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Haryana scam cashes in on the terminally ill

When Ajit Singh died in Haryana’s Rohtak on April 1, 2018, everyone chalked it up as a tragic road accident. His family, the police, and the post-mortem report all reached the same conclusion: a car hit him from behind. After all, he was just one of 150,000 people who die in road accidents in India every year.

There was nothing suspicious, save for one thing. Days before he was killed, Singh signed up for personal accident insurance policy with at least four companies, at an average premium of Rs 5,000. An “accidental death” would entitle his nominee to at least Rs 25 lakh from one.

Singh wasn’t the only one. Between 2017 and 2018, insurance agencies in Haryana received a stream of personal accident claims involving farmers from villages cutting a wide swathe through the state. There was a strange common link in the claims.

These farmers were mostly middle-aged men with no insurance history, they bought policies just months or days before their deaths, they got their first bank accounts and PAN (permanent account number) cards at around the same time, and most of them died in road accidents.

That wasn’t all. At times, the same car hit two walking farmers in different districts, and the accidents were reported to the same small group of police stations. Suspicious, the agencies began internal probes that all arrived at an extraordinary conclusion: accidents didn’t kill these farmers, cancer did.

One of the agencies, Bharti AXA, filed a complaint April 5 with the director general of police in Panchkula, after a year of internal investigations, alleging that a gang of con-men had defrauded the company of crores of rupees. Several other firms followed suit. On April 20, the Special Task Force of Haryana Police arrested the mastermind of the scam and two aides from Sonepat.

Their suspicions had been aroused by a curious set of common connections between the cases: The road accidents were reported to the same police stations in Sonipat, Jhajjar, Hisar and Panipat, and the post-mortem of their bodies was completed at the nearest government hospitals within hours of their deaths. Often, if the victims were on a motorbike, an animal showed up in front of the vehicle from nowhere: cows, buffaloes, bulls, even antelopes. Their fellow passengers always escaped without a scratch. The account of these farmers’ accidental deaths remained the same in document after document, from FIR to post-mortem report, from the family’s insurance claim to the investigating agent’s assessment.

What they unearthed appears unreal. The Haryana-based gang allegedly identified terminal cancer patients from rural, low-income backgrounds, got them to insure themselves with multiple companies by hiding their condition, waited for them to die, and then put their dead bodies through “accidents” .

The gang kept a part of the insured sum, between Rs 8 and Rs 20 lakh in each case, and distributed the rest among its partners in crime: family members, police officers, record keepers, doctors, insurance agents, and public prosecutors. At least 100 people were accused of being complicit in the scam that allegedly carried on for two years, executed nearly a 100 cases, and cheated more than 25 insurance companies of over Rs 100 crore, according to the STF.

First Published:
May 15, 2019 07:22 IST

Source: HindustanTimes