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Who killed Sonawane: Both the mafia and the system
Ten people, accused of the murder have been arrested, including the main accused Popat Shinde, who is still in hospital. But it is interesting to note that Popat had been earlier arrested not once or twice, but six times in six years.
WITH THE gruesome murder of a Good Samaritan and honest official Yashwant Sonawane, the crackdown on the oil mafia across Maharashtra created ripples across the country. Sonawane's murder raises some serious questions about the lawmakers and the people who fearlessly defy the law for their personal benefits.

What killed Yashwant Sonawane?

There are mainly three reasons, each supplementing the other, for the sad demise of Sonawane,  which has caused mourning and strikes throughout Maharashtra against the oil mafia with more than 5,000 people, government officials, activists and citizens on the streets.

Firstly, a mobile video!

At heart, Additional collector Yashwant Sonawane was also apparently a citizen journalist and the moment he saw some kerosene being smuggled out from Bharat Petroleum oil tanker for adulteration, he stopped his car and started capturing it on his mobile.
 
While he was shooting this episode, Raju Shirsat, a worker at a food stall close by saw all this and called up the person whose tanker it allegedly belonged to- Popat Shinde. He quickly reached the spot with his son Kunal on a motorcycle and started abusing the 42-year old Sonawane, who was silently taking the video on his mobile. A quarrel followed and in a fit of rage, kerosene was poured on Yashwant Sonawane and his assistant Raju Kale. While Sonawane was up in flames, he grabbed Popat forcibly causing him too to suffer 70 percent burns. Raju Kale and Yashwant Sonawane’s driver managed to run from the spot and reach a police station to save their lives.

Secondly, the humongous oil mafia!

The black market of kerosene is of mind boggling proportions. Ration shops sell kerosene at subsidised rates to the poor. But the pathetic public distribution system means that as much as 40% of it is siphoned off by "oil mafia.”

Oil companies of the government supply close to 9-10 million tonne of kerosene annually to be distributed by ration shops. 40% of it means almost 4 million tonne — or about 520,00,00,000 or 520 crore litres of kerosene. The open market rate, which is at least Rs 30 per litre in the open market, puts up the worth of this trade at Rs 15,600 crore, annually.

This money helped the oil mafia grow in power, even politically. Vinod Tawade, a BJP leader has alleged that bribes totaling to Rs. 25,000 crore were paid to ministers to get a government resolution (GR), which essentially excluded furnace oil tankers from being monitored. The proof of the allegation is that such a GR was issued on January 24. According to him, the oil mafia operates from locked up factories in Navi Mumbai and Taloja areas. He also dropped hints about the emerging business now, of not kerosene but furnace oil. “This business is worth Rs.1 lakh crore in the State. Ships pay a low custom duty by selling furnace oil as sludge oil at the ports.”

Thirdly, the slack police!

Although ten people, accused of the murder have been arrested, including the main accused Popat Shinde, who is still in hospital. But it is interesting to note that Popat had been earlier arrested not once or twice, but six times in six years from 2003-09, for stealing oil. But each time he went scot free. Had he been behind bars, Yashwant Sonawane would have definitely been alive, weeding out corruption, making our country better.

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