He may have committed the biggest ever fraud in India's corporate history but for people in his native West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh and his die-hard supporters, Satyam Computer Services founder Ramalinga Raju is still the hero.
Though the IT magnate is in jail after admitting to a Rs 70 billion (approx $1.5 billion) fraud, he still enjoys the support of his admirers who hail his social service initiatives, especially the 108 ambulance service.
“Some people are only interested in making allegations. They have forgotten all the good work done by Raju garu,” said Soma Raju, an employee of the Emergency Medical and Research Institute (EMRI) promoted by the disgraced former chairperson of Satyam.
Rallying behind the son of the soil, people in West Godavari district are planning to hold meetings in every village and town of the district to express their support and sympathy for Raju.
His followers argue that he fudged the company accounts as part of business strategy and not to siphon off the money. They are ready to condone him for the manipulation of funds because of the social services he rendered under the Byrraju Foundation and EMRI.
“People in the remote villages have high respect for him. If anyone falls sick or meets with an accident in the villages there is a 108 ambulance to rush him to the hospital. Earlier, people had to depend on the bullock cart or even carry the sick and injured in their hands,” said Ramesh Verma, an agriculturist, who came to this Andhra Pradesh capital all the way from Bhimavaram in West Godavari district to show his support for Raju.
“He made this district and the entire state proud by starting Satyam and building it into a multinational company. What he did was to help the company and its employees and not to benefit his family,” said Verma.
Bhimavaram town is set to witness a public rally on Jan 23 in support of Raju. A similar rally is planned in Garagaparru, Raju's village, and in the surrounding villages and towns.
People in the villages feel indebted to the Raju family for taking up various philanthropic activities under Byrraju Foundation. Though the family had migrated to Hyderabad in the 1960s, B Satyanarayana Raju and later his son B. Ramalinga Raju tried to pay back to their village and the district.
The foundation runs a drinking water project for 200 villages, a health centre for the benefit of people in 15 villages and several schools.
Backed by the technical expertise of Satyam, the EMRI through the 108 ambulance saved many lives by shifting the injured in road accidents to hospitals in the shortest possible time.
The state government has allayed apprehensions that it would be closed and said it would ensure that the service continues uninterrupted.
Some of the followers turned up to express their solidarity when Raju was produced before a magistrate on Saturday.
His admirers are now praying for his well-being. A group of five supporters held a 'yagam' at a temple in Hyderabad on Monday to pray for the well-being of Raju and his family.
"We are praying for his health, early release and also for the welfare of employees and stakeholders of Satyam and Maytas," said S Srinivas Reddy.