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Lavasa row: Ex-IPS officer targets Sharad Pawar, Supriya

Last updated on: October 18, 2012 19:49 IST
In the season of scams, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and his close relatives were on Thursday dragged into a corruption scandal by a former India Police Service officer-turned-lawyer for benefiting a private developer by allegedly bestowing undue favours for the controversial Lavasa hill city project.

Y P Singh, a former IPS officer of Maharashtra cadre, alleged that Ajit Pawar, former irrigation minister and nephew of Sharad Pawar, allotted 141 hectares (348 acres) of land belonging to Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation on a renewable lease of 30 years to the Lake City Corporation in 2002, violating a Supreme Court judgment.

The company, which later came to be known as Lavasa Corporation, a subsidiary of Hindustan Construction Company, was allotted the land at a monthly rent of Rs 23,000, Singh said.

Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule, now the Nationalist Congress Party MP from Baramati, and her husband Sadanand Sule, according to documents released by Singh, held 20.81 per cent shares in the company.

In 2006, the Sules sold their entire share to the Lavasa Corporation, he claimed.

According to Singh, Axis Bank, which invested Rs 250 crore in the Lavasa Corporation Limited in 2008 in the form of convertible preference shares and convertible debentures, valued the company at Rs 10,000 crore.

"The Sules, if the value of the company is taken into account on the basis of Axis Bank's assessment, must have got around Rs 240 crore from sale of their shares. It is not reflected in the affidavit Supriya Sule filed detailing her assets before contesting 2009 Lok Sabha elections," he said.

Distributing the affidavit, which showed Supriya Sule's total assets at little over 50.45 lakh, Singh alleged, "There is a big money laundering scam."

Singh said, according to a SC judgment, if a portion of land acquired by the government is left after completion of a project, it would not go back to the erstwhile owner.

"If there is no other public purpose for which the land is needed, then instead of disposal by way of sale to the erstwhile owner, the land should be put to public auction and the amount fetched in the public auction can be better utilised for the public purpose envisaged in the directive principles of the Constitution," he said quoting the judgment.

The lawyer-activist said a retired IAS officer Ramesh Kumar, who was then Principal Secretary of the revenue department, had objected in an official note to the allotment of the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation land to Lavasa.

"The then revenue minister Narayan Rane had concurred with the view of the very honest IAS officer that strong action should be taken, but then got silent," he said.

Singh said after his retirement Kumar had applied for the post of a member of the state administrative tribunal and a committee headed by the chief justice of the Bombay high court had even approved his name. "However, several objections were raised by the government and a secretary who had supported Lavasa project was accommodated instead," he alleged.

The former IPS officer said Sharad Pawar, despite being a Union minister having nothing to do with the Lavasa project, used his influence to arrange a meeting with Ajit Pawar, bureaucrats and top functionaries of the company at a private guesthouse in the lake city Ekaant.

"In that meeting, several decisions raising the heights of the proposed buildings using global and floating FSI were taken. This meeting was called at the instance of Pawar who had no business to get involved in the project," he said.

Singh alleged that Pawar had used his clout in the government to facilitate holding of the meeting after Aniruddh Deshpande, considered close to the NCP chief and a shareholder in Lavasa, failed to get concessions for the project.

Sharad Pawar dismisses charges

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today sought to dismiss charges that he and his family were involved in illegal land acquisitions in Lavasa, India's first planned hill city project in Maharashtra.

The NCP chief claimed that some 300 acres of land were given to the project in his home district of Pune as part of the hill station policy of Maharashtra.

"The state government has the authority to give the land as per the hill station policy. Eighty per cent of the 300 acres land are submerged in water and there has been no construction.

"It has been done as per the policy and there are no two opinions about it," he told reporters close on the heels of a former IPS officer Y P Singh alleging in Mumbai that Pawar and his family are involved in illegal land acquisitions in Lavasa.

Pawar admitted that his daughter Supriya Sule and son-in-law Sadanand Sule had shares in the Lavasa corporation but they sold their stake around 2005-06 when there was a controversy.

The Union minister said that he was certainly present at Lavasa when the then chief minister convened a meeting there and he visited the project to see for himself the problems being faced in setting up a Lake City on the lines of the Lake City district in England.

"The chief minister visited the place and he talked to his officers. There is nothing wrong in it. It is not proper to talk much as the matter is before the courts. It is sub-judice. It is not good to talk more than this on a sub-judice matter," he said.

Ignoring a question on the charge made by the former IPS officer, Pawar suggested that he helped the "good" project which was coming in his home district and an "ideal city" is taking shape there replete with modern amenities like hospitals and educational institutions.

Lavasa, he said, will be the first hill station being built in Independent India as the earlier ones have all come up during the British period.

Image: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar 

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