Chilume NGO founder director and prime-accused Krishnappa Ravikumar arrested on Sunday night

After five arrests in the case, 12 others have been summoned to record their statements by the Halasurugate police.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Nov 21, 2022 | 5:14 PM Updated Nov 21, 2022 | 5:14 PM

Congress leaders filed a complaint on the voters data theft scam with the Chief Electoral Officer of the State Election Commission on Saturday

The Bengaluru police on Sunday, 20 November, arrested the prime accused — founder and director of the Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Trust, Krishnappa Ravikumar — in the voters data theft scam.

Cases in connection with this scam were registered at the Kadugodi and the Halasurugate Police Stations in the city recently.

Ravikumar, who was absconding, was meeting an advocate in the Central Business District (CBD) area when he was arrested by the police, they said.

The Central Division police had formed 12 teams including a technical team to probe into the cases.

Earlier, in the FIR registered against the NGO, the complainant (BBMP official) had conveniently left out the chief and other founders/directors of the NGO, but later had to add their names as pressure mounted, with the Congress slamming the ruling BJP government for its alleged undemocratic malpractice ahead of BBMP elections and even filed a complaint with the Election Commission.

Arrest numbers mount

With Ravikumar, the total number of arrests in the case has gone up to five in the two cases.

Earlier, the Central Division’s Halasurugate police arrested Ravikumar’s elder brother Kempegowda, who is also a co-founder and director of Chilume.

The three others arrested in the case included project executive Prajwal B, a software developer who developed an app called Digital Samiksha into which the field surveyors were feeding in the voter ID and Aadhaar card details of the people who were being surveyed at various constituencies in the city.

Also arrested was Dharmesh, a human resource personnel employed with Chilume who was responsible for hiring candidates for the posts of field surveyors and business development executives from sub-contractors.

The third was Renuka Prasad, one of the main field officers, the police said.

At least 12 others have also been summoned by the Halasurugate police for questioning, to determine if their roles are established as a part of the crime. They would then be arrested, said a senior police officer.

“As of now, we have arrested five people and we are recording their statements. The charges against them, for now, are cheating, impersonation, and criminal breach of trust. As there is data theft alleged in this case, we would be adding appropriate IPC sections as and when we find evidence during the continuing investigation,” Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Halsurugate sub-division Narayanaswamy told South First.

The controversy

Congress leaders deem that the Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is the kingpin of the voter data theft case, as a chequebook with his name surfaced during raids by the cops.

The incident came to light over a labour-crisis, police sources said. Chilume apparently told the BBMP that it would conduct an election awareness programme for free and started hiring employees for the field survey work.

The scandal came to light after a sub-contractor, identified as Samanbaya, filed a complaint against the NGO with the BBMP alleging that the NGO had not paid the salaries for the employees it had hired over the past three months.

Hundreds of field surveyors alleged that they were not paid for two months. Now, since the work had stopped, most of them who had been temporarily living in paying-guest accommodations on the outskirts of the city have returned to their hometowns and villages.

Hundreds of youngsters were hired across the state, came to Bengaluru for this job, and were trained by Chilume NGO staff and the sub-contractors, added the police sources.

Another sub-contractor, Peter Raj, the operations manager of a private human resource firm, told South First that he was summoned by the Halasurugate police a couple of days ago, where he told the police that Chilume had to release payments (salaries) for several candidates he had hired for the NGO as field surveyors.

The salaries ranged between ₹15,000 and ₹25,000, along with incentives for providing all the valid details of a particular voter or for even identifying a new voter, among other things.