Manmad: Adulteration hub
For most people, Manmad is merely the railway station at which one alights while traveling to Shirdi. But those who care to explore this town of 100,000 inhabitants soon discover it has a crime rate that could put any major city to shame.
Railways came to Manmad as early as 1888, soon transforming it into a major junction.
The town's location and accessibility by rail brought in its wake oil depots and giant grain storage godowns.
Both Bharat Petroleum and Indian Oil Corporation have huge depots here; so too does Food Corporation of India its biggest granary.
The depots of both BPCL and IOC are located close to Panewadi, the area where additional district collector Yashwant Sonawane was burnt to death on Tuesday.
In a well-organised racket, oil leaving the depots in tankers is pilfered - and what is left behind, adulterated to make up the loss. The same is true of grain from the granary.
The impunity with which the adulterers have been functioning in Manmad has also led to a proliferation of other illegal activities like thefts in trains and matka operations in the town.
Residents of the city claim that the police do not crack down on the culprits as it is too scared of them.
"There have been numerous instances of policemen being beaten up in this town. How can you take action against criminals if you are even scared to enter the localities they operate from?" asked Sajid Shaikh a Manmad resident.
Politicians too accept that the town is in the grip of criminals.
"The oil racket has created a breed of criminals and their operations have now reached a scale whereby they can take the life of a government servant with impunity," PWD minister Chaggan Bhujbal said.
Bhujbal's son is a MLA from Nandgaon, the constituency in which Manmad falls.