Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu on Monday told the victims of the call money scandal not to repay their loans, even as the opposition demanded a thorough probe into the issue.
“Don’t be afraid of call money organisers. Nirbhaya Act will be slapped on them if they harass borrowers. As leader of the Opposition a few years ago, I had asked the victims of micro-finance companies not to pay dues. I am very clear on this. Don’t excuse and don’t be lenient to any person, however big he may be. Else, they will take it as our weakness. And, it gives scope for rise of anti social elements,” Naidu said.
Asking officials to act tough on these “anti-social elements”, Naidu reportedly went on to say “Think out of the box and make sure these incidents do not recur. Take a demonstrative action that will send signals to wrongdoers that the government will not tolerate and spare them,” he added.
The racket started with the police arresting Y Ramachandra Murthy, a deputy engineer of AP Transmission Corporation and G Satyanand, who are alleged to be the brains behind the operation, along with a few private financiers.
According to The Indian Express, this was preceded by a complaint by a woman victim with the Machavaram police, where she alleged that her daughter and son-in-law were abducted by a financier after they failed to repay a loan of Rs 3 lakh, which they had taken at an interest rate of 30 per cent.
Vijayawada Police Commissioner Gautam Sawang told the newspaper "This gang’s modus operandi is to give loans to innocent women at very high interest rates, and when they are unable to repay on time, they threaten them and coerce them into handing over their houses or lands in lieu of the loan. There are allegations that in some instances they forced the women into flesh trade to earn the money to repay the loans. All this is under investigation."
The task force that made the arrests is reported to have found that the gang saw a turnover of Rs 600 crore per year.
As far as political connections to the case are concerned, some of the accused were working as private bodyguards for some leaders of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), who were allegedly backing the mafia.
Meanwhile, the YSR Congress has demanded that an inquiry be conducted by a sitting High Court judge.
YSR Congress president YS Jaganmohan Reddy in an open letter alleged that “The efforts reflect the manner in which the government is trying to side track the issue to save the ruling party leaders who are involved in the racket.”
He also went on to say that the entire money collected by those involved in the racket and should be recovered and repaid to the victims.