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Sonawane case: Crackdown on oil mafia; 180 arrested

Press Trust of India  |  Mumbai/New Delhi 

Authorities launched a massive crackdown on oil adulteration mafia across Maharashtra today raiding 200 places and arresting around 180 people after an official was burnt alive while the Centre unveiled steps to reduce scope for diversion of subsidised kerosene.

Over 80,000 gazetted officers in Maharashtra also ceased work for the day to protest the killing of Malegaon Additional District Collector by suspected members of the at Manmad in Nashik district, about 260 kms from Mumbai, on Tuesday.

"So far, more than 180 persons have been arrested during the raids at nearly 200 oil adulteration locations in the state," Additional Director General (Law & Order) K P Raghuvanshi said in Mumbai.

The new Petroleum Minister S Jaipal Reddy unveiled steps including re-introduction of a chemical marker in kerosene in six months to eliminate the scope for adulteration of diesel using this subsidised fuel.

He also suggested that states use GPS-based vehicular tracking system for trucks transporting petrol and diesel to track the movement, any route deviations being taken or long stoppages.

Condemning as "heinous" the killing of Sonawane, Reddy urged Maharashtra government to take stringent steps to see that all those involved are punished in a proper way. "We express complete solidarity with the bereaved family."

Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil said the "might" of the is increasing day by day. "Those who are involved will not be spared and will be given the highest punishment," he said in Mumbai.

Patil said police haven't come across name of any politician during investigations into the crime.

"We have not come across any politician's name in our investigation. Allegations about NCP leaders being involved have not come to me. If I am given proof, I will take stern action," Patil said.

Patil's statement came after state PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal yesterday lashed out at the opposition for blaming him for the killing of Sonawane.

"Raids (against the mafia) have started since last night and 163 people have been arrested. All district police have been given instructions to find out details from the food and drug department. We will crack down on oil, milk and sand mafia," he said.

Ravindra Dhongade, president of the Maharashtra Gazetted Officers Mahasangh, said "We have not announced the protest as a strike but we are shunning work to register our protest against this gruesome act which has shaken the government employees."

The Shiv Sena has also called for a bandh in Manmad in Nashik district today to protest Sonawane's killing.

At Mantralaya, government employees held a protest meeting.

Dhongade said the officers are shaken by the murder and lower-level officers would also join the protest. "Protest marches will be taken out across the state. Employees will join immediately after registering their attendance," he said.

First Published: Thu, January 27 2011. 17:55 IST