NewDelhi/Nagpur: Pandemonium reigned in the Rajya Sabha on Friday after the opposition Congress disrupted proceedings over a CAG report on alleged irregularities involving a loan extended to Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari’s Purti Group.
The Congress trooped to the Well of House demanding the minister’s resignation resulting in six adjournments of the Upper House.
Heated arguments ensued between the members of the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress, with the former questioning the latter’s moral right to raise issues of corruption.
Trouble began when Congress leader Shantaram Naik raised the issue during Zero Hour. He said the CAG, in a report last week, had stated that Purti Sakhar Karkhana Ltd (PSKL) — a bagasse based co-generation project of the Purti Group in which Gadkari was once a board member — did not meet conditions for securing interest subsidy from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “This is not a question of allegation against an individual MP or minister. This is a CAG report against a company he was heading. Having been indicted, he cannot continue as a minister”.
In an apparent reference to chaos that reigned the Parliament caused by CAG report over 2G Sepctrum allocation involving then Telecom Minister A Raja Deputy, recalled how the saffron Party has stalled the proceedings of the House then.
“We do respect rule, we respect democracy, which your government does not respect… Since I have been reminded. Let met tell you that in 2012 on leaked CAG report, 23 days were disrupted,” the former Union Minister said, responding to criticisms for stalling the House.
“In this House as well as the other (Lok Sabha), the Council of Ministers are accountable. We have very recently established a precedent based on leaked CAG report. First, there should be accountability,” Sharma said.
Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said: “We are helping the Prime Minister, who has zero tolerance for corruption. Where is zero tolerance? We want that zero tolerance. You cannot have two standards. There cannot be double standards.” Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “Congress always talks about corruption. It seems it loves corruption. How can they misquote? The government is ready for discussion on corruption. We are ready for discussion on all issues.”
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien’s repeated attempts to bring order to the House was unsuccessful, with the House finally being adjourned for the day at 3.45 pm.
Purti says it never defaulted on IREDA loan
Purti Group today said it has not defaulted on loans from state-run IREDA and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari was never involved in its day-to-day operations, as Opposition demanded the Minister’s resignation over CAG flagging this issue.
“We have not defaulted on repaying the loan or indulged in any misutilisation or misappropriation of the amount. The audit report is on lapses or irregularities in procedures followed by IREDA,” Purti Sakhar Karkhana Ltd (PSKL) Managing Director Sudhir Dive told reporters here.
The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) mentions that in April last year IREDA management had informed the CAG that PSKL settled its entire loan outstanding as per OTS (one time settlement) norms, he added.
“While settling the repayment of the loan as per the OTS norms with IREDA, PSKL furnished all necessary documents and replied to all their queries to their satisfaction,” he said.
Earlier this month, the government’s auditor had flayed state-run IREDA for “violation of financial guidelines” in connection with a Rs 48.65-crore loan to the Nagpur-based PSKL for which its promoters and directors, including Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari, had given “personal guarantee”.
PSKL was sanctioned a term loan of Rs 48.65 crore by Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited (IREDA) in March 2002 for setting up a 22 MW bagasse-based co-generation power project at Nagpur in Maharashtra.
On Gadkari’s role in the firm, Dive said the Minister was Chairman of PSKL since 2000 to 2011 and resigned in 2011. As Chairman he was not involved in the day-to-day working of the firm, as there was a full time MD, he added.
Proceedings in the Rajya Sabha were disrupted today by repeated adjournments following uproar by Congress demanding the resignation of Gadkari following the CAG report.
Dive declined to comment on the issue.
However, a source said that if the Opposition moves a notice on the issue, the Minister will reply on the floor of the house and clear his stand.
“He has nothing to hide. There has not been any financial irregularities,” the source added.
On the charge that IREDA could recover only Rs 71.35 crore out of the total amount of Rs 84.12 crore, Dive said the firm paid over 84 per cent compared to an average recovery of 46.75 per cent of the total outstanding amount.
“The audit was conducted on 29 firms, which had settled their loans through the OTS route. The recovery is low to an extent that not a single rupee of interest has been recovered in 20 cases and in 9 cases the principal was also not recovered,” Dive said.
On disbursement of 25 per cent of the loan amount in the first installment violating IREDA’s financial guidelines, Dive said it is IREDA’s internal checks and balances and “how can PSKL be aware of them.”