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Jaya springs ransom probe

Chennai, April 9: Jayalalithaa has ordered an inquiry into former chief minister M. Karunanidhi’s alleged role in the payment of ransom to forest brigand Veerappan to secure the release of the veteran actor, Rajkumar.

The chief minister’s latest attack on her political foe comes in the wake of disclosures made in the controversial book, Veerappan’s Prize Catch: Rajkumar, by former Karnataka director-general of police C. Dinakar.

The retired officer’s insider’s views on the drama surrounding the capture and release of the thespian is said to have fuelled Jayalalithaa’s determination to get to the bottom of alleged “shady deals” by the DMK government to appease Veerappan.

“I have directed the state directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption to investigate all aspects of the ransom money which allegedly changed hands at the residence of Karunanidhi as stated in Dinakar’s book,” the chief minister declared in the Assembly today.

Stung by queries from DMK members on the huge expenditure incurred by the special task force assigned to arrest Veerappan, the chief minister lashed back: “How much ransom changed hands for rescuing Rajkumar at the residence of the then chief minister, Mr Karunanidhi' What portion of it was kept by the latter and how much was actually paid to Veerappan'”

Dinakar’s book, Jayalalithaa asserted, unmasked the role of the key players in the abduction and release drama. It “brings to light the alleged criminal activities of Karunanidhi who was aided by some masquerading as emissaries”, she said in an obvious reference to editor of Tamil bi-weekly Nakkeeran R.R. Gopal.

Amid thumping of desks by ruling partymen, the chief minister informed the House that investigations by the vigilance and anti-corruption directorate would be expedited and “the whole truth will come out soon”, to reveal Karunanidhi’s “true colours”. Major Opposition parties, including the DMK, the Congress and the Left, were not present at the discourse.

Jayalalithaa said Rs 9.47 crore had been spent on the Special Task Force during 2001-2002, as against Rs 3.36 crore spent in 2000-2001. This year Rs 7.62 crore had been set aside for the force.

Justifying the increased allocation to the task force operations under her regime, the chief minister pointed out that it was entirely due to the restructuring of the force that Veerappan had shifted operations from Tamil Nadu to Karnataka.

Differentiating between Rajkumar’s abduction and that of the former Karnataka minister, Nagappa, last year, she said the former had taken place in Tamil Nadu under the previous DMK regime, while Nagappa’s took place in Karnataka. This, Jayalalithaa said, indicated that the forest brigand could not attempt another abduction from Tamil Nadu and “is an eloquent testimony to the positive achievements of the Special Task Force under the ADMK regime”.

Once reinvigorated, the Tamil Nadu task force had also yielded very valuable information on Nagappa’s kidnap and meticulous details about his various associates, several of whom were later arrested, the chief minister said. “Only Veerappan remains to be caught and we will nab him soon,” she added.

Jayalalithaa also announced several plans to modernise the state police force, including the initiation of 40 police stations with all women personnel during the year. The government, she said, has earmarked Rs 126 crore for the construction of 3,000 police quarters this year by the Tamil Nadu Police Housing Corporation and Rs 88 lakh for equipping them with high-tech equipment to combat terrorism. Another Rs 96 crore has been allotted to provide sophisticated weapons to police, she added.

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