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Channi involved in illegal mining, claims SAD’s Majithia with ‘proof’. Punjab CM says ‘baseless’

Chandigarh: Sting operation videos, photographs, even the very person who carried out the undercover operation — all these pieces of ‘evidence’ were produced by former Punjab revenue minister and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia at a press conference Saturday, to allege that Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi was involved in illegal mining operations in the state.

The sting video he presented purportedly showed that the CM had approved mining from protected forest land.  

Majithia alleged that Channi was openly patronising those engaged in illegal mining of sand and minor minerals, which included his sister-in-law’s son Bhupinder Singh, alias Honey. Majithia added that as Channi handles the environment and mining portfolios, all this is a direct conflict of interest.

Bhupinder Singh, who enjoys close proximity with Channi, is a businessman. His residence and those of his partners Kudratdeep Singh and Sandeep Kumar were raided by the Enforcement Directorate early this week, and Rs 10 crore in cash were recovered, along with gold and valuables worth lakhs of rupees.

However, Channi reacted strongly to Majithia’s allegations, saying in a statement that these were “baseless and frivolous” charges, and dared Majithia to present solid proof of his involvement in illegal mining. 

“I have never denied my relationship with my nephew Bhupinder Singh Honey, and being a relative, he might be present at some of my functions. It is not a crime if I get clicked with my relatives at my son’s marriage or some other functions,” the CM’s statement said, while categorically denying any involvement with Bhupinder’s money laundering case being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate.

He claimed Majithia was taking revenge for booking him in a Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) case last December.

Also denying all the allegations levelled by Majithia at Channi, Alka Lamba, communications in-charge of the Punjab Congress, had earlier said in a video message that Majithia should first look at his own criminal record before taking the high moral ground. 

Last month, Majithia was booked by the Channi government for his alleged involvement with those trading in drugs. After an FIR was lodged against him on 22 December, the Punjab Police tried to arrest Majithia, but could not locate him. Early this month, Majithia got interim bail from the Punjab and Haryana High Court. 

Also read: Former Punjab minister and Akali leader Bikram Majithia booked in drugs case

‘Evidence of patronage’

Levelling a barrage of allegations against Channi, Majithia said the Congress leader patronised the shady activities of his nephew Bhupinder, as was “clear” from the fact that he had been given security by the Punjab Police, besides an official car and an escort vehicle.  

For proof, Majithia played a video purportedly showing Bhupinder getting into his ‘official’ car, along with its escort and his police security, outside his house in Mohali. The car also sported a Punjab government sticker, reading ‘MLA’, said Majithia. 

Then, Majithia presented one Darshan Singh before the media, who claimed to be a resident of Ropar and an environment activist. Darshan Singh told the press that he had been fighting against illegal mining for the past two years, but in vain.

Darshan said he realised the only way he could gather proof of what was happening was to befriend the mafia, after which came up with some “shocking evidence”. He said only a part of that evidence was being released during the press conference.

‘Sting operation’ video

Darshan Singh then released what he claimed was a ‘sting operation video’ of his meeting with one Iqbal Singh, sarpanch of Salapur village in Channi’s constituency, Chamkaur Sahib. Darshan alleged that Iqbal Singh was very close to Channi and was actively engaged in illegal mining from a protected strip of forest in Rupnagar. 

In the video, Darshan is seen talking to the person he has identified as Iqbal Singh. Iqbal claims that the mining on the forest land is in the complete knowledge of the chief minister. He goes on to say that one forest guard tried to stop them, but soon after got a call saying that he was being transferred to Bathinda. 

“After that, the guard was begging to meet me and get the transfer stopped,” Iqbal Singh is heard boasting in the video. Iqbal goes on to claim that apart from the forest land, he also had the go-ahead from CM Channi to mine openly on land belonging to the central government and even the Wakf Board.

At the press conference, Majithia went on to release multiple photographs of the “closeness” between Channi and Iqbal Singh, and the multiple visits made by Channi in the past few months to Iqbal’s residence in Salapur. The photos show him sharing food with the family and spending time with Iqbal and his mother. 

Some of the images were even released by the CMO to showcase the ‘simplicity’ of the chief minister. 

ThePrint repeatedly tried to contact Iqbal Singh over the telephone for his comments on the allegations, but received no response till this report was published.

Majithia also named two mining contractors from Jammu — one of whom is related to a sitting Congress MLA — and alleged that they were involved in the scam. He said that he would release more evidence of their involvement. He said one of the contractors was also given security by the Punjab Police. 

Channi reacts to video, photos

In his statement refuting the charges and referring to the photos and video used by Majithia, CM Channi said, “Let me remind Majithia that he was investigated by ED for his relations with drug peddlers and a drug kingpin named him for sheltering and facilitating smuggling of drugs. Majithia’s photos were with them, does it mean he knew them and sheltering them?” 

Along with his statement, Channi also released pictures of Majithia with those facing allegations of being involved in the drug trade.

Reacting to the video recording of Iqbal Singh taking his name, Channi said that if a person took the CM’s name for personal gain, it didn’t mean that he was associated with them.

On his photos with Iqbal, Channi said that as CM, he had photographs taken with many people, and that it didn’t prove anything. 

Amarinder also targets Channi

Meanwhile, in an interview to a television channel, former CM Captain Amarinder Singh said there was no doubt that Channi and his relatives were involved in illegal mining. 

In a statement issued in Chandigarh Saturday, Amarinder alleged that Channi’s denial of involvement in illegal sand mining was “a total lie”. Amarinder said that as chief minister, he had received specific inputs that Channi was involved with the mafia, and so were several other Congress leaders and MLAs in Punjab.

“From top to bottom, right up to the level of senior ministers, many people were involved, as I had told Sonia Gandhi while I was chief minister. She asked me what action I was taking in the matter, and I told her I will have to start from the top. The one and only mistake I made during my entire tenure was that I did not take any action then, out of my sense of loyalty to the Congress, since I did not get a go-ahead from Sonia,” said the Punjab Lok Congress (PLC) leader.

(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)

Also read: Enough evidence against Majithia; won’t spare those involved in drug racket: Channi

Source: The Print

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