Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari once again found himself in the middle of a controversy related to the Purti Group, when news reports surfaced that his recent comments about ending a ban on e-rickshaws was allegedly an attempt to benefit his relatives and the company Purti Green Technologies (PGT).
However, a statement issued on behalf of Gadkari refuted the allegations and denied having any links with PGT saying, “Gadkari has no commercial interest in the e-rickshaw manufacturing sector, nor is any member of his family associated with any e-rickshaw manufacturing firm.”
Addressing a rally at the Ramlila ground in Delhi recently, Gadkari had given a green signal for e-rickshaws and said that the government would provide a loan to buyers at a low interest rate. Purti Green Technologies is one of the companies of the Purti Group founded by Nitin Gadkari.
“Nitin Gadkari has interests in various businesses like sugar, oil, real estate and cooking gas. He will do anything to benefit the Purti Group of companies. After becoming the minister he raised two key issues – one of e-rickshaws and the other of ethanol, because both are related to his company. Directly or indirectly he owns these companies. He has been their chief promoter and does businesses in the name of his relatives and drivers,” Anjali Damania, state convenor of Aam Aadmi Party told dna.
Congress leader Digvijay Singh has also termed Gadkari a businessman first and then a politician.
Gadkari's statement however said, "Battery-run e-rickshaws have been in operation in several parts of the country for many years and are being manufactured by a large number of companies in different states. More than two lakh e-rickshaws are already operating in Delhi NCR and other parts of the country." The statement further added that the production of e-rickshaws is allowed only to manufacturers who have obtained a license from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). "It is up to the CSIR to grant licenses to e-rickshaw manufacturers and any firm interested in its production is free to apply for a license to the CSIR and start production," it said.
But demanding Gadkari's resignation, Damania said, “The Modi government should not have ministers like Nitin Gadkari in the cabinet. He is more interested in his business instead of looking at people-oriented issues. If he has no commercial interest in manufacturing e-rickshaws, why has he been talking about amending the Motor Vehicles Act in favour of an exemption on motor wattage?” she asked.
However, Nitin Kulkarni, Purti Group's Public Relation Officer has denied the media reports saying, “Purti group has not manufactured any auto till date and we had not bid for any contract earlier. We don't agree with the news reports and will continue to defend our stand.”