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How Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar's Jamtara became cyber crime capital

IANS | August 28, 2022 08:52 PM

JAMTARA (Jharkhand): The tribal town of Karmatand in Jharkhand's Jamtara district, where the great social reformer of the 19th century, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar worked for 18 years to educate the tribal girls, has earned the dubious distinction of being the cyber crime capital of India. There are countless incidents of cyber crimes in Jamtara district which has earned it a bad reputation.

A man identified as Anand Rakshit, a resident of Sonbad village in Jamtara district, has barely studied till class 8 in a government school. His father Hiren Rakshit used to travel from one house to another collecting scrap on an old bicycle. The money collected by selling scrap helped support this family of seven members living in a small kutcha house.

This below poverty line (BPL) family also received foodgrains every month from the state government through a BPL card. This was reported nearly three to four years ago. Then within a few months, the financial condition of this family changed and it built a luxurious house. In August 2021, the police raided this house.

In addition to Rs 21 lakh in cash, a car, scooty, bike, fixed deposit papers amounting to Rs seven lakh, property papers worth Rs 23, 65, 000, including movable and immovable property worth Rs 65 lakh and 12 bank passbooks were recovered by the police. The cost of the luxurious house was estimated to be around Rs 50 lakh. Anand amassed this wealth by taking out money from other people's bank accounts and cyber crimes.

Anand was found absconding during this police raid. Later, he was arrested and sent to jail, but after some time he was released. He took conditional bail by paying Rs 20 lakh in court.

This story of Anand Rakshit is repeated in several villages across Jamtara.

In 2001, a year after Jharkhand became a separate state, the government announced Jamtara as a new district.

In 1853, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar settled in Jamtara and started living in a small hut. He set up an ashram in a cottage called 'Nandankanan'. While staying here, he started free medical services for the forest dwellers and campaigned for women's education. During that period, he established a girls' school in the area surrounded by forests. From here he started the movement for a ban on child marriage and for widow remarriage. He also spent the last days of his life here.

In memory of Vidyasagar and to honour him, the Railways renamed Karmatand station in Jamtara district as Vidyasagar station a few years back. Following the Railways's move, the Jharkhand government renamed Karmatand block as Vidyasagar block.

Despite the glorious history and heritage of Jamtara-Karmatand, today people know this place more because of the popular web series 'Jamtara' released in 2020 which was based on cyber crimes on a large scale here.

The story of the emergence of Karmatand as a cyber crime hub with a population of about 1.5 lakh people, located along the New Delhi-Howrah main railway line, runs parallel to the smartphone revolution that started in the country in 2004-05.

Nearly two decades before being named as a cyber crime city, Karmatand became infamous mainly due to drug abuse, snatchings, hooliganism in trains. There were many such gangs who were expert in stealing valuable goods from train passengers. When the era of smartphones came, the youth here learned the tricks of online fraud while sitting at home.

Some people shifted to major metro cities and took tips for cheating people by setting up call centres, through chip replacement, cyber cafes, replacement of software chips etc. Gradually, several gangs of online fraudsters were formed, which are now spread across nearly 100 villages in Deoghar, Giridih, Dhanbad and Godda districts apart from Jamtara. Dozens of the cyber criminals in these areas have opened call centres in many metro cities like Delhi, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Jaipur, Mumbai and Patna.

The first most wanted cyber criminal in Jamtara-Karmatand was Sitaram Mandal, a resident of Sindarjori village. Nearly 15 years ago, while working in a mobile recharge shop in Mumbai, he learnt various ways of cheating and later on he carried out his criminal activities from his native village where several youths joined him.

Even a large number of women were trained in online fraud through call centres. In 2020, Sitaram Mandal was arrested by the Delhi Police. After a few months, he was released on bail and was arrested again in another criminal case.

In 2021, the police arrested mastermind Altaf Ansari alias Rockstar, 20, who operated a gang of cyber frauds from Jamtara. There were a total of 14 people in his gang and most of them have barely studied upto class 8 to 10. A luxurious bungalow and three luxury cars were seized from Altaf.

Ata-ul Ansari, a criminal operating his gang from Jamtara, had duped Preneet Kaur, the wife of former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, of Rs 23 lakh. Dhananjay and Pappu Mandal of Karmatand area had duped an MP from Kerala, including hundreds of other people. Both were arrested by the Delhi Police.

In 2021 in Mewat, Rajasthan, the police unearthed a centre where training was given in cyber fraud through crash courses. During police interrogation of the accused it was revealed that in this training centre, a course on committing cyber crimes was taught and some guest teachers from Jamtara took online classes in this centre.

The police explains that the accused revealed how to trap a person with their communication skills and what are the precautions to be taken while making a person a victim of cyber fraud or transferring money from their bank account.

To control the cyber crime from Jamtara, a cyber police station was set up in 2018. Since then, more than 250 cyber criminals have been arrested, but despite this cyber fraud has not ended here. The main reason is that after being released on bail, the criminals again start operating this business.

In the last six to seven years, the police from every state of the country has reached Jamtara in search of cyber criminals and for investigation of cyber crime cases.

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