The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Steel city becomes squeeze city

Jamshedpur, Nov. 2: The murder of shoe baron Ashish Dey today prompted Jamshedpur’s businessmen to compare the local extortion racket to the one Dawood Ibrahim’s D-company once ran in Mumbai.

“Almost every day there are extortion threats and ransom calls. Only a handful get reported since most families quietly pay up,” said a leading industrialist who did not wish to be named.

In the local parlance, the racket of extorting “protection money” – also called “goonda tax” – from businessmen is called rangdaari. The extortionists, or rangdaars, protect their victims from other gangs once they pay up.

The industrialist said that a few days ago, a businessman paid Rs 5 lakh to the gangsters. “He had received a threat that he would be bumped off if he didn’t pay up.”

Extortion has been common in Jamshedpur but has increased sharply since the early 1990s. A gang first tries to scare its quarry by firing at him but ensuring that the bullets miss him.

If the businessman still holds out, the gangsters kidnap one or more of his employees and send them back with a message for their employer. This is followed up with threat calls.

In the next step, the businessman is kidnapped. If the family still refuses to pay ransom, it could mean death for the hostage.

The police admit that threat calls are rising but say they cannot do anything unless the businessmen come to them with complaints. “We want to help them, but they have to trust us,” a senior officer said.

The businessmen betrayed little trust in the administration today. “There is no government in Jharkhand. The state government has failed completely,” said R.N. Gupta, president of the Singhbhum Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

He alleged that several local politicians patronise the extortion gangs, who include local criminals as well as some from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

“These criminals are not scared of anybody because they know they will go scot-free. What is the government doing' If there is no guarantee of our security, why are we paying such high taxes'” Gupta said.

“Even if the local administration acts, the criminals will be set free at the intervention of politicians,” another businessman said. “The situation is as bad as it was in Mumbai during the heydey of the D-company.”

Hotelier Gian Taneja said he would lead a delegation to East Singhbhum deputy commissioner Nitin Madan Kulkarni after Diwali and seek extra protection.

“There is an immediate need for all trade organisations in the city to take a stand on this. Else, we fear more such incidents,” Taneja said.

“The situation was never so bad here. Crime had fallen considerably in the early ’90s when Ajay Kumar was the police superintendent. The situation has progressively deteriorated since then, because there is no one to take the extortionists on.”

The police recently killed a dreaded rangdaar, Dudhai Yadav, but such successes have been rare.

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