Investigations into the 2010 procurement of glycol-chilling machine worth Rs 60 lakh for Aarey Dairy, Goregaon, which hasn’t yet been installed, has taken a twist. This paper has learnt that the firm that was to supply and install the machinery after bagging the tender floated by the dairy, has been shut since a month.
On Monday, when a MiD DAY team visited Hammersmith Industrial Estate, Mahim, where Premier Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Pvt Ltd occupies an office at unit no 215, the unit was found locked. Inquiries with other occupants in the complex revealed that a month ago, recovery officers from NKGSB bank had sealed the said unit over non-clearance of their debts.
People who witnessed the premises being sealed told MiD DAY, “The bank sealed the premises and pasted a notice on the shutter, mentioning that the property was being sealed because of non-payment of a sum of over Rs 1.80 crore (which includes an interest compounded loan amount of roughly Rs 73 lakh).”
But no such notice was seen on the shutter on Monday. Eyewitnesses said the notice and the seal was missing since day two of the bank action and that someone had removed it without the bank’s permission.
Inquiries revealed that the company was floated by Rajendra Thosar, managing director and CEO, a decade ago. Thosar is also secretary of Hammersmith Industrial Estate.
A businessman who has an office in the building said, “Thosar and his family would run the business from the office unit here. We were unaware of his debts until the premises were sealed.”
Another occupant said, “Apart from the bank debt, Thosar has not cleared the society dues of Rs 35,000. He hasn’t even paid the tea vendor for the last few months.” The tea vendor in question said, “I am yet to be paid Rs 8,000. The shutters on the office went down one fine day, just like that.”
Society manager Deepak Tawde said, “Since Thosar’s office has been shut, unknown people have started visiting our premises asking us about his whereabouts. They say his phones are not reachable and that they had to recover some dues from him.”
Meanwhile, the Dairy Development Commissioner’s office has started an extensive probe into the tendering process of the glycol machine and the subsequent allotment of tender. Dairy officer’s defence Veerkar told MiD DAY that the reason for procuring the machine was to ensure that the chilling of milk is maintained at two degrees Celsius, which would reduce other overhead expenses. But till now, the machine hasn’t been installed and milk is being chilled at 8 degrees Celsius. Moreover, milk production at Aarey has fallen drastically over time. The existing production at the Goregaon unit is between 27,000 and 30,000 litres per day.
When we tried to get some answers from officials who were part of the tender process and are under probe, namely S R Veerkar, D D Kulkarni, controller (transport), N T Badgujar, deputy engineer, G D Rakhunde, Aarey dairy engineer, C B Kajale, deputy engineer, P K Rajput, retired dairy manager, Aarey Goregaon.
Almost all claimed they had no role in the tendering process. Some officials blamed their superiors. Veerkar further said, “My role was limited. Officers who were responsible for ensuring that the machine was procured within stipulated time should have done their job.” As reported earlier, senior Mantralaya officials have been instructed to monitor the probe and detailed reports on the tender have been asked for.