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Sand mining row: Punjab minister Rana Gurjit resigns

CHANDIGARH: Following an investigative report by The Tribune on sand mine auctions in Punjab, state Power and Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh has submitted his resignation to the Chief Minister. The Tribune had recently also reported that the Enforcement Directorate had summoned his son in connection with raising of funds abroad.

Sand mining row: Punjab minister Rana Gurjit resigns

Rana Gurjit Singh. File photo

rchopra@tribunemail.com

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16

Following a series of investigative reports by The Tribune on sand mine auctions in Punjab, state Power and Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh has submitted his resignation to Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh. The Tribune had recently also reported that the Enforcement Directorate had issued summons to his son in connection with raising of funds abroad.

The exact date when Rana Gurjit submitted his resignation could not be confirmed. While the minister said he had put in the papers four days ago, Capt Amarinder Singh said he had received the resignation on January 4.

“When my name appeared in the sand mining controversy, then too I had offered my resignation on moral grounds. On the same grounds, I have submitted my resignation to the CM,” Rana said.

(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)

The Congress government, however, is yet to take a call on his resignation. A senior government official said the final decision would be taken after Capt Amarinder Singh met Congress president Rahul Gandhi. A meeting is scheduled for Thursday.

Also read: Punjab minister’s cook is Rs 26-cr sand mine owner

Minister’s cook is director of 3 companies too

Cook’s company gave loan of Rs 50 lakh to Rana Gurjit

ED summons to Rana Gurjit’s son

Sources said that in the wake of the reports of Rana's son being summoned by the ED over alleged illegal fund-raising abroad and the Opposition taking up The Tribune's reports on the minister's suspected involvement in sand mining auctions, the CM had increasingly come under pressure to seek his resignation.

In an investigative report on May 25, 2017, The Tribune had highlighted how four employees of Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh had bagged mines. His cook Amit Bahadur got a mining site at Saidpur Khurd village in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar (Nawanshahr) for Rs 26.51 crore; Kulwinder Pal Singh, a deputy general manager, got Mehadipur quarry for Rs 9.21 crore; Gurinder Singh bagged a quarry in Rampur Kalan village in Mohali district for Rs, 4.11 crore; and Balraj Singh bagged a contract at Bairsal village in Nawanshahr for Rs 10.58 crore.

However, the minister had claimed that they were his former employees and left him just before the sand mine auctions.

Taking cognisance of the reports, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh constituted a one-member judicial commission under Justice JS Narang to investigate the matter. However, the commission overlooked all the crucial evidence--like money trail, auction beneficiaries linked to the minister’s other companies and minister’s financial transactions with beneficiaries-- brought out by The Tribune in subsequent reports and gave a clean chit to the minister.

However, The Tribune brought fresh evidence on January 4 as to how one of his employees, Balraj Singh, who got mine at Bairsal village in Nawashahr for Rs 11 crore had given address of Rana’s Sugar Mill at Butter Sivia in Amritsar while participating in mining auctions.

Amarinder says will discuss it with Rahul

Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh told The Tribune that Rana Gurjit had sent his resignation on January 4, adding that he would discuss it with Rahul Gandhi on January 18 and then take a call on it.

Amarinder Singh said he was also meeting party affairs incharge Asha Kumari and Harish Chaudhary in Delhi to discuss the mayors of three municipal corporations of Amritsar, Patiala and Jalandhar.

Sources close to the Chief Minister said expansion of the Punjab Cabinet would be done only after the Ludhiana MC elections.

Timeline

2017

May 19-20: E-auctions for 94 sand and gravel mines takes place

May 25: The Tribune breaks the story, ‘Punjab minister’s cook is Rs 26-cr sand mine owner’. It highlights how bids of at least four employees of Rana Gurjit--cook Amit Bahadur, Kulwinder Pal Singh, Gurvinder Singh and Balraj--were accepted in sand mining auctions

May 29: Punjab CM orders judicial inquiry into charges against Rana Gurjit and forms one-member judicial commission of inquiry under Justice JS Narang (retd). But AAP questions Justice Narang’s impartiality as his son represented the minister’s family as a counsel

May 30: The Tribune breaks another story as to how cook Amit Bahadur and another employee Balraj Singh, who were beneficiaries in the sand mining auctions, were directors in three companies linked to Rana Gurjit. Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax department swing into action and seeks bank details of employees of the minister

June 15: The Tribune highlights how Rana Gurjit got Rs 25 crore loan from firms owned by cook Amit Bahadur; the Budget session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha remains stormy over the issue; AAP and Lok Insaaf Party leaders suspended from the session

July 12: Government stalls allocation of sand mines to minister’s employees

Aug 10: Justice Narang submits report to the CM giving clean chit to Rana Gurjit

2018

Jan 2:  Bringing fresh evidence to public domain, The Tribune highlights that there were not just two mines, the firm that claimed to have financed Punjab minister’s cook but they had bagged contracts for other mines too

Jan 4: Tribune highlights how Rana’s employees Balraj Singh, who had successfully bid at Rs 9.11 crore for a sand mine at Bairsal village in Nawanshahr district, mentioned his residential address as Rana Sugar Mill located at Butter Siviya village in Amritsar district before mining wing. This mill is owned by Rana Gurjit Singh’s family

Jan 6: Tribune highlights that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned Rana’s son Rana Inder Partap Singh in connection with raising of funds abroad to the tune of Rs 100 crore

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