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GJ-GROUNDNUT-LD ARREST

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Groundnut adulteration: 3 held; govt says won't spare anyone

(Eds: Updates with chief minister's reaction)

Rajkot, Aug 3 (PTI) Three people were arrested today in connection with alleged adulteration of groundnuts procured by the Central agency NAFED in Rajkot district of Gujarat even as the state government vowed action in the "scam".

As the Congress mounted an attack on the BJP government over "large-scale corruption" in procurement of groundnuts and demanded a judicial probe, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said no one found guilty of wronging will be spared.

Nearly 30,000 sacks of groundnut (each weighing 35kg) were found mixed with sand and pebbles four days back, officials have said.

They were kept at a private godown taken on rent by the National Agriculture Co-operative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) in Pedhla town under Jetpur taluka of Rajkot district, they said.

The NAFED had purchased the groundnuts from farmers under the minimum support price (MSP) scheme.

An FIR was lodged in this connection on a complaint by the NAFED and the police had detained nearly half a dozen people for questioning a couple of days ago.

"On the basis of the FIR, we arrested three persons, who were found to be involved in the scam," Jetpur Deputy Superintendent of Police J M Bharwad told media persons.

However, the official did not reveal the names of the arrested persons, saying he will do so later.

Talking to reporters in Gandhinagar, Rupani said the Rajkot police have already started a probe into adulteration of groundnuts and asserted the guilty will not be spared.

"Through the NAFED, we had purchased groundnuts worth Rs 4,000 crore last year. About 40 per cent of the stock has been already sold to traders. However, we have received some complaints about wrongdoings at some of the procurement centres.

"I want to reiterate we will not spare anyone, be it from the BJP or the Congress, if found guilty of wrongdoing. Not just Pedhla, action will be taken against all those who are found guilty of adulteration at other centres also," said Rupani.

The CM's reaction came hours after Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Paresh Dhanani and Congress MLA from Dhoraji in Rajkot district Lalit Vasoya staged a sit-in near the godown in Pedhla along with party workers.

Talking to media persons before the protest, Dhanani alleged "large-scale corruption" in groundnut procurement and accused the government of hiding irregularities in purchase of the commodity.

Dhanani alleged people associated with the BJP made crores of rupees by siphoning off good quality groundnuts and replacing them with substandard stock mixed with pebbles and sand.

"We demand a judicial probe also urge the chief minister to constitute a house committee comprising MLAs of both the parties (the BJP and the Congress) to bring out the truth behind the scam," Dhanani said.

"Earlier, a couple of godowns caught fire where a huge stock of groundnut was gutted and now a huge stock of groundnut is found to be adulterated with sand and stones.

"It is evident the government is only interested in saving the real culprits as they are associated with the BJP. We want a free and fair probe by a sitting High Court judge into this scam," the Congress leader said.

To conceal evidence of corruption, the godowns were set on fire, the Leader of Opposition alleged.

In February, groundnuts worth Rs 28 crore were gutted in a fire in a godown in Gondal, Rajkot district. In May, a similar incident took place in Shapar town of the district, where groundnuts worth Rs 3 crore were gutted in a warehouse.

"We have written several letters to the chief minister seeking a probe and stern action against those involved in the scam. We also wrote a letter to Governor (O P Kohli) and demanded transparent probe to punish the culprits, but no action has been taken so far," Dhanani said.

On last Wednesday, the police registered a case against unnamed officials of the NAFED and the GUJCOT (Gujarat State Co-Operative Cotton Federation Ltd after groundnuts procured by a state agency and stored at a warehouse in the district were found to be adulterated with stones and soil.

Some traders had refused to take the delivery of groundnuts they had bought from the warehouse. The groundnuts were procured by the GUJCOT on behalf of the NAFED.

The case was registered under IPC sections 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating), officials had said. PTI VJA PJT PD RSY RSY

RSY

Disclaimer: This story has not been edited by BW staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.


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