Clean chit to Punjab minister Rana Gurjit in sand mine ‘scam’
Giving a clean chit to power and irrigation minister Rana Gurjit Singh, the justice JS Narang Commission, probing allegations of irregularities in the sand mines auctions by the Punjab government, has said there was no loss of revenue and the auction was carried out in a transparent manner through e-tendering process.
Justice Narang handed over a 90-page report to chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday. The CM had ordered constitution of the one-man commission in May this year following allegations of impropriety against Rana Gurjit in sand mine auctions.
Justice Narang met Amarinder at his (CM’s) official residence in the morning and handed over the report. “The CM has marked the report to the chief secretary and asked him to revert with his comments within two weeks,” said an official spokesperson.
Though Justice Narang refused to discuss the contents of his report calling it “confidential”, sources say the report attached replies to questionnaire given to all those named in the auction row, including the power minister, his close aide Amit Bahadur and officials of the mining wing of industries department. The report, sources said, also brought on record that the government earned much more in the auction as compared to the annual earnings during the previous Akali-BJP government. The report, sources revealed, said that no government official was pressured by the bidders.
The Congress government, which took over in March 2017, was rocked by the allegations of irregularities when it came out that some former employees of the minister had got sand mining contracts in the auction held by the department of mining. The opposition parties, especially the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), went after the state government, demanding the minister’s resignation.
The AAP questioned how Rana Gurjit’s cook Amit Bahadur, who earns ₹1 lakh per year, successfully got a mine auctioned in his name after giving a whopping bidding amount of ₹26 crore. Sources say the report is silent on the source of money pumped in by Bahadur and others into the auction, because it was not commission’s mandate.
The inquiry commission was mandated to probe all aspects of the allegations of impropriety against the minister in the controversial auctions. It was tasked with inquiring whether the terms and conditions of the bid were adhered to while awarding the tender of two mines to ex-employees of the minister and whether Rana Gurjit had in any manner influenced the price bid at which these two mines were awarded, and if the bidders were bidding on behalf of the minister in question for the said two mines.
The commission was also asked to inquire whether the minister has received any undue financial benefit or gain from the award of such two mines to the bidders and if there has been any loss to the state revenue by the award of such two mines to the bidders at the price in question.