Manmad, hub of oil adulteration

The killing of Additional District Collector Yashwant Sonawane has suddenly thrown the town of Manmad into national spotlight making it Maharashtra`s oil adulteration hub.

Nashik: The killing of Additional
District Collector Yashwant Sonawane has suddenly thrown the
town of Manmad into national spotlight, from where diesel and
petrol leaving the huge depots in tankers has long been
pilfered and adulterated, making it Maharashtra`s oil
adulteration hub.

Both Bharat Petroleum and Indian Oil Corporation have
large depots in Manmad close to Panewadi, where Sonawane was
burnt to death by suspected members of the oil mafia on
January 25. Panewadi depots supply oil to at least 12
districts in the state.

Manmad, which is 75 kms from here, was connected with the
Additional Collector and the district supply office but since
past two years its jurisdiction went to Additional Collector
at Malegaon, where Maharashtra cadre officer Yashwant Sonawane
was posted, also since past two years.

Earlier efforts to check adulteration in petrol, diesel
and kerosene by revenue officers met with failure due to
blessings of political leaders and bureaucrats to oil mafia.

Popat Dattu Shinde, prime accused in Sonawane`s murder,
has ten cases of adulteration pending against him since 2001
and was externed from Manmad by then Malegaon`s Sub Divisional
Magistrate Devidas Choudhari on July 31, 2006 for a year.

Shinde, who apparently enjoyed political patronage
challenged his externment order by approaching the State
Secretariat. Following `good character` certificates issued by
then Manmad municipal councillors-- Sanjay Nikam, Sanjay
Bhalerao, Pournima Jadhav-- and RPI President Rajabhau
Ahire, his order was terminated by the Secretariat.

In 2002, then Additional Collector B D Sanap seized
nine tankers cracking down on the oil mafia in the area
but he received a life threat from Shinde, who had strong
political connections. Shinde began as a Vada pav seller in
Manmad and shifted to the adulteration racket, Sanap, now
Nashik Municipal Commissioner, told reporters.

During the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance government in 1995-99,
then Health Minister Daulatrao Aher, who was in-charge of
Nashik district, initiated raids on petrol adulteration dens
on the Mumbai-Agra national highway near Wadivhare and seized
naphtha stocks and tankers.

In 1995, then Nashik Revenue Commissioner Leena
Mehendale, who is now retired, prepared a report on oil
adulteration racket and sent it to the Maharashtra government
but no action was taken.

Nashik division has 554 petrol pumps. Of them 189 are
in Nashik, 123 in Jalgaon, 54 in Dhule, 30 in Nandurbar and
158 in Ahmednagar districts, Raosaheb Bhagde, Deputy
Commissioner of supply department (Nashik) said.

"Petrol and diesel is supplied by the oil companies and
our department is not concerned with it, but we are still
checking oil-thefts or adulteration following which companies
had cancelled licenses of some petrol pumps, he said.

Those in the adulteration racket are taking advantage of
the inadequate staff in state government`s supply office in
Malegaon, Bhagde said.

"On October 15, last year, we conducted raids under the
guidance of food and civil supply minister Anil Deshmukh on
the Mumbai-Agra highway near Nashik and seized tankers, 25,000
litre black oil and oil-mixed water and arrested seven
persons," he said.

The seized samples were sent for examination in
laboratory and reports have not yet been received, he added.