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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

No response to state directive on chit funds

Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, February 23, 2013
First Published: 15:35 IST(23/2/2013) | Last Updated: 15:38 IST(23/2/2013)

While a month has passed since the state finance department ordered district magistrates to file detailed reports on the activities of the chit funds in their respective districts, not a single report has arrived in the office of the department.

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There’s already a buzz on whether the order passed last month was just an eye wash in the face of criticisms from all quarters about the state government’s “unwillingness” to control the menace of dubious chit funds operating under the garb of multi- level marketing (MLM) companies.

Finance minister Amit Mitra claimed ignorance on the matter, thereby adding more grist to speculations.

In response to a question on the progress or the lack of it on the chit fund front on February 21, 2013, the minister threw a counter question at this correspondent-”Can you show a copy of the order signed by me?”

Quizzed on whether the government is serious about pursuing this matter to its logical end, Mitra said, “It’s close to evening, so better go home. How much you may try, you can’t get an answer from me.”

Confirming that not a single report on the shady chit funds has reached the finance department, sources said the order sent out had been ambiguous in as much as it didn’t clearly specify what the district magistrates were supposed to report.

“The order also didn’t have any reference to a deadline by the district magistrates were to send in their reports,” a finance department official said.

From the time the finance department asked district magistrates to file detailed reports on chit funds operating in their respective areas, there had been questions on the very authenticity of these reports.

The doubts stemmed from the fact that when Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), the investigation arm of the Union ministry of corporate affairs, started a probe against chit fund concerns in October-end, there was little or no cooperation from the state administration in terms of gathering information on these shady operators.

The state government had then pleaded the lack of requisite expertise and infrastructure. What followed was a barrage of criticism against the Trinamool Congress government.

During a visit to the city on December 7, RBI governor D Subbarao said it was the primary task of the state government to keep a tab on chit funds. On December 17, Union minister Sachin Pilot said the state government should cooperate with the central agencies in curbing the chit fund menace.

Taking note of the raging voices of protest across the state, the state finance department had then issued the directive to district magistrates to report on chit fund operators.


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