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Who can touch Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra?

Sharad Pawar, the veteran politician of Maharashtra is known for corruption and wealth; rather, his political party — Nationalist Congress Party — leaders are on the radar of the ED and other investigative agencies. However, as the saying goes, unless proven and punished, no one is guilty of the offence. The State Crime Investigation Department (CID) has given a clean chit to Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar in sugar cooperatives scam case worth around Rs 25,000 crore filed by activist Anna Hazare. The State CID told the court that it had closed the case, as they had found nothing in the preliminary inquiry.

Hazare had originally filed a PIL in 2016, after which the court asked him to approach the police. He then filed a complaint with MRA Marg police station, the investigation for which was handed over to the CID. Hazare’s lawyer Satish Talekar, however, objected to the CID’s finding, saying that Hazare had already raised an objection with the Government that the Officer appointed to investigate the case was working under the Pawar’s influence. He added that in a similar case filed by someone else, the Mumbai Police’s Economic Offences Wing had called the complainant to give a statement, and in Hazare’s case, the CID had closed the case even without calling Hazare to record his statement. After this, the bench directed that Hazare’s case be listed along with the other case pointed out by his lawyer. According to Talekar, Hazare’s complaint itself runs into 105 pages and is backed by the reports from the Comptroller and Auditor General, as well as other documents that can’t be refuted, and the CID could not have given a clean chit to the Pawars. The case is now likely to be heard on March 28.

Hazare has alleged that a fraud had been committed in governance by first burdening the sugar cooperative factories with debts and thereafter selling the sick units at a throwaway price, amounting to over Rs 25,000 crore losses to the Government and the cooperative sector in the State. The allegations pertain to the period when the Congress and the NCP were in power in the state and the UPA in the Centre.

This is not the first scam that Pawar has involvement; if you remember the 2009 wheat scam, in May 2007, a tender floated by the Food Corporation of India for procurement of wheat was cancelled when the lowest bid received was for 263 $/tonne. Then the Congress-NCP government subsequently allowed the private traders to purchase wheat directly from the farmers that year resulting in a paucity of wheat to stock FCI granaries. By July 2007, the shortage at FCI was large enough to require import of wheat at a much higher price of $320-360/tonne. Taking advantage of this, the traders who had domestically purchased wheat at Rs 900/tonne earlier, were now offering the same to FCI at Rs 1,300 /tonne. Pawar was accused of creating an 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/ tonne. The gain to the traders was close to Rs 800 crore-Rs 1,000 crore and Pawar affiliated institutions made money to the tune of Rs 1,400 crore. Market insiders have put Pawar indirect benefit at about 1 per cent-1.5 per cent of the scam profit which is close to Rs 120 crore 2G scam.

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 were 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 are, 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 then 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. One-acre plot was allotted to Shivajinagar Agriculture College. A three-acre plot was allotted to Sharadchandraji Scout and Guide Training Institute. The largest of all the scams that Pawar was involved was the Lavasa plot allocation where agricultural land was first converted into non-agricultural land and then handed over to Pawar’s affiliation. The market value of the plot runs upwards of Rs 5,000 crore. That was prime agriculture land. These allocations were made 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; the notice 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.

Sharad Pawar, as the former Agriculture Minister, exported sugar at Rs 12.5/ kg and then imported Sugar at Rs 36/kg. The amount imported was close to 50 lakh tonne. Sharad Pawar defends sugar industry in Marathwada so all the details have not yet emerged but it seems to be reasonably well established of the same game that Pawar played with Sugar and thus allowing his traders to make more than 100 per cent gain. The counters of the onion scam size have not yet emerged but it could well run into thousands of crores. Pawar has been consistently accused of being incapable of handling the extreme hike in onion prices. The opposition had accused him to be responsible for the same issue.

Even the official declaration of their wealth makes them the richest politicians in India. Supriya Sule, her husband Sadanand and their two children, have properties worth a whopping Rs 41.52 crore. Former Aviation Minister Praful Patel, however, beats Sule in the wealth game by a few crores, has declared assets worth Rs 49 crore. Pawar himself declared assets worth only Rs 3.6 crore when he contested the Lok Sabha elections from Baramati in 2004. The affidavit shows Sules do not own any vehicle just like Pawar senior, who normally travels in an imported SUV. The Sules have diamonds worth Rs 52 lakhs and gold ornaments worth Rs 18.2 lakhs. Supriya and Sadanand have each invested Rs 1.97 crore in overseas financial institutions and Rs 14.46 lakh each in quoted shares overseas. They have bank deposits worth Rs 55.8 crore, while their foreign accounts amount to Rs 10.5 lakhs. However, so far, no one can bell the cat as they are the powerhouses of politics. In a democracy, the kingmakers are more powerful than the king himself.

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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