‘Pay Rs 1,500 and get an e-pass within two hours to travel across India” reads an advertisement that is spreading like wildfire on WhatsApp groups in Vellore.
At a time when travel permissions to move to hinterlands is hard to find due to pandemic-induced restrictions, a commercial enterprise has sprung up in the state, riding on government connections to secure the same.
Calls to the numbers specified in the Whatsapp ads confirmed that the persons behind the enterprise were able to secure e-passes within two hours.
The person said all he needed was an original Aadhaar identification card of the traveller.
He added for vehicles with white number plates (private ones) the cost would be Rs 1,650, while commercial taxis that sport yellow number plates would cost lesser.
When asked, Vellore district officials told News18 that stringent action will be taken against those acting as ‘agents’ for securing e-passes.
“In our district, we approve requests for passes if they have valid reasons for travel. It usually takes us less than one hour to approve e-passes here. However, we came to know that a person has been spreading WhatsApp messages promising to get e-passes for travellers for money. We will arrest the person at the earliest under charges of forgery and cheating,” Vellore Collector Shanmuga Sundaram said.
Hours later, a class 12 passout was arrested.
Sources said that to cash in on the demand for e-passes without hassles, several such attempts -- conning people for what is essentially a seamless government service -- are being made.
A similar advertisement went viral recently in Cuddalore district.
A person who runs a travel service agency in the district circulated an audio claiming that he will help people with e-passes within half an hour for a service charge of Rs 500. The man was arrested on Tuesday.
In the audio sent to many groups in Cuddalore district, the person claimed a client count of over 50,000 people over the past four months and requested those wishing to travel to send him records of their credentials and pay for his service after receiving the e-passes.
A hunt is on to trace the person.
Non-metropolis districts of the southern state have turned into key centres of the coronavirus outbreak. Besides extending lockdown, the state government has been closely monitoring movement of people to bring unnecessary travel to contain the spread of the virus.