At CAD blast site, contractor mints money from ammo scrap

NAGPUR: Last week’s blast at the Army’s Central Ammunition Depot (CAD) at Pulgaon has also exposed hints of a major violation of rules, involving sale of metal scrap left after demolition of explosives. This scrap is allegedly distributed among the contractors and labourers, instead of being sold via competitive bidding as the rules lay down.

Demolition of ammunition is a routine affair at the CAD, where contractual workers are engaged to unload boxes and other jobs. After the old and rejected shells are blown up, there is a sizeable quantity of scrap, including metals like copper and brass. The demolition is mainly carried out by the CAD, which also lends premises to the ordnance factory.

Workers who survived the blast which killed six persons said the scrap is given away to the contractor who supplies the labour. The contractor in turn gives the labourers a share of the scrap, which the workers sell to earn their wages. The scrap is purchased by dealers present right at the spot in CAD, they said.

Sale of scrap by PSUs and government departments is not allowed directly. The common practice by defence units is online auction through a portal developed by Metal and Scrap Trading Corporation (MSTC), which is also a PSU.

An officer from the CAD, Colonel Paramjit Singh, who was talking to newsperson a day after the blast, said the organization follows a strict system of online disposal of scrap. There is no scope for any direct dealing with the contractor, he said.

Even as an email sent to the Ordnance Factory Board went unanswered, an officer said scrap disposal is CAD’s lookout.

However, villagers living close to CAD, who have worked as labourers earlier, spoke of the scrap deals. The matter came to fore when the survivors complained of being poorly paid. Their grudge was that the contractor took away a major share of scrap, leaving just enough for them to earn Rs 200 to 400 per head.

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The locals also showed pieces of shells and other rounds, which they said were their share of the scrap.

Brothers Ashok and Sharad Chandak are regular contractors at the CAD since nearly a decade, said the locals. The duo continues to be . Anant Gudhe, former MP from , who reached the spot after the blast also alleged that the contractor has scrap worth lakhs in his godown.

Nitin Pande of Sonegaon village explained, “100 workers are engaged at any given demolition exercise. The shells are blasted in a pit. There are 10 pits with 10 workers engaged at each. Around a quintal of scrap is left in each pit. The contractor takes away 3/4th, leaving 1/4th for the 10 labourers.”

“The contractor earns thousands in a single day, and what we get is barely Rs 200 to 400 per head. The buyers are present right at the spot and the material is sold immediately,” said Shatrughana Dadhane, also from Sonegaon village, from where two men were killed in the blast.

The locals said they knew all the buyers. They are mainly from Pulgaon town, and may not be available now, said Dadhane. They further sell the scrap to foundries at a good price, he said.

“Apart from what is found in the pits, some pieces are flung away into the open ground. That material is taken by whoever finds it,” said another villager. A local came with pieces of what appeared to be the 23mm anti-aircraft rounds, which blew up leading to the accident; a fin of a mortar shell, and a broken artillery bomb. Another one showed an artillery shell. “This will get me around Rs 100,” he said.

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