A Chennai taxi driver, Boomi Durai N, suspected to have died in floods and whose body was believed to have washed ashore in Sri Lanka on December 6 is alive and well.

The 41-year-old, the driver of private bus in the city, is a native of Poosaripalayam in Coimbatore. With the discovery of Durai the mystery has deepened over the identity of the man whose body fishermen found off Trincomallee port in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province and handed over to the nation’s navy.

Officials of the Tamil Nadu ‘Q’ branch, which tracks extremist outfits, are not ruling out a possible LTTE link and say the man may have been an operative of the terrorist organisation.

“The man definitely did not die in the Chennai floods nor was he washed away from the city,” a senior ‘Q’ branch officer said. “We learned that he’s not a fisherman but could have died in Rameswaram. The sea may have carried the body to the Sri Lankan coast. We are probing every possibilities.”

On seeing news about his “death” in the media, Boomi Durai called up the office of the Chennai police commissioner on the night of December 7 and informed officers he was alive. A ‘Q’ branch police team that had earlier visited NGO Colony in Choolaimedu in Chennai, the address given on the ID card, but failed to trace Durai. “We can’t do anything further unless the Union government intervenes at a diplomatic level,” the ‘Q’ branch officer said. The body was handed over to the Trincomallee government hospital by the Lankan navy.

Durai told TOI that he never received the ID card that he had applied for from the Chennai Central Call Taxi Drivers’ Association of which he was a member for nearly two years. Drivers plying taxis at the Chennai central station were controlled by the association or union affiliated to the Labour Progressive Front, the DMK’s trade union wing.

“I don’t know who the man was and how he came to possess my ID card. I know that the association refused to accept new members and perhaps gave my ID card to someone else after I quit,” he said.

Khurram Ahmed, who was the president of the association from 2001 to 2003, said new cards were not issued.

“By the time the cards were issued, internal squabbling had torn apart the association. Even I did not receive the card,” Ahmed said when asked about Boomi Durai’s version of events.

A native of Ambasamudram, Boomi Durai came to Coimbatore in 1991 in search of work after passing class 10. He worked with his brother-in-law for a few years and did several odd jobs in Avarampalayam, Sitco, Kovai Pudur before getting his driver’s license in 1994. He went to Chennai in 1999 and worked for a rice trader for a year before joining the Chennai Central Call Taxi Drivers’ Association. He was president of the association for a year until serious clashes with AIADMK trade union members led to Durai being charged with criminal intimidation and attempt to murder. Fearing threat to his life, he quit the association and joined a private call taxi in Chennai, before leaving for Coimbatore in 2007.

With a private bus service (A1 travels), he drives a bus from Coimbatore to Chennai every day carrying passengers to and fro.

“I was shocked to learn that my ID card was found on a dead man,” he said. He added that the card held no value now as the association does not exist anymore. “I am unable to understand how someone had my card for over 10 years,” he said. (Times of India)