AAP national spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon has accused Khotkar, who is Maharashtra minister of state for textiles, animal husbandry, dairy development and fisheries, of corruption to the tune of Rs.525 crore in allotment of shops in Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) markets in Jalna city.
RTI queries by Aam Aadmi Party reveal that out of the 1,500 small shops in two APMC markets in Jalna city, 250 are owned by family members and close friends of Arjun Khotkar, Menon said.
Khotkar, a four time Shiv Sena MLA from Jalna constituency, was appointed minister by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in the cabinet reshuffle last month.
“Brazenly, the official list of galas (small shops) obtained under RTI declares that the market space is for non-agricultural purposes like steel, pipes, furniture, automobiles and textile showrooms. And in reality the space is used for retail textile showrooms, offices and much more. A petrol pump and a multiplex cinema are also coming up,” said Menon at a press conference on Wednesday.
She said that Khotkar has been the chairman of the APMC in Jalna for the past nine years and alleged that “he runs it like his private empire and profits illegally from it”.
The APMCs were established by the state government to regulate the marketing of different kinds of agriculture and pisciculture produce.
Referring to an audit report, Menon said: “Though Jalna APMC is a trading hub in Maharashtra, yet it has reported losses of Rs. 16,343,589.49 for FY 14-15. The Income Expense Register has blank pages. There are no details on expense vouchers, inventory of stocks and cheque books. APMC contribution to PF is not paid, employee welfare deductions not deposited and temporary staff hired continually in violation of rules. Annual meetings or board meetings were not held. Meetings were held only to sanction expenses and gala sales. The audit report also gives similar remarks for associate sub committees of markets of Badnapur, Near, Sevli, Ramnagar.”
Demanding Khotkars’ resignation as chairman of APMC Jalna, Menon said, “Shiv Sena’s claim of caring for the Marathi Manoos is completely hollow as its leaders like Arjun Khotkar are looting the APMC which is meant for the farmers. An inquiry based on the audit reports to take stock of the actual ownership, sales and uses of galas should be conducted and all the cronies who have benefitted iillegally from APMC should be included in the inquiry.”
Citing sting operations conducted by AAP, Menon said the APMC Market in Purana Monda, Jalna which is called Arjun Khotkar Business Centre (AKBC), boasts of a string of ready-made textile showrooms. Multiple floors of ready-made textile showrooms are owned by Khotkar’s childhood friend Vinod Bajaj and close friends, the Nathani family. His maternal uncle Tularam Bhagirath Wadekar runs automobile showrooms in the APMC market..
Menon said that almost all shop owners rent out their space and some re-sell the galas. She claimed: “Against the starting market price for small galas in APMC of Rs 20 lakhs and big galas in AKBC for as much as 75 lakhs, mid-sized shops in that area would be in the average range of Rs 40 lakhs a shop. But perusal of the gala list shows that galas have been officially ‘sold’ at prices broadly ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 5/6 lakh. Many official gala prices have been registered in the range of 1 lakh which does not even cover the cost of construction of the gala so one wonders how did the market committee arrive at these prices?”
“If 1,500 galas are officially sold at an average price of Rs 5 lakh, then the total sale value is Rs 75 crore. However, in reality they are selling for an average price of Rs 40 lakhs so the real sale value is Rs 600 crore. But AMPC has got only Rs 75 crore. The balance 525 crores has been usurped by Arjun Khotkar and his cronies,” Menon alleged.