Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today ruled out any action against his cabinet colleague Rana Gurjit Singh or cancellation of the recent sand mine auctions, asserting that he would not take “any arbitrary” step under pressure from the opposition or the media. Based on the information received, Amarinder felt that there was, prima facie, “no substance” in the allegations levelled by “certain quarters of unfair and discriminatory dealings” in the entire mining auction process, according to an official spokesperson. Amarinder categorically ruled out taking “any arbitrary” action on the issue, saying he would not succumb to political pressure, nor would he allow his judgement and decisions to be influenced by “media trials”, the spokesperson said.
Opposition parties — Aam Aadmi Party, Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP — have been demanding immediate dismissal of Irrigation and Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh over allegations of “impropriety” against him in the multi-crore sand mining auctions conducted recently by the state government. Amarinder had sought detailed inputs from the Department of Mining following media reports that the e-auctions had been compromised to benefit certain individuals. “Capt Amarinder Singh has prima facie ruled out cancellation of the recent sand mine auctions under pressure from the opposition parties or as a result of media trials,” the spokesperson said.
The chief minister said “any decision in the matter would be based on judicious application of the law, and in the interest of justice,” according to the spokesperson. “Information showed the auctions were conducted with total transparency and fairness, under the supervision of a committee headed by a retired High Court judge and two senior IAS officers,” said the Chief Minister.
Regarding the charges against Rana Gurjit, the government is awaiting the report of the Judicial Commission set up to probe the same, the Chief Minister reiterated, underlining the need for a fair legal investigation into the matter, in the interest of justice. “Unless categorically proved to the contrary, there is no reason to believe any ambiguity or lack of transparency in the process of auction of 102 mines through progressive bidding process on the e-auction platform by ITI Ltd, an Indian Government PSU which is already time tested and is being successfully used by other states,” the Chief Minister said.
“Since it was a web-based system, the identity of the bidders participating in the e-auctions, conducted on May 19 and 20, was not known to other bidders to prevent any cartelization, or use of pressure of any kind to prevent bidding by other bidders. “What is more, any complaint received from bidders regarding any technical issues faced during e-auction was dealt with promptly by the helpdesk provided by ITI Ltd.,” the spokesperson said. The government will release another 70 lakh tonnes of mines through auction in the second week of June, to further ease the demand-supply pressure, which is also expected to stabilize significantly once the monsoon ends and operations begin full steam, said the spokesperson. This will lead to drastic decline in the price of sand in the state, he added.