Sharad Pawar is no stranger to controversy and allegations; so when he talks about ministers having court cases and convictions it becomes as joke and a mockery of the integrity of political leader and a bad example for the good leaders that Goa and India can bring forth; rightfully so Anna Hazare’s demanded that he withdraws himself from the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Sharad Pawar is the president of the Nationalist Congress Party which he founded in 1999, after separating from the Indian National Congress. He has previously held the posts of Minister of Defense and Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Today he holds the portfolio of the Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India.
Pawar also served as the Chairman of the Board of Control for Cricket in India from 2005 to 2008. In 2010, Sharad Pawar became the President of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
In the light of the tremendous clout that this politician wields; it is interesting to note that he has embroiled himself over the last couple of years in some very shocking scams most pertaining to the portfolio of Agriculture as well as Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
Mr Pawar we have a few questions:
Tell us about the alleged ‘Wheat’ Scam
In May 2007 a tender floated by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for procurement of wheat was cancelled when the lowest bid received was for USD 263 per ton. The government subsequently allowed private traders to purchase wheat directly from farmers that year resulting in a paucity of wheat to stock Food Corporation of India (FCI) granaries. By July 2007 the shortage at FCI was large enough to require import of wheat at a much higher price between USD 320-360 per ton. Taking advantage of this, traders who had domestically purchased wheat at Rs 900 per ton earlier, were now offering the same to FCI at Rs 1,300 per ton. Pawar was accused of creating artificial shortage in the domestic markets allowing traders affiliated with his institutions to hoard grains and then dump them on FCI to make a clean profit of Rs 400 per ton.
Here is how it worked to Pawar’s benefit; the government ordered the import of 5.7 million ton of wheat at USD 325 per metric ton. And then later called for another tender and had placed an order for nearly 80 million ton at USD 390 per metric ton. The gain to the traders was close to Rs 800 crore to Rs 1,000 crore. Though, BJP alleged that affiliated institutions to Pawar may have made money to the tune of Rs 1,400 crore. While the exact amount of money made by Pawar on this manipulation cannot be ascertained at this stage until of course the UPA government conducts an inquiry which the opposition has been demanding; market Insiders have put Pawar direct benefit at about 1-1.5 per cent of the scam profit which is over Rs 100 crore.
Tell us about ‘Sugar’ Scam
As the Minister for Agriculture, Pawar exported sugar at Rs 12.50 per kg and then imported sugar at Rs 36 per kg. The amount imported was 5 million tons. Opposition raised the issue and has demanded a probe on this distinguishable price difference since as exports the government is paying Rs 12.5 and as imports we are paying Rs 36 at the same time. The same price manipulation is also evident in the import and exports of rice and onions; however nothing on this has come to the fore.
Money on ‘Land’
Affiliations more recently with the Niira Radia tapes and allegations of a connection between Shahid (DB) Balwa and Sharad Pawar are his recently known thrusts with land bank accumulation efforts; here is a brief on some of the land related issues that have come to light:
On October 27, 2007, the Bombay High Court served notices to institutions headed by Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar and Sadanand Sule (Sharad Pawar’s son-in-law) along with a corresponding notice served to the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (MKVDC) on special privileges given to Pawar and his family. This was done in consideration of a Public Interest Litigation No. 148 of 2006, filed by Shamsunder Potare alleging that the land said allocations in Pune, made in 2002, were illegal. The institutions and properties mentioned include:
Two 141.15-acre (0.5712 km2) plots given allotted to Vidya Pratishthan, an educational society headed by Sharad Pawar
- A 2-acre plot allotted to Anant Smriti Pratishthan, headed by Ajit Pawar, the Maharashtra state minister for irrigation and Sharad Pawar’s nephew
- A 32.12 acre plot allotted to Lavasa Corporation, owned by Sadanand Sule, Sharad Pawar’s son-in-law at the time. He handed over his stake in 2006.
- A 1-acre plot allotted to Shivajinagar Agriculture College
- A 3-acre plot allotted to Sharadchandraji Scout and Guide Training Institute
The largest of all the scams that Pawar was involved was the Lavassa plot allocation where Agriculture land was first converted into Non Agriculture Land and then handed over to Pawar affiliation. The market value of the plot runs upwards of Rs 5,000 cr. That was prime agriculture land.
These allocations were made allegedly under NCP leader and Minister Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar who was in charge of MKVDC at the time. Sharad Pawar was served a contempt of court notice on May 1, 2008 in connection with this case for issuing statements to the press even though the matter was subjudice at the time that was later rejected by the court. Also in connection with the case, the respondents were directed not to create third-party interests in the property under dispute and to undertake any developments at their own risk.
Money on IPL
The recent IPL Pune team bidding has revealed his 16 per cent stake in City Finance which owns Pune franchisee. IPL Pune team is supposedly worth 1200 crore rupees. That makes him and his greedy family richer by Rs 192 cr. Likewise; his 0.05 per cent stake in Royal Challengers Bangalore team is alone worth Rs 6 crore.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Goa managed to get three of its candidates elected in the Goa 2007 Assembly elections and also won two cabinet berths; revenue ministry went to Jose Philip DeSouza and tourism ministry went to Mickky Pacheco (who later resigned on NCP High Command order because of alleged involvement the death of Nadia Torrado – a close friend of the minister); subsequently the tourism minister post went to Nilkanth Halarnkar. Since then, NCP in Goa has been in turmoil over the power sharing and rivalry amongst prominent party members
Sharad Pawar’s unofficial visit to Goa and the subsequent meeting with the executive committee here in Goa further fueled the uncertainty. But one thing is certain, his interest in Goa is on a high and it should be since rumors of the large tracks of land he and his coterie of family and political friends possess, around the proposed Mopa airport is a good place to start looking and also the connection with Cidade De Goa.