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Fixer then, ‘evil’ player now

Nalanda, Nov. 25: In his native village, people knew him as a “setter” who could fix admissions. Now they see him as nothing more than an “evil manipulator”.

Ranjit Singh’s luck ran out earlier this week when CBI sleuths arrested him and three others in connection with the leak of the question paper for the common admission test.

But till the long arm of the law caught up with him, the slim, 35-year-old non-practising doctor has had a smooth run for eight years. His network functioned like a well-oiled machine: the conduit would operate with the help of coaching and Singh would guarantee admission to clients in exchange for amounts ranging from Rs 5-15 lakh.

One report listed fees that Singh charged for admission to different courses. It went like this: CBSE medical Rs 10-15 lakh, engineering Rs 8-10 lakh, bank probationary officer Rs 4-8 lakh, National Defence Academy Rs 4 lakh, upper divisional clerk Rs 3 lakh, lower division clerk Rs 2 lakh and Bihar Public Service Commission Rs 5-10 lakh.

In Nalanda, wards of many bureaucrats have benefited from this trade. “I was surprised to know that many of my own subordinates have their sons and daughters in medical, IIT, banks an so on. Compared to them, I am nowhere,” said a police officer.

No wonder, the tag “setter” stuck so long on the man who rose from being one of six children of a low-level Bihar government employee to become the owner of a pharmaceutical company at Kandivli, Mumbai. The company manufactures mostly antibiotic medicines though the brand names are not known.

“We knew he was a big ‘setter’ and can help anyone to get admissions if you give him money. We never thought he was such an evil manipulator,” said Ram Naresh, a resident of his native village, Lodipur, in Hilsa block.

Singh’s method was simple. He would call his clients (students) to a hotel two days before the examination, give them the leaked questions there and answers which they would have to memorise. They were not allowed to go out or contact anybody and were taken to the examination centres on the day of the test. Certificates and mark sheets used to be seized and returned only when the whole amount was paid.

Before the examinations, Singh travelled in posh cars fitted with fax machines and cellular phones, sending the leaked questions to conduits all over the country. He also often changed cars and the communication gadgets.

Singh had another source of income. Doctors who wanted their sons or daughters to study medicine had to agree to prescribe only those drugs manufactured by his company for the entire five-year course.

Two years ago, he floated a party called the Magadh Vikas Manch. He wanted to become an MP and was set on contesting against George Fernandes in the next elections.

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