Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has instructed police commissioner Rakesh Maria to constitute a task force to investigate the octroi-evasion racket after taking cognisance of a letter written by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Ashish Shelar.
The letter mentioned a Hindustan Times report on the racket, which reveals it hinges on an alleged nexus between politicians, BMC officials and underworld gangs.
The chief minister’s instruction to Maria read: “CP Mumbai, this is a very serious matter, BMC is losing a lot of money (sic). Constitute a task force to investigate the nexus between agents and officers.”
Maria told Hindustan Times that the police have formed the task force and initiated an inquiry.
Political observers said the BJP is raising the issue of octroi evasion and the alleged nexus to corner the Shiv Sena, which controls the BMC, and turn the tables on it ahead of the civic polls scheduled for early 2017. “The BJP has hijacked various issues by ordering an inquiry into the contracts for de-silting nullahs, scrapping the draft development plan, supporting Ganesh mandals and housing mill workers. These moves show that the party is preparing to go solo in the civic elections,” said a source in the chief minister’s office.
The Sewri police had recently arrested four unauthorised octroi agents who were part of the thriving multi-crore racket. According to a police source, the questioning of these four revealed the role of underworld gangsters such as Chhota Rajan, Arun Gawli and Ashwin Naik, whose cronies the unauthorised agents were in contact with.
The source said the agents provided minute details of how the racket flourishes. Underworld gangs allocate a certain number of vehicles at each octroi checkpoint in Vashi, Mulund and Dahisar and operate in association with transporters under their domain. Octroi officials who do not want to be part of the racket cannot raise their voice as they fear repercussions from politicians and the underworld, the source added.
The investigation also revealed that the BMC’s octroi department has not hired a single authorised agent for the past 10 years.