VIJAYAWADA: When Vijayawada Police Commissioner Gautam Sawang ordered investigation of a complaint from an apparel designer on December 10, little did he realise that he was opening up a can of worms that could rock the ruling Telugu Desam Party’s (TDP) boat in Andhra Pradesh.
Based on her complaint, Sawang ordered his officers to raid the hideout of a group of operators in Patamata, Vijayawada. Her complaint was that she took a loan of `10 lakh and when she failed to repay, the creditors began to sexually harass her and later “raped” her, warning her against revealing it. The raid uncovered is part of what has come to be known as the “call money racket”, where operators advance loans to young women and homemakers at exorbitant interest rates and on failure to repay force them into flesh trade.
The raid in Vijayawada, the seat of power in Andhra Pradesh, triggered a political storm with the lone Opposition party in the Assembly, YSR Congress (YSRC), alleging ruling party leaders of working hand in glove with members of the racket.
They claimed one Venigalla Srikanth had “business ties” with TDP MLA B Prasad (Vijayawada) and MLC Buddha Venkanna’s brother Buddha Nageswara Rao, who were mired in the racket. Also, photographs of Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu patting divisional engineer of AP Transco M Satyanand, an accused in the case, came in handy for Leader of Opposition and YSRC chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy to go for the jugular in the Assembly. Though Naidu and other TDP leaders denied any links with the racket, the party’s image suffered. The multi-crore racket has got worse with four cases of suicides being reported and fears of many remaining unreported.
CM Naidu initially promised that ‘culprits’ would be brought to book, while a state cabinet meeting on Wednesday decided to initiate a judicial probe led by a retired high court judge.
What is Call Money?
It is a private money lending scheme, where loans are offered instantly and easily on just one phone call. The loan is offered on exorbitant interest rates with vehicles, houses and other properties as collateral security. The repayment of the loan will be on the terms of the lender, which can be pressed any time. In majority of the cases, the people, principally women, taking loans under the scheme remain perpetual debtors. They are subjected to harassment, coercion and blackmail in case they fail to repay loans in time. In some cases, women were found sexually exploited and pushed into flesh trade. The extortionist practice of money lending, which is illegal, is spread across the state of Andhra Pradesh going by different names like easy money, call money and easy loans.
TOp COP’s leave for Trip Down Under and its ABRUPT cancellation
On Tuesday, Vijayawada Police Commissioner Gautam Sawang was permitted 10 days’ leave at a time when investigation into the call money racket was in a critical stage. Additional DG (Greyhounds operations) NV Surendra Babu was to take over from him. Even Director General of Police JV Ramudu explained as much to the media. But, speculation was rife that Sawang was being eased out from the position of Commissioner of Police as the investigations had begun to cause embarrassments to the TDP, some of whose members were allegedly involved in the scam. The Opposition reacted by accusing the government of sending the top cop on leave only to shield men from the ruling party. The government on December 16 asked Sawang to drop his plans of family reunion in Australia and continue to probe the scam.