Punjab CM's relative under ED scanner in sand mining case
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) raided various locations in Punjab on Tuesday as part of a money-laundering investigation against illegal sand mining operations. Officials from the agency raided 10 locations throughout the state in a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). A relative of Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi was notably among those investigated in connection with the case.
- The development comes just weeks before the Punjab elections and people with ties to the state's ruling Congress party are being investigated.
- Illegal sand mining is among the major issues highlighted during poll campaigning, along with drug cases and sacrilege.
- Congress has accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government of abusing investigation agencies such as the ED and CBI to intimidate and silence critics.
The ED notably searched Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi's nephew Bhupinder Singh Honey's residence in Mohali. The probing agency is currently looking into Honey's link with one Kudratdeep Singh, who is accused of illicit sand mining. According to sources cited by The Times of India, the ED has taken cognizance of an FIR filed by the Punjab Police in 2018.
"They are targeting me and trying to put pressure on me in view of upcoming Assembly polls," Channi told ANI, adding that "the same thing had happened during the West Bengal elections." CBI, ED, and IT raids have become a tool of the BJP government during elections, tweeted Congress leader Alka Lamba. "Congress will not be scared by these electoral gimmicks," she added.
Honey is accused of floating a firm called Punjab Realtors to obtain sand mining contracts, India Today cited sources as saying. The company floated is of a tiny scale and is unlikely to secure a contract costing crores, they said. The ED believes that illegal funds were used to secure the sand mining contract.
Former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh said last month that all Congress legislators in Punjab were involved in the illicit sand trade. "Ask me who is not involved. If I start telling the names then I will have to start from the top," he said. Singh added that he had alerted Congress President Sonia Gandhi about the MLAs' involvement.
Punjab will hold a single-phase election for 117 Assembly seats on February 20. The results of the polls will be announced on March 10. With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) posing a danger, Congress is competing to retain power. Meanwhile, Amarinder Singh has formed his own political party, the Punjab Lok Congress, and joined hands with the BJP for the elections.