11 arrested; case may be handed over to CBI.

Rahul Wadke

Mumbai, Jan. 27

Even as Maharashtra cracked down on the so-called ‘oil-mafia', Government employees across the State on Thursday did not do any work or clear files. This was their protest against the murder of Mr Yashwant Sonawane, Additional District Collector of Malegaon, who was burnt in Panewadi, Nashik, on Tuesday allegedly by the oil-mafia.

A condolence meeting was also held in the State Secretariat in his memory, even as officials in Pune, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Nashik observed similar protests.

Mr Sonawane was doused with kerosene and burnt alive on Tuesday by the “oil-mafia”, after he reportedly discovered pilferage from kerosene tankers.

According to a senior Maharashtra Government officer who had served in Nashik, Panewadi is a hot-spot for pilferage of petroleum products as all major oil marketing companies have their depots there.

Piferage

“Every day 1,800 oil tankers leave for various destinations from Panewadi. Older tankers are vulnerable to pilferage as they have a simple padlock protecting the main taps of the fuel tanks. For every 100 litres of diesel pilfered from the tank, the mafias stand to make about Rs 3,000 profit,” the officer said.

Eleven accused have been arrested in connection with the murder of of Mr Sonawane. The main accused Mr Popat Shinde is in a critical condition after sustaining serious burn injuries while setting Mr Sonawane on fire.

Raids

In the last two days, the State Government has launched a massive crackdown against the oil mafia that indulges in oil, milk and sand pilferage. Police raided 200 locations and arrested about 163 persons under various acts of law, said Mr R.R. Patil, Maharashtra's Home Minister.

Mr Subhash Gangurde, General Secretary of Maharashtra State Government Employees Central Confederation, has demanded that a new law be introduced in the Budget session of the legislature to make assault on public servants a non-bailable offence.

Mr Patil further said the State would hand over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation, if demanded by the family. It would also consider invoking stringent laws such as the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act against the accused.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 28, 2011)
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