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Ransom paid, child strangled
- Police sit tight despite knowledge of kidnap

Howrah, Dec. 21: The deal had been settled, the ransom paid and police kept informed at every step. It was only a matter of time, thought four-year-old Ganesh's father Siddhartha Palodhi, before his son was returned home. He was even hoping that the police, aware of each move made by the abductors, would arrest them and return the ransom money.

Instead, this morning, as Siddhartha watched horrified, his son's partly decomposed body was dug out from a vacant plot of land adjoining his Bauria home, on the outskirts of Howrah town.

The abductors had taken the money, but not kept their part of the bargain: they had killed Ganesh ' preliminary reports said that he was strangled ' and buried him in the dead of night, that too many days ago. This, at least, is what the police say.

But this is not just a story of abduction and betrayal. It is a tale of unexplained police apathy, where, according to Siddhartha, the guardians of the law seemed reluctant to act, though they were kept informed about the movements of the kidnappers, supplied with the phone numbers of the booths they were calling from and told exactly where and when the payoff would be made.

On December 3, around 11 am, Ganesh was kidnapped while he was cycling in front of the Palodhi home at Dakhin Burikhali. Siddhartha, a local businessman, was in his office just opposite his home.

Initially, no one seemed to notice the disappearance. Like any boy of his age, Ganesh would often wander in the neighbourhood and return home after a while. But when he did not come back till late afternoon, his parents began to worry and by evening they were in panic. Siddhartha went to the Bauria police station to lodge a complaint.

The first ransom call, for Rs 25 lakh, came the next afternoon. Pleading helplessness to pay the money, Siddhartha tried to negotiate but the abductors simply disconnected.

Siddhartha had a caller line identification installed at home, took down the number and informed the police. The number was traced to an STD booth within a kilometre from the Palodhi home.

After what seemed an endless wait, the next call came on December 8, at 5 pm, when the abductors brought down the ransom amount to Rs 2.5 lakh. Once again Siddhartha expressed inability to pay the amount and after some negotiation the ransom was settled at Rs 1 lakh.

Siddhartha was told to deliver the money at one corner of a nearby pond at 7 pm two days later. Once again, he informed the police.

'The police simply told me to go and pay the amount and get my son released,' Siddhartha said. 'So, I did as I was told. The police did not seem interested in going to the spot to catch the culprits.'

After delivering the money, Siddhartha went up to the terrace of his house to see what happened next. He saw three men, one from his locality whom he later identified and who has now been arrested, collect the money and disappear.

He expected his son to appear, anytime. But that never happened. 'I went to the police but seeing their lack of interest I approached the state government and on December 18 the case was transferred to the CID,' Siddhartha said.

It was, perhaps, too late. If the police's preliminary finding is correct, little Ganesh might have been killed by then.

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