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CBI questions Baidyanath promoters over coal block allotment

The promoters of herbal drugmaker Baidyanath Ayurved Bhavan were examined by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in relation to a coal block allocation case on Wednesday. A team of sleuths reached the company premises in Nagpur and representatives of the management were extensively questioned.

The promoters confirmed the development but denied any action, such as an offence being registered. Though the CBI spokesperson at Delhi also refuted any raid or similar operation being conducted, sources close to the affair said that the entire exercise was similar to the process followed before an offence is registered against a person or company.

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Baidyanath Group, a household brand for Nagpur, has been in operation since almost 100 years after starting with basic ayurvedic remedies. The company was allotted a coal block at Chandrapur district in 2002 during the NDA regime for setting up an independent power plant. This was its first major diversification from the traditional business of ayurvedic medicines. The company has father-son duo Suresh and Pranav Sharma at the helm.

The coal block at Chandrapur was later surrendered as it came under the forest area. The company later applied for another mine and got the Bhandak block in Warora Tehsil of Chandrapur district. One of the promoters of Baidyanath Group said the mine could not be operated for want of clearances, including the mining plan, which was to be granted by the central government.

The allocation also ran into trouble after the ministry of coal raised objections over the company in whose name it was allotted.

The group had plans to get the block in the name of Baidyanath Power and Mining Limited, however, the government wanted the original company Baidyanath Ayurved Bhavan to have a stake beyond 26% in the venture, which was not possible. Finally, the company had moved the court in this matter, said one of the promoters in the group.

The block was finally taken back along with 214 other mines following the Supreme Court verdict in September last year, sources said.

The source said the visit by CBI teams was a part of its regular inquiry into the coal allotment case. However, those familiar with the development said CBI visits premises only when an offence is registered. Recently, the agency registered four cases but preferred to remain tight-lipped over the development. A number of prominent businessmen from the city have been booked by the CBI in the coal scam.


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