One of my favourite con stories is that of Aijaz Mehboob Khan. Mumbai mirror covered the story in August. It goes something like this –
Con man, Aijaz Mehboob Khan, convinced people that he had personal ties with Mahatma Gandhi, as well as Subhash Chandra Bose. He proved his famous affiliations with a fake Times of India cover story- a picture of him standing besides the Father of the Nation. The date of the fake times issue is July 12, 1945, while our con man himself is just 29 years old. Khan – a computer engineer and a resident of Mumbra – managed to dupe at least 10 people to the tune of Rs 50 lakh with his so called ‘freedom fighter’ connections! The people who blindly believed his claim, eventually ended up shelling out lakhs of rupees, which the con man assured them, would be invested in government contracts.
I could not stop laughing at the audacity of the con man and the gullibility of those who invested. We Indians can be a bunch of emotional fools. May be years of conditioning on superstitious beliefs and traditions have made lots of us to take things at face value. Or, may be a lack of proper education. Even the education at primary level (municipality schools) is so bereft of free and logical thinking that we end up not questioning too much in life.
Or take the case of Conman Munir Khan, who is evading arrest in several cases registered against him. Another Mumbai Mirror cover story, Munir Khan apparently developed a wonder drug called Body revival which according to his website-(http://healthreactive.com/index.asp )- is an Micro-Herbal, 100% plant based formula which dissolves the harmful deposits and flushes out the toxins (Mala) through urine and stool. It also maintains and revives the tissue cells in their state of excellent health by clearing all the channels of circulation in the body, thus, bringing the body in the state of equilibrium and forcing the disease to abandon the body in the form of various excretions (Mala)
The above instance is a clear case of imagination gone wild. As per the report people slept on the steps his clinic to be the first few people to get the medicine.
I think one of the biggest hoax was Ramar Pillai and his herbal oil (though Ganesh drinking milk was the most popular). Hailing from Tamil Nadu in India, he claimed he had an herb that can turn water into a virtually pollution-free diesel fuel or kerosene. Unruffled by allegations that Pillai’s venture is a hoax, scooter owners were queuing up in hordes to buy the cheap fuel. Pillai later confessed that he was buying hydrocarbons from the market. The most hilarious incident was someone trying to give a plausible explanation of getting Petrol from thin air- http://www.skepdic.com/herbfuel.html
If he is not using trickery, how is Pillai doing it? One theory, is that atmospheric carbon dioxide is sucked in during the reaction. The carbon dioxide combines with hydrogen liberated from water and forms the hydrocarbon fuel.
Now comes the ironical bit.There is indeed a plant which is now hailed as the future of non fossil fuel. Was Raman right ?
More of this in the next post.