Kumod Verma, Sunday, July 09, 2006 TIMES NEWS NETWORK
PATNA: Vigilance sleuths of the Railway Board recently unearthed a racket involved in misuse of first class complimentary passes in the name of freedom fighters.
The board has cancelled about 500 free passes either belonging to fake freedom fighters or to those who were caught red-handed while misusing such passes. These freedom fighters belong to Bihar.
According to sources, the board cancelled the passes on the recommendations of the Union home ministry. During the inquiry, the vigilance sleuths found that the so-called freedom fighters had caused a huge loss of revenue to the railways by misusing the free passes, sources said.
The Centre had introduced a scheme on August 15, 1972 under which it was decided to honour freedom fighters of the country by giving free first class railway passes to them.
They were entitled to travel in AC-II with one companion in the same class. Since most of them were genuine freedom fighters, the railways faced no problems.
However, the railways detected gross irregularities in distribution of free passes to those who got themselves enlisted as freedom fighters after 1980. Most of them were fake or the persons concerned were availing themselves of the free railway pass facility in the names of others, the sources said.
A senior official of the Railway Board said a thorough probe into the matter revealed that they carry fake companions with them on the promise of getting money. They carry companions free of cost in AC coaches while their companions take care of the personal needs of the so-called freedom fighters during the journey.
Though freedom fighters have the privilege to undertake journey on the complimentary passes as many times as they wish, records indicate that most of them had travelled up to 60 to 80 times in one year.
For instance, Ramchandra Paswan (pass no. 530458), Chandeswar Sharma (pass no. 533218) and Deo Swarup Singh (pass no. 532101) travelled between Patna and New Delhi about 60 to 80 times on their free passes in one year, the sources said.
Suspecting foul play, the vigilance team recently caught red-handed Abdul Rauf of Biharsharif, Rajmani Singh of Nalanda, Ram Swarup Prasad Yadav of Nalanda, Devi Dayal Singh of Bhojpur, Mundrika Devi of Patna City and Kedar Singh of Naubatpur in Patna district while they were carrying fake companions with them and recommended for cancellation of their passes.
A railway official said those who are 60 years old have been enjoying the status of freedom fighters in Bihar.
The Danapur DRM's office has issued free railway passes to about 1,000 freedom fighters. There must be a provision for freedom fighters to declare two to three names of their companions whose signatures should be duly attested by a gazetted officer.
According to a vigilance report, these fake freedom fighters have been in cahoots with the local businessmen who make handsome payments to them for travelling with them as their companions on free passes to the places of their choice.