Guj police arrest 5 more in groundnut scam

Gujarat police on Tuesday arrested five more people in connection with the scandal involving fire in godowns that stored groundnut procured from state farmers, taking the total number of those arrested to 27. File photo

Gujarat police on Tuesday arrested five more people in connection with the scandal involving fire in godowns that stored groundnut procured from state farmers, taking the total number of those arrested to 27.

Last season, the Central government, on the request of state government, had instructed National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) to procure over 9.5 lakh tons of groundnut at minimum support price of Rs 4,450 a quintal when the prevailing market price was around Rs 3,700 a quintal. The state government for its part had announced a bonus of Rs 50 above the MSP and the total bill for procurement stood at over Rs 3,600 crore. This was done as Gujarat saw a record production of over 32 lakh tons of groundnut.

This procured groundnut was stored in various godowns, including rented ones. Some of these godowns mysteriously witnessed fires, even as reports emerged that many of the sacks had groundnuts mixed with gravel and soil. One such incident was reported from Pedhla village in Rajkot district, where Moti Dhanej Seva Sakhari Mandali had procured about 1.8 lakh bags from farmers between October 2017 and July 31, 2018 and stored 31,000 bags in the village godown.

Collusion

On July 31, when traders went to lift groundnut stock from a warehouse, they found impurities in the stored groundnut and refused to pick the stock of about 1,050 tonnes worth over Rs 4 crore. The state government ordered a probe. Police nabbed 22 people, including Magan Zalavadiya, warehousing manager of Gujarat State Co-Operative Cotton Federation (GUJCOT), for colluding with the cooperative society of Junagadh in adulterating groundnuts. Incidentally, Zalavadiya himself  had filed a complaint with Jetpur police, even as an audio clip went viral on social media, showing him urging a local BJP leader Mansinh Lakhani to put pressure on the state government to go slow with its probe and offering “settlement”.

“We have arrested Mansinh and four other members of Moti Dhanej Mandali after audio of Mansinh speaking to Zalavadiya became public,” Balram Meena, SP, Rajkot district said. The police also carried out searches at premises of Zalavadiya and is said to have found incriminating documents that suggest that while adulterated groundnut was kept in the godown, the procured groundnut was sold off to preferred oil millers outside the system.

The state government has promised tough action.

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Guj police arrest 5 more in groundnut scam

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