People pay a fortune, minister pays peanuts

Fancy number

At a time when fancy vehicle numbers fetch lakhs of rupees through open auction, a Punjab minister has got the most sought after number, 0001, for a mere Rs 60,000 resulting in many observers raising their eyebrows.

The authorities in Punjab and Chandigarh are known for generating good income for the state exchequer through open auction of numbers.

At a similar auction held in Union territory of Chandigarh in the beginning of August,  the number 0001 went under the hammer for a whopping Rs 26 lakh. A Chandigarh-based businessman continued to raise the bid for his favourite number until he bagged it.

Perhaps, luck is not blind after all. Perhaps it knew Sikandar Singh Malooka, a minister in Akali Dal-BJP government and helped him bag the number 0001 for just Rs 60,000 during the auction in Bathinda town of Punjab.

Sources said there was just one competitor for the minister at the competitive bidding and the Transport Department had fixed the minimum price at Rs 50,000 .

Within minutes after the auction began, the minister bagged the number as the other person did not raise the minister’s bid of Rs 60,000.

Though there are no flaws on the surface of it, the auction has come as a surprise for many.

Striking reason

May be the doubters have a reason. In the same auction, a less-sought after number, 0021, fetched Rs 2.5 lakh, much higher price than the most desired 0001.  Another fancy number, 0011, was bought for Rs 1 lakh on the same day. Officials, however, maintain that the process was fair and transparent.

In defence

The minister has defended himself saying there was no anomaly. He said due processes were followed and that he had bagged the number legitimately.  Officials said the Chandigarh number series are usually high priced and cannot be compared to similar numbers being auctioned in the district headquarters of Punjab.  

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