Rattled by hundreds of complaints of alleged swindling by Kolkata based Saradha Group pouring in from the state's Balasore and Puri districts, the Odisha government has asked the crime branch to initiate an investigation into the activities of the group.
The state government convened a high-level meeting on Monday to take stock of the situation even as hundreds of people who invested in Saradha Group held demonstrations in front of the collectors' offices in both the districts.
"We have been keeping a close watch on the developments and trying to find out about the network of the company in the state," said crime branch additional director general BK Sharma, who attended the meeting.
Following the meeting, the state government decided to approach both the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to depute their officials to the state to probe the ponzi fund cases.
The authorities have yet to ascertain the actual volume of investment in the group in Odisha. Sharma said preliminary estimates have revealed the group's business in the state run into a few hundred crores.
In Balasore and Puri, the two major centres of the group, people have invested more than Rs. 50 crore and Rs. 20 crore in Puri districts, an agent who collected investment for the group said. Apart from the two districts, Saradha Group has networks in Bhadrak, Sambalpur and some other districts.
All the centres had closed down a couple of days before the arrest of Saradha Group chief managing director Sudipta Sen from Kashmir on April 23.
An agent in Balasore, who did not want to be identified, said he collected about Rs. 75 lakh from investors for the group. He also deposited about Rs. 25 lakh of his own. "Now everything is gone and I am hounded by investors," he said. Interestingly, the agents were among the first to lodge complaints with the district administration and police.
A major chunk of investors who have deposited the savings of their lives in Saradha Group work in the unorganised sector. "I had deposited Rs. 85,000 for two years and was supposed to get more than Rs. 1 lakh in January, but did not get a single rupee," said Narayan Sahoo, a tea vendor in Puri.
Odisha government had passed an anti-fraud bill, Odisha Protection of Interests of Depositors (in financial establishment) Bill in April 2011 and been awaiting Presidential approval.