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Posing as Maoist, Odisha Deputy Forest Ranger Loots Govt Officials, Contractors for 5 Years

The racket had going on since 2014 and the gang used to extort money ranging from Rs 30,000 to Rs 5 lakh from the contractors, depending on the kind of work order they were executing.

Anand ST Das | News18

Updated:July 15, 2019, 7:15 PM IST
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Posing as Maoist, Odisha Deputy Forest Ranger Loots Govt Officials, Contractors for 5 Years
The racket had going on since 2014 and the gang used to extort money ranging from Rs 30,000 to Rs 5 lakh from the contractors.
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Bhubaneswar: A forest department official posted in Odisha’s Sambalpur district has been arrested along with two of his accomplices for allegedly posing as a Maoist to extort money from contractors, fuel station owners and state government officials for the past five years.

Deputy forest ranger Batakrushna Sethi had been running what police termed as a “fake Maoist racket” along with Dolagaobinda Sahu and his younger brother Balaram Sahu. The trio was arrested by Bargarh district police on Sunday. Cash of Rs 1.65 lakh was seized from their possession. Police also recovered two motorcycles and three mobile phones used in the extortion racket.

“Contractors engaged in various construction works on behalf of the government were the main targets of this racket. They were also extorting money from forest rangers, district forest department officials and other government officials,” said Bargarh SP Mukesh Kumar Bhamoo.

The racket had going on since 2014 and the gang used to extort money ranging from Rs 30,000 to Rs 5 lakh from the contractors, depending on the kind of work order they were executing, the SP said.

“Scared of the Maoists, the contractors had been paying up readily, and this gang was certain that easy money would keep flowing like this endlessly,” he added.

The police were first alerted to the gang’s handiwork after it threatened the Padampur BDO and asked for money a few months ago. “We started a probe and spoke to various contractors, but they did not open up on the matter. We then formed a small team that worked exclusively on this case and succeeded in arresting these three men. The trio has confessed to their crime,” said Bhamoo.

“Whenever there were reports of Maoist movements around the Gandhamardana hills and nearby forest areas, the gang would become active and start making extortion calls to contractors. They have looted several contractors and government officials in this manner,” said the SP, adding that a probe is on to find out other people connected to this gang as helpers or gainers.

An FIR about an extortion call lodged by one contractor in the area, Ashok Das, at Bhatli police station on Saturday had helped police trace the culprits and arrest them, said the SP. “The previous homework we had done helped much in tracing and arresting them,” he added.

Eight of Odisha’s 30 districts, mainly in the western and southern parts of the state, remain hotbeds of Maoist activities. Malkanagiri and Koraput districts, both bordering Andhra Pradesh, are among the worst hit.

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