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Sensitive machinery in good order sold: Finance Ministry

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI NOV. 23. Irregularities and inadequate security precautions at the Indian Security Press (ISP) at Nashik in Maharashtra are suspected by the Union Government to be important factors in the large-scale multi-crore fake stamp paper racket unearthed in several States in the country.

The Finance Ministry has officially admitted that "sensitive machinery'' in "good order'' was sold to the alleged conspirators in the racket now estimated to be running into Rs. 20,000 crores. The Government has said that the normal precaution of destroying sensitive dyes before selling the machinery was not taken.

The Finance Ministry, under whose control and supervision the security presses function, was first alerted on a widespread and well-organised crime syndicate in fake stamp papers worth thousands of crores of rupees when a report was presented to it by the Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) in January this year.

However, information about the forgery of stamp papers was officially given at a meeting by the Karnataka Government as early as in November 2000 and a working group on non-judicial stamp paper was set up in February 2001. Its report was made available in December 2002 and approved by the Finance Ministry in February this year.

The Finance Ministry has confirmed that a crime syndicate in fake stamp papers did exist and with which there was active connivance of certain officials of the security press at Nashik. These officials were found to have disposed of sensitive machinery in good order, after terming them as condemned, and without dismantling them. Three such machines were sold between March and April 1998.

Besides, these officials had parted with sensitive dyes, negatives of stamps and technologies for printing to the conspirators. There were also lapses in maintaining proper records and supervisory measures pertaining to materials entering or leaving the factory premises.

In March this year, the Finance Ministry first transferred Ganga Prakash, the General Manager of the ISP, and subsequently placed him under suspension. In August, orders were passed for his summary dismissal. Also, two other officials were placed under suspension and three Deputy General Managers transferred from the ISP. Action was also initiated against five retired officials under the Pension Rules.

The security system at the Nashik press has also been upgraded. All departmental security personnel have been removed from the outer-periphery work and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel have been inducted in their place.

The Finance Ministry has also approved a second phase induction of the CISF, but the CISF was yet to place personnel there. It seems that only now instructions have been issued that disposal of old machinery from security presses should be done only after dismantling and crushing them in the presence of responsible officers and then selling the machinery as scrap.

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