Victims of Indian networking business Oriens in an interaction at the District Police Office, Bardiya in this recent photo. Photo: Nirmal Ghimire/Republica
BARDIYA, Oct 19: Laxman Tharu of Rajapur Municipality – 5 last year took a loan of Rs 100,000 from a cooperative. In the application letter, he wrote that he needed money for poultry farming. No sooner than he had bought a few chickens, he happened to hear about an Indian networking business called Oriens.
He quit poultry farming and headed to Lakimpur of India with Rs 96,000 in his wallet to become the company’s member.
“People had told me that the money would be recovered as soon as I make few other members. They had said my investment will multiply in a little time and return back. I was promised huge commission,” he recalls.
After he left, his chickens died in the lack of care. On the other hand, he could not make any new member for the company. Neither did the company return his money.
“Everything turned nasty. I then started working as labor to pay for the loan. The interest amount is also high,” he laments.
Bhagiram Tharu’s family in Thakurbaba Municipality – 5 also regrets to have come in contact with the company. Bhagiram’s son Abhas, 18, spent a huge amount to become a member of the company. According to Bhagiram, the boy wanted to become rich in a short time. “We are a very poor family. My young son could not understand that there cannot be a short cut to success,” he said. “We have been working day and night to repay the loan and we are not sure if that will ever be possible,” he added.
Dozens of people from Banke, Bardiya, Dang, Kailali, Kanchanpur have been duped by the company. While many have already sought help from the police due to apprehension about being cheated by the company, some are still assured that their money as well as commission amount will be returned.
According to Sharmila Tharu, a local of Madhuban Municipality – 4, she feels she has been cheated, but she is not sure. “I am not sure whether the company is fake. I have been trying to get help from police,” she said.
Sharmila was told about the company and the benefits by her aunt Ritika Chaudhari. After Ritika insisted, Sharmila somehow managed loan to get the company’s membership. “She is my own aunt, so I did not doubt what she said. Now, I am feeling little bad about it,” Sharmila said.
As the networking business drew media attention, the matter is under police investigation. Those who have become member of the company are being held and interrogated.
According to SP Rajesh Nath Bastola, most of the victims or members of the company are from poor background and marginalized communities.
“It has come to the fore that the business is popular among poor and marginalized people. We have found maximum youths from Tharu families getting involved in this,” he said.
Nil Kumar Tharu, Shankar Kumar Tharu and Rabi Tharu, among others have been held by police and being interrogated over the case. All of them have stated that they become members of the company due to pressure from their relatives and friends.
“It is a networking business. One becomes member and then tries to pull others to the company,” said SP Bastola. “The company has been found to have allured people also by providing them cosmetics, kitchen appliances and so on,” he added.
SP Bastola further said that illegal drugs are also being imported and being sold by the company.
Sub Inspector Tanka Thakkula informed that growing number of victims have been reaching out to police for help. The district administration office has also taken the case seriously.
“The local body is serious too. We have jointly been carrying out awareness programs so that people do not get cheated by such companies,” SI Thakulla said. “We have also beefed up security in the border in view of these kinds of activities,” he added.
According to CDO Ram Bahadur Kurumgbang , Nepal Police and Armed Police Force have initiated a joint operation to nab the Indian agents.
A local of Bardiya Laxmi Chaudhari meanwhile reported that the company’s officials are at large following the police intervention. “The Indians have fled; police are trying to get information through the local members,” Laxmi said.