Nov 14, 2008

India - Haryana minister is country's richest woman

Jaideep Sarin

A low-profile minister in the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in Haryana has emerged as the richest woman in the country.

Savitri Jindal, 58, who is the chairperson of the Jindal Group, has been named as the richest woman in India in the latest Forbes list of richest Indians.

Jindal is minister of state in the Hooda government looking after revenue, disaster management, consolidation, and rehabilitation and housing ministries.

According to Forbes, Savitri Jindal has a net worth of US$2.9 billion, and is ranked 12th overall among the top-40 richest Indians who include the likes of Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, expatriate steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, Reliance-ADAG chairman Anil Ambani and realty baron K.P. Singh.

Jindal's net worth, according to Forbes, came down from $8.5 billion in 2007 to 2.9 billion, mainly owing to the global financial meltdown. Last year, she was ranked 11th.

The only other woman to figure in the list is Times of India Group's chairperson Indu Jain (17th).

Jindal is the mother of Congress member of parliament from Kurukshetra and industrialist Navin Jindal. She has three more sons and five daughters.

Her late husband, O.P. Jindal, had set up the Jindal empire from Hisar town in Haryana nearly four decades ago.

O.P. Jindal, who himself was a cabinet minister in the Hooda government, died when his private helicopter crashed near Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh Mar 31, 2005. His cabinet colleague Surender Singh, son of former Haryana chief minister and union defence minister Bansi Lal, was also killed in the crash.

The Rs.150 billion Jindal group has interests in the iron, steel and power sectors. The group has nearly 50 plants in India and abroad, including South American countries like Chile, Bolivia and Peru.

Savitri Jindal was inducted as a minister of state with independent charge in the Hooda government just weeks after her husband died. She contested the Hisar assembly seat, earlier represented by her husband, in the 2005 by-election and won it by a huge margin.

The Jindal family mainly operates from Hisar, 300 km from Chandigarh. The family runs a well known school, Vidya Devi Jindal School, in the town.

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