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Corporate Aug 23, 2013

NSEL scam throws spotlight on Sharad Pawar's agri forum

By Abhay Vaidya

The National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL) scam that has erupted in recent days has drawn attention to the presence of two NSEL directors who are closely associated with Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar as directors on an agri-business forum that was launched by Pawar in 2001.

NSEL's Chairman Shankarlal Guru and one of its Pune-based directors, BD Pawar, are serving as directors on the board of the Centre for International Trade in Agriculture and Agro-based Industries (CITA) that was launched by Pawar to lobby for the domestic agri-business industry.

What is more interesting is that CITA's head office in Pune also serves as the registered office of three relatively unknown firms where BD Pawar is a director. These are Adap Consultants Pvt Ltd, Koyna Infrastructure Pvt Ltd and Kunal Hotels Pvt Ltd. All these firms have the same registered office as that of CITA's Pune office which is A-3, Gurukrupa Apartments, Narveer Tanajiwadi, Shivajinagar.

This flat is in the name of BD Pawar and Adap Consultants Private Ltd, a firm on which he is listed as a director. The database on the Ministry of Corporate Affairs website also lists BD Pawar as director on two other firms, namely, Koyna Infrastructure Pvt Ltd and Kunal Hotels Pvt. Ltd. The registered offices of all these three firms is the same as that of the CITA's Pune project office.

Pic credit: Abhay Vaidya

Sharad Pawar is the founder and president emeritus of CITA - formed to update the farming community on the latest developments and trends in the WTO. Pic credit: Abhay Vaidya

When asked about these firms, BD Pawar said that he was out of Pune and would like to discuss details about CITA and his firms on reaching Pune later in the day. A former bureaucrat in the Maharashtra government, Pawar has served as Additional Commissioner and Special Registrar, Cooperative Societies and director of state agricultural marketing.

Speaking to Firstpost.com, CITA's CEO Kishore Kulkarni said that the Pune office was the head office of the body and other offices were located in Delhi, Jaipur and Bangalore. "The main force behind CITA which was established in 2004 is its chairperson, Anuradha Desai (chairperson and MD, Ventakeshwara Hatcheries). CITA is known for its agricultural surveys," Kulkarni said.

He confirmed that CITA's head office also functioned as the registered office of Adap Consultants, which, he said, was doing work in agriculture-related consultancy. The CITA CEO declined to give information on other firms associated with BD Pawar, such as Koyna Infrastructure Pvt Ltd and Kunal Hotels Pvt Ltd, which had CITA-Pune's address as its registered office address. "I can only speak about CITA," Kulkarni said.

A visit to CITA's office in Pune threw up some interesting details. Inspite of its high-power profile and the fact that CITA served as a "principal partner of UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) for their capacity-building projects in India," the Pune-project office of this agri-business forum has a neglected look about it.

While the office operates out of a poorly maintained large flat of approximately more than 1,500 sq.ft, CITA's address board on its premises lies in an unwashed neglected state. This raises questions about the seriousness with which CITA is being run by heavyweights associated with it such as the Union agriculture minister, Anuradha Desai, Shankarlal Guru, BD Pawar and others.

CITA, a section 25 (not-for-profit) firm of which Sharad Pawar is the founder and president emeritus, was formed with the objective of updating the farming community, its associations and agro-based industries on the latest developments and trends in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime and "to liaison with the government and other policymaking bodies in respect of agricultural policies and programmes with reference to WTO developments''. It is an initiative of the Yashwantrao Chavan Pratisthan, Mumbai.

CITA's governing council at the time of its establishment reflected the strong presence of businesspersons closely identified with Sharad Pawar such as Vijay Mallya, Chairman, United Breweries, KM Goenka, then the CMD of the Baramati-based Dynamix Dairy, who was later an accused in the 2G scam, and Anuradha Desai, Chairperson of Venkateshwara Hatcheries, one of the earliest investors in the Lavasa Lake City project, which which also Sharad Pawar's name is associated.

Well informed sources from the agricultural sector in Maharashtra told this correspondent that BD Pawar was identified as a trusted lieutenant of Sharad Pawar. While he shares the surname, he is not related in any way to the union minister.

The monthly "Sharad Krishi" magazine brought out by CITA was described as an "irregular publication" by a senior journalist associated with agricultural publications in Maharashtra.

by Abhay Vaidya

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