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July 4, 2000
'Even an ISI agent could get a passport in Ahmedabad'
I B Parikh in Ahmedabad
The scene is so miserable here, even a Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence agent could get a passport in two to three days," said a sleuth of the Central Bureau of Investigation, at the Ahmedabad city remand court.
Last Saturday, when the CBI raided Ahmedabad's regional passport office, the skeletons tumbled out and more than three officers were taken into custody.
Senior CBI officer Rajneesh Rai said, "We found 732 applications for bogus passports. Interestingly, while the raid was on, a lady came with an agent from Nadiad, for a bogus passport. The lady, Shilpa Patel, had changed her name to Kamini Rai. Except for her photograph, everything was fake. Her ration card, school living certificate and other documents were bogus."
The investigating agency claimed organised gangs in Ahmedabad arrange for bogus passports. They also arrange for bogus copies of documents required for passports.
The charge is according to the client's urgency. The Patels of Mehsana and Charotars in Gujarat, who have a craze to migrate to the United States, approach the passport office here with their applications.
If an agent fails to get a bogus passport, the person is curtly told that the reason was that his surname was Patel.
Corruption increased in the Ahmedabad office when the H1 visa category was introduced. Demand for bogus degrees, diploma certificates and domicile certificates also increased.
Innumerable Patels reapplied under this category after changing their surnames, a CBI officer claimed.
Niranjan Parekh, B D Jadeja and Pramod Kahad, officers at the passport office, are under investigation.
According to the agency, many Patels paid passport officers around Rs 10,000 for approval of fake surnames.
CBI inspector Jitendra Sinh told rediff.com, "We have floppies from the office containing information on the bogus applicants."
In the raids, 150 bogus passports, 922 bogus ration cards and scores of bogus degree certificates were found.
The CBI also alleged local police connivance.
However, Pramod Kumar, additional police commissioner, special branch, told rediff.com, "We have been wrongly blamed for the bogus passports racket. We only check applicants personal records and not the validity of documents."
With police officers also posted at the airport immigration office, the CBI held Atul Barot, an inspector, last year. The CBI alleged that he was helping agents smuggle out bogus passport- holders. Barot is a brother of Bharat Barot, Minister of State of Higher Education.
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