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Administrator suspends two Sanjivani officials over ‘scam’

Ponda: In the midst of high drama over the alleged scam in the sale of sugar consignment from the factory, Sanjivani Sugar Factory administrator Damodar Morajkar on Thursday suspended its chief chemist Navin Kumar Verma and accounts chief Sakshi Shetgaonkar and appointed a three-member committee to conduct an inquiry in the alleged scam.

Suspension orders were passed by the administrator in the presence of the police force, after the day-long protest by the factory workers inside the factory premises, at Dharbandora.

Morajkar informed that “inquiry has been initiated against the two staffers of the factory based on the audio recording of the conversation between the workers of factory and some contractor, in which a scam has been alleged involving two staffers Navin Kumar Verma,  chief chemist, who was also in-charge of tendering process and another Sakshi Shetgaonkar, accounts in-charge. Based on it, they are placed under suspension until inquiry is completed.”

As soon as the clip of audio conversation  alleging ‘scam and commission setting’ went viral, the  factory workers and sugarcane farmers, gathered in large numbers and protested at the factory demanding suspension of the both the staffers, and also demanded a thorough inquiry. Following the protest, the factory administrator suspended the chief chemist Navin Kumar Verma in the morning itself and took away the charge of accounts chief from Sakshi Shetgaonkar. But the workers continued with their protest, and demanded that accountant Shetgaonkar too be suspended.

Around 200 workers had gathered at the factory premises, who later blocked the gate and did not allow the factory officials including the administrator to leave the office.

Following this, police force was called in by the administrator to take control of the situation, but the workers remained firm over their demand and at around 7 pm, the administrator ordered suspension of accountant Sakshi Shetgaonkar.

The administrator also assured the workers to act strict if he finds any scam in the factory functioning.

As per the audio clip, the factory has sold around 55,000 quintals of sugar produced at the factory during 2017-18 at a very low rate through tendering process and in return, the agency which succeeded in winning the tender, paid a huge amount to the factory officials as commission including to Navin Kumar Verma and Sakshi Shetgaonkar.

In the ‘conversion’ it is also mentioned that “selecting the bid of one Hubli-based agency, and offering it the sugar produced at the factory at a very low price was on account of the ‘setting’ between some factory officials. After getting all the sugar at a very low price, the agency earned huge profit by selling it at a much higher price and in return, the agency has paid a heavy commission to the factory officers.”

The person in the conversion has admitted that he has given Rs 15 lakh as bribe.

It should be noted that for the very first time in the year 2017-18, the factory has sold sugar produced by it through a tendering process, and the sugar produced has been sold at once. It is same sugar, which was left unsold for almost six months due to low price bidding the factory received after a tender was floated, and after taking approval from the government, the factory has sold that product recently.

Earlier, the factory used to sell its sugar in small quantities based on demand placed by agents or contractor, as per the market rate.

When asked, the factory administrator said that the tender was floated for the entire sugar consignment as per the guidelines of the Central Ministry.  The party which quoted the highest rate for sugar, won the tender and so purchased it, he added.

“Entire sugar consignment of 2017-18 which weighed around 55,000 quintals was sold at a rate of Rs 28 per kg (including GST), and by which the factory earned around Rs 15 crore,” informed factory officials.

The workers alleged that due to corrupt practices followed by the administrative staff, the factory has been running into losses since the beginning.

“Due to such corrupt practices, factory is on the verge of closure, and ‘labour class’ workers of the factory will have to face the brunt. The administrative staff is drawing government ‘pay scale’ salaries and on top of it, they are also taking commission amounting to crores of rupees,” claimed the workers and demanded a thorough inquiry in the ‘scam’. In the year 2017-18, the factory at Dharbandora had suffered massive loss of Rs 8 crore, which was highest in its history.

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