West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced a high-level inquiry and also a SIT probe into the collapse of chit fund company Saradha Group that has left thousands of investors in the lurch even as she sought to blame the Centre for the fiasco.
A PIL was, meanwhile, filed in the Calcutta High Court seeking a CBI probe into the chit fund scam. It also demanded the arrest of Trinamool Congress-nominated Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh, who is Saradha Media's executive chairman, alleging complicity in the matter.
Breaking her silence over the Saradha scam which has cost at least one life after a 50-year-old woman set herself on fire, Banerjee said after a high-level meeting on the subject that a SIT under the DGP would be formed and that retired Calcutta High Court judge Justice (retd) Shyamal Kumar Sen will head the four-member Commission of Inquiry.
The chief minister also said that a draft for promulgating an Ordinance to give more teeth for regulation of operations of chit fund companies was ready.
Stating that strong laws were needed to curb the illegal activities of chit funds, Banerjee said since their operations were governed by central laws and not by the state government, "the onus lies with the central government."
Expressing concern over the Saradha episode, the Trinamool supremo said "for quite a few years, some chit funds were deceiving poor investors promising high returns. This has been continuing since the '80s in this state."
Banerjee said she had telephonically requested President Pranab Mukherjee, who inquired about her health yesterday, to see that the bill passed by previous Left government seeking to restrict chit fund operations, was returned to enable the state government to incorporate more stringent provisions to deal with such illegal activities.
"If the bill forwarded by the Left Front government to the Centre in 2009, is returned within 24 hours, then our government will immediately promulgate the ordinance to that effect," the chief minister said.
"Laws that the Left Front government had proposed, had some flaws in it and the chitfund business mushroomed during the Left regime," she alleged.
CPI(M), on its part, accused the Trinamool government of supporting chit fund companies, saying the Left parties had been warning the Centre for the past few years that these firms were "looting" poor people in the state.
In the High Court, Advocate Basabi Roy Chowdhury filed the PIL praying for a CBI probe to bring to book all involved in the alleged scam. Her counsel Subroto Mukhopadhyay said the petitioner also prayed for the arrest of Kunal Ghosh.