Minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha confirmed on Wednesday that Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sleuths had collected the relevant documents related to Kolkata-based Saradha Group’s deal with the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), provoking his predecessor Adheer Ranjan Chowdhury to demand a “thorough probe” into major decisions taken by Mamata Banerjee in her capacity as the railways minister.
“Now that the CBI has collected the documents from both the Rail Bhawan and the IRCTC, the agency should conduct its investigations without fear or favor”, Sinha told HT.
In a telephonic conversation from Baharampur, Chowdhury – a former MoS Railways – demanded a probe by the premier investigating agency into the entire gamut of the “biggest ever scam” involving tariff in the movement of iron ore the Kolkata-based South Eastern Railways.
The railways relaxed tariff rates for iron ore exports at the “port serving stations” within days of Banerjee’s assumption of office as railways minister in May 2009. The decision is alleged to have permitted certain private companies to move freight at domestic rates instead of paying the higher export tariff – bringing them windfall benefits.
The case was referred for CBI probe in 2011.
“The CBI must broaden the scope of its investigations in the case by examining related and more substantial aspects relating to the fraud. Rules were bent and – with an eye on pecuniary gains – established procedures were tinkered with during the stewardship of Banerjee and her nominees as railways ministers," Chowdhury told HT.
Opposition parties in Bengal allege that 2010 business deal of IRCTC and the Saradha Tours and Travels – owned by the jailed ponzi kingpin Sudipto Sen – establishes the controversial company’s link with Banerjee much before the chit fund scam came to light.
The deal – involving the IRCTC, Railways and the Saradha Travels - pertains to a 14 nights/15 days special tourist train package in South India - titled the “Bharat Tirath”.