SURAJ PARMAR, the Thane-based builder who committed suicide last week, was slapped with a penalty notice of at least Rs 50 crore by the Income Tax department in 2013 for alleged non-disclosure of taxable income.
“At least two years ago, the I-T department had conducted raids and levied a penalty, which has not yet been paid,” said Hemant Parmar, Suraj’s cousin. The family claimed that Parmar had been under stress for the last six months. Speaking to The Indian Express at their residence in Thane, Hemant said Parmar had started contemplating quitting the construction business.
“Parmar was passionate about his profession. Cosmos Group was his baby. But for the last six months, he would constantly talk about quitting. ‘Bas ho gaya, bandh karte hain dhanda (We’ve had enough, we should quit this profession)’, he used to say, but when I tried to ask why, he never shared anything. The suicide came as a shock as he was a fighter and never panicked even in the toughest of situations,” he added.
Hemant, also in the construction business, is currently on a sabbatical. The family, which is still struggling to come to terms with the tragedy, has said money could not be the reason behind Parmar taking the extreme step. He held a 30 per cent stake in Cosmos Group. “He was worth at least a few hundred crores, and therefore, even if there was any penalty or other money-related issues, he could have handled it,” said Hemant.
“He held only a minority share in the company and was the working partner. His job started right from spotting the plot to handing over flats to the buyers. He was into liaisoning and knew his business,” he added.
In the 13-page suicide note, which has now been sent to the Gujarat Forensic Sciences Laboratory for analysis, Parmar had reportedly written names of at least four officials from the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) and a couple of politicians for pushing him to the edge, but later scribbled over them.
“We are hopeful that the police can establish who the officials are and take action against them so that there is proper closure for us,” Hemant added. Parmar has also shared a ‘rate card’ for bribes in the suicide note, according to the family.
“People presume just because we are builders we are rolling in money, but mid-cap builders like us hardly make a few crores on each project. Bribe is a culture among builders and it has to be paid at every stage to ensure that the project sees the light of the day,” Hemant said.
He explained: “Suppose, you meet a mid-senior-level officer for a particular clearance and you gift him a watch. He will tell his juniors about it and they might find some flaws in the application. The application will come through only when everyone is bribed,” he said.
In the suicide note, Parmar is learnt to have advised all his family members to stay away from the construction business. The family members recall he had a dream that his younger son, Akshit, would take up architecture and construct an iconic structure in India on the lines of the Sydney Harbour or the twin towers in Malaysia.
Considered a ‘tough-taskmaster’, Parmar did not allow his elder son, Abhishek, to join the family business, but instead asked him to work with a construction firm in Dubai to gain experience. Only recently had he helped Abhishek set up an independent office on Ghodbunder Road, and asked him to handle a project all by himself. The office was not under the Cosmos Group banner.
The family has expressed reservations over suspicions that Parmar had received threats from the underworld, saying Parmar had never sought any police protection and had never hired bodyguards. However, he used to carry a licenced revolver.
Parmar’s partners are now consulting the company architects on pending projects over which objections were raised by municipal corporation officials. Their upcoming project, Cosmic Jewel, was issued a stop-work order by the TMC for violating norms.
“As Parmar used to take care of all the projects in Thane, we have little knowledge on the notices being sent by the TMC. We will now meet the architects and find out what objections were raised,” said his business partner Manish Mehta.
The Thane police, probing the case, has written to the TMC asking them to submit all files pertaining to Cosmos Group.
“We have sought all correspondence that the TMC had with Cosmos Group, including decisions taken during the general body meetings and council committees,” said V V Laxminarayan, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), Thane.
The police will now record the statement of every stakeholder afresh. “Initially, we had recorded an accidental death case, but now we have brought abetment to suicide charges. We will record the statements of all stakeholders, including the family members, his business partners and officials,” Laxminarayan added.
The police will also write to other agencies which had prosecuted Parmar in the past. The police have seized a hard-disk from Parmar’s office and are awaiting the forensic reports.