Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oil mafia burn addl collector alive

Additional collector for Nashik Yashwant Sonawane (L) grabbed one of his assailants when he was set on fire. Popat Shinde suffered 80% burns and was captured with 4 others

He Spotted Fuel Theft In Manmad, Tried To Stop It

Yogesh Naik & Mateen Hafeez TNN

An additional collector was burnt alive on Tuesday afternoon in Manmad, near Malegaon, when he tried to call other government officials to the scene of a fuel theft. The perpetrators doused Yashwant Sonawane (44) with kerosene and set him afire in a development that sent shockwaves across the state.

Sonawane was found dead in a field from severe burns. But before dying he clung on to one of his attackers, Popat Shinde, making it impossible for him to flee. Shinde sustained 80% burns and is critical. He has been arrested with four others.

The gruesome killing led to home minister R R Patil ordering an immediate crackdown on the fuel mafia across the state. CM Prithviraj Chavan ordered an inquiry and announced Rs 25 lakh for the family, payment of the officer’s salary till retirement and other compensation. Furious gazetted officers plan a strike on Thursday. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar called it a blot on humanity.

Sonawane had gone to Chandvad, where farmers had been agitating, and was proceeding towards Nandgaon when he spotted kerosene pilferage at Panewadi village in Manmad taluka, said Nashik divisional commissioner Jayant Gaikwad. Major companies like HPCL, BPCL and IOC have depots in the area. When Sonawane saw kerosene being stolen from a tanker outside the shop of Popat Shinde, he shot of video on his cellphone and called local officials for a raid. Shinde’s servant heard Sonawane calling the officials and alerted his boss. Soon, Shinde’s accomplices accosted the officer and doused him with kerosene after a scuffle and set him on fire.


“Shinde arrived on the scene and got into a heated argument with Sonawane. Shinde’s son Kunal and other servants also reached the spot,” said Gaikwad. “There were two kerosene cans of 20 litres each at the scene. One of the assailants poured the contents of a can over Sonawane and set him ablaze. Sonawane at that point caught hold of Shinde, who sustained nearly 80% burns and is critical.”

The divisional commissioner said fuel pilferage is common in Panewadi village. The oil depots in the area supply fuel to nearly 12 districts in northern Maharashtra and Marathwada.

Gaikwad said Shinde had lost his wife just 10 days ago. “We are taken aback at how he could have committed such a gory crime while in grief,” said Gaikwad. The attacker had a criminal record and was externed once.

Sonawane’s cell phone, with the video, is now with the police. The tanker from which the kerosene was being pilfered has been seized.Shinde, Sitaram Bhalerao, Machhindra Sarvankar, Vikas Shinde and Raju Shirsat have been arrested. Kunal and Ajay Sonawane are wanted.

Nashik collector P Velarasu said Sonawane was low profile and hard-working. “Local police reached the spot within minutes of receiving information. But it was too late. Sonawane had already died,” said Velarasu.

The body was taken to Nashik where the last rites were performed later. A postmortem was conducted on Tuesday evening. Sonawane is survived by his wife, who lives in Nashik, and two sons who study in Pune. Sonawane was a native of Dindori.
He had joined the government as deputy collector in 1994 and was expected to be absorbed into the IAS later.

Food and civil supplies minister Anil Deshmukh, who is visiting Satara, said the government will unearth the adulteration racket. The CM asked revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat to reach the spot. Thorat said, “We will not hesitate to apply MCOCA against the culprits.”

The Times of India, January 26, 2011

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