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March 6, 2000
' Jai Mata di!' is a common enough greeting among the people of Saurashtra. But when some people in Bardoli whisper it over the phone, it could mean something else. Or did, till recently.
The Central Bureau of Investigation has found that two people, Dushyant Bhojak a, Non-Resident Indian and Mike Michael, an American national, have been cheating government agencies using technology that Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited are using.
Those in the know say the password helped people abroad call their relatives and friends in Gujarat.
This scandal was discussed in parliament for more than 40 minutes on the day of budget during zero hour.
CBI DIG K L Meena told rediff.com, "Mike Michael exported some electronic equipment to Dushyan Bhojak (who actually put the setup together)." An American company that made the entire investment is also being investigated.
Investigators said Mike used to sell commercial satellite time. Dushyant apparently assured him that he'd take care of the Indian end of the operation. Michael readily agreed since he would get 10 per cent of the commission.
Dushyant then procured 75 telephone lines from Gujarat Telecommunications and another 21 lines from private operators. He then rented a flat in Konark Apartment in Vastrapur, Ahmedabad, claiming he was doing something with V-SAT. He got cable connections and antennas fixed on the terrace. Foreign technicians came to set up the digital voice transmission system.
The operation worked without human intervention. The duo would have continued their clandestine operation had not the Department of Telecommunications in Delhi intercepted the signals and asked Gujarat Telecommunication officials in Ahmedabad to investigate the matter.
The GT officials kept watch on the flat but quickly learnt that no one visited it. They informed the CBI and the flat was raided.
The officials found the flat vacant, containing only telephone lines and an imported digital telecommunication system.
The setup allowed NRIs to call relatives in Gujarat at cheaper rates. The duo had even advertised the service in the US.
The callers used to make the phone calls to India without realizing that they were illegally bypassing the VSNL. The system only allowed incoming calls.
According to Gujarat Telecommunication general manager, S C Choudhary, "The action has been initiated against the junior engineer for allotting so many lines without checking the proper credentials and the purpose."
One more illegal set up was found in Kalpana society of Ahmedabad, at C G Road.
Dushyant was arrested in Bombay and later released on bail.
A case has been registered against him for operating without a license and thus cheating the Department of Telecommuincation and VSNL of their revenues. The CBI is also trying to find out if anti-national elements or Inter Service Intelligence agents used this service for their anti-India activities, Meena said.
The CBI official said this was the first time such an advanced technology was being used to cheat the government.
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