Gulail in collaboration with an intrepid RTI activist from Pune, Ravi Bharate, has accessed hundreds of official documents revealing how a company associated with Sharad Pawar’s family was given over 19 lakh sq feet of public land in the heart of Pune city for a pittance. Ashish Khetan uncovers the massive land scam running into thousands of crores of rupees.
This author has in the past written about three major land scams involving Sharad Pawar’s family in Pune city (http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main54.asp?filename=Ne271012Coverstory.asp). Now Gulail has dug up evidence of another scam involving the Pawars that is bigger than all the previous three put together (Click here to download the documents).
In the heart of Pune city, in a locality called Kharadi, stands a glistening new Information Technology Park with four massive towers of glass and concrete already constructed and a few more that are under construction. The park is spread over 180,000 sq. meters or over 19 lakh sq. feet of land. On the surface it all seems perfectly alright, till you dig a little deeper and find that the land on which this structure stands was a public resource until a few years ago.
On 11 October 2004, Panchshil Premises Private Limited, one of the group companies of Panchshil Group, the Pune-based real estate conglomerate in which Sharad Pawar and his family have a substantial equity holding, approached the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), a government owned corporation for promoting industries, with an application seeking transfer of this massive piece of land to the company.
Within a month the Pune Collector assessed the premium at Rs 600 per sq. meter or Rs 55.74 per sq. feet for the period of 95 years. Another Rs 62,80,771 was charged as deprecated cost of the then existing structures on the land. Thus a total of Rs. 11,42,80,771 was charged for a period of 95 years for land measuring 19,37,520 sq. feet.
What’s scandalous is that 50 percent of the premium eventually assessed by the MIDC was paid by Panchshil as earnest money along with the application. This shows that the entire process of allotment was done as per a pre-conceived plan.
Eventually the land was leased out for 95 years extendable by another 95 years at the end of the lease.
The company name was later changed from Panchshil Premises Pvt Lt to Eon Kharadi Infrastructure Pvt Ltd. The documents available with Gulail show that company has built 4 million sq. feet of built-up commercial area for commercial sale or lease.
The going market rate for commercial built up area is 22,000 sq feet hence the company stands to earn Rs 8,800 crores in revenue even while the government has received a mere 11.42 crores or Rs 55.74 per sq. feet for 95 years as premium. In addition the company pays Rs 1 (you read it right; it’s Rupee One) to the government in rent every year.
The Panchshil-Sharad Pawar Connection
The website of Forbes magazine pegs the net worth of the Pune-based builders Atul Chordia and his brother Sagar Chordia at 635 million dollars and rank them as the 100th richest persons in India. Against the heading ‘Source of Wealth’ it reads “Real Estate, Self Made.” However, a more apt description would have been “Real Estate, Sharad Pawar Made.”
It is a rags to riches story for the Pune-based Chordias. The old residents of Pune would tell you that in the early 70s Ishwardas Chordia, the father of Atul and Sagar Chordia—was a small time sugar trader. He owned a gala or a small shop at Nana Chowk, a crowded wholesale market. But Ishwardas had one qualification that others lacked and it was enough to propel him and his family into the orbit of the super rich. He was a college friend of Sharad Pawar. Both had studied and graduated together from BMCC College in Pune.
Besides being a man of various talents, Pawar is a man with the Midas touch. The phenomenal riches earned by Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka—the prime accused in the 2G scam case– after they came in touch with Pawar is part of folklore. The lesser known story of the Chordias falls in the same league.
In the 70s Sharad Pawar and Ishwar Das Chordia together floated a company by the name of Panchshil Hotels Ltd.
Documents with the RoC also reveal that as of September 2004, Pawar and his wife had 1.47 lakh and 1.45 lakh shares respectively in the company. In December 2009, Panchshil allotted 1:1 bonus shares to the duo. This raised Pawar and his wife’s holding in the company to 2.94 lakh and 2.90 lakh shares respectively.
Between them, the Chordia family and Pawar’s daughter and son-in-law—Supriya and Sadanand Sule all own substantial stakes in four mega IT Parks cum Commercial Hubs set up in the heart of Pune City. Eon Kharadi is one of them. All have been built on vast stretches of public land that was systematically transferred to Panchshil Group of companies.
Sharad Pawar’s son-in-law Sadanand Sule has direct connection with Eon Kharadi Infrastructure. ROC records show that Premsagar Hotels is a holding company of Eon Kharadi Infrastructure. Sadanand Sule holds 2,50,000 shares in Premsagar Hotels.
How public land was transferred into private hands
It is illuminating to track down the history of the Kharadi land before it was transferred to companies linked with the Pawars.
A total of 36,46,000 sq. feet (36 hectares 46 r) land was acquired from farmers by the Pune Collector under the Urban Land Ceiling Act.
The Pune Collector declared the land as grazing land and handed it over into the possession of the Kharadi Gram Panchayat.
Laterthe Pune Collector took over the possession of the land for building residential schemes for economically weaker sections and a portion of the land was earmarked for industrial development. 18 lakh sq. feet was allocated to the MIDC. The land use was changed and development plan and town plan were accordingly amended.
On 8 January 1997, the MIDC wrote to Pune Collector wanting to relinquish the land and asked the government to take the possession back.
In 1998 the Maharashtra Government (Shiv Sena-BJP was in power at the time) laid down the Information Technology Policy. One of the main focus areas of the policy was to strengthen and expand human resource infrastructure in the state. The Industries Department mooted a proposal to set up a world class IT Software Engineering Institute on this same piece of Kharadi land. Discussions were also initiated with Carnegie Mellon Institute for a tie-up. Eminent business leaders like HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh, Infosys Chairman Narayanan Murthy and then UTI Chairman P S Subramanium had give their consent to be part of the Governing Body of the proposed institute.
In October 2009 the NCP-Congress Alliance formed the government and the proposal was soon shelved. Five years later the land was given to the Panchshil Group for a pittance.
Gulail sent detailed questionnaires to Panchshil Group and MIDC. But till the time of publication of this story they had not responded.