‘Caught in sand storm’: After Rs 26 crore bid, Rana’s ‘friend’ will have to sell sand for Rs 3 lakh a tipper
In Punjab, Rana was quick to climb the sticky ladder of politics and spread his business empire inherited by his three sons. On Monday, when chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh announced a judicial probe into allegations of “benami” sand bids by the minister, Randhawa, who too shifted base to Punjab, came to his rescue.punjab Updated: Jun 05, 2017 08:55 IST
The journey of Punjab’s power and irrigation minister and richest MLA Rana Gurjit Singh, as per poll affidavit, started from Bazpur in Uttarakhand. So did that of his close friend Capt JS Randhawa. Rana set up sugar mills and distilleries and Randhawa was into auto parts and farming business.
In Punjab, Rana was quick to climb the sticky ladder of politics and spread his business empire inherited by his three sons. On Monday, when chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh announced a judicial probe into allegations of “benami” sand bids by the minister, Randhawa, who too shifted base to Punjab, came to his rescue.
His son, Sanjit Randhawa, has claimed that the two former employees of the minister’s company (Rana Sugars) — Amit Bahadur and Kulvinder Paul Singh — are “working partners” in his companies, Rajbir Enterprises and Rajbir Enterprises (Mohali), respectively. Bahadur bagged the Saidpur Khurd mine and Kulvinder Paul the Mehadipur mine. A third firm of Randhawa, New Rajbir Enterprises, has bagged Behloor Khurd mine in the same district.
The progressive bidding for the 12 mines in Nawanshahr reaped the government a windfall of Rs 264 crore. But just bidders of four mines have paid the first instalment of 50%, including three mines that went to Sanjit’s companies. The remaining eight have defaulted.
Now consider this: All three mines started with modest first bids in lakhs that went for crores, literally turning sand into gold. The tonnage of the mines raises a bigger question. At what price will these firms sell the sand?
The bid for Saidpur started from Rs 29.9 lakh and Bahadur bagged it at Rs 26.5 crore. The capacity of the mine is 31,320 tonnes, which means each tonne will cost Rs 8,301. A truck or tipper (of 800 cubic feet) carries 40 tonnes. So, the firm will have to sell the tipper full of sand at Rs 3.32 lakh to recover its bidding cost. Not to forget that the firm will have to pay land owners, labour, fuel and other incidentals.
A tipper of sand used to cost anything between Rs 8,000 and Rs 11,000 in January this year. According to reports, the price of sand tipper has already doubled in some districts.
In case of Mehadipur, the first bid started at Rs 25.3 lakh and Kulvinder Paul bagged it for Rs 9.2 crore. The capacity of the mine is 29,241 tonnes. A sand tipper here has to be sold for Rs 1.23 lakh for the bidder to break even. In case of Behloor Khurd, the first and last bid scored a perfect 10-fold jump, from Rs 23 lakh to Rs 23 crore. This when the capacity of the mine is just 26,568 tonnes. A tonne will cost Rs 8,657 and a tipper over Rs 2 lakh to recover just the bid cost. And this is not all. During monsoon, there can be no mining, which leaves the bidders just nine months of business.
Requesting anonymity, one of the bidders told HT that the high bidding will lead to illegal mining to recover the cost.
On the unrealistic bids, Sanjit said he has not looked into the tonnage of the mines. “In every business, there can be profit or loss. We have just paid 50% of the amount. We have to pay the remaining after six months. By then, we will know whether we make profit or loss and all partners will bear the same,” he said.
While the Opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the SAD-BJP have rubbished the judicial probe and are demanding that the two central agencies, income tax department and Enforcement Directorate investigate the money trail, Sanjit says all the three bids were made by his firms through its account in HDFC Bank, Chandigarh. On how someone like Bahadur who has filed income tax return of Rs 9 lakh could bag a contact running into crores, he said Bahadur never paid the bid money.
“It is a normal practice in liquor and sand mining business to give labour contractors a share to ensure loyalty and integrity. Mining is a labour-intensive job and the investors cannot take care of daily signing of slips for trucks and labour,” Sanjit said.