Pune Gangland: Industrial Areas in Pune Plagued by Extortion Gangs, Executives Alarmed

By India Crime Correspondent

PUNE, 6 June, 2023

In Pune’s key industrial hubs, a recurring and troubling issue has emerged — the presence of extortion gangs that employ coercion and direct threats to manipulate businesses.

A prime example is the senior manager of a Japanese printing technology subsidiary who, last year, allegedly received an extortion call, demanding monthly protection fees and implying harm to the company’s workforce.

Law Enforcement’s Response:

Towards the end of April, a significant step was taken by Pune Rural Police, spearheaded by Superintendent of Police Ankit Goyal.

A meeting was convened, gathering nearly 150 representatives from various industries.

During this session, industry leaders were encouraged to promptly engage with the police if they encounter threats, extortion attempts, or undue pressure from labor and other contractors.

Creating a Safe Environment:

Superintendent Ankit Goyal emphasized the police force’s commitment to establishing a secure and fearless atmosphere for companies.

He underscored the significance of industries proactively registering cases and resisting any pressures to comply with illicit demands.

He expressed optimism in witnessing a growing number of industries stepping forward and assured thorough and impartial investigations for each reported case.

Masks of Disguise:

Dilip Batwal, Secretary of the Federation of Chakan Industries Association — an entity comprising approximately 3,000 members — shed light on the modus operandi of troublemakers.

He pointed out that many perpetrators operate under the facade of ‘RTI activists,’ labor contractors, or mathadi (headloader) unions.

Misuse of RTI and Local Realities:

A senior official from Pune Rural Police highlighted the misappropriation of the Right to Information (RTI) tool by certain elements against industries. While RTI is indeed a crucial tool for civic engagement, these individuals misuse it by filing inquiries about permits, safety regulations, and licenses, subsequently leveraging these queries as threats against companies.

In numerous cases, the unawareness of local dynamics by the parent entities of these businesses, often based in other parts of India or overseas, coupled with hesitations to engage with the police, contribute to a complex scenario where legal or law enforcement involvement is avoided.

Threatening Letters and Intimidation:

On a regular morning in February, an HR manager from a Pune district emissions technology firm faced an unsettling surprise when she opened an envelope.

Inside was a note from a purported ‘social organization’ asserting that the company lacked necessary permits and warning of potential agitation.

A few days later, another HR manager from the same organization encountered a member of this group who obstructed their path, issuing threats of physical harm to employees unless a monthly protection payment of Rs 15,000 was made.

Industrial Areas Under Siege:

These incidents are emblematic of a larger problem affecting numerous industries located in Pune’s pivotal industrial corridors — Talegaon-Chakan and Ranjangaon-Shirur-Shikrapur.

Together, these areas host over 6,000 industrial units, ranging from small and medium enterprises to renowned giants like Mercedes Benz, Bajaj Auto, LG, and Whirlpool.

Rising Extortion Cases:

Statistics shared by the Pune Rural Police illuminate the alarming rise of extortion cases. Since the commencement of 2022, a total of 12 FIRs have been registered — seven in the previous year and an additional five in the initial four months of the current year.

All these cases stem from complaints lodged by industry leaders. Presently, 30 individuals linked to these industrial zones have been apprehended in relation to these crimes.

Police officials contend that the actual number of incidents involving extortion, intimidation, and threats is likely much higher.

Case in Point:

A notable example involves executives from a US-based engineering services corporation. During the construction phase of their plant in Pune, a local group submitted a tender for fire safety equipment installation, quoting an exorbitant price despite lacking the requisite license for such services.

When the tender was not accepted, the company’s management purportedly received threatening phone calls.

This group is also alleged to have launched a negative campaign against the company through social media and local news outlets.

extortion activities with political support

An officer with experience at two police stations situated within the industrial belts has provided insights into the prevalent scenario. Often, the individuals suspected of involvement in extortion activities are locals with affiliations to political circles.

These suspects commonly pursue contracts for a range of activities such as labor, scrap collection, earthmoving, land-leveling operations, and equipment supply. A recurring issue is the absence of proper licenses for these contracts.

The Role of Headloaders’ Unions:

In relation to allegations of extortion tied to headloaders’ unions, the same officer remarked that while many registered mathadi unions operate to uphold laborers’ rights, a distinct subset engages in extortion using coercive methods and physical power.

This highlights the complex landscape involving these labour unions.

Government Intervention and Commitment:

Approximately three months ago, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis orchestrated a meeting involving industries and law enforcement.

During this gathering, the Deputy Chief Minister emphasized the necessity for prompt police action against filed complaints.

The police urged industries to come forward with their grievances, assuring that these concerns would be addressed with urgency.

Constructive Police-Industry Dialogues:

Inspector Pramod Kshirsagar, who leads the Shikrapur police station overseeing six of the 12 registered FIRs related to industry extortion, emphasized the importance of ongoing communication with industry representatives.

This engagement aims to comprehend various challenges faced by industries, including extortion issues and traffic concerns. Recent dialogues have yielded positive outcomes, aiding in a better understanding of industry apprehensions.

Notably, billboards have been strategically erected across the industrial area under the station’s jurisdiction, urging industries to promptly communicate any extortion-related complaints.

Collective Efforts for a Sustainable Solution:

Prashant Girbane, the Director General of the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), an influential business advocacy and networking entity based in Pune, has articulated plans for a significant initiative.

In the upcoming months, a comprehensive meeting is slated to convene, bringing together leaders from headloader unions, industry representatives, and government agencies. The objective is to collaboratively develop enduring solutions that foster an improved working environment within the industrial sector.


The Talegaon-Chakan Belt:

Within the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), the Talegaon-Chakan industrial belt encompasses a sprawling area of 246 hectares.

This zone accommodates a spectrum of enterprises, ranging from large to micro units. Extending from Chakan to Talegaon, this industrial corridor is home to eminent German automobile giants like Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen, as well as renowned Indian automotive stalwarts such as Bajaj Auto Limited and Mahindra & Mahindra.

This strategically located region, in close proximity to Pune and Mumbai, evolved into a flourishing ecosystem for the automotive and auto-component sectors.

This transformation came about when the Pimpri Chinchwad and Bhosari MIDC areas reached their capacity thresholds.

With nearly all plots occupied, the MIDC has envisioned expanding by procuring land around Talegaon to realize the Talegaon third phase.

The Ranjangaon-Shirur-Shikrapur Belt:

Pune’s secondary industrial corridor traces its footprint along the Pune-Ahmednagar Highway, spanning across an expansive 800 hectares.

This area encompasses various villages including Ranjangaon and Shikrapur, situated at the convergence of Pune and Ahmednagar districts. Among its notable occupants are industry giants like LG, Whirlpool, Bombay Dyeing, and Fiat, establishing a diverse presence in this region.

Unlike Chakan and Talegaon, this industrial landscape hosts a broader array of automobile enterprises. In comparison to Chakan MIDC, this sector constitutes a relatively recent development.

Segments of this industrial zone remain unutilized, presenting opportunities for future expansion.


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