Cop crackdown on "godmen'

Only a complaint to send miracle cure-peddlers behind bars

The Telegraph/March 27, 2003

Met a godman promising a magic cure? Call the cops.

The city police have cautioned Calcuttans against hordes of tantriks and sadhus, who are conducting brisk business by duping people into emptying their pockets.

The police have decided to up the ante in their drive against fake sadhus who are taking advantage of popular belief in "supernatural powers". The preventive wing of the detective department has already been asked to prepare a list of such "doctors practising across the city" and collect information about their modus operandi.

The move was initiated following the arrest of two persons from Hyderabad on Monday who were treating asthma patients by feeding them live lyata fish.

The sleuths rounded up the duo from a guest house in central Calcutta after getting a complaint from patients. Two years ago, a man had been arrested on the same charges.

Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner (I) of the detective department, said: "We will do everything to guard Calcuttans from the clutches of such swindlers. All that people have to do is lodge a complaint. Action will be taken under the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act."

According to Mitra, a number of persons posing as tantriks or sadhus have been doing the rounds in the city for a long time. "They are even using banners, billboards and leaflets to advertise their claims of curing every malady. You can see such swindlers all over the city, from the pavements of Esplanade to well-decorated chambers in south Calcutta," he stated.

After meeting the victims, the police have concluded that the swindlers target the weaknesses of the patients.

"Sick people, in their vulnerable state, start believing in supernatural powers. Instead of going to a doctor, they will consume everything - from dirty water to a live fish," said the official.

Elaborating on the plan of action, Mitra said that after receiving a complaint, the police will seize the item that is prescribed to cure the illness. "We will send it for medical tests to experts from different branches (homoeopathy, allopathy and unani) of medicines. If they say that the item has no role in curing the illness, we will submit our report in court," the deputy commissioner added.

Mitra, however, said the investigators would not even wait for the report from the experts. "We may arrest the accused after conducting a preliminary investigation. And the victim's word will be treated as evidence."

The police said several godmen were selling plain water and oil, claiming them to be "blessed."

"They make the patients believe that the "holy' items will cure them within days. But this time, we are all set to curb such crimes," said an official of the detective department.

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