Seven cases were slapped against him under the anti-piracy laws, his office was ransacked, his cable equipment was damaged or taken away, but still he refused to be browbeaten by the cable mafia that was responsible for promoting Fastway Cables in Punjab.
Gurdev Singh Bhullar, managing director (MD) of the Godfather digital cable network, decided to fight the cable mafia led by Sarabjit Singh Raju, the main accused in the suicide case of local cable operator Jaswinder Singh Jassi.
“They (Raju and company) wanted me to shut down my business. They gave me various allurements and when this did not work, they threatened me. Raju once told me that he would slap 100 criminal cases against me,” claimed Bhullar in a chat with HT here on Thursday.
However, Bhullar went on to launch his digital cable network in 2013, the second in Punjab (after Fastway). He obtained the requisite licence from the Union information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry that year. However, he is yet to start full-fledged services due to the obstacles created by the cable mafia, even as he opened an office in Batala last month.
Bhullar entered the cable business in 2008. In 2010, Raju’s henchmen, including his official gunman, raided his office and uprooted cable wires and other equipment, he said, while showing the complaint he had forwarded to the local police and the case that was registered against the suspects on the directions of a local court.
The first case under the Piracy Act was filed against him in December 2010. In July and August, 2011, six more such cases were slapped against him. This was done with the motive of preventing him from getting a licence from the I&B ministry as persons with criminal cases against them were not given the same. Acting shrewdly, he got the licence in his wife’s name.
“Thinking that the licence was in my name, they got it cancelled. However, the courts came to my rescue and I got the order revoked,” he added.
Recalling his meeting with then I&B minister Manish Tewari in 2013, soon after he was issued the licence, Bhullar claimed that Tewari had assured him that action would be taken against Fastway as he (minister) had received numerous reports against the cable network. However, nothing was done, Bhullar added.
He had also met Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal in 2008 and complained about the cable mafia. “Sukhbir asked me whether he looked like a cable operator,” Bhullar said.
Having spent lakhs of rupees on setting up his cable business, Bhullar is yet to get going as the cable mafia has prevented local operators from joining hands with Godfather Cables. All of them are getting Fastway services.
CABLE MAFIA RUINED FAMILY
Gurmukh Singh Khalsa, 75, was the first to raise his voice against the cable mafia led by Raju.
“I prayed for Jassi’s life, but now that he is gone, I hope his sacrifice will not go in vain and something positive will emerge in this cut-throat (cable) competition,” said Khalsa, a resident of Nagar Nigam Colony.
He and his two sons jumped into the cable business in 1992. Later, he felt that he had committed a folly as a powerful lobby controlled the business in Amritsar. He would even go to areas from where complaints were made of cable connections being snapped. The mafia offered Khalsa free-of-cost cable signals, but he refused.
He was called to police stations in 2009 on complaints filed by the cable mafia. His wife could not bear the mental torture and was hospitalised in 2009, and she died the following year. Khalsa suffered paralysis and is still to recover.
In 2003, when the Siti Cable sex scandal surfaced, Khalsa encouraged cable operators who were listed as witnesses by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Though he was not a witness in the case, he would still go to Patiala for hearings in the CBI court.
“In 2007, when the SAD-BJP government came to power, the scenario began to change. All those who were witnesses in the sex scandal began to turn hostile and the case was finally lost,” said Khalsa.
His sons have already given up the cable business, having suffered financial losses.