Intro: A deceptive company cheated millions of middle class families by promising unbelievable returns against the deposits and named it on Maa Saradha, a nineteenth century highly respected spiritual lady.
Suddenly appalling news broke from Guwahati on Vishwakarma Puja with the suicide of a former high-placed cop. In fact, Saradha scam took its first high-profile toll in Assam on September 17 with the self-killing of a former Assam police chief as his name was included in the suspected beneficiaries of the financial tricks. Shankar Barua, the retired director general of Assam Police was found unconscious at his residence in Ujanbazar locality of Guwahati following his attempt to kill himself with his licenced 0.32 calibre revolver. A 1974 batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, Barua retired as the Deputy General of Police (DGP) of Assam and it was alleged that he took money from the group during his tenure (July 28, 2009 to December 31, 2012) as the State police chief.
According to the family sources, the soft-spoken gentleman, who had deep interest in music and adventure sports, was under tremendous stress and uneasiness after his residence was raided by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials on August 28. The uninterrupted coverage showing his visuals by the local news channels also added to his discomfort.
Belonged to a high-status accomplished family of Guwahati and the son of late Bhabani Barua, a former Assam Inspector-General of Police, Barua had a simple life style. Assam Chief Minister Gogoi mourned and visited the bereaved family.
As the news poured in various media outlets, the CBI was under pressure to issue a statement declaring that the agency did not examine or summon Barua. The agency even condoled over the death of Barua terming it as ‘a sad and unfortunate incident’. Besides Barua’s home, the CBI team carried out raids in the residences of Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, a former Assam Health and Education Minister in Tarun Gogoi’s Cabinet. Similar raid was conducted in the office of News Live, a Guwahati based satellite news channel, which is owned by the family of Legislator Sarma. The residence of Sadananda Gogoi, a popular Assamese singer also faced the CBI raid and later he was called to Kolkata for interrogations. The CBI suspects that Sadananda was the person who introduced Saradha Group chief Sudipta Sen to the then powerful minister Sarma and DGP Barua. Finally Sadananda was arrested by the CBI in Kolkata on September 12 and it was the first arrest from Assam in the 3,500 crore rupees scam.
Two more Guwahati based satellite news channels namely Focus NE (owned by former Union minister Matang Singh) and now defunct Frontier TV (owned by Singh’s wife Manoranjana Singh) were also raided by the CBI officials. Anjan Dutta, another Congress leader and a former State Minister owned a printing press (also owned an Assamese daily), where two Guwahati based newspapers namely The Seven Sisters’ Post and Sakalbela, published by the Saradha group, were printed. There was reportedly a deal between Sen and Dutta for handing over the ownership of the press to the Kolkata based Saradha Group, but the deal was not materialised.
The huge Saradha financial scam broke to the media in the early part of 2013 as its offices in various parts of the region started closing down their operations where thousands of beneficiaries were eagerly waiting for their ‘high returns’ against their investments. Meanwhile, an arrest warrant was issued against Saradha’s chairman cum managing director on April 18 and finally Sen was arrested on April 23 from Sonmarg in Jammu & Kashmir with his two close associates. It is amazing that Sen was a man of ultra-left Naxalite movement who ‘reincarnated’ as a business tycoon to spread the message of multi-level marketing where the investors are assured of very high dividends.
Sen propagated his group of companies with the nomenclature of Holy Mother Saradha, the devoted wife of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, a nineteenth century saint of India. A devotee of Goddess Kali, Paramhansa had his primary disciple in Swami Vivekananda, who electrified the audiences of Chicago World Parliament in 1893.
However, Gogoi denied his involvement in the scam and declared that he was the first Chief Minister to approach the CBI for probing into the activities of ‘chit fund companies’ operating in Assam as well as in West Bengal, Odisha and Tripura.
— NJ Thakuria from Guwahati