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Spotlight on 'rocket man'

Srinivasa Reddy provided key to jigsaw of rocket launchers that were recovered in Andhra, writes GC Shekhar.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2006 05:17 IST
GC Shekhar

Our ISRO scientists may not like the description but only Srinivasa Reddy - the elusive 'rocket man', as he has come to be known - could provide the key to the jigsaw of the rocket launchers and shells that went from Chennai and ended up in Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh.

Based on the description of his agent in Kranthi Lorry Transport of Chennai, the Tamil Nadu police have released a computer sketch of Reddy. "He definitely is the key to the case as he is the consignor and knows where he sourced the parts from and what their destination was," Tamil Nadu DGP D Mukherjee said. The search now is concentrated in Andhra Pradesh as Reddy is believed to be in hiding there.

Reddy had marked the three consignments as spinning mill parts and booked them twice with himself as the consignee and the third time in the name of one Ram Reddy between August 2005 and May 2006. The three consignments were sent in 137 gunny bags, which when assembled yielded 27 launchers and 600 shells.

"Since the parts were all disassembled, no one could suspect they were components of rocket shells or launchers. And most likely, they were sourced from different manufacturing units to evade any suspicion," the DGP explained.

The over 500 small units in the industrial zone of Chennai have come under police scanner since the consignments were booked from Ambattur, where the state's largest industrial estate is located.

Investigators give three reasons for the choice of Chennai as the source for the shells and launchers. In the huge industrial hub, all it requires is a foundry and lathe to fashion the parts, thus lending anonymity to the project. The second is proximity to the Andhra border and the large traffic of industrial goods between the two states. Thirdly, no one in Chennai would suspect a Telugu placing orders since 20 per cent of the city's population speaks the language.

Considering the crude finish of the launchers and shells, Mukherjee is confident the consignment could not have been imported to Chennai to be redistributed elsewhere. "If they had come from outside the country, the finish would have been better. Except for the trigger, the rest of the components looked shabby, indicating that the manufacturing was not very sophisticated."

The Q branch of the state police, which probes extremist-related incidents, has taken up the investigation but till the rocket man is snared, the case will remain an unsolved mystery.