| Araria superintendent of police Shivdeep Lande. Telegraph picture |
A well-lubricated racket of illegal “entry fee” is active on the Bihar-Bengal border of Kishanganj district, causing loss of crores of rupees to the state exchequer every month.
Araria superintendent of police (SP) Shivdeep Lande, in a report to his superiors last month, said the racket was active on the 4-km-long stretch of National Highway 31. It was detected when Lande was patrolling the area while holding the additional charge of Kishanganj SP.
Lande claimed in the report that he was surprised to find three persons — identified as Patna residents Arun Kumar and Suraj Kumar and Gaya resident Lalan Kumar — collecting money from truck drivers entering Bihar from Bengal or vice versa.
“None of the three was an employee of the transport department. They used to signal the trucks coming from Bengal to stop at the checking point and collected money from a few. A majority of them were given go-ahead without any hindrance, raising suspicion on their (the men’s) credentials,” the report said.
Around 5,000 trucks carrying raw material and other goods from the northeastern states and Bengal enter Bihar through Kishanganj every day. A majority of them did not have valid permits, were overloaded and did not pay taxes. The racket was thriving with the connivance of the transport department officials, who got a fixed amount from the mafia every month. “The officials are aware of the coded language of the mafia,” the report said.
It also said the mafia had deployed their agents at all check points to facilitate smooth passage of their trucks. The racket had spread its network to Dalkhola, Islampur, Siliguri in Bengal and Gulabbagh, Thana Bihpur, Naugachia in Bihar.
Copies of the report were sent to the Kishanganj district magistrate, commissioner of Purnea division, deputy inspector-general of police of Purnea range and transport commissioner in Patna. It identified Mukesh Singh, the owner of a hotel in Kishanganj and transport tycoon, to be the kingpin of the mafia.
Sources said Singh was kidnapped from his hotel on June 26 and his body was dumped on railway tracks near Baluchuka, 2km away from Kishanganj town. After his murder, his brother Sunil has taken command of the “group”, said sources.
The SP’s report said several mobile sub-inspectors and some deputy superintendents of the transport department were among the beneficiaries of the “entry fee” collection.
Taking a note of the SP’s report, a senior officer of commercial taxes department shot off a letter on June 27 asking officials concerned to check the trucks passing through the Grand Trunk road. Between July 1 and July 14, the officials found that about 4,500 trucks passed through the state’s border with Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh every day.
Transport department secretary R. K. Mahajan, who holds the additional charge of commissioner (transport), could not be contacted for comments.