Friday, June 12, 2009

Relief for beleaguered traders, contractors Three Jharkhand Lal Badshar

;Statesman News Service

ROURKELA, 12 JUNE: The arrest of three people suspected to be members of the infamous Jharkhand Lal Badshar gang has come as a major relief to traders, contractors and the general public here.
But it has also revealed how entire Sundergarh district is fast becoming a safe haven for extortionists in different garbs and the lucrative activity of such elements.
Apparently, the easiest means to create the fear psychosis is to use the already feared name of the MCC.
The gangs used to target contractors engaged in developmental construction work in the district.
The name of the Jharkhand Lal Badshar (JLB) and the Jharkhand Liberation Front (JLF) stay at the forefront of such extortion gangs here. Members of the JLB claim to be part of the dreaded Maoist factions across the border.
Though the MCC, through posters, has distanced itself from both the organisations, contractors and traders used to pay ‘protection money’ to such utfits.
The JLB led by Radha Mahali, now lodged at the Ranchi jail, has creating havoc amongst the contractors.
During the last three to four months it had made life miserable for most of the construction companies busy in massive building activities in the far flung areas of the district such as Lahunipara, Bonai and others.
In the last three months the JLB cadres had struck at least five times and had issued more than 30-40 extortion letters to the contractors.
Some have tried to buy peace and safety by paying and those who have not done so are leaving in constant fear of life and property. “I resisted at first but later on succumbed when I did not get any positive indication from police. I also started getting disturbing phone calls,” said a scared contractor, who was forced to pay later.
The JLB is using a particular phone number for making all calls and it also fearlessly provides another cell number on letters.
The JLB is demanding hefty sum from the contractors and those who are not ready to pay are being punished for it as has happened in the case of one such construction house whose machineries were torched. This attack came after the contractor tried to settle the issue by paying a sum below one lakh. However, he was asked to pay over 20 lakhs.
In another case one brick kiln owner, who paid 5 lakh and expressed his inability to pay more, he was asked to give his bank account number for verification.
The police however insisted that the cell phone numbers were fictitious as they belonged to innocent people.
Several contractors have made their personal security arrangement by getting body guards from Uttar Pradesh.
Mr. Prabhat Das, President of Orissa Contractors Association had recently lamented, “no one is listening to us. I had discussed with a couple of ministers last time around but the response was lukewarm to say the least, he said.
“We have presented several memoranda to the CM but there has been no response at all,” he added.
Contractors and brick kiln owners are under constant threat and many are keen on quitting construction business, he remarked.
The recent arrest of three criminals has come as a relief to all but the problem is deep rooted and apprehensions are that the extortionist will continue to find people to do the job for them.

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