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Every morning, crates of milk, lassi and Energee are delivered from the loss-making Aarey dairy in Worli to the bungalows of ministers responsible for dairy development in the state, Madhukar Chavan and Gulabrao Deokar. Of course, for free.
Why buy a cow when you can get milk for free? MiD DAY has learnt that every morning, Madhukar Deorao Chavan, the cabinet Minister for Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development and Fisheries, and Gulabrao Deokar, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development, Fisheries receive a consignment each containing five litres of milk, 15 bottles of lassi and 15 bottles of Energee. The two batches are delivered to their doorstep from the Aarey dairy in Worli, free of cost.
Asked if any payments are made for these offerings, one of Deokar’s staffers indignantly replied, “No. What payment? Saheb rajya mantri ahe.” Sources in Worli Dairy who agreed to comment off-record revealed that every morning between 9 am and 9.30 am, a jeep dispatched from the dairy winds its way towards the official bungalows allotted to the cabinet minister and the state minister, both of which are situated opposite Mantralaya.
This jeep literally overflows with the milk of human ‘kindness’, laden with 10 litres of milk, a crate of lassi containing 30 bottles of 200 ml lassi, and a crate of Energee with 300 bottles of 200 ml.
The transportation is direct, without going through marketing or distribution registers, and there is no paper trail for the delivery — no bills, nor any entries in logs. The jeep leaves the dairy premises without a gate pass or receipt, which, needless to say, is in clear violation of the dairy rules. Three dairy employees carry this offering to the doorsteps of A/5, Chavan’s bungalow, and B/2, Deokar’s bungalow.
Acting on a tip, a MiD DAY correspondent stationed himself outside the dairy last morning, and sure enough, a jeep bearing the number plate MH-01-S-5487 drove out of the dairy premises at 9 am. The vehicle halted outside the bungalow complex opposite Mantralaya, where Deokar and Chavan live in their respective bungalows.
A dairy staffer was seen lugging the cartons of freebies to each of the bungalows. The ministers satiated for the day, the jeep left the premises immediately. Sources revealed that the giveaways are delivered on all days, barring Sundays and public holidays.
‘Grandson likes lassi’
“We have standing orders from the minister to offer either tea, lassi or Energee to any guests who may arrive at the bungalow. The minister’s grandson like Energee and lassi, and even the minister asks for some at times,” said a staff member from Deokar’s bungalow. The staff member said that the supply usually stands the household in good stead for the rest of the day. Asked if any payments were made for the morning’s quota, he said, “No payment, saheb rajya mantri ahe.”
At Chavan’s bungalow however, the early morning supply doesn’t seem to meet the demand. A staffer revealed that he had even spoken to a dairy official asking for an increase in supply. Asked about payment for the package, he refused to comment.
‘Going on for years’
Deokar, who is presently on tour in his constituency of Jalgaon, defended the practice, likening it to an age-old tradition. He said, “This is a practice that has been going on for years. Even the minister before me was taking the supply.”
Asked if he was paying for the products, more so since Aarey dairy has been running massive losses, the minister paused, and then admitted, “I have no idea if my people pay or not. I will have to check with the office staff; usually payments are taken care of by them.” Asked if he would continue to receive the milk products if he had to pay for it, he replied in the affirmative.
Chavan, who is camping in the Osmanabad district, was not available for comment. His personal secretary Rajkumar Sagar denied the practice, saying, “The product is only supplied when there is an official meeting. Otherwise we don’t get any daily supply from Aarey dairy.”
A dairy official explained that on an average, the Worli dairy receives approximately 60,000 litres of milk, of which 40,000 litres is distributed to the consumers from Colaba to Mahim. Of the remaining 20,000 litres, about 6,500 litres of milk is used to prepare products like lassi, masala milk, and Energee. The surplus milk is preserved, and the next day’s procurement is adjusted according to requirement. The free distribution of products for ministers is also worked into the calculations and adjustments.
‘Dip in the ocean’
Apart from the 10 litres of milk, another 12 litres of the same is used for a crate of lassi and Energee. “The adjustment is small, it is like a dip in the ocean – 12 litres out of 60,000. However, the manner in which it is being done is unacceptable even to many of the superior officers, who remain silent as they have to save their jobs,” said a dairy staffer. And the unrecorded, free services don’t just stop there. Shree Naik, president of Maharashtra State Milk Distributor and Milk Transporters Association, confirmed that the distribution of milk and other items to the state and cabinet minister has been in place for years. He added, “Apart from supplying free milk, the dairy has also given up two of its employees who work as servants at the bungalows. The dairy pays their salaries. A dairy vehicle is also on standby for personal use of ministerial staff. No one has objected to this, in spite of the fact that the dairy itself has an internal vigilance committee that is on the lookout for irregularities.”
He added, “Only when distributors make advance cash payments do they get their daily supply of milk, even if this means they will suffer losses. It is because of such practices that the dairy is in the verge of shutting down. Hundreds of workers, milk suppliers and their families will have to suffer.” D D Kulkarni, controller for milk transport who is also Dairy Development Commissioner, said, “The products are sent only when the meeting is conducted at the ministers’ bungalows. On other days, there is no supply.”
Asked how the products were allowed to leave the dairy precincts without any entries being made in registers, Kulkarni claimed that he was unaware of the same and would look into the matter.
Rs 125 crore: Approx financial loss in 2010-2011
Rs 200 crore: Approx financial loss in 2011-2012