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Meet Ashok Lavasa: A man surrounded by many controversies, going back to the CWG scam

Ashok Lavasa is a 1980 Batch Haryana cadre IAS officer who entered the Centre in April 2009 as a Joint Secretary in Home Ministry during P Chidambaram’s tenure.

Election commissioner Ashok Lavasa had kicked up a storm earlier after he alleged that he did not agree with the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) decisions to clear Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah of charges of violating the so-called Model Code of Conduct (MCC). He had asserted that he will not attend the EC meetings until his dissent is recorded and Sunil Arora had slammed Lavasa for his comments.

Now, his dissent itself seems to be under question after this report by TimesNow that says he had agreed to attend the EC meeting.

The entire Congress ecosystem had used Lavasa’s ‘dissent’ to allege that the Election Commission is biased and basically, is favouring PM Modi and the BJP. Incidentally, this was also a charge made by Rahul Gandhi much before Ashok Lavasa spoke up. During a press conference, Rahul Gandhi had made allegations of bias and even threatened EC officials with consequences.

But who is Ashok Lavasa? With him being in the eye of the media, here is more about him and his family.

The P Chidambaram connection

Ashok Lavasa is a 1980 Batch Haryana cadre IAS officer who entered the Centre in April 2009 as a Joint Secretary in Home Ministry during P Chidambaram’s tenure. In 2010, Chidambaram launched a book of Ashok Lavasa. The book’s name was ‘An Uncivil Servant’. Chidambaram had also launched a travel photo exhibition of Ashok Lavasa and his wife.

P Chidambaram with Ashok Lavasa and his wife

This image is unavailable on the website that had originally posted it, however, a google cache version of the image can be found here.

Website PGurus had claimed that Ashok Lavasa was the blue-eyed boy of several ministers in the Congress government and had received several benefits under the Congress government.

Business interests of Ashok Lavasa’s wife

Ashok Lavasa has been the MoF, MoEF, Power and Renewable Energies Ministry of the Government of Haryana in the past. Ashok Lavasa’s wife, Novel Lavasa, has been a director in many such companies that seem to be in congruence with his tenure in the renewable energy ministry and the power sector. According to PGurus, Ashok Lavasa’s wife “Novel is only a Post Graduate in English and resigned from State Bank of India around 2005 as Manager. Then she was managing the IAS Officer’s wives’ welfare association activities and some social activities. When she was in the SBI, she had gone for a course in Australia on Credit and Savings. Many Bankers say that she left SBI as soon as she got a promotion as Assistant General Manager”.

Following are the posts held by Ashok Lavasa over the years in his tenure as a civil servant.

Posts held by Ashok Lavasa

Novel Lavasa became the director of a company called Balrampur Chini Mills Pvt Ltd on 6th February 2015.

The Balrampur Sugar Mill Pvt Ltd, according to their website, is involved not only in sugar manufacturing but also in power generation.

When Ashok Lavasa’s wife was appointed as the Director in the Chini Mill, Lavasa himself was involved in the Environment Ministry.

Novel Lavasa was appointed as the director in another company, Omaz Autos Limited, which has an interest in the power sector as well. Her appointment as the director came on 29th October 2015 after Ashok Lavasa was involved in the power ministry between 2009 and 2013, during the Congress tenure.

She became the Director of another company called Powerlinks Transmission Limited on 2nd May 2017. In 2016, according to our sources, Novel became the Director in 9 companies of Walwhan and Welspun groups which are related to each other through common directors. These companies had interests in the Renewable energy sector.

Links to Commonwealth Games scam?

OpIndia has accessed parts of the Shunglu Committee Report that named Ashok Lavasa’s daughter and son as a part of undue favouritism being showed towards them due to their links to powerful people elsewhere.

Part of Shungly Committee report

The Shunglu Committee basically concluded that the Selection Committee unduly favoured Avny Lavasa in her appointment to as the PO (Project Officer) disregarding due process and because she had influential people who favoured her.

The observations made in the Shunglu Committee report were scathing.

The report said that the selection committee was constituted under the approval of the “chairman” and it was formed to interview candidates for 6 posts. The Committee was formed to select Directors, ADG, DDG etc. Interestingly, out of the 17 candidates who were invited to appear for the interview, only 16 showed up. Further observations in the matter were scathing.

Part of Shungly Committee report

The Committee rules that Avny Lavasa’s application was received by the selection committee after ‘several enquiries’. She was then interviewed by the committee and her name was recommended for appointment of APO.

The report asks how a committee that was formed to select Directors ended up interviewing and recommending a name for the post of APO. The report also questions, why other candidates were not evaluated for the post of APO and only Avny Lavasa, was interviewed and selected.

The report then concludes that Avny Lavasa was related to an “influential person” (being Ashok Lavasa, her father) and that the possibility that documents were created to provide legitimacy to the recruitment cannot be excluded.

Soon after Avny was appointed as the APO, she was promoted to the post of PO.

Order promoting Avny Lavasa

Avny Lavasa’s brother, Abir Lavasa was also appointed as the APO according to the report.

Avny Lavasa seems to be currently posted in Ladakh, according to a segment done on her by Kapil Sibal’s channel.

In 2013, The Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Youth Affairs & Sports Jitendra Singh has said that the Government constituted a High-Level Committee (HLC) headed by V.K. Shunglu to look into various issues related the organizing and conduct of the CWG, 2010, including weaknesses in management, alleged misappropriation, irregularities, wasteful expenditure and wrongdoing.

The HLC in its various Reports has cited instances of irregularities, procedural lapses, delay in execution of the Works, financial loss to the Government, favoring of contractors, not following the proper procedure in awarding contracts, use of substandard material and purchases of material at higher cost, irregular appointment of various staff/consultants, lack of supervision/control over the contractors/staff. The High-Level Committee has in some cases also recommended investigations by various agencies.

Abir Lavasa’s business interests

Abir Lavasa is the son of Ashok Lavasa and certain business interests of Abir do peak one’s interest.

Abir Lavasa became the director of a company called Nourish Organic Foods Private Limited on 14th November 2017. Interestingly, insiders have told OpIndia that Abir was appointed as the director around the same time that two other directors, Naresh Kumar and Seema Jajodia resigned from the company.

It would be of interest to know that Seema Jajodia is connected to the company Monnet Ispat that has defaulted around Rs. 1000 crores.

According to SBI, the total amount claimed from the steel company was Rs 2,243 crore, although it defaulted only on Rs 1,539 crore. 

Sandeep Jajodia is the is married to Monnet Ispat and Energy’s promoter Sandeep Jajodia.

According to The Telegraph, “Seema Jajodia, who was also listed as the promoter of Monnet Ispat, transferred her shares by way of gift on October 24 but the company intimated the bourses only on January 27. Bids for Monnet were closed on December 12. It could not be immediately ascertained when Jajodia was declassified as the promoter of Monnet by the bourses. A petition filed by the employees of Bhushan Steel, where JSW Steel was a resolution applicant, had claimed that the transfer of shares by Jajodia in Monnet was “antedated”.

The allegation basically was that Seema Jajodia transferred her shares in Monnet Ispat & Energy “antedated” to enable her brother’s JSW Steel to be in the clear under section 29A of the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016 that bars defaulting promoters and their related parties to bid for distressed assets without repaying overdue loans”.

There are allegations that the current directors in Nourish Organic Foods Pvt Ltd are Directors in name and the entire control of the company rests with Abir Lavasa.

A large number of shares of Nourish are reportedly held by a company called Bonita Traders Private Limited. Right before Abir Lavasa was appointed as the director in Nourish, Seema Jajodia and Nikita Jajodia were appointed as Directors in Bonita Traders Private Limited.

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Nupur J Sharma
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017

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