Punjab sand mining contract row: Minister Rana Gurjit Singh has found himself at the centre of a controversy after his four former employees, including the cook, bagged mining contracts during the recently held auction for sand mines in the state. The Income Tax Department has started a probe into matter. Rana Gurjit, who is the richest minister in the Captain Amarinder Singh cabinet, exuded confidence that he will come out clean in the investigation, according to IE report.
It has been learned that the state irrigation and power minister is a businessman with interests ranging from distilleries, sugar mills to green power. Rana Gurjit, who hails from Bazpur, Uttarakhand, came under scanner after people allegedly linked to him bagged 4 out of 89 mines auctioned by state government. Mining contracts were alotted to Gurjit’s former cook Amit Bahadur at Saidpur Khurd village in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar for Rs 26.51 crore, Kulvinder Paul Singh at Mehadipur in SBS Nagar for Rs 9.21 crore, Gurinder Singh at Rampur Kalan village in Mohali district for Rs 4.11 crore and Balraj Singh at Bairsal village for Rs 10.58 crore.
Notably the auction was held by the government on May 19 and 20 to check illegal mining.
Pressure is on Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and he has ordered setting up of a judicial commission to probe the allegations of impropriety against him. Opposition parties, including the AAP and the Shiromani Akali Dal, have been demanding sacking of Gurjit Singh. Gurjit Singh welcomed the probe and said he has full faith in the judicial process.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has demanded the minister’s dismissal from state cabinet pending inquiry. It has claimed that otherwise the entire probe would appear to be “meaningless and a farce”. “The belated inquiry ordered by Amarinder Singh into the mining scandal appears to be a tailor-made exercise to absolve the accused minister, Rana Gurjit Singh. We are of the firm opinion that if Rana Gurjit Singh continues to be a member of cabinet, the said inquiry can never be free, fair and impartial,” AAP leader and MLA from Bholath Sukhpal Khaira said. The party has thrteatened that it would stage a sit-in protest outside the the residence of the Punjab chief minister to press for its demands.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) termed the judicial inquiry ordered by the government as “too little too late” and demanded immediate sacking of the minister to ensure a free and fair probe.