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Nafed board removes top official defying government order

New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) The board of the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) Friday sought the removal of its managing director, defying a stern government directive a day earlier that had termed the proposed meeting illegal.

‘The meeting presided over by Nafed Chairman Bijendar Singh requested the government to remove C.V. Ananda Bose as Nafed managing director,’ the agency’s vice chairman Chander Pal Singh Yadav, who is also a former member of parliament, told IANS.

Additional managing director P.K. Sharma will hold charge of the position held by Bose till such time the government appoints a new managing director, Yadav said, but did not spell out why the incumbent was removed in the first place.

The agriculture ministry, however, has decided not to accept the decision taken at the meeting, since it had already been termed ‘illegal’ even as it was contemplating stern action against those who took such steps against its nominee.

‘Nafed is a federation that exists with the financial guarantee of the government of India. How can the government approve a decision taken by a board whose members are facing probe for financial irregularities?’ queried a top official in ministry.

The official said Bose was a civil servant and that only the government could decide if or not to remove him from any post. Action will be taken against the erring members of the board in accordance with the rules governing cooperatives, the official added.

The background of Friday’s development traces its roots to a major scandal suspected in 2003-04 that was eventually established by a committee headed by retired Allahabad High Court Judge R.R. Mishra.

The probe committee found that top officials with their ‘notorious tie-ups’ with some private businesses made Nafed extend counter guarantees on loans taken by them without any security, with the connivance of a few board members.

Nearly 30 companies were said to have turned defaulters for an amount estimated at over Rs.3,900 crore, officials said. This resulted in huge losses for the cooperative, due to which it was forced to approach both the government and other agencies for soft loans.

Questions were also raised about the conduct of present chairman, who was a board member in 2003-04, even as the probe committee said the loss to the agriculture cooperative was in the region of Rs.1,600 crore.

Based on the findings of the probe committee, one top official of Nafed — the former additional managing director Homi Rajvanshi — and a Delhi-based businessman identified as O.P. Aggarwal, were also arrested by the Delhi Police two months ago.

A proposal was also mooted for a one-time settlement, wherein the defaulters paid back the money owed to the cooperative. But the government-named Managing Director Ananda Bose, tasked last September with reviving the agency, said it was against the norms.

Nafed was set up in 1958 to promote cooperative marketing of farm produce to benefit the farmer. The agency now also imports some essential commodities from overseas — such as oil seeds and lentils — as part of India’s food security strategy.

(T.G. Biju can be reached at biju.t@ians.in and biz@ians.in)

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