Punjab Local Bodies and Cultural Affairs Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Thursday wrote to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh seeking a high-level probe into allegations against former Director of Tourism and Cultural Affairs Navjot Pal Singh Randhawa. The Indian Express had reported Thursday that the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had written to the Punjab government to initiate action against him under conduct rules for his alleged transactions with a businessman accused of selling antiques.
Though Punjab government has not received any communication from the DRI officially, Sidhu made personal effort to get a copy of the charge-sheet issue to Randhawa by DRI. “I have procured the charge-sheet. I am writing to the CM to either hand over the case to the CBI or to Punjab Vigilance Bureau,” Sidhu told The Indian Express.
Randhawa, who was issued a show-cause notice by DRI on August 4, had admitted in his statement to the agency that he “assisted” Vijay Nanda, a businessman accused of smuggling antiques, “in procuring a few antiquities.” Randhawa was Director of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Archaeology, Museums and Archives of Punjab, a department now headed by Sidhu. In May, he was transferred as Deputy Secretary, Defence Services Welfare, after Sidhu insisted he did not want him as his Director.
“I had smelt a rat. There is no inventory of any antiques with the state government department. This man was handling all the keys of all museums and other places of importance. There was no accountability. He was close to former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and this is what they have done,” Sidhu said.
“I heard so many things about their misdeeds. I am shocked that the DRI has issued him a show-cause notice. I have personally inspected several museums and I am getting the antiques inspected by experts. In Patiala, the antique chandeliers have miniature parts missing. I compared the 10-year old pictures of those chandeliers. I am shocked. I am getting everything inspected. These people were supposed to be the protectors. After all it is sada virsa, sada gaurav (our culture and our pride).”
Randhawa was not available for comments despite repeated attempts. Nanda was arrested by DRI on February 6 for alleged smuggling of antiques from India to US and Hong Kong.