Bruce Loudon, South Asia correspondent
HE is an alumnus of one of the subcontinent's most prestigious and expensive schools, Bishop Cotton at Bangalore, which dates back more than 100 years to the days of the British Raj and has as its motto the noble injunction "Overcome Evil with Good".
Today, however, there are only evil in perceptions of Moninder Singh Pandher, the millionaire New Delhi businessman at the centre of what is emerging as oneof the world's most horrendous cases of sexual depravity and pedophile serial killing.
The Indian media has dubbed him the Butcher of Noida -- in articles accompanied by Class of '73 pictures of a neatly dressed and turbaned Bishop Cotton student, known to his mates as Goldy.
He is accused with his manservant, Surendra Kohli, of as many as 40 cases of kidnapping young children, mainly little girls, raping and abusing them -- in some instances after they had died -- strangling them and then cutting up their bodies before disposing of the remains in a drain outside his house at Noida, on Delhi's outskirts.
Forensic experts said yesterday the bodies had been sliced precisely and systematically, as detailed in an autopsy report on the remains of 17 corpses dug out of the drain. The report said 11 of the victims were young girls.
"Post-mortem tests reveal the bodies were cut with butcher-like precision," said surgeon Vinod Kumar. "Whoever did it, they cut through the bones very systematically."
The case has exposed the dark underbelly of life in the teeming Indian capital, even as the country races towards record economic growth and projected superpower status.
Noida is not out in the sticks. It is one of Delhi's fastest-growing satellites, a place that is attracting much of the call-centre and IT investment pouring into the country, and the proposed site of what it is claimed will be the world's tallest building.
But the reality is that as Pandher and Kohli allegedly went about the gruesome business of raping and murdering dozens of small children and at least one woman over one or two years, the pleas of parents whose children had gone missing were treated with contempt by the police.
The parents say they went to police dozens of times, and the first missing-person reports were lodged in 2005.
But the police did nothing. For these were children of a lesser god -- the children of dirt-poor people with neither money nor influence, humble and impoverished migrants from rural areas of India, rickshaw pullers, street sweepers and labourers.
They are the people whose awful lot in life this week was to stand and watch as investigators dug up the fetid drain outside Pandher's house of horrors, uncovering cheap rubber sandals, little polka-dotted blouses, a faded blue shirt, plastic trinkets, even pieces of cloth from which they could identify their children as victims of the Butcher of Noida.
The parents believe that had the police acted on the first complaints, many lives could have been saved.
Reacting to the growing public anger, authorities in Uttar Pradesh yesterday sacked six of the local police and suspended three others.
Sunil Biswas, a rickshaw puller from West Bengal, who tried to file a complaint about his 10-year-old daughter Pushpa, who went missing from the local school in April last year, said: "Policemen were reluctant to take the complaint and also misbehaved with me and my wife and showered abuses on us.
"They told us: 'Why do you produce children if you cannot take care ofthem?"'
The impoverished world of Mr Biswas and his fellow mourners is light years away from Goldy Pandher's life of money, flash cars, power and influence -- a life in which he hunted tigers and leopards and collected fine spirits, boasting a well-stocked bar that included Goldschlager liqueur with flecks of real gold floating in it.
Pandher, now in his late 50s, grew up in an affluent family and built a fortune running a trucking company. According to reports yesterday. he has friends in high places and is well-known to a number of leading Punjabi politicians in India's dominant Congress party.
He is the sort of person who, in India in 2007, can get away with murder.
Friends spoke yesterday of "a highly intelligent man with a good sense of humour". Deepak Kumar Thakur, a lawyer who was at school with him, declared: "I have known Pandher since 1964 when we were in class. I have no reason to believe he could be involved in such a crime, until the court proves him guilty."
However, the police have no such reservations. They have charged Pandher and Kohli with offences ranging from kidnapping to rape and murder.
Only the number of offences is in doubt, according to police, with the search for human remains continuing. Parents say at least 38 children have gone missing in the area.
Both men are under interrogation, the police say. Kohli has reportedly admitted enticing the children into the house, using lollies as bait.
All the children were strangled. Their bodies were dismembered with a saw, and the remains dumped in the drain. Extraordinarily, the smell of decaying human flesh in the drain caused no suspicion. But that probably says as much as anything about what is taken for normal on some of India's streets.
Kohli admits his complicity, according to police, but says he was only obeying his master's orders. Under interrogation, Pandher gives little away. But investigators are sure of their case.
What remains a mystery, however, is just what led Pandher to face the allegations now made against him. According to reports, he has been living separately from his wife, but is a devoted father to an only son who has been studying in Canada.
Some friends talk of him going off the rails after a few drinks. Of dark moods. Of a penchant for prostitutes. But most find the odyssey from bright and shiny pupil at Bishop Cotton to accused serial killer hard to comprehend.
India is a country where, according to the National Human Rights Commission, more than 45,000 children go missing every year, and where the tragic helplessness of the Noida parents in the face of cruel police inaction is replicated many times over.
Too often, neglect such as that seen in the case of the Butcher of Noida proves the antithesis of the Bishop Cotton motto, and evil triumphs over good.