David L. Chaplin II
Impunity Watch; Asia
MUMBAI, India – Thousands of government workers in India have continued to protest against the brutal killing of an official in the western state of Maharashtra. Yashwant Sonawane was burnt to death while investigating a fuel racket.
Mr. Sonawane had apparently tried to prevent a criminal gang from stealing fuel on the Nashik-Manmad highway some 200km (124 miles) from Mumbai, when he was attacked and burnt alive after being doused by kerosene.
The killing has drawn people’s attention to the issue of corruption, which has been a major concern in the country in recent months after a series of scams, says the BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi.
Nine people have been arrested in connection with Tuesday’s murder which has shocked people across India.
The government has blamed the so-called fuel mafia – criminals who steal petrol and mix it with kerosene before selling it, for the murder.
State police have turned their attention toward an oil adulteration mafia within Maharashtra today raiding 200 places and arresting around 180 people after an official was burnt alive while the Centre unveiled steps to reduce scope for diversion of subsidized kerosene. Additional Director General (Law & Order) K.P. Raghuvanshi said in Mumbai.
Hundreds of thousands of government officials are refusing to work in protest at the killing. They held a meeting in the state capital, Mumbai (Bombay), to mourn Mr. Sonawane and demanded that they be given adequate protection while carrying out their duties.
“We will attend office but not work,” GD Kulthe, secretary of the Maharashtra Gazetted Officers Mahasangh, told the BBC. “We are going to present a memorandum demanding strict action against all involved and better protection for government officers.”
The new Petroleum Minister S Jaipal Reddy unveiled steps including re-introduction of a chemical marker in kerosene in six months to eliminate the scope for adulteration of diesel using this subsidized fuel. He also suggested that states use GPS-based vehicular tracking system for trucks transporting petrol and diesel to track the movement, any route deviations being taken or long stoppages.
Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil said the ‘might’ of the oil mafia is increasing day by day.
“Those who are involved will not be spared and will be given the highest punishment,” he said in Mumbai.
“We have not come across any politician’s name in our investigation. Allegations about NCP leaders being involved have not come to me. If I am given proof, I will take stern action,” Patil said.
Ravindra Dhongade, president of the Maharashtra Gazetted Officers Mahasangh, said, “We have not announced the protest as a strike but we are shunning work to register our protest against this gruesome act which has shaken the government employees.”
The government servants have demanded better protection, a comprehensive probe and strictest possible punishment for Sonawane’s killers.
“Such people should be hanged till death,” said a distraught Maharashtra Government employee. Some others went as far as saying that the killers should also be burnt alive because death sentence would not be enough for the people who have committed such a heinous crime.
More raids are expected in the days to come and the challenge is to maintain the momentum triggered by this mass protest.
Fore more information, please see:
BBC – Indian official Sonawane’s murder prompts mass protest – 27 January 2011
Deccan Chronice – Crackdown against ‘mighty’ oil mafia; 180 held – 27 January 2011
IBN Live – Govt employees protest Sonawane’s murder – 27 January 2011