Thursday, September 18, 2014

TMC RULE IN WEST BENGAL: Sleaze & Terror: A Lethal Cocktail

EDITORIAL, 14th September, 2014

THE multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam that has looted crores of rupees from over 17 lakh poor people in West Bengal has now reached such proportions that it is becoming clearer by the day that the ruling Trinamool Congress party in the state and many of its prominent leaders are involved neck deep in this conspiracy.

For over three years now, the CPI(M) has been actively demanding the intervention of Central investigation agencies to unearth the scam, identify the culprits and to bring them to book in accordance with the law of the land. Under the Left Front government, a letter was sent to the financial regulator, SEBI, asking for a thorough investigation into the scam. Subsequently, after 2011 assembly elections and the change of government, CPI(M) and Left Front delegations have met the president of India twice, prime minister on three occasions and the minister for corporate affairs twice. In all these meetings, the CPI(M) had stressed for an urgent need for central agencies to step in and ensure that the properties of the Saradha group of companies be confiscated and the consequent amounts used to compensate the victims adequately. But the then UPA-II central government pleaded helplessness as the Trinamool Congress state government was not agreeing to a probe by the central agencies. It is now clear why the Trinamool Congress and its government refused such an investigation. It was precisely because it wanted to hush up this scam and, instead of confiscating the properties of the scamsters decided to nominally compensate some of the victims, financing this through the state exchequer. A full scale drama was enacted when the chief minister transported people from all over Bengal, at state government’s expense, to the Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata and handed over cheques for paltry amounts to some of those who were defrauded. The people of Bengal eventually had to pay for the fraud committed by the scamsters. Clearly, the Trinamool Congress and the state government were protecting such scamsters.

Eventually, after three years since 2011, at the intervention of the Supreme Court, the CBI was asked to investigate as the apex court described this scam as having larger dimensions.

A Trinamool Congress member of the Rajya Sabha who once threatened to disclose the entire story of the scam including the involvement of the chief minister was promptly taken into custody by the special investigation team of the state government. He has remained in jail for nearly a year now.

Another TMC Rajya Sabha member, Ahmad Hassan Imran, was interrogated by the ED for his connection with the scam tainted chit fund group. The investigations conducted by the Special Fraud Investigation Organisation (SFIO) has allegedly found the MP linked with over Rs 200 crore hawala transactions. The case has been handed over to the CBI to investigate the possibility of terror links in a neighbouring country.

Various Trinamool Congress leaders, including various ministers in the state cabinet, had been summoned and interrogated. The latest has been the arrest of a former Director General of Armed Police, Rajat Mazumdar, who is currently the vice president of the Trinamool Congress. He had earlier served as DIG and DIG operations in the state.

Media speculation is rampant regarding the chief minister’s involvement in the whole scam. Telegraph (September 10, 2014) reports that the CBI director said that he was aware of the reports of the alleged meeting between the West Bengal chief minister and Saradha Group boss, Sudipto Sen (now arrested and in custody), in Kalimpong in 2012. The CBI chief has reportedly said, “We are proceeding in the right direction and hope to achieve bigger results in short time”. Reports have also appeared that when the West Bengal CM was the union railway minister in 2010, the Saradha Group had bagged a contract with the railways to implement the minister’s pet project, `Bharat Tirtha’ programme.

All these clearly show that the Trinamool Congress is equally guilty of large scale sleaze involving the loot of over 17 lakh poor people in Bengal. It can only be hoped that the CBI, SFIO, ED and other agencies expose the entire scam and bring the guilty to book while adequately arranging for the compensation of the victims.

Such sleaze is in addition to the large-scale attack on democracy through the politics of terror and torture mainly targeting the Left throughout the state by the Trinamool Congress. The unabated violence and sexual crimes against women, extortions, widespread attack on teachers and educational institutions, openly rigging and manipulating the democratic election processes etc have all resulted in the virtual break down of democratic structure and institutions in Bengal.

The CPI(M) and the Left have been consistently braving such attacks with hundreds of its valiant fighters being murdered and thousands rendered homeless. Fearing the possible early resurgence of the Left Front in Bengal, the Trinamool Congress, for some time now, has been indulging in whipping up communal passions hoping to garner the support of the minorities. This has dangerously played into the hands of the RSS/BJP to mount a counter communal offensive in order to consolidate its electoral base and possibly try to make a maiden entry into the Bengal state assembly. Such competitive communalism creates a potentially volatile situation in the state shattering the atmosphere of communal peace and social harmony that had been the hallmark of the over three decade Left Front rule in the state.

This is a real danger that the people of Bengal are being subjected to today. The CPI(M) and the Left are determined to foil all such efforts and work for the restoration of both democracy and secularism while protecting and safeguarding the interests of the vast majority of the people whose gains under the Left Front rule are being constantly and seriously eroded. (September 10, 2014)

Saradha Money Used in 2011 Elections in WEST BENGAL

Kolkata: INVESTIGATIONS into the Saradha Chit Fund scam has exposed that a huge sum from the fraudulent business was spent to ensure the victory of Trinamool Congress in 2011 West Bengal assembly elections. According to media reports quoting investigation agency sources and depositions by some of the accused, at least Rs 130 crores was supplied to the TMC before the elections. It has been also reported that the TMC candidates received a part of this money for spending in the campaign.

2011 assembly elections in the state was a desperate battle to oust the Left Front government. It witnessed widest possible anti-Left unity. Apart from political parties and groups, a section of the intelligentsia participated in the virulent campaign against the CPI(M) and the Left Front. The elections also saw unprecedented use of money power by the forces of the so-called ‘change’.

The CPI(M) had said, even before the elections, that huge sums of money was distributed by the TMC leaders in illegal ways. That this money flow was related to chit funds was also highlighted by the Party.

As the CBI and the ED delved into the money trail of the biggest ever financial scam in the state, the political connection became evident. It has now come into light that crores of rupees were transferred to the TMC coffer in cash. Evil nexus between the TMC and the Saradha group continued and developed after the TMC came into power.

According to media reports quoting SFIO (Serious Fraud Investigation Organisation) investigation report, hundreds of crores of rupees were stashed in foreign accounts through hawala transactions. TMC leaders, including parliamentarians played an active role in these illegal transactions. 

An unprecedented scam of approximately Rs 25,000 crores or may be more than that, has pauperised nearly two million people of not just West Bengal but neighbouring eastern states also. It had shaken the state's politico-economic scenario two years back when the financial institution Saradha group of industries had been liquidated for not paying back the investors’ money. The primary investigation had unearthed direct political association of Trinamool Congress with Saradha group of companies in terms of financial dealings by siphoning off thousands of crores of rupees. Despite protests and demands for CBI enquiry, the state government had refused to hand-over the investigation to the CBI. The Supreme Court however had expressed its displeasure over how the Special Investigation Team (SIT) was functioning.

In May 2014, the Supreme Court transferred all investigations into 44 deposit mobilising companies, including Saradha Group of Companies, suspected of running ponzi schemes in the states of West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Jharkhand and Tripura, to CBI.

Now, as investigation progresses, one after another leader of the  TMC is getting into trouble. The CBI arrested senior TMC leader Rajat Majumdar. He is a former IPS officer who retired as a DG of state armed police and later served as ‘security advisor’ of Saradha, drawing sky-rocketing salary. He is the first TMC leader to be arrested by the CBI in connection with the ponzi scam. Srinjoy Basu, Trinamool MP of Rajya Sabha was summoned and interrogated by the CBI. 

In fact, knocking at chief minister Mamata Banerjee's door is not a distant possibility now. Her name came surfacing in Saradha Ponzi scam in a regular manner, starting from the sale of her painting to IRCTC-Saradha joint scheme during her term in the rail ministry. Her claim of ‘not knowing’ the name of Saradha met a dead-end with that development in the investigation. Her government was against the CBI probe into the scam from the very beginning. Now one can easily make out the intentions that governed such opposition by the government to a CBI enquiry. The opposition parties in West Bengal have claimed that in Delo, North Bengal there was a meeting held with Saradha CMD where the CM herself was present. As the CBI and the ED move forth in the investigations, this claim might come out being a fact. With a number of TMC MPs summoned and held behind the bars, with the lists of names of TMC leaders allegedly connected with the Saradha Ponzi scam including the names of its general secretary Mukul Ray and its MIC Madan Mitra, the name of the TMC supremo might make it to the headlines any day.

But as for now, it can be said that her model of advertising branded with ‘Sototar Protik’ (icon of honesty) has met its doom. People of West Bengal have already branded their CM with ‘Saradhar Protik’ (icon of Saradha). Only time and the intentions of the central government would make it clear if the real fraudsters behind the Saradha Ponzi scam get sentence or not.

That the TMC government was born with the help of fraudulent money has also created the fertile ground for lumpen capital.

The whole state now awaits the CBI and the judiciary to fix the thugs with the charges of forgery and corruption. Till then, the people who have lost their life savings in Saradha Ponzi will keep on joining in protests and rallies organised by the Left. Slogans of rejection will keep on haunting the CM and her fraud agency called the Trinamool Congress until and after justice is delivered.