J&K: Lal Singh Under Fire? Now, Kathua Factories ‘Linked’ to Ex-Minister Raided

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“Our teams raided one factory in Kathua and two in Samba districts today,” inspector general of police Jammu zone SD Singh Jamwal told Greater Kashmir.

Three factories in which ousted BJP minister Lal Singh is believed to own a share were raided by the police on Friday and acacia catechu (kattha) worth crores of rupees was seized.

“Our teams raided one factory in Kathua and two in Samba districts today,” inspector general of police Jammu zone SD Singh Jamwal told Greater Kashmir.

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Sources said that the raids came after major reshuffle in the Forest department carried out by Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh, who took over charge of the department from Choudhary Lal Singh.

The former Forest Minister was compelled to resign by his party high command alongwith Industries Minister Chander Prakash Ganga following their controversial remarks in Kootah’s Hindu Ekta Manch Rally against Crime Branch probe in the brutal rape and murder case at Rasana.

Sources said that the Forest Vigilance team along with Police jointly conducted raids at J K Integrated Park in Kathua (close aide of Choudhary Lal Singh) and another factory of Katha wood in Kathua.

The raids were carried out on the Katha wood factory, where medicines are extracted. The State government has banned the export of wood out of the State, while a mafia runs the trade illegally.

Sources said that the former minister “was using his influence and most of the contractors were his close aides and the factories, which were given licenses, were run by close relatives of former Forest Minister”.
During the raids, sources told Rising Kashmir, records were checked, and seized by the Forest Department officials, and it was also learnt that large quantity of raw material was seized from the spot.
“Illegal registration has been given to some factories which processed the Khair wood more than the approved capacity,” said the sources citing the complaint.

Initially there were only three units of Khair wood— JK Katha, Guru Nanak, and BK Katha (Govt contractor) at Gangyal— but now the number was much higher. The case against Lal Singh was based on the fact that he instead of renewing the licenses had given the permissions to his kith and kin to start the work of extraction.

The involvement of former Minister started after 1994, sources said, as another unit was established with the name MS Industry and it was opposed by all three previous units who lodged a complaint with the Vigilance and later the matter went to the court.
Sources said that the court gave a ruling and directed the Government to form new policy and issue fresh licenses on the bases of raw material availability without hurting ecology or environment.

Sources told Rising Kashmir that the court directions were violated and the licenses to four units were not renewed by the Forest Department by Lal Singh. The licenses were also issued in violation of rules.

Meanwhile sources said that the BJP high command is unhappy with the former Forest Minister who is openly conducting rallies in support of a CBI inquiry in the Kathua case.
Sources told Rising Kashmir that the rallies by a senior BJP leader has put the alliance partner in a tight spot as these actions by Singh are being viewed as an “open revolt” after he was forced to resign over his participation in a pro-rape rally in Hiranagar last month.

“His campaign was seen as revolt in BJP by many and, he took out a march from Jammu City to Kathua and in Udhampur where some of his supporters shouted slogans against the Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh,” sources said.
Lal Singh, sources said, is considered to be the close aide of Jatinder Singh, who is Minister of State in PMO. On Thursday, brother of Lal Singh held a press conference in Kathua and demanded that Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh should step down.

Rajinder Singh Babbi demanded that Jitendar Singh should be made Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
Sources said that the BJP high command was unhappy with the activities of Lal Singh after he lost portfolio in the Government and started taking out protest rallies demanding CBI probe in Rasana case. His stand has put the government in trouble as people in Kathua and Samba, and Bar Associations are openly demanding CBI probe.
Sources said that Lal Singh “will not be taken back in the cabinet of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti due to his rallies against the Government.”

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