An animal activist has been arrested by the Sion police for extorting money from butchers and animal transporters for allowing them to flout animal welfare laws.
Bhavin Gathani, founder of the NGO called Karuna Parivar for “animals in pain”, claims to be former Union Minister and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi’s personal secretary.
Bhavin Gathani (seen here with Maneka Gandhi), allegedly took money from transporters and butchers to allow them to flout animal welfare laws
But Gathani misused these to extort money. According to police, six to seven licences are required to transport animals across the state. Most transporters do not obtain all the required licences.
As an animal welfare officer, Gathani has the authority to stop these trucks and report the offenders to the police — which he allegedly does not do, in exchange for a fee.
He allegedly asks for Rs 12,000 to 15,000 from each butcher and transporter in exchange for allowing them to flout the animal protection laws. If their goods are confiscated by the police, transporters end up paying double the extortion amount, so they prefer to pay activists instead, they say.
Couple of days ago, Gathani allegedly asked four butchers, including one Ghulam Hussain, for Rs 25000 each per month to stop interfering with their work.
Gathani allegedly asked them to hand over the money to his associates on Wednesday at Five Gardens. Hussain agreed to pay, but instead recorded the conversation and took it to the Sion police.
They say they had been approached by other butchers in the past, complaining about Gathani.
Police say they have often been misguided by animal activists, who intercepts trucks carrying animals, even if they are following regulations.
Police arrested Gathani from his home in Goregaon.
Senior police inspector of Sion station, A W Surve says, “We have arrested him on charges of demanding money to carry animals in trucks. Normally RTO permission and other licenses are required, which the butchers don’t carry. Gathani, through his network, kept tabs on the animals pouring into the city and use to blackmail transporters and butchers for entering the city without any police action.”
Gathani is currently in police custody and will be taken to the Kurla court on Thursday. The conversation tape has been sent to the Kalina forensic lab for authentication.
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