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In Gujarat's Rs 4,000 Crore Groundnut Scam, Warehouse Fires, Sand and Pebbles Part of Cover-up

Till date, the Gujarat police has arrested 27 persons, including officials of the two agencies that the government had contracted to procure groundnut worth Rs 4,000 crore from farmers.

Meghdoot Sharon | CNN-News18

Updated:August 8, 2018, 9:15 PM IST
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In Gujarat's Rs 4,000 Crore Groundnut Scam, Warehouse Fires, Sand and Pebbles Part of Cover-up
Groundnut stock gutted in fire. (Image: News18)
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Ahmedabad: The groundnut procurement scam in Saurashtra region of Gujarat is growing in scale by the day and has put the government in the state on the defensive even as the opposition Congress upped the ante by alleging that several BJP leaders were involved in the fraud.

Till date, the Gujarat police has arrested 27 persons, including officials of the two agencies that the government had contracted to procure groundnut worth Rs 4,000 crore from farmers.

This is how the scam was carried out - a coterie comprising officials of National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) and Gujarat State Co-Operative Cotton Federation Limited (GUJCOT) along with local politicians and middlemen allegedly stole and sold off the groundnut procured from farmers to oil millers.

The stocks of groundnut were then adulterated with sand and pebbles to show that there was no loss of weight in the stocks after groundnut was illegally sold off to millers.

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Stocks worth crores gutted in fire. (Image: News18)

There have also been four instances of fires in the last six months in warehouses where these stocks were kept. Investigators believe it to be an attempt to cover-up the adulteration. Around Rs 50.45 crore worth of groundnut was destroyed in the fires.

Investigation into the case took a fresh turn last week when 31,500 sacks, each containing 35 kg of groundnut, were found to contain huge quantity of pebbles and sand.

These bags were kept by NAFED in a private godown in Pedhla village of Jetpur town in Rajkot district. Investigators then unearthed a systematic racket to adulterate bags of groundnut.

Among those arrested in the case so far are the members of co-operatives that were involved in procurement of groundnut.

Magan Zalavadiya, the warehouse manager of GUJCOT has also been arrested in the case and is alleged to have played a key role in the scam. All those arrested have been booked under section 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating), 120 b (conspiracy), 201(disappearance of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code.

Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani has been holding dharnas in various towns of Saurashtra for the past three days now and the Congress is demanding an independent probe.

The party alleged that although persons involved with the NAFED, GUJCOT and co-operatives trading in groundnut have been arrested, there are several other senior BJP leaders who are involved in the scam and attempts are being made to shield them.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has stated that all those found guilty or culpable will be punished.

“If the government is serious in its claim that no one will be spared in the scam, why is it not initiating an inquiry by a sitting High Court judge. Why is the government not appointing a committee comprising of MLAs of both the BJP as well as the Congress to do an independent probe in the matter. The fact is that several top ranking BJP leaders are also involved,” said Dhanani.

He added that the Congress will continue to hold protests at all sites where groundnut is being stored in Saurashtra.

On Wedenesday, Congress MLA from Visavadar Harshad Ribadiya said it was not a coincidence that co-operatives that were affiliated to the Congress were kept out of the process of procuring groundnut from farmers.

“The state government is attempting to shift the blame over to NAFED, but the truth of the matter is that several BJP politicians and an influential oil miller who is close to the BJP have masterminded this scam,” he claimed.

NAFED chairman Waghji Boda (Patel) said that while his agency procured about 20 per cent of the groundnut last season, GUJCOT, which is supposed to procure cotton, was asked to procure 80 per cent of stocks last year.

Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel alleged that Boda spoke at a Congress convention and thus stands exposed. Replying to the charge, Paresh Dhanani said on Wednesday that Boda has been a grass-root cooperative leader for several decades and holds no office in the Congress organizational set up.

Last year, in October, just ahead of the assembly polls, the Gujarat government announced that it will purchase groundnut from farmers at Rs 4500 per quintal, even as the existing prices of groundnut at that time was around Rs 3750 per quintal.

The central government had asked the National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation (NAFED) and Gujarat State Co-operative Cotton Federation (GUJCOT) to purchase groundnut from farmers at a MSP of Rs 4450, while the state government announced an additional bonus of Rs 50 per quintal on the MSP.

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| Edited by: Huma Tabassum
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