Bihar is known for its vast coal mines. It is equally well known for the mafia lords or dons who control these mines and carry on all kinds of illegal activities. But the same mafia lords are trembling in their boots today. The reason for their fear is a young woman called Shobha Ohatker. After becoming the Superintendent of Police in Hazaribagh, Shobha has put the biggest names in the coal mafia in jail – most of them, anyway.
What about the ones she hasn’t caught yet? Shobha has issued arrest-warrants against them, says a recent report in “The Indian Express’.
The Hazaribagh coal mine is located in the middle of a thick forest. It used to bustle with activity till a while ago. In the dead of the night, coal would be mined from a long-abandoned Central Coalfields Limited mine. The coal would then be loaded onto trucks heading to far-off places. All very fine, but for one thing. Each truck could only leave the coal dump after paying a ‘fee’ of Rs. 4800 to the local police chowki or police post. A small mark or banner would then be made on the truck. This banner would be the passport through all the borders, meaning someone somewhere had been paid for it.
All coal mines are public sector enterprises, that is, they are run by the government in India. So while these coal mines officially faced shutdowns due to losses, the mafia lords’ private enterprise flourished. Nearly 500-600 trucks of coal leave the mines every day. Most of them are bound for Varanasi.
But how did Shobha catch on to this mass scale theft? She received an anonymous call saying there was tonnes of illegal coal lying at a particular place. “I took off within half an hour and saw tons of coal worth crores of rupees lying in a dump. I realised that it was a national resource that was being looted everyday,” said Shobha.
The Superintendent of Police hasn’t looked back since. She has arrested 40 coal thieves and seized coal worth Rs. 1.5 crores. She has also issued 50 more warrants.
This is not the first time that Shobha is in the news. When she exposed the criminal links of a former Member of Parliament, she was transferred from that place. But the town’s residents came to her support by organizing a two-day ‘bandh’ or strike to protest against the transfer orders.
Shobha’s actions stand out in a state like Bihar, for there are very few honest police officers concerned about the people of the state. Her enemies call her the “hunterwali”, or the woman who wields the whip. But they all acknowledge that she is the woman who has brought Bihar’s coal mafia to their knees.