Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Vilasrao protected moneylender MLA--KOTA NEELIMA in Sunday Gaurdian


Vilasrao protected moneylender MLA Print E-mail


KOTA NEELIMA NEW DELHI | 19th Dec

Vilasrao Deshmukh

nion Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, had prevented complaints of Vidarbha farmers against the moneylending family of Congress MLA Dilip Kumar Sananda from being registered by the police. Policemen, who put on record Deshmukh's intervention, were later pointedly transferred away from anti-moneylending cases.

But the evidence they registered in 2006 proved pivotal in this week's Supreme Court judgement which castigated Deshmukh for "acting solely on political consideration to screen the family of MLA from the normal process of law".

The SC also stated that Deshmukh as the CM of Maharashtra "is expected to know that the farmers of the state specially those in the Vidarbha region are going through a great deal of suffering and hardships in the hands of moneylenders."

Inspector Ganesh Aney, posted in 2006 in Khamgaon police station in Buldana district, had been inquiring into 52 complaints against the Sananda family. In May, Aney was prevented from registering cases on complaints, including those of kidnapping, robbery and extortion, because of the intervention of Deshmukh through his personal assistant.

On 31May, Deshmukh's PA called Khamgaon police station to inquire about the offences registered and to tell the policemen that "henceforth no action be taken as instructed by honourable CM and further said that again no offences be registered". This was recorded in the station diary by inspector Chandrakant Sugandhi, a copy of which is with this newspaper.

A day after this incident, Aney and others, including the then district collector of Buldana, were summoned by the CM. According to those who attended that meeting, Deshmukh wondered if the superintendent of police of Buldana had "no other work" and said that legal opinion must be obtained before taking action into any complaints against the Sananda family.

When police officials present pointed out that in case of cognizable offence, like the complaints against Sananda's family, the FIR must be registered, the then CM demanded "if we presumed to know more than him about legal matters."

Four days after this meeting, the collector sent an order to the SP which referred to the CM meeting and to Sananda's complaint that offences of illegal moneylending were being filed without "scrutinizing truthfulness" against him family. The order, a copy of which is again with this newspaper, also mentioned the CM's instructions on seeking legal opinion on such complaints.

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Deshmukh's friendship with Sananda is well-known in Buldana, where he visited often during his CM tenure

In the aftermath, Aney, Sugandhi and four other policemen of Khamgoan police station were transferred. Aney awaited posting for over eight months, while others were put on duties not connected with anti-moneylending activities.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian from Khamgaon in Buldana, Sarangdhar Singh Chavan, the original complainant in the case explained that he had borrowed Rs 30,000 from Sananda's moneylender father for medical treatment of his father. The Bt cotton crops, caught in the spiral of low prices and high cost of cultivation, made loan repayment difficult for Chavan. "As the interest rate was 10% per month, I could not repay moneylender Sananda who seized my 14.5-acre land and continued to harass me," he said. "That is when I was forced to lodge a police complaint, but no action could be taken due to Vilasrao Deshmukh's pressure."

Deshmukh's friendship with Sananda is well-known in Buldana. Deshmukh is said to have visited the district often during his CM tenure for various celebrations, inaugurations, and rallies.

"Political clout helps moneylenders in conducting their business," says activist Kishore Tewari from Nagpur, "due to their connections, they can even get the help of police at the time of loan recovery from farmers who are unable to pay."

Inspector Aney, now posted in Amravati district, says that after Deshmukh's intervention the cases against moneylenders have declined in Buldana. "In 2005, the anti-moneylending squad of police registered 69 cases against moneylenders by farmers. In 2006, the police registered 73 cases, but in 2007, the number of offences registered were just seven."

Pointing to the impact Deshmukh's intervention must have on farmers' complaints, the latest SC verdict said, "How can poor famers sustain their complaint in the face of such directions and how can the subordinate police officers carry on investigation ignoring such instructions of the chief minister?"

Deshmukh had maintained that he would not comment till the copy of SC verdict was available to him. Speaking as senior counsel for Deshmukh, and not as Congress spokesperson, Abhishek Singhvi, said, "We are considering the legal remedies available in the case." This could include a review petition.

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