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Rattled government decides to act

mumbai Updated: Jan 26, 2011 01:31 IST
Dharmendra Jore
Dharmendra Jore
Hindustan Times
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It took the gruesome killing of a senior bureaucrat in Manmad for the state to wake up to the oil adulteration racket across the state.

Hours after additional collector, Yashwant Sonawane, was burnt alive allegedly by the adulteration mafia on Tuesday, a flustered state government ordered a statewide crackdown on the racket.

Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan asked authorities to conduct raids on oil adulteration gangs.

Chavan sent revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat to Panewadi, where Sonawane was killed. Before he reached the spot, Thorat said the state would apply provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act against the culprits.

The Opposition in the state blamed the Chavan-led government for losing control of and providing political patronage to the oil mafia.

“The mafia raj has the government’s blessings,” senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde. State BJP president Sudhir Munganttiwar said Tuesday's incident showed that nobody is safe in the state.

Food and civil supplies minister Anil Deshmukh told the Hindustan Times that the government would unearth the adulteration racket and officials will get adequate police protection during raids.

Mixing kerosene with diesel is rampant in Maharashtra because it earns big profits. When the prices of petrol and diesel rise, the business of adulteration grows, especially on highways and in places close to oil depots. Manmad is one such place.

“Trucks transporting kerosene, petrol and diesel are taken to secluded spots where the kerosene is mixed with expensive fuel. The operators use equipment such as pumps to transfer fuel from one tanker to another,” a senior government official said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

According to the Anti-Adulteration Cell of India, naphtha is a commonly used adulterant for petrol.

Additional chief secretary (home) Umesh Sarangi told the HT that all efforts would be made to control fuel adulteration.

Angry government employees in Nashik division went on a flash strike after Sonawane’s killing. The Maharashtra Gazetted Officers’ Federation has called for a day-long strike on January 27 to protest the murder.