Telgi Scam

Updated: Nov 19 2003, 05:30am hrs
The tentacles of the fake stamp and stamp paper scam, better known as the Telgi scam, has penetrated 12 states and is estimated at a whopping Rs 20,000 crore plus. Between 1992 and 2002, 12 cases were registered against Telgi relating to counterfeit stamps in Maharashtra alone and 15 cases in other parts of the country, but the lack of serious action suggests that the scamster had mastered the technique of corrupting the system. The Telgi scam is by no means a case of police corruption and political connivance helping an ingenious crook to set up a fast-growing dubious business. Telgi clearly had a lot of support from other departments and institutions of government that are responsible for the production and sale of high security stamps. But questions about their involvement are just beginning to be asked. Even more shocking is the fact that the Special Investigation Teams enquiry report, better known as the Jaiswal report, had already asked these questions in November 2002, but no action has been initiated on the wider issues raised in the report. For instance, it has asked why such a sensational economic crime with national and interstate ramifications should not have been entrusted to a specialised agency such as the CID (crime), the CBI, or at least to a dedicated team of officers with personal integrity and excellent record. It was only due to the public interest litigation filed by social activist Anna Hazare that the SIT investigation is now on course and has trapped several high ranking police officials, some inconsequential politicians and is soon likely to ensnare a couple of big political names.

Meanwhile, many questions remain unasked and counterfeit stamps probably continue to be sold across the country, because the distribution network is untouched. The Jaiswal report has indicated clearcut connivance of officials of the India Security Press at Nasik in the transfer of appropriate technology, including transfer of stamp designs and from original negatives; that the Security Press was completely infiltrated by unscrupulous elements. Yet, no heads have rolled at the Press, nor has any urgent action been initiated to overhaul its systems and procedures. Similarly, the failure of treasury department officials to notice the large-scale use of counterfeit stamps in Maharashtra has also to be investigated. What has been revealed so far is just the tip of the iceberg.