So near .... Yet so far

SP Rao and Yogi Badhwar

Shriprakash Rao attended St. Xavier's School, Jaipur where he was a sports enthusiast, with particular emphasis on cricket and basket ball. He was also a good short-distance swimmer.

Rao joined the Department of Customs and Central Excise as Inspector, and retired as Additional Commissioner in 2015. He traveled to many nations as a trade negotiator for the Central Government on several occasions for various trade agreements.

Rao is an avid adventurer who has under taken trekking expeditions across Himalayas in India and Nepal. He fancies his visit to Iceland to see the Northern Lights to be the crown jewel of his travels. He is a keen photographer while traveling.

Rao loves driving and has under taken many long drives across India, initially on his motor cycle and later on by car. He is an avid reader and a movie buff, especially of classic westerns.

Rao presently lives in Jaipur with his wife.

Yogendra Pal Badhwar @ Yogi was born and brought up in Bikaner where he studied B.Sc. and Law. He took keen interest in several social service movements as a member of Scouts  during his early school days. He immensely  enjoyed living   in Camps. 

Later on as a member of Rotaract Club greatly influenced his behavior towards the marginalized members of the Indian society. The journey in the Customs & Central Excise department provided a unique opportunity to Yogi to learn multifarious skills and the art of decision making.

Yogi  enjoys riding bikes and driving cars. He along with his five friends took a mobike trip from Jaipur to Goa, Ajanta, Ellora caves and back. He loves travelling   long distances in his car. Yogi is known for his on the spot wit and humor.  He is an informal singer, traveler and an avid reader.

So Near……………… Yet too far

   I had been transferred to Jodhpur after that infamous Hindal Gol drug case, may be  as a reward of hard work done there to firmly establish the Customs Post there.

 I had shifted my family to Jodhpur and settled down to a comfortable life. I was lucky to have considerate bosses like Shri Balesh Kumar, Deputy Commissioner & Shri Kishan Singh, Additional Commissioner.

 I also had my very good friend Yogi Badhwar as my colleague in my  division.  Life was going along comfortably. We had booked many cases across various divisions of Jodhpur sub Collectorate comprising of districts of Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner and Sri Ganaganagar.

Kuchman House - Headquarters of sub Collectorate ,odhpur 

It was in summer of 1991 Yogi came to meet me one day at my house and informed  that he had received reliable information from an old informer that Gazi Khan @ Chotia a very notorious smuggler of Jaisalmer during those days  was going to deliver a huge quantity of silver to a house in Shastri Nagar area in Jodhpur.

As the intelligence was from an old informer we decided to further develop the information so that we could identify the house where it was going to be delivered. Finally, Yogi could zero in on the venue of proposed delivery and was also able to locate an acquaintance’s house, which was just a few houses away from the smuggler’s house from where we could keep surveillance.

House in Shastri Nagar 

Finally, the D-day arrived. We were desperately looking for a Gypsy for this operation because out of two Gypsies available at Jodhpur, one was taken by the Deputy Commissioner on his tour to border areas and anther was borrowed by the staff of the Additional Commissioner, who used to conduct their own secret operations.

To our relief, they came back in the evening and we got hold of our office Gypsy. In our hurry of reaching the designated spot we totally forgot to check the fuel status in the vehicle and more so because it was supposedly an operation within the city. We didn't realise that this lapse was going to cost us dearly and  burden us with a lifelong regret. 

 Five of us namely Yogi, PP Sharma, ML Shera, driver Karan Singh and myself, set out for the interception with anticipation and lot of excitement. We reached our ‘watch post', the designated house at about 10 in the night, incognito, in civil dress to keep a watch.

To avoid suspicion of the local chowkidar, we parked our Gypsy in ready to move position in the driveway  of our ‘watch post’, so that we could move out quickly as and  when needed. There was dull excitement in our friend’s house as the residents had become part of an adventure rarely seen outside of films.

Even  our ‘incognito’ position came under pressure and it looked as if our ‘cover.  was about to be blown away. It so happened that a suspicious ‘aunty’ from the adjoining house came to our host’s house on the pretext of collecting ‘jamun’ for curding milk and started sniffing around.

Our host was  hard put  to convince her that the group of ‘suspicious’ looking men were indeed his friends and had come for  mediation in a dispute related to money matters.

For quite some time she remained hidden behind the curtains of her window and watched  our activities surreptitiously but ultimately gave up possibly due to  boredom as no action was happening  and went to sleep, leaving five of us ‘alone’ to continue surveillance of the suspected house.

Soon after the residents of our ‘watch house’ also went off  to sleep as the ‘action’ wasn’t happening anytime soon. After sometime all the members of the household too went off to sleep, leaving us alone.

We were aware that we were in for a long night which may actually end up in a nothing. We waited patiently taking turns in keeping watch over the house which was just a few houses away but in the clear line of sight.

Hours went by and nothing happened. Nobody came nor did any vehicle come. Time was crawling. We dosed off by turn and others talked their way through the night. Finally at about five we could see some movement in the house under watch. Lights were switched on and we could see and sense some movement.

But we could not make out  whether it was in anticipation of someone coming or just the daily routine movements as dawn had come. But after sometime we saw a white Gypsy approach the house. The gate was yet to open. So it was standing just outside the gate.

 Yogi, who was sitting in the back of the  Gypsy immediately, alerted Karan Singh to block the white Gypsy. But before we could cover the distance to the house, Chotia saw us coming and shouted at the top of his voice ‘Bhago’.

The white Gypsy instead of going inside the house just turned around towards the main road, with Karan Singh in our green Gypsy in hot pursuit. We kept chasing the white Gypsy  through the roads of Shastri Nagar in hot pursuit. But could not intercept it to stop.

​​​​​​Shastri Nagar roundabout 

Finally, at the main Shastri Nagar circle we were running neck to neck at  a fast speed of around eighty to one hundred kilometres per hour. I, who was sitting in the front seat  besides the driver, could see the tense and sweat dripping face of the driver of the other car. We were  so close that I could  touch him if I wanted to.

PP Sharma, who was at the back of Gypsy, passed on his personal revolver to me to shoot at the tyres of the runaway Gypsy. But I didn’t as we were still on city roads.

The chase had now been going over 10 minutes and soon  reached the outskirts of Jodhpur.

With little chance of now hitting any passerby , I decided to  fire  3 rapid shots at the fast-running vehicle but missed (in fact I thought one  shot  had possibly bruised a morning walker). The chase was getting closer but suddenly driver Karan Singh informed us that the vehicle was low on fuel and would not be able to continue for long at such high speed.

The chase continued with Chotia’s Gypsy pulling away as we were left gasping for fuel . After sometime, there was not much we could do but to watch  the smuggler's  Gypsy pull  away  out of  sight. We rued the fact that we did not check the fuel levels in the Gypsy as part of preparations for the operation.

An omission never allowed to  happen again!

We came back to the office pretty down cast and sad. But there was some relief too as by late morning it became clear that I had actually not hit any passer-by on the road when I had used PP Sharma’s firearm.

Information that later trickled back to office indicated that Chotia’s Gypsy had broken down a few kilometres ahead as it was unable to take the load of 200 kgs of Silver & 10 kgs of gold while running at a very high speed on bumpy roads of Jodhpur city.

     Finally, it was just a case of So Near….Yet too far.

Add new comment