The extent of collusion between the Saradha group and important functionaries of the Trinamool Congress (TC) can be gauged only after the CBI completes its investigation. But the conduct of Chandrima Bhattacharya, a minister in the West Bengal government, has been such that it can reinforce the suspicion that a large swathe of the TC’s leadership was within close distance of the sharp practice that was going on in the state even before the party came to power. She has complained about the “fishing and roving” probe by the CBI. Already a Trinamool MP has been questioned in the matter and another is likely to be. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who has to protect her reputation of being honest and that depends on her emerging clean out of this mess, too has made statements that do not make clear her stand on this. First she said she had nothing against a probe, which the Supreme Court had ordered. Then she herself accused the CBI of trying to shield the “real guilty”. While it is true that the investigation done by the state police had reached the door of a Rajya Sabha MP, Kunal Ghosh, who is now behind bars, their competence in carrying out a thorough probe of this put-up job can be questioned. It is also unwise to read much into people’s statements. Ghosh, who is now implicating Ms Banerjee in Saradha scam, had defended her in the early stages of investigation while putting the blaming on some other ministers in her government.
The lesson to be learnt from this is that our lawmakers and ministers should immediately stop casting aspersion on the CBI, at least in public. If this goes on, it is bound to affect the CBI’s morale in probing wrongdoing. Regardless of the extent of truth in the CBI chief having met at his residence people he is supposed to investigate, one thing is clear: There is a wide degree of political involvement in it. Just as society expects fairness from the CBI, the agency, on its part, has the right to expect not to be commented on adversely whenever any party or politician is in trouble. This is something all parties should agree on. Whether one likes it or not, it is ultimately the CBI that has to do the probe.
The case for tighter supervision by the Reserve Bank of India and Sebi has often been made. It is also well known that the business of deposit mobilisation at micro level, like real estate, is a weakly regulated area. However, Sebi has swung into action recently by asking PACL Ltd to return Rs 49,000 crore to investors, who had been promised plots of land. But Sebi needs more powers and manpower to crack down on such investment schemes, and that is the need of the hour.