Railways Minister Pawan Bansal has officially distanced himself from his nephew Vijay Singla, arrested on a bribery charge implicating his uncle. However, the businesses owned by the minister's wife and sons are now being noticed for their swift and significant rise in revenue.
For instance, Chandigarh-based Theon Pharmaceuticals, owned by Bansal's wife, Madhu, and sons, Amit and Manish, has witnessed a manifold increase in turnover in just a few years.
Primarily a contract manufacturing firm established in 2005, Theon achieved a revenue of Rs 152 crore by 2012, according to filings with the registrar of companies. According to its website, it has almost all major pharma companies as clients, including Cipla, Ranbaxy, Torrent, Mankind and Piramal.
Industry officials said it was extremely difficult for a contract manufacturer to establish and earn good clients but Theon managed this in a short span of time because of "strong and effective liasoning with regulatory bodies and government departments".
"Pharmaceuticals is an extremely competitive and regulated sector. There are so many players, especially in the Himachal Pradesh zone because of tax benefits, and it is extremely challenging to get good clients," an industry official from Chandigarh told Business Standard. However, this company managed to do so very quickly and that is why turnover multiplied so fast, at least two officials noted. They added that manufacturing licences, approvals and clearances came very easily to this company. A detailed e-mail query sent to Theon did not elicit any response. Questions sent to Ranbaxy, Cipla, Torrent, Mankind and Piramal Healthcare also remained unanswered.
Apart from Bansal's immediate family, the management of Theon has other kin. Sources said the finance director, Punit Bansal, and two directors on the board, Mukesh Bansal and Anshul Bansal, are all nephews of the minister. The chairman, Bal Krishna Bansal, is a close relative, sources in the know said.
According to a source who has business dealings with the company, Bansal's son, Amit, the managing director of Theon, is "the main person in charge" of day to day activities; Punit takes care of finances.
According to Satyapal Jain, a former MP and Bharatiya Janata Party senior from Chandigarh, 15 to 18 family members of the minister are part of the pharma company. Jain claimed Bansal's sons, daughters-in-law, wife and another nephew are associated with almost all the ventures Singla is involved in.
Theon Pharma has only one manufacturing unit, based in Baddi, Himachal, an excise-free zone with the facilities of many leading drug manufacturing companies. Theon mainly manufactures tablets, capsules, injectables and dry syrup formulations. According to its website, the products include analgesics, anti-asthmatics, anti-diabetes, food supplements and antibiotics.
The Central Bureau of Investigation had arrested Vijay Singla and a member of the Railway Board, Mahesh Kumar; the latter is charged with paying the former a Rs 90-lakh bribe for getting him a better position in the government.
Reports suggest the CBI might seek a clarification from Bansal's two sons, Amit and Manish, and at least one more nephew would be under scrutiny in the bribery case.
Bansal's sons own four companies -- Theon, Iva Healthcare, Isis Packaging and Bansi Raunaq Energy.