Swindlers And Touts Flourishing
Extort Money On Pretext Of Jobs, Transfers
In Jammu and Kashmir, the culture of touts and swindlers is not new. This culture of defraud by crooks and swindlers was encouraged by the political parties in the early years of militancy in the erstwhile state. Gradually, touts and swindlers gained access to levers of power in the political, civil and police establishment. Seeing the huge gains to be made with zero accountability, more and more people took it this business, and came to be seen as professional and expert swindlers.
Due to the conflict, private sector could not flourish in the region, and the government is the biggest job provider. It is here that the swindlers make their big bucks. They defraud innocent commoners on the promises of providing them government jobs, extending to them the benefits of subsidized government schemes and even meddle in the transfer of properties.
Central rule was extended to Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 with the abrogation of Article 370. For a while, the touts who had deep roots in political parties went out of business. But you can always trust a crook to find ways to survive – as they say – by hook or crook.
After 2019, babudom was the big boss. So these crooks assiduously cultivated links within the bureaucracy.
Contacts in Bureaucracy, Police, Army
Due to the unique nature of Kashmir, swindlers have a large area of operation. You will typically find them with contacts in the babudom, with the police and also the Army.
The Modus Operandi of Swindlers
So how do the swindlers function? How do they manage to hoodwink the poor job aspirants?
There is one thing that all swindlers have in common. They always have a charming and pleasant façade. They are always dressed in smart attire to give the impression of affluence. And they never let the façade drop. The swindler shall come across as the man you can trust most of all – in all given situations. Except that he is friend to none.
The modus operandi is this. The swindler is always trying to climb up the bureaucratic ladder. Through weeks of Ji Hazoori, he manages to meet a bureaucrat. The more senior the bureaucrat is, the better for the swindler.
So the smartly turned out, smiling and charming swindler shall visit the officer and engage in pleasant conversation with him. In Kashmir, the swindler finds it easy to engage the officer. This is because the swindler claims to bring information from the grassroots level. The discussion hence becomes easy. Thirty years of conflict provides enough fodder for talk.
Before leaving the office, the swindler asks for a selfie or a photograph with the officer. The officer, usually in a good mood after a hearty round of gupshup, obliges.
The swindler now uploads the photograph on his social media. Why so? With the two men smiling into the camera, the swindler wants to make people believe that he is cozy with the top officers of the bureaucracy, the police or the Army. The message that the man wants to convey is that he has access to the top offices.
The Master Stroke
Here is the crowning stroke. Some swindlers even manage an appointment with the Hon’ble LG. During the normal course of the day, the photographer at the Raj Bhavan keeps clicking photographs of those who meet the Governor. The tout asks the photographer for these pics. He then uploads the photograph clicked with the LG as the status and DP on his social media handles. Messaging loud and clear – I am cozy with the LG. Meanwhile, the Hon’ble LG has no idea what the crook is up to.
The modus operandi is the same regarding the photographs that the touts insist on clicking with top officers. The officers, not knowing the real intension of the visitor, agree to click a selfie or a photograph with him. The job is done.
SSP Srinagar Recounts Selfie-Seeking Visitor
There are some officers who can sense why a particular visitor seems too keen to have a photograph with him. For instance, SSP Srinagar Mr Rakesh Balwal, IPS, recently told this correspondent that he came across a visitor who was very keen to click a selfie with him. “I denied because I could sense why this guy is so keen to have a selfie with me. Their intentions are indeed strange. I am simply a police officer, not a celebrity that people would love to have selfie with me,” Balwal said.
There are categories of swindlers who use the photographs clicked with senior police officers to make quick money on the pretext of giving out jobs of Special Police Officer (SPO) to unemployed youth. They take as much money from the youngsters as they can manage. Since all money is taken in cash, the youth has no way of proving that he gave the money to the tout for a job.
Another category of touts are those who take money from people to fly to Delhi. They somehow seek appointments with the people close to the establishment and click photographs with them. Back home, they glibly exploit the locals and take money from them on the pretext of getting them jobs. When the needful is not done and people demand their money, the touts threaten them that they have connection with the top people in the establishment.
Money Taken For Govt Appointments
Recently, the J&K Service Selection Board made public the selection list for the recruitment of Sub Inspectors in Jammu and Kashmir. The list was challenged by some aspirants. They held protests were held in Srinagar and Jammu, alleging that there were many irregularities and discrepancies in the selection list, and that merit was not the only criterion for selection.
The selection list came under criticism, and the government was forced to constitute an enquiry committee to look into the alleged irregularities. It came to the fore that a notorious tout from Jammu had swindled the aspirants. According to reports, he had taken Rs 25 lakh from each candidate for his or her selection. Like this Jammu tout, there are many people in Kashmir who have looted people on one pretext or the other. When the victims approach these touts for demanding their money, they intimidate the poor aspirants by saying that they are highly influential and are connected to Raj Bhawan and New Delhi.
Mr Sanjay Nahar Of Sarhad Recalls Similar Experience
Last week, Mr Sanjay Nahar, a dear friend of our Editor in Chief, called him. Mr Nahar heads Sarhad, a highly reputed social organization based at Pune. It was shocking to learn from Mr Nahar that some people from Srinagar had taken money in his name from some senior BJP functionaries.
These so called activists have exploited people in hundreds with the claims of their “connections”. It is unfortunate that many officers neglect their mandate of connecting with the people, and remain inaccessible. For such officers, chances of exploitation by touts are higher. The officers in the police, the civil administration and also the Army need to be extra careful of these touts. Raj Bhavan particularly must ensure that the swindlers are not entertained.
Recently one such tout from Pulwama district has been identified who has taken money in lakhs from the poor people. Reportedly he is on the run. However, some of these touts have been detained.
Even Senior Officers Have Fallen Prey
It is surprising to see that even senior officers in the bureaucracy have fallen prey to these touts. In quest for the posting of their choice, many senior officers have been swindled by these crooks and have paid them huge sums. These crooks need to be identified and the menace should be curbed before it brings disrepute to the officers holding high public offices.