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Airports easy exit point for faceless builders Friday, February 23, 2001
AHMEDABAD: The investigations on the missing builders may turn into a nought with the immigration authorities finding themselves ill-equipped - information-wise - to keep a tab on the builders, as not a sin of the accused has been provided to them as of now.
An alert has been sounded at all international airports and immigration check posts across the country about the 50-odd notorious builders of Ahmedabad, presently on the "look out" list following pendency of criminal complaints against them.
It is suspected that the builders responsible for the death of hundreds due to poor construction quality, may try to leave the country if they haven't done so already.
But immigration authorities manning these gateway points, in and out of the country, are in a quandary. They have no idea as to whom to nab and whom to let go.
The reason is - they have no photographs of any of the accused and secondly they do not have enough information to verify the identity of the individual. The immigration department does not rule out the fact that many of them might have already sneaked out of the country to a much secure refuge abroad soon after the quake.
Although the Ahmedabad police department have alerted the Foreigners' Regional Registration Offices, its officers and immigration authorities, about 60 individuals with their names and offences registered against them police station-wise, immigration authorities claim that "as of now most of the information is of no use."
A senior immigration official asserted that apart from the photographs, many of the names of builders provided were incomplete which makes identification difficult. "Various other particulars like the father's name and in some cases authentic addresses were not available, besides pin-pointing a person just by the name is not possible," a senior officer pointed out.
"In some cases only the first name has been provided by the police which may be shared by five different persons and the actual individual can be identified only with antecedents in the absence of photograph", says this official.
The immigration department has now approached the Regional Passport Office of Ahmedabad to get the "rough information" refined so as to make the monitoring more effective for the investigation.
"With the inadequate information, a vigil on the accused would be difficult till the RPO provides us with the information," an immigration officer said. The immigration department will be able to take charge only once the RPO provides them with the accurate data. "In case of a common name shared by many in the RPO list, we have asked for details of all those persons, to zero down on the person", the officer added.
While the police confirms that atleast two of the builders may have gone abroad, they add that this was much before the quake. There were reports that Maninagar builders Rakesh and Nirav Shah whose three buildings collapsed in the quake might have left the country.
Even the city police commissioner P C Pande admits the possibility of some of them slipping out. "We agree but the number of builders who might have slipped out would be very small."
Also agreeing to the fact that information provided to the department in some cases might be inadequate, Pande said, "We have provided the immigration department with whatever information we have."
"Even then if someone slips out it won't be a problem, although it may take us a bit long to catch them," the city police commissioner asserted. "We can always get them extradited once we get their whereabouts", said a senior police official.
So far out of the cases registered against 60 individuals of the builder fraternity, 12 have been arrested. Most of them have been evading the law and exploring possibilities to escape the legal noose, while some of them have also applied for anticipatory bail.
But the police like to believe that since the builders have a lot of stake here in real-estate business, they would return. "Some of them are just waiting and watching what happens to their fellow-builders who have been arrested", says this senior police official.