Shaken by a series of threats and crime incidents, the medical fraternity was again faced with an extortion call to a city doctor, reviving the fear of ‘rangdari’ or ‘protection money’ racket being run by state-based gangsters.
This time, the demand was made through a phone call to a leading child specialist of the state capital, Dr Hemant Verma. He received the call on Tuesday with the caller asking him to cough up Rs 1 crore.
Dr Verma lodged an FIR with Kankarbagh police about the extortion demand and sought security fearing threat to life. He told the police the criminals had threatened to kill his staff members if the money was not paid.
Patna SSP Manu Maharaaj said on Wednesday, “We are investigating the matter from all angles. The telephone number has been identified. We have provided two security guards to the doctor.”
However, Dr Verma did not open his clinic on Wednesday following the threat call. His cell phone was also switched off.
In another incident, a jewellery shop owner, Madan Mohan Prasad, received an extortion call demanding Rs 5 lakh. Prasad also lodged a complaint with Bakhtiyarpur police station on Monday. He runs a shop at station road in Bakhtiyarpur.
On Monday, senior medical officer Dr Harikishore Singh, posted in Forbesganj, Araria, had also received an extortion demand of Rs 2 lakh on his cell phone. Police arrested two persons, Diwakar Kumar Sah and Abhishek Kumar Yadav, in this connection. Araria SP Sudhir Kumar Podika said Diwakar, a sub-dealer of mobile SIM cards, had illegally issued a SIM card in the name of one Sumit Rai and handed it over to Yadav. Sumit currently resides in Delhi.
On being interrogated, Sah and Yadav confessed their crime and revealed that they had broken the SIM card after making the extortion call.
Prior to the incident, Dr Rani Devnath of Patna had received an extortion demand of Rs 5 lakh on January 18. Another doctor, Vivekanand Jha of Hajipur, was threatened and shots fired at his house when he refused to pay the extortion money. Dr Prem Pushp Lohia of Sitamarhi district was attacked in December after he failed to pay up the ‘rangdari’ tax to a local gang.
The extortion threats have posed a major challenge for the ruling grand alliance government led by Nitish Kumar, for whom ‘rule of law’ has always been the prime resolve.