna di jaanch honi chahidi hai ate doshian uppar bandi karwahi honi chahidi hai (Captain Amarinder Singh, people against whom these allegations have been made should be investigated and the accused should be prosecuted).”
Warring posted the video as a ‘pinned tweet’ on his Twitter handle as well, which has been retweeted by Congress MP Ravneet Bittu. Before posting the video, Warring wrote: “Capt Amarinder ji, please take action against the people who are behind this. These are the people who are pulling Congress down.”
While Warring posted Singla’s video at around 3.30 pm, two hours later, party leader and Manpreet Badal’s brother Jaijeet Singh Johal posted on his Facebook page an old video in connection with Raja Warring’s brother-in-law Dimpy Vinayak being booked for abetment of suicide in February, when Faridkot-based contractor Naresh Kataria had killed his two children and wife before shooting himself. Kataria’s suicide note had accused Vinayak of forcing him to take this step. An inquiry into this case is ongoing.
Before posting the video, Johal had also put up a similar post as Warring’s and urged Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to take action against the accused.
Meanwhile, Singla’s video was also shared by Bathinda MP and SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal who said: “Sand mafia is going on under the patronage of Finance Minister Manpreet Badal and his relative. Sarup Chand Singla has shown it with proof. This sand mafia can attack a respectable representative of a political party…so one can think what can be the fate of a common man.”
Congress leaders sharing videos accusing each other once again indicated differences within the party at a time when the Congress high command in Delhi has had to intervene to control infighting.
When contacted, Johal said, “These are baseless allegations by Singla…fly ash is dumped in thermal plants over 500-600 acres. In every thermal plant, fly ash is being given free of cost…only loading charges are taken. This ash is used by many cement factories and they pick it as per contracts done with the thermal plant. The ash stock is so huge that it will take 25 years to clear the entire area if loading is done on a regular basis. Truckers have spread mud on that land so that the path can be driven on. Fly ash is being taken out from that area for the past many months. Why is Singla raising this issue now? They are just politicising the issue for no reason. One can check the quality of development works going on in the city anywhere and prove if anything is wrong.”
Singla meanwhile said, “They take out sand from this land, mix it with fly ash later and are using it in various development projects.”
Later in the evening, Johal also posted two videos on his Facebook page of transporters purportedly saying that they have been taking fly ash from this area for the past 10-15 years after the Supreme Court allowed use of fly ash from thermal plants. One Tehal Singh Butter shared a video in which a contractor says: “I have been taking out this ash…we call it pond ash and not fly ash…it is used in brick kilns, in cement factories and contracts of persons to pick ash from the site are going on for years together.”
In yet another video, of people holding ash in their hands to show “it is ash and not sand” being taken from that area. “…It is a routine process and nothing illegal is being done,” said a person in a video shared by Johal.
Johal said, “Singla himself was in power for 10 years and even at that time loading of ash was being done…municipal corporation was with Akalis for 53 years…so they need to explain why they were quiet at that time and woke up all of a sudden.”
He added that the substance being loaded into trucks as shown in Singla’s video, which the latter claimed was “white sand”, was mud being taken out to on the path ahead to make it motorable.
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