Punjab Irrigation and Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh and his wife, Rana Rajbans Kaur, took loans from the same three companies that paid a firm which, in turn, paid 50 per cent of the bid amount for two sand mines allotted to two former employees of the minister.
The three companies are RGS Traders Pvt Ltd, RJ Texfab Pvt Ltd and Jay Aar Builders Pvt Ltd.
RGS Traders Pvt Ltd has given the same office address as Rana Group of Companies, the family-run business of the Minister, in Sector 8 Chandigarh and has mentioned the email ID of the Rana Group as its own email ID. As per documents of the company submitted with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the address of the company is SCO 49-50, Sector 8-C Chandigarh, which is also the address of Rana Sugars Ltd, Rana Polycot Ltd and Rana Informatics Ltd. RGS traders has mentioned its email ID as “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
As per Rana Gurjit’s affidavit submitted before Election Commission prior to the Punjab Assembly elections earlier this year, he has taken a loan of Rs 407 lakh from RGS Traders Pvt Ltd, Rs 546 lakh from RJ Texfab Ltd and Rs 464 lakh from Jay Aar Builders Pvt Ltd. His wife has taken a loan of Rs 68.32 lakh from RGS Traders, Rs 71.50 lakh from RJ Tex Fab and Rs 85.50 lakh from Jay Aar Builders.
These three companies paid cash into the account of Rajbir Enterprises which was a sole proprietorship firm of one Sanjit Randhawa who deposited approximately Rs 18 crore on behalf of the two former employees of the minister, Amit Bahadur and Kulvinder Paul Singh, as 50 per cent of the bid amount for two sand mines.
Out of these three companies, RGS traders deposited Rs 35 lakh, Jay Aar Builders Rs 36 lakh and RJ Texfab Rs 4.52 crore.
The names of these companies have been mentioned in the inquiry report into the auction of two sand mines in Saidpur Khurd and Mehandipur in Nawanshahar district by Justice J S Narang but the investigation did not connect these companies to Rana Gurjit.
The report listed 23 firms and individuals who deposited money in Rajbir Enterprises and these three firms are among them.
The Narang Commission report recommended the cancellation of the allotment of these two mines on the grounds that rules regarding payment of money had been flouted as individuals and companies other than the actual bidders had deposited the funds.
“It is also noticeable that by virtue of investment of money of all the aforestated persons, substantial amount of money has been deposited into the account of Rajbir Enterprises. The same has been done on May 23, 2017 which was the last day for saving the provisional acceptance of the bid,” the report states.
But the commission gave a clean chit to the minister stating that there is no evidence that he invested benami money in the auction.
The commission had been set up to inquire if the successful bidders for the two mines had been a front for Rana Gurjit and if he had influenced the auction by virtue of being a minister and financially benefited from it. It was made public by AAP leader and Leader of the Opposition Sukhpal Khaira.
When The Indian Express asked the Minister to explain links with the three companies, he accepted he had taken loans and that he knows the owner of RGS Traders, Sukhjeet Singh Poonia. “People often give address of those whom they know. I know Sukhjeet,” he said. When asked about Sukhjeet’s relationship with him, the Minister said that “the whole of Punjab is my relative” and then said: “Yes, he is my relative. He is from Bajpur (UP hometown of Minister). All of Bajpur gets work done from me at one time or another, I help everyone.”’
Rana Gurjit added that if he had to take part in the auction he would have done it openly. “Has there been a loss to state exchequer? The loans which you mention that I and my wife have taken have been given in cheque and declared in election affidavit. As far as address is concerned, people often give address of those whom they know,” he said.
The Minister summoned his Chartered Accountant Triloki Nath Singla to explain the business dealings. Incidentally, Singla, too, has invested approximately Rs 9 crore in Rajbir Enterprises and it was his son, Sahil Singla, who paid the earnest money for the bid of the two mines.
Defending the loans taken by Rana Gurjit from the three firms, his CA said these transaction took place before he became a minister and ever since he has assumed office of a minister he has had no dealing with him. “If they have pumped in independent money then what? The money does not belong to the minister as is being imputed. Where is it written that they could not do business just because Rana has taken money from them?” he said.
When asked if the Rana Group had any business dealing with RGS Traders, Singla said, “We may have had business dealing with the firm at some point of time. It trades in sugar and maybe they traded with Rana Sugars,” he said. Rana Gurjit added that he has not been taking direct part in his companies for the last 19 years. “I am the founder of the group but officially I hold no position, but, yes, it belongs to my family,” he said.