In a startling revelation, Gujarat Police have exposed an undercover operation involving a fake toll plaza, resulting in the booking of five individuals for orchestrating a scheme to divert vehicles from the authentic toll route in Morbi district. This revelation, marking yet another embarrassment for the government, unfolds just weeks after the crackdown on a network of con artists running fake government offices in central Gujarat.
The Elaborate Scheme: A Year-Long Ruse
The sham toll plaza, cunningly erected on private land in Morbi district, had reportedly been operational for over a year. Sources indicate that during this time, the illicit operation amassed over ₹75 crore by luring vehicles away from the national highway and charging a mere 50% of the official toll fee.
Government’s Response: Swift Action amidst Embarrassment
The discovery of this fraudulent toll operation compounds the recent woes of the government, particularly in the wake of a similar scam involving fake government offices that swindled around ₹18.5 crore in tribal areas. The authorities, vigilant in their response, are determined to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Modus Operandi: Bypassing Legitimate Routes
The accused strategically set up the fake toll booth on a property belonging to the White House Ceramic Company, a closed factory. By diverting traffic away from the intended route, the scammers successfully operated under the radar for an extended period, ensnaring unwary commuters and government officials alike.
Collector’s Account: Unraveling the Deception
GT Pandya, the local district Collector, shed light on the investigation: “We received information that some vehicles were being diverted from the actual route of the Varghasia toll plaza, and toll tax was being collected. The police and other officials reached the spot to investigate and filed a detailed complaint.” The unsuspecting commuters fell for the bait of paying half the regular toll rate, further fueling the success of the illicit operation.
Legal Ramifications: Extortion, Breach of Trust, and Cheating
The police swiftly registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the alleged culprits, including Amarshi Patel, Ravirajsinh Jhala, Harvijaysinh Jhala, Dharmendrasinh Jhala, and Yuvrajsinh Jhala. The charges include extortion, criminal breach of trust, and cheating, reflecting the severity of the scam. Notably, Ravirajsinh Jhala is identified as a retired army man.
The Toll Figures: From ₹20 to ₹200 for Illegal Passage
The accused exploited their deceptive toll booth to charge vehicle owners, ranging from ₹20 to ₹200, in contrast to the legitimate toll tax of ₹110 to ₹595 for these vehicles. The scam, operating on the Bamanbore-Kutch national highway, underscores the audacity of the criminals who managed to deceive government officials for an extensive period.
Echoes of Past Scams: A Disturbing Pattern
The unveiling of this deceptive toll plaza mirrors a disturbing pattern of scams in the region. Recent history recounts a similar incident where a man orchestrated a fictitious government office for nearly three years, embezzling over ₹4 crore in public funds.
The fraudulent toll plaza operation serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges in curbing organized scams. As legal proceedings unfold, the government faces the daunting task of fortifying its systems to prevent the recurrence of such audacious deceptions in the future.