A 75-year-old tribal villager allegedly duped of lakhs of rupees has died under mysterious circumstances at his village in Jharkhand’s Khunti district, officials said on Wednesday, raising suspicion of foul play in a potential saga of deceit and deception.
Hindustan Times in its August 1 edition had highlighted how middlemen and greedy relatives allegedly cheated illiterate tribal villagers of lakhs of rupees they had received in lieu of their land acquired by the government for a proposed knowledge city.
Taking cognisance of the HT report, chief minister Raghubar Das had ordered a probe into the scam, following which police lodged an FIR against six people on Tuesday.
Mangra Munda, officially paid Rs 74 lakh by the government but lived on just around Rs 15,000 per month, died on Monday at Idri village and buried according to tribal rituals. He was said to be suffering from malaria and a stomach disorder.
However, police later exhumed his body and sent it for post-mortem to ascertain the exact cause of death.
“We exhumed the body and sent it for postmortem to find out if the death has any connection with the relief money,” said Deepak Sharma, the Khunti sub-divisional police officer (SDPO).
He said the postmortem report is awaited.
Sources said that the chief minister’s office too has taken a serious view of Munda’s death and asked officials to probe the circumstances of his demise.
Sources said villagers are apprehensive that the swindlers could eliminate the beneficiaries to hide their crime and evade arrest.
Those involved in the duping the gullible villagers are said to be influential people with political links, some even with connections to armed groups.
Munda was among 400 tribal villagers who received huge amounts of money from the government but had no idea about his wealth.
HT correspondents had travelled to Munda’s village – around 50 km from the state capital – and discovered that most the beneficiaries were not even aware of the money in their accounts.
Munda had revealed that he was taken to a bank by a relative every month and handed over around Rs 10,000-15,000 as the amount received from the government.
His son had said they had no idea how much money they had received or how much was left in his father’s account as they had no knowledge of banking rules.