| Three persons arrested during Operation Dalal. Picture by Sanjay Choudhary |
Patna, Jan. 19: Cashing in on corrupt practices and poor services in government offices, several touts have scripted envious rags-to-riches stories in the state.
Three among them simply stand out. Amrendra Narayan Singh, a resident of Aurangabad in south-central Bihar, started his career as a middleman in the district transport office and has allegedly amassed property worth crores. Arrested during the “Operation Dalal” last week, he was living life king-size after joining the trade.
Life of Lalji Pandey, a resident of Ara in Bhojpur, is equally envious. Virtually a pauper a decade ago, the arrested tout has built a multi-storeyed house.
Cut to Lalji’s namesake, Lalji Prasad of Nawada locality in Ara. From an employee of a shop, the arrested middleman has become an employer of two after he threw his hat in the corruption.
Of the three, most meteoric is the rise of Singh (38). Senior officers of the Aurangabad district police were stunned to find he was a millionaire. He used to deposit bank challans (deposit receipts) ranging between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 5 lakh every day on behalf of his clients, who approached him for registration of vehicles or driving licences.
A higher secondary school examination passout from an Aurangabad-based government school, Singh’s rise was a talking point in the town for the past two decades. He owns a multi-storeyed building on the upcoming Talab Road in Aurangabad town. Majority of the people mistook him to be an employee of the transport department because he remained there most of the time.
“He used to operate like a transport department official. He had good rapport with senior officials of the department and enjoyed access to every file in the office. He was virtually running a parallel office there. He used to charge a fixed price for every service he provided to his clients,” said an investigating officer.
On the condition of anonymity, he said Singh’s lavish lifestyle had made other “agents” (read touts) envious. Singh was so professional that he never missed the deadline and this rare quality had made him popular among the group of active middlemen in the town.
Singh was among the five touts and two transport department officials arrested during the drive last Monday. Aurangabad superintendent of police Upendra Kumar Sharma said the details of the property of all the five touts were being verified. “Once the process is complete, the district police would submit proposals for confiscation of their ill-gotten property to the police headquarters,” he told The Telegraph over phone from Aurangabad.
The rise of Lalji Pandey, arrested from Ara in Bhojpur, is equally mind-boggling. “He used to ride an old bicycle a few years ago. Now, he has a multi-storeyed house at Maharaja Haata with ultra-modern facilities,” said Kameshwar Pandey, a retired government employee known to Lalji’s family.
Kameshwar, a resident of the Nawada locality of the town, said Lalji (in mid-40s) stepped into the lucrative business about a decade ago after he somehow managed to set up a temporary office on the district collectorate premises. Since then, he never looked back. He is an undergraduate but his monthly income is not less than Rs 1 lakh,” he added.
Another arrested tout, Nawada resident (in Ara) Lalji Prasad, earlier worked in a shop at Ara and earned Rs 3,000 per month. He was introduced in the money-spinning trade by another middleman, Badri.
In a short span, Prasad became so rich that he employed two youths to help him in the business. He got his children enrolled to a reputable school of the town.
Lalji and Prasad are among the 15 middlemen apprehended from Ara during the special drive launched by the Bhojpur police at the behest of the police headquarters to weed out corruption at lower level. “Over 100 people, including a few public servants, have been arrested from different districts in the past one week. The raids were carried out outside the offices of the transport department and sub-registrars (registry offices),” a senior police officer monitoring the operation said.
Director-general of police (DGP) Abhayanand said the operation had been launched on a large scale for the first time in the state to contain corruption at government offices. “Those arrested persons would be booked under sections 8,9,10 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Subsequently, their ill-gotten property would be confiscated under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act,” he said.
The DGP said several registers and forged papers were seized during the raids, hinting at nexus between the touts and a section of the government employees. “The decision to launch special operation was taken after several complaints were received at my office from the common people about the unholy nexus,” he told The Telegraph.