On the morning of May 24, 1971, there was no particular movement in the State Bank of India’s Parliament Street branch.
It was twelve o’clock in the day. The phone rang in the chamber of the bank’s cashier Ved Prakash Malhotra.
On the other end of the phone, a person who introduced himself said that he is speaking from the Prime Minister’s Office PN Haksar, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.
“The Prime Minister needs 60 lakh rupees for a covert operation in Bangladesh. He instructed Malhotra to withdraw 60 lakh rupees from the bank and arrest a man standing near the bible building on Parliament Street. All this amount of hundred rupees Should be in the notes. Malhotra was a little upset after hearing all this. “
Then the person speaking from the Prime Minister’s Office told Malhotra that let’s talk to the Prime Minister.
A few seconds later, a woman told Malhotra that ‘you should take this money and come to the Bible House yourself. There, a person will meet you and a code will say, ‘Babu of Bangladesh.’ In response to this you have to say ‘bar at law’. After this, you will hand over that amount to them and keep this matter completely secret.
Take money by speaking code word
After this Malhotra asked Deputy Chief Cashier Ram Prakash Batra to keep Rs 60 lakh in a cash box.
Batra entered the Strong Room at 12:30 and brought out the money.
Batra and his other partner HR Khanna kept those rupees in the cash box.
Deputy Head Cashier Ruhel Singh signed his entry on the register and got the payment voucher made. Malhotra signed his voucher.
After this, two peons loaded that cash trunk into a bank car (DLA 760) and Malhotra himself drove it to the Bible House.
After the car stopped, a tall and white person came and said that code word in front of them.
Then that person sat in the bank car and Malhotra and he reached the taxi stand at the junction of Sardar Patel Marg and Panchsheel Marg.
There, that person took off the trunk and asked Malhotra to go to the Prime Minister’s residence and get a voucher of this amount.
Haksar refused to call
Catherine Frank, who wrote a biography of Indira Gandhi, writes, “Malhotra did what he was told. Later it was revealed that the man’s name is Rustom Sohrab Nagarwala. He was serving as a captain in the Indian Army some time back. And was working for the Indian intelligence agency RAW at that time. “
When Malhotra reached the Prime Minister’s residence, he was told that Indira Gandhi was in Parliament. He immediately reached Parliament House. He did not meet Indira Gandhi there. Parmeshwar Narayan Haksar, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, met him. When Malhotra told the whole thing to Haksar, the land went out under Haksar’s feet. He told Malhotra that someone has cheated you.
We did not make any such call from the Prime Minister’s Office. You immediately go to the police station and report it. Meanwhile, the bank’s deputy head cashier, Ruhel Singh, asked RB Batra about the voucher of those 60 lakh rupees two or three times. Batra assured him that he would get the vouchers soon.
But when he did not get the vouchers for a long time and Malhotra also did not return, he reported the matter to his high officials. Then on his request, he wrote an FIR for this whole matter at Parliament Street police station. The police started investigating as soon as the matter came to light.
Arrest of civilian
After this, the police swung into action and apprehended Nagarwala from Parsi Dharamshala near Delhi Gate at around 1.45 pm and recovered 59 lakh 95 thousand rupees from A-277 at his friend’s house in Defense Colony.
This entire campaign was called ‘Operation Storm’.
At midnight on the same day, Delhi Police held a press conference and told that the matter had been resolved, the police said that Nagarwala went to the house of Rajendar Nagar from the taxi stand. From there he took a suitcase. From there he went to Niklasan Road in Old Delhi. There he took all the money out of the trunk in front of the driver and put it in the suitcase.
To keep this secret to the driver, he also gave a tip of 500 rupees. Parliament was in session at that time.
Inder Malhotra writes in Indira Gandhi’s biography ‘Indira Gandhi a Personal and Political Biography’, “As expected, there was a lot of uproar in the Parliament. There were some questions that were not answered. For example, even before this Did the Prime Minister ever talk to Malhotra? If not, how did he recognize the voice of Indira Gandhi? Could the cashier of the bank withdraw such a huge amount from the bank only by word of mouth? And whose biggest thing was this money? “
Four years sentence to Nagarwala On 27 May 1971, Nagarwala confessed his crime in court.
On the same day, the police filed a case against Nagarwala in the court of judicial magistrate KP Khanna. Perhaps this was the first time in India’s judicial history that a person was prosecuted and sentenced within three days of his arrest.
Rustom Nagalwala was sentenced to four years rigorous imprisonment and fined 1000 rupees. But no one reached the bottom of this incident.
Nagarwala confessed in court that he had fooled Malhotra by making an excuse for the Bangladesh campaign. But later he changed his statement and appealed against the decision.
He demanded that the trial be held again but on October 28, 1971, this demand of Nagarwala was turned down.
Investigating police officer dies in a car accident
A mysterious twist took place in the case when ASP DK Kashyap, who investigated the case on November 20, 1971, died in a road accident. He was going for his honeymoon at that time.
Meanwhile, Nagarwala wrote a letter to DF Karaka, editor of the famous weekly newspaper Current, and said that he wanted to give him an interview.
Karaka’s health deteriorated. So he sent his assistant to interview him. But Nagarwala refused to give him an interview. In early February 1972, Nagarwala was admitted to the Tihar Jail Hospital. From there, he was taken to GB Pant Hospital on 21 February, where he died of ill health on 2 March and Nagarwala died of a heart attack at 2.15 am.
That day was his 51st anniversary. Indira Gandhi was very infamous for this whole episode.
Later Sagarika Ghosh wrote in ‘Indira Gandhi’s biography Indira – India’s Most Powerful Prime Minister’, “Would it have dared to imitate Nagarwala’s Prime Minister’s voice if he did not have the support of the powerful people? Malhotra just asked PM House Why did he get such a huge amount from the bank due to a phone call? “
Jaganmohan Reddy Commission set up for investigation
When the Janata Party government came to power in 1977, it ordered an inquiry into the circumstances of Nagarwala’s death.
For this, the Jaganmohan Reddy Commission was created. But nothing new came out in this investigation and nothing unusual was found in the death of Nagarwala.
But the question arose that if such a payment was to be made, then why not contact the manager of the bank and contact the chief cashier? Did the State Bank have the right to give such huge amount without checks and vouchers?
Later, such unconfirmed reports appeared in newspapers that this money was withdrawn for the Bangladesh operation at the behest of Raw.
RK Yadav, who wrote a book ‘Mission and W’ on RAW, writes that “he had asked Ramnath Kaw, former RAW chief and his number two sankaran Nair, in this regard and both strongly denied that RAW Had anything to do with this case. “
Those officials had also denied that Raw had a secret account with the State Bank.
In the November 11 and 12 issue of Hindustan Times, two years after Indira Gandhi’s death, it was alleged that Nagarwala worked for the CIA and not RAW, and the main purpose of the entire episode was to discredit Indira Gandhi, especially At the time when his Bangladesh policy seemed very exasperating to the Nixon administration.
But no evidence was presented in support of this allegation and no satisfactory answer was given to the question of how a cashier of a bank handed over such a huge amount of money to an unknown person without any documentation.
However, after cheating, the entire 59 lakh and 95 thousand rupees were recovered after leaving 5 thousand rupees and that 5 thousand rupees were also filled by Malhotra from his pocket. The bank did not harm any gardener, but due to its bad image, the State Bank had fired Malhotra from the departmental inquiry after the job.
The interesting thing is that after about 10 years when the Maruti Udyog was established in India, the then government made Ved Prakash Malhotra the Chief Accounts Officer of this company.