September 6th, 2015
We nag about the cases where the civil servants have not performed their duty but have we heard about those brave hero who gave their life in the line of duty and living up to people’s expectation of a crime free society.
Yashwant Sonawane was one such officer who will always be remembered for his stiff and stern action taken against fuel mafia. He was posted as an Additional District Collector of Malegaon in Maharashtra.
He received some information about fuel adulteration, a week before his death from reliable sources. On his way, to Nandgaon for a tehsildar meeting he spotted a few trucks parked in a suspicious way near IOC, HPCL and BPCL depots. After he spotted those trucks he immediately got off from the car to investigate the matter himself. Yashwant was not accompanied by police but his staff and personal assistant.
After a while, a man named Popat Shinde, famous for his notoriety in oil adulteration, along with his men attacked the officer, beat him up and then set on fire. He was brought to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
Seven persons were arrested on January 26, 2011, a day after Yashwant’s death. On January 27, 2011, the authorities carried out the raid at nearly 200 places arresting as many as 180 people in trying to crack down on the oil mafia.
The then oil minister S Jaipal Reddy declared Yashwant a martyr, in a press conference. The prime accused Popat Shinde who also suffered burn injuries died due to septicemia on January 31, 2011.
However, a startling revelation came out when in the ongoing investigations it was revealed that Yashwant had sought bribe of 1 lakh from Shinde which later became the biggest cause of their enmity.
As per the reports in 2010, Yashwant’s office had seized 4000 litres of kerosene and 3000 litres of petrol from Shinde’s dhaba in Panewadi village in Manmad. The police however, seized the oil found and took action against Shinde under the Essential Commodities Maintenance Act (ESMA). Despite six FIR’s being filed between 2006 and 2010, no action has ever been taken against the accused, Shinde. The report further says that Popat was in the oil pilferage trade for the past 30 years.
The list of whistleblowers dying in the line of duty in their bid to stop corrupt practice goes on, but the pertinent question will always be raised. How far has our administration controlled the oil pilferage and has the justice been done to the ongoing list of brave heart’s sacrifices?
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