Clarifying reports of the Maharashtra government's action of giving land to Sharad Pawar's trust at a nominal rate, NCP leader Nawab Malik on Thursday said that the land was given to the Vasantdada Sugar Institute and not Sharad Pawar. Malik also mentioned that the institute works for the welfare of the farmers and so the issue must not be politicised.
Speaking to the media Malik said, "The land has been given on rent to Vasantdada Sugar Institute, not to Pawar, who is one of the trustees. Institute works for the welfare of sugarcane farmers. It shouldn't be politicized."
Earlier on Wednesday, the Maharashtra cabinet approved the allotment of a 100-acre government plot, valued at Rs 10 crore, in Marathwada’s Jalna to NCP president Sharad Pawar-chaired Vasantdada Sugar Institute on nominal rates. VSI has sought the land for sugar research and extension of its educational activities, as per reports.
VSI chief and former union minister Sharad Pawar, at an annual general meeting held last month, had urged Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who was also present, to allot land in Jalna. Thackeray had then assured that their demand would be met. The institute has been pursuing the matter for the last five years.
According to reports, the Thackeray Cabinet, which sanctioned the proposal, overruling the objections raised by the state’s Revenue Department and the Finance Department and ignored an opinion submitted by the state’s Advocate General’s office. The land in question, measuring 51.33 hectares, and situated in Patharwala village in Jalna, was originally acquired by the state’s Agriculture Department for a state seed farm. The state’s official valuers estimated the plot’s market worth at Rs 9.99 crore, as per reports.
A public trust formed by cooperative sugar barons in 1975, the Pune-based VSI is counted among India’s premier sugar research and educational institutes. The institute is engaged in sugarcane research and operates through three channels, including academic, extension and research. While Pawar is VSI chairman, sitting Maharashtra ministers Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Excise Minister Dilip Walse-Patil, Finance Minister Jayant Patil (Nationalist Congress Party), and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat (Congress) are among the Board of Trustees while two other ministers Rajesh Tope (NCP) and Satej Patil (Congress) are on its governing council.