A Right to Information (RTI) activist who allegedly extorted Thane hoteliers and builders was caught in the act by the Navpada police while accepting money from a hotelier.
Kiran Mahadeo Vaidya, who runs a local NGO in Thane and is also known as an RTI activist, was arrested by the Navpada police for allegedly extorting money from Umesh Shetty, the owner of Abhishek Veg Restaurant at Khopat, Thane.
According to the police, Vaidya had lodged several complaints about Shetty’s restaurant being a commercial establishment in an area under the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation. “Vaidya complained to various authorities like Thane Municipal Corporation and the collector about the hotel being illegal as per new amendments,” said Shetty.
Tired of being at Vaidya’s mercy, Shetty approached one of his partners who had been similarly harassed by Vaidya and had paid him off. “On September 4, Shetty had a meeting with Vaidya at his office in Uthalsar Naka, where Vaidya demanded Rs 6 lakh from him,” said a police officer from Navpada police station.
In later meetings, the amount was renegotiated to Rs 3 lakh. On November 8 before a scheduled meeting, Shetty fixed 10 hidden cameras on his body. “I obtained 10 hidden cameras from friends and fixed some of them on my shirt, waist and pants, and also recorded the audio on my phone. I did not want to pay Vaidya, because if I had given in, anybody else might have started demanding money from me too,” said Shetty.
Shetty then paid Vaidya an amount of Rs 50,000 as the first instalment and recorded the transaction. On Thursday, Shetty informed the police before meeting Vaidya at his office. When he handed Vaidya a follow-up sum of Rs 1 lakh, police swooped in and caught Vaidya red-handed.
“Shetty has done a very good job in giving us a lot of proof so that Vaidya does not go scot-free. We are now receiving several complaints from builders and hoteliers about Vaidya,” said a police officer from Navpada police station.