The Karuvannur Cooperative Bank, governed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPM], has remained in the spotlight due to a series of disgraceful incidents over the past few years. Depositors are grappling with the inability to access funds for medical treatments, children’s weddings, and daily sustenance. The fallout of the Rs 344 crore fraud plaguing the bank has led to some individuals transcending to the ‘other world,’ where concerns about medicine, wedding expenses, or basic sustenance are non-existent. The Enforcement Directorate [ED] alleges that CPM leaders exerted pressure on the bank to approve illicit loans. In response to the distressing situation, victims are now petitioning for approval of euthanasia.
In a distressing turn of events, a victim, identified as Joshi (53) from Mapranam, Thrissur district, has approached the Kerala High Court and the Chief Minister, pleading for euthanasia if there is no hope of recovering his Rs 90 lakh deposits from the beleaguered Karuvannur Cooperative Bank. Facing a bleak future with no assurances of repayment, Joshi perceives his life to be in dire straits. He attributes his predicament to the alleged disruptive influence of CPM leaders, further diminishing his prospects for survival.
Notably, prominent CPM leaders, including P R Aravindakshan, have been incarcerated in connection with the scam. Aravindakshan, a senior CPM leader and Municipal Councillor from Thrissur district, has been in jail alongside comrades C K Jilse, P Satheeshakumar, and P P Kiran for several months.
In a heartfelt letter, Joshi recounts his arduous journey of undergoing 21 surgeries, including two tumor removals, over the past two decades. Having entrusted his family’s entire savings to the Karuvannur Cooperative Bank, Joshi expresses his deep despair as he faces financial distress with no funds for family expenses, children’s education, or medical treatments. His plea to various authorities has fallen on deaf ears, leaving him without recourse. A former accountant, Joshi’s life took a downturn after a debilitating accident rendered him bedridden for seven and a half years, leading to unemployment and accumulating medical debts. Despite facing these challenges, he managed to pass civil engineering examinations but was subsequently afflicted by a tumor. Joshi, belonging to the assembly constituency represented by R Bindu, CPM leader and Kerala Minister for Higher Education, claims that approaching the minister yielded no response.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has reportedly accused P Rajeev, Industrial Minister and a confidant of CM Pinarayi, of exerting pressure on the Karuvannur Bank to sanction illegal loans. The affidavit submitted by the ED before the High Court is said to disclose that Rajeev compelled the former bank secretary to approve illicit bank loans. During ED’s questioning, former Secretary T R Sunilkumar reportedly implicated Rajeev’s name among others. Rajeev, who served as CPM’s Ernakulam district secretary at the time, is mentioned in ED’s affidavit, along with two other senior leaders. One is A C Moideen, a CPM state committee member and former Cooperative Minister, who faced ED interrogation last year, resulting in the freezing of his bank accounts. Another name cited is Paloli Mohammedkutty, a senior CPM leader, former minister, and ex-Left Democratic Front (LDF) convener.
From the outset, reports indicated that the CPM’s Local Committee and District Committee had pressured the bank for sanctions, with Rajeev’s name figuring among them. The ED’s affidavit reveals the existence of numerous secret bank accounts registered in the name of party committees. Notably, these accounts remain undisclosed in the audited reports of the CPM at the district, state, or national levels, constituting a violation of Election Commission guidelines on political party account declarations.
The ED alleges that the CPM executed transactions amounting to crores of rupees under the guise of party-building funds, area conferences, souvenirs, and party and election funds. In an interesting development, the ED interrogated M K Kannan, a CPM State committee member and Vice President of the CPM-controlled Kerala Bank, which serves as the overarching organisation for local CPM-controlled cooperative banks. Kannan also holds the position of President at the Thrissur District Service Cooperative Bank.
N Bhasurangan, a leader of the Communist Party of India (CPI), the second-largest constituent of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), and the former president of Kandala Cooperative Bank in Thiruvananthapuram, now faces a charge sheet in connection with the Karuvannur model fraud.
Previously, an inquiry by the Cooperative department had uncovered a Rs 101 crore scam in the Kandala Bank, but no significant action followed. However, when the Karuvannur Bank scam gained prominence, the Kandala issue also resurfaced. Following the revelations, Bhasurangan was reportedly interrogated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). His son, Akhiljith, has been taken into custody by the ED, which conducted raids at six locations, including the residences of former bank secretaries. The ED has frozen the bank accounts of Bhasurangan and his family members, including his son Akhiljith.
In essence, the CPI has demonstrated that it is not “inferior” to its ‘big brother,’ the CPM, in malpractices.