High-speed diesel meant for fishermen was being siphoned off and sold in open market; 3 arrested
Mundra (Kutch). October 14: Meant for fishermen, but sold in the market. The Kutch police recently busted a high-speed diesel scam and booked the mastermind, 45-year-old Salim Amad Jat of Mundra town in Kutch district. Jat has come a long way: from a horse-cart driver 15 years ago, he’s now a millionaire who owns two bungalows, a farmhouse, several tankers and fishing trawlers.
Jat, accused of operating a racket under which high-speed diesel meant to be sold to fishermen was sold in the open market by forging documents of fishermen, and two others have been arrested and booked under the Prevention of Black Marketing Act.
Police found Jat was operating accounts of 488 small-time fishermen, who had no idea they were being duped. Police also seized 76 multi-purpose smart cards, called the fisherman’s identity card, from Jat’s farmhouse. Investigation revealed that several cards had photographs of persons whose name was not on the card.
These cards are issued to fishermen by the Department of Fisheries to prove their identity when they go to high seas and also for obtaining customs clearance, mandatory before each fishing trip. Police say they are investigating when and how Jat used the cards, which were issued an year back.
The diesel scam and bogus smart cards racket were busted when on August 27 a team of Kutch police Local Crime Branch (LCB), headed by Police Inspector Dilip Agrawat, raided Jat’s farmhouse on the outskirts of village Bhorara near Mundra town and seized 96,000 litres of diesel in eight tankers meant to be sold to fishermen through two fishing co-operative societies — Mundra Juth Matsya Udyog Sahakari Mandli, Bhadreshwar and Jarpara Matsya Udyog Seva Sahkari Mandli.
The diesel was being sold in the open market. Two others — Chirag Jagdish Agrawal of Vinayak Petroleum who used to buy the diesel and Balwantsinh Mamubha Bharmar — were later arrested and booked under provisions of PBM Act.
Police also seized 343 passbooks of nationalised banks and 143 Power of Attorneys signed and issued by these fishermen in the name of one Munaf Hasan Patni, Jat’s manager. Patni is absconding. A Power of Attorney issued to Jat for managing affairs of Mundra-based co-operative society was also seized.
According to the diesel subsidy scheme which came into force from April 1, 2003, fishing co-operatives are authorised to sell diesel at market rates to member fishermen. The fishermen are issued diesel cards by the Department of Fisheries in which an entry is made whenever they buy diesel from the co-operative. They have to submit the cash memo of the diesel bought to the Department of Fisheries, which after verification deposits an amount — equivalant to the sales tax charged on the diesel — as subsidy in the nationalised bank account of the fisherman. Under the sceme, fishermen are allowed a maximum of 250 litres per trip and maximum of 900 litres of diesel per month on which they can avail the subsidy.
When Newsline traced and spoke to some of these fishermen, they first refused to speak against Jat. But they said they had never received any subsidised diesel and claimed that they had not issued any Power of Attorney for operating their bank accounts.
Jusab Lakhan, of village Mota Salaya, showed his late father’s photograph and said, ‘‘My father died on January 26 this year. It was only when police came looking for him last month that I came to know that diesel was being bought his name and his bank account was being operated.’’ He said his father had sold their boat last year but records revealed that diesel was being purchased in his name since earlier last year till last month.
Jumas Bhusher, a resident of village Luni, said that his father had died on January 15, 2004 and owned a fishing boat named Al-Barkati. Diesel was being bought in his name since two years and the subsidy amount regularly withdrawn from his account. ‘‘I do not know if he had given anybody a power of attorney. But we have never received any subsidy amount or diesel,’’ he said.
Among the list of fishermen who buy diesel from the fishing co-operative is name of 90-year-old Jinnatbai Mohammad Dhenia of Moti Salaya. She’s ill and can barely speak. When told about Jat and that her name was on the list, her son said, ‘‘Do you think she can go fishing in the seas. We do not want to say anything about Salimbhai. Please go.’’
But in Hasan Pir chowk of Mundra town, where Jat has two posh houses, people say police have framed him. Following an attempt to speak to his family, an angry mob gheroed this correspondent.
Jat’s elder brother, Hasan Ali — a notorious drug peddler according to police records — said his brother had been framed and the police was ‘‘biased.’’ Among the cards recovered by police, one bears Hasan Ali’s photograph with the name Rajjak Turk. When asked, he said: ‘‘I’m not a fisherman, my brother too is not. He’s a businessman.’’ Police have also seized a smart card issued in Jat’s name.