India

Van seizure blows the lid off Aavin scam

One month after India's Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) arrested American businessman Vijay Nanda at his residence in the Girgaum Chowpaty area of ...

A minister lost his post. Nine arrests have so far been made. A few officials have been suspended. The Aavin’s loss could run into crores.

This is how the Aavin scam has unfolded over the past month. It was a chance seizure of a van by the Vellimedupettai police in a village near Tindivanam in a mid-night operation on August 19.

The van, spotted on an agricultural land of Govindapuram, had 45 cans of milk of 40-litre capacity each. There was one more van with 50 empty cans.

After interrogation, the police found out that milk was being pilfered from Chennai-bound tankers leaving the Tiruvannamalai chilling centre of the Vellore District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union.

From one tanker, 1,000 litres of milk was being pilfered and replaced with water.

The tankers reached the destination — Madhavaram in Chennai — for processing. In effect, the Aavin’s milk in the city had milk plus water.

At Madhavaram, those who were in charge of quality control that day, did not find anything wrong. For failing in duty, three officials have been suspended, Aavin sources say.

As the Govindapuram episode acquired the dimension of a scam, the police and the Aavin management got the case transferred from the Villupuram district to the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) as it had State-wide ramifications.

A senior police officer says nine persons had so far been arrested.

Last week, Vaidyanathan, a transporter whose vehicles have been hired by several district unions, was the latest to be taken into custody. His bank accounts have been frozen. The investigation is on.

On the loss suffered by the Aavin, a senior official says it is too early to give any estimate.

However, assuming that the extent of pilferage is one per cent of 10 lakh litres being moved every day, the value comes to Rs. 23 lakh a day, taking into account the procurement price for cow milk.

According to Aavin sources, many district unions, including the Vellore union, have terminated the contract with the arrested transporter’s firms as this has been on extension.

Consequently, the Aavin management is utilising many of its tankers to bring milk from Vellore.

Of around 23 lakh litres per day (LLPD) being procured by the federation, 2.8 LLPD comes from Vellore, next only to Salem (4.5 LLPD). In the case of other district unions, the authorities are hiring more vehicles from other transporters