Pune: Three officials of a poultry firm have been arrested after farmers from several districts in Maharashtra lodged cases against the company for allegedly duping them of several crores of rupees on the pretext of helping them rear 'Kadaknath' chickens, police said on Tuesday.
The black meat of the 'Kadaknath' chicken breed is popular in parts of central India, primarily Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, for its nutritional and medicinal values, with a kilogram of it selling at rates as high as Rs 900.
Cultivators have accused the Sangli-headquartered Maharayat Agro India Private Ltd of swindling their investments in the name of business plans for rearing and "buy-back" of Kadaknath poultry birds.
So far, several cases have been registered against the firm in Sangli, Satara, Pune, Kolhapur, Palghar, Nashik, and Aurangabad, Pune's Dattawadi police station's assistant police inspector Shankar Salgar said.
While police are yet to ascertain the scam amount, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana (SSS) leader Raju Shetti claimed farmers have been duped of nearly Rs 550 crore and demanded a probe by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the matter.
He claimed the culprits are related to a politician.Pune police earlier this month registered a case in connection with the 'scam' against the Sangli-based firm's founder director Sudhir Mohite, and other directors - Hanumant Jagdale and Sandip Mohite - for allegedly duping over 100 farmers of more than Rs 3 crore, Salgar said.
Similarly, the Islampur police station in Sangli registered a case against the firm's directors for cheating farmers of over Rs 10 crore, another official said.
"Around 600 to 700 farmers from various districts have approached us and filed their complaints," he said. So far three persons - Sandip Mohite, Hanumant Jagdale, and Pritam Mane, an accountant in the firm's Pune office - have been arrested, he said.
"While Mohite and Jagdale were arrested by Sangli police, Mane was arrested by Pune police," he said.
Sudhir Mohite and two others wanted in the case are still at large, he said, adding that the case has now been transferred to Sangli police's Economic Offences Wing (EOW).
One of the complainants, Nilesh Ambede, alleged that he invested Rs 2.5 lakh in the company's scheme but it did not deliver the chicks as promised.
He claimed the company promised that it would buy back the full-grown chicken at Rs 300 per bird, he said.
Based on his complaint, the Pune police registered a case against the firm's officials under Indian Penal Code Sections 407, 409 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) and 34 (common intention), Salgar said.
Salgar said the firm - previously known as Rayat Agro India Ltd - was set up at Islampur in Sangli in 2017.
It came up with various plans about Kadaknath chicken for which it received investments from farmers. In return, it used to provide 200 chicks (newly hatched birds) of the breed to the cultivators, he said.