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Train twist to lakhpati’s tale

Calcutta, April 27: When Parmananda Prasad won a lottery ticket (a ‘Diwali Bumper’ at that), he thought his days of despair were over. He would not be a crorepati, but a double lakhpati was not a bad way to start. Little did he know that his problems had only just begun.

The resident of Sahapara village in the Gangarampur area of South Dinajpur entrusted a nationalised bank with his ticket and the relevant documents, asking that his account be credited with the lottery money. The bank entrusted a deputy manager to come to Calcutta and take back the amount Prasad had won.

Prasad’s party was spoilt on a Sealdah train. The bag with the prized ticket and the papers were stolen from the officer and the bank and the lottery authorities were dragged into a legal battle.

Five years after he won the West Bengal State Lottery prize worth Rs 2 lakh, Prasad is yet to receive a single paisa. Instead, he is knocking on the doors of courts, from district headquarters Balurghat to Calcutta, trying to reclaim what is “rightfully” his.

Prasad got lucky after he bought a lottery ticket (No. VV 137586) from a local agent (Loknath Agency); he won the third prize — a purse of Rs 2 lakh — of the 1998 Diwali Bumper organised by the West Bengal Lottery Directorate. He had a savings account with the United Bank of India’s Gangarampur branch and deposited the ticket with it in October 1998.

The bank, according to its lawyer, deputed deputy manager Himangshu Purkait to come to Calcutta and collect the purse, armed with the ticket and a letter of authority.

Disaster struck on November 1, when a thief pinched Purkait’s bag as he was boarding a Diamond Harbour local from Sealdah station around 8 am.

Prasad filed a case with the South Dinajpur District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, pleading that the prize he had won — and the bank had allegedly lost — be handed over to him. The district forum asked the bank to pay Rs 2 lakh to Prasad as compensation.

The bank’s contention was that the State Lotteries Directorate pay the prize money to Prasad.

The lotteries directorate, however, was quick to cite a similar case, in which the Haryana State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had termed the lottery a “species of gaming and wagering... (which) is either actually an offence or akin to it (and) cannot possibly give rise to any civil or contractual right”.

But for poor Prasad, it’s a wait without end for the windfall.

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