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Boom time for Bihar kidnapping industry

Boom time for Bihar kidnapping industry

Publication: The Times of India
Date: January 27, 2005

When National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) jointly bagged the ambitious Rs 19,000-crore rural road construction project in Bihar under the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna last year, its chairman and managing director Yogendra Prasad appeared impatient at media scepticism about its smooth execution.

"We have executed several projects in insurgency-hit North-East and even in Jammu and Kashmir," he boasted. A month later, the CMD was spending sleepless nights - two of his company's senior technocrats were abducted on way to Bettiah.

A two-week drama followed, which came to an end only after one of the captives, chief engineer KK Singh, escaped from his abductors in UP; the abductors later put the other captive, general manager T Mandal, aboard a Delhi-bound train at Narkatiaganj in Champaran.

The men had demanded Rs 10 crore as ransom, to be paid through hawala channels in Mumbai. While the NHPC denied that any ransom was paid, the claim was met with much scepticism.

In Bihar, where kidnapping has become more of an industry, such denials are invariably tagged along whenever captives return home safely.

If you believe in statistics, sample this: 32,085 cases of kidnapping were reported between 1992 and September 2004 in the state, about 20% of these were for ransom, according to police records.

Police records don't tell the whole story, though. "So wide and octopus-like has the grip of criminals on society become and so complete the lack of confidence of the people in the administration that only a fraction of the cases is reported to the police," a People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) fact-finding report stated in 1994, adding, "instead, people prefer to go for a direct negotiation with the kidnappers." The public's cynicism stems from the perception that politicians are stakeholders in this cash- rich "industry".

From being mere henchmen of politicians, "many criminals have themselves joined politics and become MLAs and MPs... This has contributed to the collapse of the rule of law," a report of the Bihar's unit of People's Union of Civil Liberties stated way back in 1988. The Patna High Court in December last ordered storming of Bihar jails. The seizure from incarcerated political strongmen only corroborated the popular view.

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