Sale of Govt Fertilizer Factory raises heat in house

Shimla: Heated exchanges over sale of a government fertilizer factory raised temperatures during question hour in the Vidhan Sabha, with industry minister Kishan Kapoor holding that a vigilance case was investigating about violation of sale terms that was permitted by the previous government and the opposition congress defended it on the grounds that no terms could be attached to sale of a freehold property.

To a query by Randhir Sharma of BJP, industry minister Kishan Kapoor let the house know that Himalayan Fertilizer, a government undertaking, was sold to Goodwill Industries, a Shimla based company, for Rs 3,06,06,006/- in March 2004, which was further re-sold in 2007 to Indian Carding Clothing Co for Rs 7.51 Cr.

In response to supplementary questions, the minister said that the state cabinet had permitted the re-sale hurriedly in 2007 after having rejected an earlier proposal in April 2006.

The sale was allowed even though both Goodwill Industries and the government had taken the matter to court, which were withdrawn after the permission was granted.

The General Industries Corp (GIC) unit was sold to the highest applicant bidder of the six who had sought to buy the industrial unit.

The sale was suspect because of the about Rs 4.45 Cr profit made in three years and the subsequent loss to the state exchequer; the government having hurriedly overturned its earlier decision; given a go by to legal opinion and despite the fact that the matter was in court, said Kapoor.

The conditional sale in 2004 had a provision that the unit would not be re-sold, he added.

He said that the matter had been marked for a vigilance enquiry and investigators in January, 2009 had made out a case and registered a FIR under fraud (Section 420) and under Prevention of Corruption Act (Section 120 IPC).

The house witnessed heated exchanges over the matter with senior congress leaders Kaul Singh Thakur and GS Bali contested the ministers’ arguments and independent Rakesh Pathania taking up cudgels on behalf of the government with the opposition.

Kaul Singh who was member of the earlier cabinet said the then cabinet had granted permission for resale of the industrial unit as the government was on weak ground in court.

“The unit was a freehold property and no conditional sale term could apply to it, nor can one stop a businessman from making profit from any dealing,” he said.

To set the record straight, Bali asked the minister to place the documents related to the sale on the table of the house.

Intervening in the matter, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said the minister was not misleading the house as nothing was recorded in the cabinet proceedings as to why the earlier decision was overruled and a huge profit of Rs 4.45 Cr profit was made in a short span of time.

“The case was under investigation and whatever facts emerge would be shared with the house,” he said.

Speaker Tulsi Ram asked the minister to place the sale documents, including the sale advertisements before the house.

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik has nurtured Hill Post for over a decade. A chequered path had him drift from managing family owned apple orchards, to turning a documentary filmmaker, to a journalist - with India’s leading television networks and newspapers, to boot strapping in founding Start-Ups. He lives in Shimla.

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