A DVAC press release dated 14th March 2022 surprised many. The release said “On 14.03.2022 based on credible information that, Tr.Natarajan, Deputy Transport Commissioner, Chennai is collecting bribe money Rs.5 lakhs each from 30 Assistants for Superintendent promotion, who are working at the Transport office, the officials of Vigilance and Anti–Corruption, Chennai City Special Unit-3 along with Deputy Inspection Cell Officers conducted a surprise check at the office of the Deputy Transport Commissioner, Ezhilagam, Chennai, in which unaccounted money of Rs.35 Lakhs was seized.”
No ruling party allows its anti-corruption wing to catch its cash cows. Shortly after, Raja Kannappan was stripped of his portfolio of Transport and sent to a low-profile Backward & Minority Welfare. A relatively very young SS Sivasankar was tasked with the Transport portfolio. Eyebrows were raised as to why none of the seniors in DMK was given this task. To read in detail about this episode, read our exclusive piece here.
We have written in the piece that the collection was institutionalised under Raja Kannappan and all accounting of the loot was done in Fortune Capital Services Private Limited, a stock broking firm functioning in Kochar Technology Park, 6th Floor, SP 31-A, 1st Cross Road, Ambattur Industrial Estate, Chennai.
This firm was started by a close relative of Raja Kannappan Moorthy @ Narayanamoorthy. This Narayanamoorthy, a tech-savvy guy institutionalised the corruption and found innovative ways to milk the cash-rich Transport Department.
The government of Tamil Nadu adopted the Sarathi and Vahan software of National Informatics Centre (NIC) and centralised the issuance of licenses and registration of vehicles. This is an all India project and Tamil Nadu joined as early as 2007. Following this, officers in the Transport Department who has access to the data can find out the number of licenses, fitness certificates and registration of vehicles with a mouse click.
No one understood the usefulness of this data till Raja Kannappan took over. Rajakannapan is an old horse who knew the tricks of the trade by heart. He was a powerful Minister in Jaya’s 1991 cabinet and he minted money. In fact, the value of his assets in the disproportionate assets case was far higher than Jayalalitha. He made huge money in coal import as EB Minister.
Late Robert Payne, was the Inspector of Police who was probing the DA case against Kannappan. In 1996, Kannappan floated a new party and allied with DMK, which ensured the burial of the case. Had the case been taken to a logical conclusion, Raja Kannappan’s political career would long be over.
Coming back to the story, Kannappan’s man Friday Narayanamoorthy, used the Vahan and Sarathy software to identify the volume of work done in each transport office in the State.
He devised a way to arrive at the bribe rate for each office based on the highest collector. Word was sent around to find out who has the finesse to milk more in Transport offices and the highest rate was fixed as the norm for all offices. Those who refused to stick to these rates were threatened with DVAC cases.
DVAC was used as a mercenary to threaten and make the Transport staff fall in line. By August 2021, 3 months after DMK came to power a system was put in place.
The rate card was circulated to the transport officers, unofficially of course. Kochar Complex office became the collection center, as we had discussed in our earlier piece.
Sabareesan, who is reported to be controlling almost 33 portfolios’ collection through his agents developed a suspicion about the money actually collected and paid to him as ‘party fund’.
State intelligence was pressed into service. Officers in intelligence were tasked with cross checking the rates paid by each Transport officer for transfer, continuance in the same post, cancelling punishments, inquiries, etc. Sabareesan was shocked. He was paid only 30% of the total collection made by Raja Kannappan.
A warning was issued to Raja Kannappan. For the 2021 Diwali, all the Transport Corporations issue half a kilo of sweets and savouries to their employees and every year state run Aavin used to be the supplier. But, Raja Kannappan decided to make the sweet distribution sweeter for himself and entered into a deal allegedly with Adyar Anandha Bhavan.
This author and TN BJP flagged this and on the intervention of TN Chief Secretary Iraianbu, all government departments were instructed to give preference to Aavin.
Sources : TN Transport Minister Rajakannappan decides to make a killing in the purchase and supply of Deepavali sweets to transport employees. Independent tenders have been floated by each transport corporations. 1/n
— Savukku_Shankar (@savukku) October 22, 2021
This was a test for Kannappan say sources. He was warned. If he fails to show proper accounts, he won’t be spared was the message sent across. But, Kannappan is not a man to listen.
He was a proud man. And he is justified too. The collection from one Transport office during the previous tenure under MR Vijayabaskar was Rs. 4 lakhs per office per month. Do you know the collection in this regime per month ?
Do not be surprised. It is Rs. 4 crores a month. Unbelievable isn’t it? This author too was perplexed by this astonishing sum. But on enquiries, it is found to be true. The transfer rate for one Motor Vehicle Inspector is anywhere between 80 lakhs to 1 crore. The number may vary depending upon the volume of business done in each office. This huge sum is also due to the increase in the registration of vehicles and licenses.
Let us look at the current rate card of bribery in the Transport department across the state
2 wheelers 500
4 wheelers 1000 to 3000
(car to lorry)
Car, Lorry 1000 to 3000
Tourist Vehicles 1000 to 3000
2 Wheeler 300
4 Wheeler 500 to 1000
Apart from this, a sizeable sum is collected from the agency which is printing Registration Certificates and Driving Licenses. This is a whopping sum according to sources.
So Kannappan felt, that this steep increase in the collection is his innovation. He deserves a major share. But DMK’s Sasikala – Sabareesan was not amused. His patience with Kannappan ran out.
DVAC Director Kandasamy was called. He was instructed to raid the Transport office and specific input was given. The DVAC sleuths swung into action. And the result was the prize catch of 35 lakhs bribe amount caught red-handed.
Kannappan knew his time was up. The allegation of abusing a Dalit officer came in handy. He was stripped of his portfolio. Sabareesan had his pound of flesh. The decision was taken in Dubai by the son-in-law and father-in-law duo at Dubai during their fun trip in the guise of an investor meeting.
Kannappan was shown the door. In came SS Sivasankar, a first time Minister and a strong family loyalist. Sivasankar knew, that his newly acquired treasure is for his loyalty to the family and not for his excellent administrative skills. He was eager to please. But do not know how.
It is at this juncture, notorious power broker and criminal Veera Viswamithran came in. More about this power broker Vishwa and the ED probe against him in the coming days. To give an introduction, Vishwa @ Veeravishwamithran make whopping money by supplying masks and sanitisers to the state Health Department during C.Vijayabaskar’s tenure. He also flaunts that he handled the transfers of doctors across the state during the previous tenure.
Veera Viswamithran and Sabareesan’s blue-eyed boy London Venkat @ Venkatapathy were acquaintances. When Veera met Sivasankar for some favour, he was directed to London Venkat. The old acquaintances decided to take control of the Transport department and loot it.
London Venkat put a word to Sivasankar that Vishwa is his lieutenant and his words means Venkat’s words. Anyone deviating his diktats will face the brutal force of DVAC including arrest. Fear ran in the spine of corrupt officers in the transport department. Almost all of them are corrupt.
The loot by the family over the department is so scorching that a lot of irregularities endangering society have crept into the Transport department.
Now the collection is meticulous, methodical and systematic. The bribery and collection process in the Transport department is a smoothly running well oiled machine.
But not everyone is happy. The transport department officials, though incorrigibly corrupt are humans. They too have self respect. But, the arrogant tout – Viswa treats the officers of the Transport department like a speck of dust. They are humiliated in abusive language. They are ready to face such abuse but are not happy owing to the fact that they are forced to shell out most of their collection.
On average, a Motor Vehicle Inspector’s income per month is Rs.10 lakhs. Do not forget, there are a total of 145 Transport offices in the state. The collection by family per office is Rs.4 crores. Do the math.
So an MVI gets 10 lakhs a month. Of this, the cut of Joint Transport Commissioners (Zonal) is 1.50 lakhs. A sum of Rs.1.50 lakhs has to be shelled out to prying yellow journalists, petitioner mongers, mamool to police and salaries to unofficially employed touts. Rs. 4 lakhs is meant for the family.
Do not assume the remaining 3 lakhs is meant for the officer. This 3 lakhs is collected by London Venkat at the end of the year for allowing the officer to continue in the same post.
So what is the net income of a Transport Officer in a month ? NIL. What is the result? A Road Transport Officer on condition of anonymity, said, “Sir, I confess before you shamelessly. What happened in the Kamalhassan starrer Indian movie is happening now. To make more money, we issue Fitness certificates to unfit vehicles. We issue driving licenses to people who do not drive. We indulge in all sorts of malpractice out of greed” When I questioned him if he not endangering the public by doing this, he went silent.
Through this piece, Sabareesan should know that even now, he is not getting the entire collection. The Vishwa whom he has entrusted the collection work is giving only 50% percent of the total collection. Apart from the regular bribes, Vishwa is making separate collections by blackmailing the officers with DVAC searches and arrest. He is also threatening them to transfer based on anonymous petitions.
While Vishwa is London Venkat’s lieutenant, Venkatraman, Joint Transport Commissioner (Administration) is his sepoy. This Venkatraman is the one who reports about the details of vehicle registration, licenses, etc. and also about the details of potential victims who can be blackmailed into submission and extort money.
Sources add Venkatraman who is handling establishment, and punishment rolls of the entire Transport department is also engineering anonymous petitions against officers and gives copies to Vishwa, who in turn arm-twist the officers.
Another officer of the Transport Department who aids the trio (Sabareesan, London Venkat and Vishwa) is Transport Commissioner Nirmal Raj IAS. Whatever list Vishwa gives, Nirmal Raj knows those are orders from DMK’s Sasikala Sabareesan and he meekly complies with.
It is the three musketeers Sabareesan, London Venkat and Vishwa who run the transport department and not SS Sivasankar.
While the entire Transport department has been turned into a den of looters, why a no-nonsense officer Phaneendra Reddy, IAS, under whom Transport department comes remains silent and allowing the endangerment of the safety of general public is perplexing.
More in the #DravidianDisaster series in the coming days.
PS : We reached out to DVAC Director Kandasamy IPS, London Venkat @ Venkatapathy and Veeravishwamithran alias Vishwa. None responded to our WhatsApp texts though all three have seen the message.