The Enforcement Directorate has raided the premises of Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s brother in connection with an alleged fertiliser scam. According to the sources, the raids were conducted at several places across the country in connection with the case.
The nationwide search in fertiliser scam started on Wednesday morning. These included searches in properties owned by Agrasain Gehlot. Agrasain is the elder brother of Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot.
The raids were conducted at six places in Rajasthan, including Jodhpur, two places in West Bengal, four in Gujarat and one in Delhi. The searches came at the time when the government in Rajasthan is teetering on the edge following the rebellion by former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and MLAs loyal to him. Ashok Gehlot is struggling to keep his government afloat as the party is divided into factions after Sachin Pilot raised his grievances with the government’s functioning in the state.
Agrasen Gehlot in eye of “fertiliser scam”
In an exclusive report by OpIndia, Agrasain Gehlot, the brother of Ashok Gehlot, was accused by the Commissioner of Customs of selling Muriate of Potash (MOP) – a soil nutrient used in non-urea fertilizers – to a middleman who subsequently put fake labels on MOP and exported it to buyers in Malaysia and Taiwan. The order by commissioner stated that Gehlot was willingly part of this syndicate that operated between 2007 and 2009, when both Rajasthan and the centre were ruled by the UPA.
According to documents available, the scam largely took place when Ashok Gehlot was leading the state government in Rajasthan and Manmohan Singh was leading the central government at Delhi. It is alleged that Agrasain Gehlot, during the period 2007 to 2009, was part of a conspiracy to export tonnes of Muriate of Potash (MOP) against shipping bills by falsely declaring it mostly as Feldspar Powder or industrial salt; the total value was also falsely declared against the then correct actual value. This resulted in the diversion of items that were actually meant for the farmers.
The zonal unit at Ahmedabad of the Directorate of Revenue discovered that a firm was exporting MOP, which is a restricted commodity for exports, under the guise of feldspar powder or industrial salt to buyers in Malaysia and Taiwan. MOP, also known as or Potassium Chloride, is a soil nutrient used in manufacture of non-urea fertilizers.
There are no viable sources of MOP in India. Since India does not produce MOP, its demand is met by imports and the government provides subsidy on imports. Indian Potash Limited (IPL) is the company that imports the bulk of MOP catering to domestic demand. The demand, however, always tends to exceed the availability. The soil nutrient is meant for domestic consumption by the farmers and its export is subject to severe restriction including prior permission of Department of Fertilizers and forfeiture of the custom duty exemptions.
According to the ED, Ashok Gehlot’s brother, Agrasain Gehlot had sold the subsidised fertiliser “muriate of potash” or MoP to companies, who then exported it while it is banned for exports. As per the documents accessed by OpIndia, Gehlot made all payments in cash, an account of which was not proper in the books.
The person acting as the middleman in this whole syndicate was known to Agrasain Gehlot. Gehlot was the custodian of subsidised imported MOP and he knew that it was an offence to sell it to anyone other than farmers, but he manipulated sales document of his firm to show that MOP was being sold to farmers while in reality it was being subsequently exported.
Citing OpIndia report, BJP attacked Congress party over charges of corruption against Ashok Gehlot’s brother
Citing the above OpIndia report, BJP had then mounted an attack against Congress, calling it a party synonymous with corruption. Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Prakash Javdekar told reporters in Delhi today that Congress indulged in doublespeak over issues of farmers.
“On one side Congress and its leaders talk about farmers and their issues, but the relatives of their party’s Gujarat in-charge is stealing the farmer’s subsidy,” Javdekar said further asking if the Congress top leadership will take any action against Ashok Gehlot.
“This is a clear case of theft of subsidy and all this happened between 2007 to 2009, when Congress-led UPA was in power at the Center and during the period Gehlot had also assumed charge as the Rajasthan chief minister,” the union minister further said.