Debanjan Deb was the epitome of success. The coveted IAS tag behind his name, a blue beacon car to ride on, social media posts which showed him off posing with the Kolkata’s power elite at various functions, were all his to flaunt. Earlier this year when a Tagore bust in North Kolkata was unveiled by a local library, the plaque below had a list of dignitaries who were present or were involved in siting the bust. Alongside the inscribed names of a member of parliament, state legislators and other dignitaries, was Deb’s name, with the job description of ‘joint secretary’ to the government of West Bengal.
For his classmates at the city’s Taki House school, he was a backbench boy to be proud of. However, when news broke on television channels that Deb was a conman, who had held fake vaccination camps and duped people into believing he was an IAS officer and a top official with Kolkata Municipal Corporation, his friends and neighbours were stunned.
Celebrities and politicians with whom he had posted pictures on social media started scrambling to distance themselves from the man, who they said “We used to call Debanjan, Debu. He was a very mediocre student. A timid boy who never got into any mischief.When we heard he had gone up in life, we were happy and proud who could imagine that he had actually transformed into a smooth-talking conman," Deb’s classmate, in Taki House in Sealdah, who did not wish to be named told PTI.
“It seems like a dream which went awry and turned into a nightmare, the classmate added.Now none of his friends or neighbours want to own up to being close to him. He has disgraced us, our school we feel jittery about telling anyone we knew him," the friend said wryly.
His father Manoranjan Deb, a retired deputy collector of the state excise department, has taken to bed in shock and refuses to meet anyone, while neighbours have effectively boycotted the family. Deb completed his graduation in Zoology from Charuchandra college and took admission for a masters degree in Genetics at Calcutta University which he never completed.
Things started taking a new turn in 2014 when Deb appeared for the civil services examinations. “Debanjan could not crack the UPSC preliminary examinations but told his parents that he was successful and will be travelling for probationer training," said a police officer investigating the cases against the 28-year-old conman, which now range from cheating to attempt to murder as his fake vaccination camos have administered injections on some 2,000 people, the after effects of which are yet to be ascertained.
Instead of travelling to Mussoorie for his training, Deb went to work with an event management firm and during that stint came out with a few song albums. In 2017, he was back and told his parents that his training was over and he had gained a place in the state secretariat. Last year, after the outbreak of the pandemic, the young ‘IAS officer’ started procuring sanitisers, masks, PPEs, gloves and rented a few rooms at a club in Taltala to run his business.
“He had made good profit in dealing in goods them and in the process started meeting officer-in-charges of several police stations, a few politicians and other influential people," the police officer said. To build a rapport with politicians and top functionaries he started donating consignments of masks, sanitisers and PPE kits, very often in the presence of a local leader. Invariably he would tell politicians, top bureaucrats and policemen that he was a social worker. Photographs of such functions tarted appearing on his social media posts, which took care to use the term “public servant" to describe him.
However, to the public at large he let it be known that he was an IAS officer, a claim he did not make either on his facebook or twitter account. He went to great lengths to establish his identity as a government official, printing fake letterheads and identity cards. Even fake email accounts resembling Kolkata municipal corporation accounts were set up. While KMC uses kmcgov.in, Deb used kmcgov.org.
Fake bank accounts too were opened using forged identity cards of Kolkata Corporation officials, which were used to rout payments. He opened a new “Urban Planning and Development" company and set up an office in Kasba where he office to resemble a KMC office.
“He not only printed several documents bearing fake KMC logos, he also managed to have made writing pad having the state government’s Biswa Bangla logo as well as holograms of the civic body," the police officer said. Everything could have continued to run its course for some more time, but for his mistake in inviting actress and TMC MP Mimi Chakraborty to take the anti-Covid jab at one of the free vaccination camps run by him. The actress suspected it was a fake for some reason and alerted Kolkata Municipal Corporation officials, who soon found out that Deb was an imposter and had him arrested.
While the police officers investigating him say that they understand his desire to make money through his company or gain a fake social standing by posing as an IAS officer, they are still clueless why he did is “charitable free vaccination camps" spending money out of his pocket in buying anti-biotics which were injected and hiring nurses and doctors for the job. Psychologist Debasish Chakraborty who has studied similar cases, says that there is a category of individuals who are willing to run the risk of getting into serious trouble merely to get a kick out of duping people.
“It’s a form of pleasure seeing people giving you respect and attention even through false means. This seems to be true in Debanjan’s case," Chakraborty told PTI. This seems to have led Deb to appear as a social worker and start Covid- 19 vaccination camps free of cost to all, the psychologist said. “He was not even bothered about the medical risks associated with injecting antibiotics like Amikacin, an antibiotic medication used for a number of bacterial infections. He had become desperate for the fame which was not his," Chakraborty said.