Chennai: On August 19, a police patrol team in Tindivanam in Villupuram district stopped to inspect an Aavin milk tanker parked on the curb. They found a group of people stealing milk from the tanker. The arrest of eight men that night and the subsequent investigations that followed exposed the adulteration involved in the Aavin milk delivered at the doorstep of many homes in the city every morning.
The latest Aavin scam involves 2,000 litres of milk supplied by each of the 100 odd milk tankers. Preliminary investigations by the CB-CID indicate that the multi crore racket was a well planned operation. The modus operandi involved stealing milk and replacing it with well water. Most of these tankers were owned and operated by former AIADMK man N. Vaidyanathan. Those involved in the racket were allegedly stealing nearly 2 lakh litres of milk on a daily basis and diverting it to private dairies, leaving Aavin consumers with thinner milk.
The stolen milk was transported directly to privately owned dairies, including those owned by a few politicians in different districts. “Some of those dairies sell this milk as their own milk while others convert it to byproducts like curd and panneer,” police sources said. In the last one month, the CB-CID probe team has questioned hundreds of milk tanker drivers, Aavin officials, farmers and agents before zeroing on Vaidyanathan who is believed to be the kingpin of the entire operation.
Investigating officials add that politicians from different parties are part of the racket that has probably been operating for nearly 10 years now. Vaidyanathan had amassed wealth to the tune of a few hundred crore rupees through this rip off. CB-CID investigators are currently questioning Vaidyanathan.
Investigators believe that most tankers would stop at a designated farm which has a well and a water pump. Two mini lorries with nearly 50 empty cans would be waiting for the milk tankers. Once the tanker with 12,000 litres of milk arrived at the farm, the gang would open the official seal, fill the cans with milk and drive away with nearly 2,000 litres of milk. Well water would then be pumped into the tanker using a motor kept in the farm. The tanker would be ‘sealed’ again and taken to the designated Aavin facility, to be packaged and distributed to consumers.
Meanwhile Policy changes made in Aavin adminstration?
Natarajan Vaidyanathan, the alleged mastermind behind the Aavin milk scam, started his career as a concessionaire with Aavin in 1987. He later started operating Aavin automatic milk vending booths near Ashok Nagar in the early 1990s. Subsequently he emerged as a major dealer of Aavin products and from 2005, started operating private tankers for Aavin. Officials say that he had the backing of a number of people from within the system and was able to use changes in policies to his benefit.
“Several policy changes were made in Aavin administration in 2008, like procuring milk with less SNF (solid non-fat) content from 8.6 to 7.9 SNF, and this helped suppliers to adulterate milk,” admitted an informed official. “During the same period, the transport department of Aavin which controls the milk tanker operation was reduced to a clerical department, outsourcing operations related to milk tankers and drivers. This helped Vaidyanathan to strengthen his coterie and also control the outsourced milk tankers.”...