Cracking down on alleged extortionists running “syndicates” in the real estate sector in West Bengal, the police Monday claimed to have arrested more than 9,000 people in the last 24 hours. The crackdown was initiated on Monday after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned of "stern action" and directed officers to act immediately on all the complaints of extortion that had been pouring in at the Chief Minister's Office, reported a news agency.
Additional Director General (law and order) Anuj Sharma said, “The police have arrested 1,023 people against specific complaints. Besides, we have made 7,929 preventive arrests and seized 65 kg of firecrackers, 26,000 litres of hooch, 114 kg of hemp and 20 grams of heroin." Of all the districts, Burdwan reported the largest number of arrests, followed by Nadia and North 24 Parganas near Kolkata, reported The Indian Express. As many as 45 people were arrested from Rajarhat area alone. According to The Telegraph, a majority of those arrested allegedly owe allegiance to the ruling Trinamool Congress.
Real estate syndicates in West Bengal are reportedly run by people who enjoy political patronage. They allegedly force promoters and contractors to buy construction material, often of inferior quality, at high prices. Earlier this month, TMC councillor from Salt Lake Anindya Chattopadhyay was arrested on extortion charges. A TMC leader said the party was making a list of members who are allegedly involved in such syndicates.
A minister in the state government told The Telegraph that the issue has made West Bengal less appealing to potential investors the syndicates have now started getting involved in state government projects. However, the Congress said that such crackdowns were an eyewash. “She [Mamata Banerjee] is trying to be in the limelight through the arrest of councillor Anindya Chattopadhyay. But there are thousands of such Anindyas in her party,” said Congress MLA and leader of the Opposition Abdul Mannan.