West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who has sought to blame the Centre for the financial scam, has claimed that the central government reduced the rate of interest in small savings to drive depositors towards Ponzi schemes.
"It is because the Centre has reduced the interest rates in small savings in the post office, poor people and those who have retired keep their money in these chit funds with the hope of getting a little higher interest," the chief minister said in an article in the latest issue of the weekly Ma, Mati Manush.
"Not only the Centre has reduced interest, it has also reduced the commission for agents of small savings in post office. This is also a contributory factor behind the thriving of chitfunds," Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress supremo, said.
In a directive to her partymen, she said, the people have to be convinced that the alleged Ponzi schemes by the Saradha Group thrived because of the indulgence of the Congress and the CPI(M).
"It has to be remembered that there is bound to be grievances if the hard-earned money of the people is defrauded. But the people have to be convinced that the Congress and CPI(M) are behind those who are engaged in this fraud. A campaign has to be taken to the people that the Ma, Mati, Manush government is in no way responsible for it." Banerjee said.
"I am asking all our party MPs, MLAs, ministers, workers and supporters that a campaign has to be launched to convince the people that chit funds have mushroomed due to encouragement of the CPI(M) and the Congress and there should not be any laxity in this regard," she said.
"Howsoever the CPI(M) and Congress shout over the issue, the people will understand in coming days whose encouragement was behind the chitfunds and what steps our government has taken to crack down on them," Banerjee said.
She said that under the present laws, the Centre issued license for operating Ponzi schemes, a power which the state did not have.
"The owner of the chit fund named Saradha fled leaving in the lurch lakhs of investors and agents. Our police have arrested him and two of his accomplices from Kashmir on April 23. It is a credit to our police force. I praise them for this," she said.
She said as soon as the state government came to know of the scam it took steps to protect the interest of investors and agents and also set up a high power commission of inquiry under Justice (retd) Shyamal Sen.
Banerjee, however, cautioned, "I would like to state that if anyone is found involved in any chit fund scandal, the party will punish him and the government will not hesitate to take legal action against him, however a big shot he might be."
She also dwelt on the financial crisis of the state government and "deprivation" by the Centre.
"All know how the Central government has given Rs. 12,000 crore to Bihar as special grant. But despite our telling them repeatedly, the Centre has not heeded to our request for a three-year moratorium.
"We knew that they will not cooperate since we are opposing the policies of Delhi which are ruining the people. People are now realising this. We are trying to raise our resources to fund development projects. We have increased our revenue by 35% in 2012-13 over 2011-12".