Nagpur: Union minister Prakash Javadekar on Friday accused NCP leader Praful Patel of "ruining" flag carrier Air India and sought a probe against him in the multi-crore scam at the Mumbai-based Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank (PMC Bank).
The senior BJP leader also alleged huge loans were approved on phone calls during the Manmohan Singh government, which weakened the financial condition of state-run banks. The Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change was talking to reporters here.
Without naming Patel, Javadekar said, "Certain person who is facing ED probe...his role in PMC Bank bankruptcy case should also be probed."
Patel, who was the Civil Aviation Minister in the UPA government, on Friday went to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) office in Mumbai after being summoned by the agency in connection with a money laundering probe linked to the alleged illegal assets of late Iqbal Mirchi, an aide of underworld don and terror accused Dawood Ibrahim.
"Thisperson was regularly using the aeroplanebelonging to some of the accused in the PMC bankruptcy case. Similarly, who gave the SRA development work near the Mumbai airport to the accused and why?
"Hence, more investigation is required to find out who else is involved in the PMC bank scam," Javadekar said. The minister's statement was aimed at the promoters of real estate group HDIL, Rakesh and Sarang Wadhawan, who are the prime accused in the PMC Bank scam. They are among the five arrested in the case.
The troubled realty firm was mainly into handling Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) projects. It had bagged one such project near the Mumbai airport, but could not complete it.
HDIL allegedly accounted for 70 per cent of the cooperative bank's Rs 9,000 crore advances. According to the Mumbai Police's Economic Offences Wing, HDIL's loans turned Non-Performing Assets, but the bank management hid this from the RBI's scrutiny.
Replying to a query, Javadekar said Patel, as the aviation minister, completely "ruined" Air India, which is suffering losses and is on the block for disinvestment.
"Around Rs 60,000 crore worth of new planes were purchased for a Rs 18,000 crore worth company under what business principles? Besides, those planes were not fully utilised.
"When planes of other private airlines were working for 20 hours, those of Air India were functioning only for nine hours. How can there be any profit in this situation?
Good routes of Air India were given to private players. Who was responsible and accountable for this?" the minister asked.
To a query on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's latest statement that the NDA government should stop blaming the UPA regime for economic and banking woes, he said India is mirroring what is happening at the global level.
"Economic slowdown is a reflection of global slowdown, but the weak situation of banks arose due a new type of phone banking, which was started under the Manmohan Singh government.
"Huge amount of loans were approved on phone calls and they robbed away the money and made the banks bankrupt. Who did this banking fraud?...This responsibility of fraud will fall on the Congress alone," he said.
Talking about former Union minister Sharad Pawar, Javadekar said earlier it used to be said that apart from taking care of his own party, the NCP chief used to manage other parties as well.
"But now he is not even able to manage his own party. Hence, Sushilkumar Shinde said that the Congress and NCP have become tired. Such is the situation of the opposition," the BJP leader said.