The Local Crime Branch (LCB) of Junagadh district police on Thursday arrested a trader, a contractor and a labourer for allegedly replacing 156 bags of good quality groundnut procured by the government with inferior quality groundnut at a procurement centre on the yard of Junagadh agriculture produce market committee (APMC) for personal gains.
The arrested persons are Pratik Sojitra, Keshubhai Vagadiya and Ramesh alias Rambhai Makwana. Police said Sojitra runs a private trading firm called Prakit Trading Company on the yard of Junagadh APMC and also trades in groundnut and other commodities. Vagadiya works with Sojitra, while Makwana has been given a sub-contract by the Gujarat State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited for supplying labourers at the groundnut procurement centre on the Junagadh APMC yard.
“Sojitra purchased groundnut of inferior quality from various farmers. Later on, he connived with the labour contractor and used the inferior quality groundnut to adulterate good quality groundnut procured (by the government) at minimum support price (MSP). He made personal gains and indulged in a groundnut scam,” the LCB stated in a release.
Pradeepsinh Jadeja, Deputy Superintendent of Police of Junagadh division, said Sojitra used accounts of various farmers in the scam. “First he purchased inferior quality groundnut at low rates from farmers who brought their groundnut to the APMC yard for selling it. Then he used details of those farmers who had got themselves registered for selling their groundnut to government at MSP and sold the inferior quality material to the government with the help of the labour contractor,” Jadejad told The Indian Express.
Jadeja said the LCB is probing if any graders at the procurement centres are also involved in the crime. “It has emerged so far that Sojitra used to get samples of his groundnut tested in the grading process and then would dump inferior quality groundnut when labourers would be weighing and packing the oilseed. However, we are also probing if any graders is also involved in the scam,” said Jadeja.
The scam had come to light after members of Khedut Heetrakshak Samiti, an organisation of farmers complained on January 30 that the quality of groundnut procured by the government and packed in bags did not meet the fair average quality norms (FAQ). The GCSCS had formed a committee which found prima facie that 156 bags had inferior quality groundnut. These bags were supposed to have FAQ groundnut worth Rs 2.38 lakh.
Later on, the district supply officer analysed footages of CCTV camera installed in the storage yard at the procurement centre and observed that four men had entered the yard on the night of November 29 and blocked the camera by covering it with an empty jute bag. Some time later, the men removed the bag and went away.
Yogeshkumar Vala, the GSCSC officer in-charge of the groundnut procurement centre in Junagadh, filed complaint with ‘A’ Division police station in Junagadh on February 1. The LCB was later handed over the probe.
“Sojitra claims that he had sold only 94 bags of inferior quality groundnut as FAQ groundnut. The LCB is verifying further details,” Jadeja added.
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