Armed with documents pertaining to a lone farmer’s case to allege “rampant” irregularities by a sugar unit owned by the Purti Group pioneered by former BJP president Nitin Gadkari, AAP’s Nagpur nominee Anjali Damania Saturday went to the former’s residence with supporters and handed over the papers to his representative, seeking explanation “up to 4 pm or quit politics”.
Damania later addressed a press conference at 4 pm, saying no explanation had come from Gadkari and hence he must quit politics. Damania was responding to Gadkari’s Friday statement that he would quit politics if charges against him were proved. She said the farmer, Shyamrao Satpute of Padegaon village in Wardha district, had been approached by the Purti unit to grow sugarcane and had been made available a loan of Rs 16,500 through the local Shikshak Sahakari Bank in March 2001.
“Satpute grew cane and sold it to Purti in two parts and paid off the entire loan amount. Rs 2,000 was also deducted from his payment towards the company’s share and the farmer was left with only Rs 2,828 for all the 35,353 kg cane he produced. But in June 2004, he received a letter from the bank that he hadn’t repaid his loan. He rushed to Purti, which assured him that he had paid the loan and that his getting the notice was a genuine mistake,” she added. “But when the loan waiver scheme came in 2008, the bank claimed the loan amount showing default against the farmer’s name. Gadkari owes an explanation in the case,” she said.
Asked if she can claim large-scale fraud citing one case, Damania said: “It may have been one of the thousands of such cases. We have sought information.” Asked why didn’t she prefer to be armed with a larger sample size, Damania said: “We will duly get information about many other cases too.” She said she would register a police complaint in the case on Monday.
A senior cooperative department official told The Sunday Express that banks showing false cases of outstanding loans to claim the amount under the waiver scheme might have been possible in an exercise that involved over 4 crore farmers and Rs 75,000 crore. “It has happened in case of a Kohlapur bank that showed loan amounts to be Rs 1 lakh when the scale of finance didn’t permit amounts beyond Rs 25,000.
In the Purti farmer case, the bungling may have happened either at Purti’s end, from where the loan refund never possibly reached the bank, or at the cooperative bank’s end where the initial two checks of the accounts and of the defaulters’ list were left to the banks’ internal supervisors and were later checked randomly by government auditors,” he said.
Purti has given a written complaint at Ganeshpeth police station, calling for strict action against Damania for making defamatory claims about the company. In a press statement, it said: “The company hasn’t been approached by any department as regards the case cited by Damania. When any such direction would come to the company from any department, proper explanation would be given. The company doesn’t find it necessary to reply to personal allegations.”
Managing Director, Purti Power and Sugar Ltd, Sudhir Dive told The Sunday Express that the Purti unit hadn’t started its crushing in 2002 and had given the cane to Bapurao Deshmukh Sugar unit at Wardha. That unit owes us Rs 20 lakh. This farmer (Satpute) is our shareholder and regularly remains in touch. If he had any grievance, he would have told us. He could have asked for his money if anything was due to be paid to him. Now, we are checking the old records.”
Anil Sole, Nagpur Mayor and former chairman of Shikshak Sahakari Bank, said: “We have done everything according to rules in a transparent manner. All the accounts were audited and there was no problem at our end.”