TIRUPATHI: Tirumala urban police on Wednesday busted a racket involving selling of L2 category VIP darshan tickets and arrested 10 persons. The gang used the letterheads of several bureaucrats in Andhra Pradesh to obtain VIP tickets and sell them at a premium. They carried the racket for two years till 2015 and lied low after the TTD started sending alerts to the bureaucrats about the tickets issued on their recommendation letters. Later, they changed tack and started making duplicate donor passes to get darshan in VIP quota.

A TTD employee was the kingpin of the racket and when police went to serve him notice he was found to be on leave. Each ticket was sold for 4,000 to 5,000. Dharmaiah, working in the education wing of the TTD, used to get 1,000 as commission for each ticket. All the accused are from Tirupati and nearby areas.

VIP break darshan can be availed by pilgrims by submitting recommendation letters from ministers, legislators, bureaucrats and presidents of political parties at the JEO office. Based on the position, officials release a list in three (L1, L2, L3) categories. VIP break drashan ticket is priced at 500. The pilgrim in this category gets two laddus free.
The gang made quick bucks out of this practice until the TTD began the system of sending alerts to the mobile phones of all those who gave recommendation letters. Following this, the gang changed switched over to forging donor passes. “They somehow managed a donor passbook and copied bar coding. They used this to help several people have darshan, but TTD grew suspicious and introduced a similar method of sending alert message to donors,” said police. Donors who donate 10 lakh and above are allowed break darshan three days in a year for a family of five apart from free accommodation.

Police suspicion strengthened after the gang sent 23 pilgrims for VIP break darshan. “They made an error in one of the passbooks. The number 0 was printed as alphabet O. They have been arrested and remanded to judicial custody,” a Tirumala police officer said.