Chit Fund muddle in West Bengal
Asim Kumar Mitra
AT last the inevitable has taken place. Chit Fund authorities have shown their ugly face ignoring worries of the millions of the people’s about the security of funds deposited with them. The quick-rich dreams of poor people lie crushed. Hence many depositors and agents (3,000 agents of Saradha Group only) of Chit Fund companies killed themselves in utter desperation. There is no denying the fact that at the outset, it is true that people’s greed is mainly responsible for this unfortunate situation. But then a question may be legitimately asked what about the role of the governments is? Why the mushrooming fraud Chit Funds were allowed to grow and cheat the people?
Even by conservative estimates of the ministry of corporate affairs, the chit fund companies have mobilised over Rs 17,000 crore till date since 2003. This is almost double the money spent on development projects by the state government in the 2012-13 fiscal years.
Most of this deposit was mobilised from rural and semi-urban Bengal involving a few lakh agents. These agents mobilised money in lieu of good commission (in some cases 15-20% of the deposit) which in turn was spent on consumer goods like two-wheelers, mobile phones, food items and electronics or went into life-style spending at shopping malls.
“According to the Keynesian multiplier for Rs 17,000 crore spent on development expenditure, the multiplier effect could have been Rs 68,000 crore, which is 30% of the total debt burden of Bengal,” explained an economist.
May be it is true that poor people have been driven to this greed-field of earning quick money. It was the poor economic condition and government’s policy of reducing interest rates on bank and government securities. In fact, this had helped the unscrupulous chit fund players.
It is now an open secret that the authorities in the government are hands in glove with those culprits who had siphoned out crores of rupees. In this connection one point should be made clear that Saradha is not a chit fund. They have been running their business under the schemes which have similarities with Collective Investment Schemes (CIS), which are valid under SEBI-approved strict guidelines. For CIS, prior approval of SEBI is a must. But in most cases, the Saradha, the companies indulging in mobilisation of public deposits CIS have no SEBI approval. The number of registered chit fund companies throughout the country stands at 4,200. The RTI inquiries have established that there were only one Chit Fund company in West Bengal and its name is Balussery Benefit Chit Fund (P) Ltd.
In West Bengal, there are more than 2500 (exact number of these companies is not known) chit fund companies (strictly speaking there is only one registered Chit Fund Company; all others are CIS companies). Primarily, they are the creation of Left Front government and in the name of controlling them the former Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, apparently took a strong step just to compel some such companies to fund few electronic media groups who are ideologically committed to them. Those companies are still continuing with their word of honour. Mamata Banerjee after assuming power followed the same policy and her government has successfully roped in many big shots in this field and managed manipulated a number of medias to toe their political line. Now, for the ruling party it is very difficult to shirk off the close relationship with the Saradha Group they have been maintaining. Especially when the paintings of Mamata (in this people should know that alongside her political and artistic pursuit, she is a poet, singer, composer of songs, she plays esraj etc.) were purchased by Saradha group and price was Rs 186 lakh. In the same way Mamata’s poetry books have also been purchased by interested parties with lakhs of rupees.
It was obvious that she and her party “big shots” are very close to the chit fund bosses. The Kolkata edition of The Times of India carried a story on April 21, 2013 implicating Kunal Ghosh, TMC Rajya Sabha MP, also Saradha’s former group Media CEO; Satabdi Roy, TMC Lok Sabha MP, also former brand ambassador of Saradha group (though TMC general secretary Mukul Roy denies it), and Madan Mitra, Transport Minister of the state, also president of Saradha Employees Union.
“DIDI’S GAMEPLAN: Pass the blame on Left, stressing Saradha Group got its licence in 2008 during Buddha regime, and Congress Show tough intent—arrest of Saradha Realty director Manoj Kumar Nagel. Mukul Roy says Sen ‘in safe shelter of the CPM and the Congress.
In the meantime, a “mystery letter was surfaced which says Sen believed to have written 50-page letter to CBI. Named TMC and Cong leaders who allegedly took money from him.”
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already installed a CBI enquiry commission to find out the culprits and to return the deposited money to Saradha to the depositors. But the depositors are not very enthusiastic about the outcome of the CBI enquiry report. They are of the opinion that this is only a time killing process to fizzle out the exasperation of the people.
The man behind this game is a past master of fraud operations. Although he has steadfastly denied links with the folded up chit fund, SANCHAYANI, but many believe he is actually Sudeb Sen — son of Sanchayani’s owner Bhudeb Sen and underwent plastic surgery to become Sudipta Sen, the present boss of Saradha Group.
Sudipta Sen, the low profile, reclusive, secretive chief of the Saradha Group, was good at masking his past and personal life. As the cops look for him, there is little information on his background. Known to be street smart and a glib speaker but camera-shy.
Sudipta Sen’s rise was phenomenal and he was soon in control of Saradha Gardens. He joined there as estate manager. One of the owners, Biswanath Adhikari, was shot dead inside complex on January 29, 1999. Sen lodged the murder complaint. Cops shelved case. CID was given probe after a writ petition in the court, 3 contract killers nabbed but no leads on who hired them. The witnesses refuse to testify.
When this shady character is behind the scene, it is anybody’s guess what is going to happen. The only silver lining in this case is this person was arrested from Kashmir at long last.