Congress government in Punjab had ordered major steps to check the illegal mining in the state. A two-day e-auction of sand mines was held and it had witnessed total bids worth a whopping Rs 1,026 crore for 89 mines the highest ever earnings for the state government from the sand mining business, according to report. Now, it has been learned that days before the e-auction the government altered the rules of the auction to keep the names of the bidders secret, an IE report says. In the auction, former employee of Minister for Power and Irrigation Rana Gurjit Singh bagged a Rs 26 crore contract, the report says. A political slugfest has begun with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) demanding the sacking of the state irrigation and power minister. SAD and the BJP demanded a probe into the matter. The Congress, however, has said Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is looking into the allegation that Rana Gurjit Singh acquired mines through benaami transactions. Rana Gurjit also has denied the charges saying neither he nor his company – Rana Sugars Limited – has any direct or indirect stakes in the sand mining business.
It has been alleged that Rana Gurjit Singh acquired sand and gravel mines through benaami transactions in the name of his company’s cook and staff.
According to Indian Express report, on May 3, in the first announcement of the auction — notice number GLG/Pb/G-1/Auction 1085/Auction 2017/734-B — Para 8 stated that the list of prospective bidders would be posted on the website of the Department of Industries after scrutiny of their documents and payment of earnest money. But on May 15, the department issued a corrigendum stating that para 8 of the earlier notice stood deleted and the list of prospective bidders would be kept secret. No reasons were given. The corrigendum was signed by Director, Mining, Amit Dhaka. Dhaka told the names were kept the secret to avoid cartelisation during the auction process. “Para 8 was deleted to prevent cartelisation as it was a progressive bidding system,” he said.
As many as 1,000 bidders participated in the e-auction of 102 mines conducted by the Department of Mining in four blocks on May 19 and 20 under the supervision of a retired High Court judge and two IAS officers from other departments. Of the 102 mines put on auction, earnest money was received against 94, of which a total of 89 mines were finally auctioned, according to PTI report.