Other States

Sand mining case: ED raids house of Punjab CM’s nephew

At least 10-12 locations in the State are being covered by the officials. Photo: Twitter. @dir_ed

At least 10-12 locations in the State are being covered by the officials. Photo: Twitter. @dir_ed

As the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday conducted raids at close to a dozen locations in poll-bound Punjab, including the residence of Chief Minister (CM) Charanjit Singh Channi's nephew, Bhupinder Singh Honey, in connection with an illegal sand mining case, the Congress called it “vendetta politics” against a Dalit CM and described the ED as the “election department” of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

While the Punjab Chief Minister said the raids were an attempt to put pressure by targeting him and his ministers ahead of the February 20 polling for the 117 Assembly seats, his colleague and Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu said conducting “raids on anybody doesn’t mean that one is guilty”.

Hitting out at Mr. Channi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Aam Admi Party (AAP) leaders had been exposing about illegal sand mining taking place in the Chief Minister’s own assembly constituency, Chamkaur Sahib, yet not action was taken and asserted that “it is evident that Mr. Channi and his relatives are involved in illegal sand mining”.

The ED action, under the prevention of money laundering act, has been taken after taking cognizance of a First Information Report (FIR) registered by the Punjab police on March 7, 2018, pertaining to alleged illegal sand mining in six quarries located in the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district.

The police had invoked various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act.

Based on the 2018 FIR, the ED had raided several locations in Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Pathankot and Mohali with the assistance of armed personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The ED has seized about ₹6 crore during the searches at various places which included the premises of Mr. Singh, according to a source in ED.

Sources claimed that Mr Channi’s nephew, Bhupinder Singh Honey, had links with a person named Kudratdeep Singh, who is named in the FIR as well as being investigated by the central agency. It is learnt that the ED’s money laundering case is based on an FIR registered by the Punjab police on March 7, 2018, pertaining to six quarries located in the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district. The police invoked various provisions of the IPC and the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act.

The case was registered hours after several teams comprising officials of the district administration, police and the mining department conducted surprise checks. Excavation machines and vehicles used for transporting the sand were found during the operation. While about 30 suspects were detained, several accused were later named in the FIR.

The early mornings raids at Mr. Honey’s Mohali residence triggered a political war of words.

Talking to journalists in Chandigarh, Mr. Channi said during the Assembly elections in West Bengal such attacks were made against Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s relatives. “And similarly now in Punjab, the Enforcement Directorate is attempting to create pressure and trouble the ministers and all Congress worker. This kind of atmosphere is not good for the democracy. But we will not let them succeed,” he said.

In Delhi, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for Punjab, Harish Chaudhary, pointed that that ED was ‘used’ not only against Ms. Banerjee’s nephew before last year’s Bengal Assembly polls but also against Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar before the 2019 Assembly polls in Maharashtra and against Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhihesh Yadav in the run up to the Uttar Pradesh polls now.

The Congress leaders also accused the AAP of working in tandem with with the BJP as Mr Kejriwal was the first to attack Mr. Channi over the ED raids.

However, the opposition parties — including Shiromani Akali Dal and AAP — have been consistently accusing Congress leaders of being involved in illegal mining activities that were rampant across the State.

Former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, after quitting the Congress party, had alleged,“..As far as the issue of illegal sand mining was concerned the offenders, unfortunately, were the substantive bulk of Congress MLAs and Ministers, including an overwhelming number in the current government”.

Taking to Twitter, Mr Sidhu said, “Complete government control over sand mining is the only solution. Punjab Model advocates to form Punjab State Mining Corporation to disband ‘ thekedari’ system and to sell sand at fixed rate, weight & date. As long as ‘ thekedari ’ system exists people won’t have access to cheaper sand.”

But in Delhi, Mr Surjewala and Mr Chaudhary linked the latest ED raids to the forthcoming Assembly polls.

“To seek revenge on a Dalit Chief Minister, the ED has been unleashed in Punjab, with which the Chief Minister and his family have nothing to do. The BJP is taking revenge on a Dalit Chief Minister,”Mr Surjewala said.

“The BJP is forgetting that this is not Amarinder Singh, this is Channi. The attempt to muzzle Channi is a mistake. He will keep standing tall. The BJP is anxious with the good governance of Channi,” Mr Chaudhary said.

“Arvind Kejriwal is working as the BJP’s B team. Mr Kejriwal unfortunately did not stand with Punjab during the Prime Minister's tour of the State. The ED raid is a weapon that is being used now. It was earlier used against Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav. Punjabis are intelligent. They will give their reply to the BJP in the upcoming polls,” he added, linking raids by central agencies to polls.

The crackdown on illegal sand mining had been carried out on the directions of then Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

BJP’s favourite weapon: Rahul

“Conducting an ED raid is BJP’s favourite weapon because they themselves have things to hide. Not everyone is like you. We have #NoFear. #BJPFakeRaid,” tweeted Mr. Gandhi.

Just ahead of the last year’s Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, relatives of the Opposition leaders did face raids either by the ED or the Income Tax (IT) Department. In April last, IT searches were carried out on Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M.K. Stalin’s son-in-law Sabareesan and DMK leader Senthil Balaji. DMK candidate E.V. Velu’s premises too were searched by the IT in March 2021.

Similarly, in February last year, the CBI had examined the wife of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee in an alleged illegal coal mining case.

Ahead of the bypolls in Karnataka, in October 2020, the CBI searched Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president D.K. Shivakumar and his brother D.K. Suresh over alleged disproportionate assets of about ₹75 crore.

And before the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly polls, the ED had registered a money laundering case purportedly involving NCP chief Sharad Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar and others.

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Printable version | May 26, 2022 9:32:34 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/illegal-sand-mining-ed-raids-multiple-locations-in-punjab/article38285702.ece