The 2015 Call Money Scandal is a money-cum-sex scandal which involved several private money lenders, political leaders, bureaucrats and influential persons in Vijayawada and other districts. The modus operandi of the accused is to offer loans to needy persons after obtaining promissory notes and blank cheques from them. Later, they would blackmail the victims and sexually exploit woman borrowers. In some cases, call money lenders gave loans to women and these women were tortured and sexually abused even after the repayment of the loan.
Most victims belong to middle classes who took loans in the range of Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1 lakh towards medical treatment, school fees and buying vehicles. Some borrowers even had to pay Rs. 1 lakh on loans of Rs. 5,000.
The Opposition parties including YSR Congress and CPI(M) have demanded an inquiry into the entire episode by a sitting High Court judge. YSRCP has alleged the involvement of ruling party MLAs and Ministers in the scandal. The Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee has approached the NHRC on 15 December 2015 on the issue.
On 13 December 2015, the Vijayawada city police arrested two private money lenders - Yelamanchily Srirama Murthy and Dudala Rajesh in the alleged scandal. The police acted on a complaint by a woman victim with the Machavaram police. The two have been taken into custody. Five more involved in the alleged scandal were identified by the police.
Home Minister Nimmakayala Chinarajappa directed the investigating officials to book the culprits irrespective of their status. He also said that no one will be spared if they interfered with the investigation. He requested the victims to complaint either with Krishna District Collector A Babu or Vijayawada City police commissioner Gautam Sawang. Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu was briefed about the case by the Home Minister Chinnarajappa and Director General of Police JV Ramudu. Speaking to the media, Chinarajappa said that the government had ordered a fair and thorough probe into the scandal.
CPI(M) Politburo member BV Raghavulu demanded a high-level judicial enquiry with a sitting High Court Judge to probe into the Call-Money incident. He said that all the accused in the case should be booked under Nirbhaya Act irrespective of their political party affiliations. The entire money that was accumulated by the accused in the incident should be seized by the police and distributed to the victims properly, he asked. Raghavulu demanded compensation to the victims from the government and called upon all women organizations and youth to take up the issue.
On 14 December 2015, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu asked the Call Money Scandal victims not to repay their dues. The Chief Minister said that incidents like the Call Money Scandal and sale of spurious liquor will bring disgrace to the government and the police should nip them in the bud. Meanwhile, the YSR Congress Party has demanded an inquiry by sitting High Court judge and that the inquiry should bring out facts pertaining to the role of ruling party MLAs and Ministers. YSRCP chief Jagan Mohan Reddy has written an open letter and alleged that the Chief Minister is trying to the dilute the case by forcing the officials to implicate leaders of other political parties.
A number of Call Money scandal victims poured their woes to the police on 14 December at the offices of the Vijayawada City Police Commissioner and Task Force. In some cases, it was revealed that that some of the call money operators included women.
The police conducted surprise raids and took 57 call money organisers into custody. Among those who were arrested were people belonging to Telugu Desam Party, Congress and YSR Congress Parties. Raids were conducted at houses and officers of the call money operators at 92 locations including One Town, Nunna, Patamata, Autonagar, Ajitsingh Nagar, Krishnalanka and other areas in Vijayawada.
Meanwhile, the city police commissioner D Gautam Sawang went on a nine-day leave raising many doubts. DGP JV Ramudu clarified that Sawang had applied for leave long ago and that it has nothing to do with the case. In Sawang's absence, Additional DGP NV Surendra Babu will act as In-charge Commissioner of Police.
The police in East and West Godavari districts also held raids. Money and vital documents including Promissory notes, empty cheques, bonds and Rs. 10 lakh cash was seized during the raids. 50 persons were arrested in the raids.
12 persons were taken into custody in raids at Kadapa, Prodatur, Rayachoti adn Pulivendula in Kadapa district. 630 promissory notes worth Rs. 2.61 crore cash, gold and silver ornaments valued at Rs. 19 lakh and bank passbooks and ATM cards of persons who borrowed lakhs of rupees from lenders towards loans were seized from the lenders.
Congress complains to NHRC
The Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee lodged a complaint on the Call Money Scandal with the National Human Rights Commission. A delegation of senior Congress leaders including its president N Raghuveera Reddy called on the NHRC chairman. The Congress leaders urged NHRC to protect victims' human rights as few MLAs and bureaucrats who could influence the probe are involved in the racket.
The NHRC has taken serious note of the racket. NHRC Chairman Justice Cyriac Joseph termed the issue as serious and said notices would be sent to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police in this regard. The Commission is also contemplating sending its representative to get first hand information once it receives a report from the Andhra Pradesh Government.
Vijayawada City Police Commissioner Gautam Sawang cancelled his leave and attended to his duties. Addressing the media, Sawang said that he cancelled his 15-day leave owing to the appeals by victims of the scandal. He also denied any pressure from politicians.
In the last couple of days, 80 persons were arrested by the Vijayawada City Police. Hundreds of documents and promissory notes were seized from the money lenders involved in the illegal business. Five persons were arrested in Srikakulam. The Rajahmundry urban police arrested 19 persons during the raids conducted and money amounting to Rs. 23.2 lakh was seized from them. 447 empty promissory notes, 80 signed empty cheques, 64 signed white papers and one general power of attorney agreement and 26 other documents were seized from them.
In Visakhapatnam, raids over 20 premises were conducted and five persons were arrested in Visakhapatnam and Anakapalle. Two financiers were taken into custody at Allipuram and 122 blank promissory notes and 22 blank cheques were seized. 160 loans books were also seized. Loans were given to the tune of about Rs. 60 lakh. In another raid at Allipuram, 30 blank promissory notes and five blank cheques were seized. At Anakapalle, 39 blank promissory notes and 40 blank cheques were seized.
Health Minister Kamineni Srinivas alleged that most of those who are involved in this illegal business were in YSR Congress and Congress parties. Jana Sena party activists staged protest at Kaleswara Rao Market in Vijayawada demanding stringent action against those involved in the racket.
The State government will present a Money lending bill in the Winter session of the Assembly. A Cabinet meeting was held and it was decided to institute a judicial probe into the call money scandal. Director-General of Police JV Ramudu and Vijayawada Police Commissioner Gautam Sawang briefed about the racket to the Cabinet.
Information and Public Relations Minister Palle Raghunath Reddy said that 80 people had been arrested till date across the State. Of these, 27 have affiliation with YSR Congress Party, six with Telugu Desam Party and three with Left parties.
The opposition party YSR Congress Party has decided to raise the issue of call money racket in the Assembly.
Police raids continued on the offices of money lenders for the third day in Vijayawada and other places in the State. Police apprehended money lender Ramachandra Reddy and seized 146 cheques and 65 promissory notes from his possession. Police detained one person in Guntur district and five persons in Chittoor district.
In Visakhapatnam, 25 premises of private financiers were raided. Around 170 blank promissory notes, 60 blank cheques and around Rs. 2 lakh cash, gold ornaments and two vehicles have been recovered. So far, 16 call money cases were reported in the city. 25 financiers had been booked so far, out of which three have affiliation with YSR Congress, two with Telugu Desam party. Six persons were arrested in the raids during Wednesday and Thursday.
Meanwhile, Vijayawada Police commissioner Gautam Sawang briefed Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on the progress of investigations into the call money racket.
As of 18 December, more than 250 complaints were filed in the Coastal Andhra and Godavari districts. 100 persons were taken into custody for illegal money-lending business and harassing their borrowers. In Visakhapatnam, 22 cases were registered and cases against 35 persons were booked by the police. Nine persons were arrested while the remaining are absconding. The police seized Rs. 4.28 lakh cash, 43 grams gold, 234 promissory notes, 154 blank cheques and 450 loan books so far. In Srikakulam, nine persons were taken into custody. Seven persons were taken into custody in Vizianagaram district. In East Godavari district, a case has been filed against assistant sub-inspector of police Elugubanti Suryaprakasa Rao who is working in Sarpavaram police station. Interesting complaints were filed against politicians, businessmen, policemen and even government employees alleging their involvement in call money racket.