Sunday, May 13, 2012

Business sense among Bihar's gangsters

Manoj Chaurasia /The Statesman

PATNA: What do underworld figures do with their ill-gotten gains these days? Apparently, at least in Bihar, many of the gangsters and underworld dons have been investing heavily in the now booming real estate business.  

Police investigating known underworld figures have found that some of the gangsters have even expanded their business outside Bihar, acting through various fictitious companies to avoid getting caught in legal wrangling or other business problems. 

Previously, they would fritter away the loot from extortion and kidnapping on the luxuries of life, buying expensive cars or sophisticated firearms. “Their style has changed now. They now want their income to be solid, rather than getting too dependent on illegal activity such as extortion or kidnapping,” said a police officer who wanted not to be named.  

According to police, Bihar's underworld figures are heavily involved in real estate business across many states, including Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Some of them are also involved in operating petrol pumps, transport business and have also taken big contracts. 

This came to light after the police arrested a number of dons like Pintu Singh, Pappu Khan alias Pappu Miyan, Kundan Singh, Ayub-Rais Khan and Ritlal Yadav. What emerged during the course of their interrogation surprised the cops.  

Pintu Singh, who is accused of extorting huge amounts from transporters, has invested the money in real estate business in Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore and other metros. Similarly, police have come to know that gangster Kundan Singh has a real estate business in places like Jamshedpur (Jharkhand), Bihar, and Orissa. He is also involved in petrol pump and transport business. Similar is the case with Ritlal Yadav, accused of kidnapping people for ransom, who has invested the money in real estate business in various places in Bihar and West Bengal. 

Officials said the gangsters were attracted to the real estate/construction business after the sudden boom in the sector during the last seven years under the Nitish Kumar government.  
Such has been the boom that the price of land has shot up more than four-fold in the past few years, with apartments mushrooming in every nook and corner across the state capital. 

Now that there is scarcity of land, promoters are approaching land owners and convincing them to built apartments on their land after dismantling their homesteads. With no regulation, construction is taking place haphazardly all over Patna, and with high demand, there has been an alarming rise in property rates. 

Apartment flats which barely a few years back were available for a maximum of Rs 600 to Rs 700 per square feet are now being sold at a minimum of Rs 4,000 to 8,000 per square feet. 
“The spurt in Bihar's economy is basically construction-driven growth, with the construction and hotel sectors contributing about 26.60 per cent and 20.10 per cent of the total growth respectively, which is not permanent. 

The agriculture which is a primary sector and upon which 80 per cent of the state’s population is dependent, however, has registered a negative growth”, says Prof Nawal Kishore Chaudhary, an economics professor at Patna University.

He said the state's growth cannot be consistent unless there is focus on the primary sector, like agriculture and animal husbandry, fishing and forestry. “Sadly, this has been negative,” said Prof Chaudhary.

(This story was initially published in The Statesman) 

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