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The investigation into the multi-billion rupee Saradha chit fund scam has taken a new twist with the discovery of the group’s business links with the Indian railways at a time when the ministry was under Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.
CBI officers have stumbled upon information that Saradha Tours and Travels were made official partners of the IRCTC in the railways’ package tour of South India, under the Bharat Teertha scheme introduced by then railway minister Mamata Banerjee in her 2010-11 budget.
Sources said the firm, established in 2007, conducted three 14 night/15 day tours. “It is surprising how Saradha could bag such a contract without any strings being pulled,” said a sleuth.
The junior railway minister, however, preferred not to comment on the matter. “CBI is probing it. I’m sure none of the culprits would be spared,” Manoj Sinha, minister of state for railways, said on Monday in Kolkata.
This revelation may trigger a fresh round of controversy as the Saradha chief Sudipta Sen’s bonhomie with the TMC has been a subject of a political blame game in Bengal over the last two years.
Former state railways minister Adhir Chowdhury said the matter did not come to light during his stint at the ministry. “CBI should probe the matter in detail and grill Banerjee if necessary. No one can rule out her tendencies to favour the Saradha group,” he said.
“TMC’s links with the Saradha group is not new. I hope the truth about the scam will come out in the probe and people find out who benefited from the scam,” said Babul Supriyo, singer-turned-BJP MP.
The Saradha scam investigation has been virtually knocking at the TMC’s door for some time — especially with the grilling of Bapi Karim, former confidential assistant of transport minister Madan Mitra, and former top cop Rajat Majumdar, who had acted as TMC’s ‘observer’ for Birbhum during the Lok Sabha elections.
Mitra has already lashed out at the CBI for conducting the probe in a politically vindictive manner. Banerjee, too, has hinted at a possible conspiracy by the CBI and ‘its political masters’ to malign the Trinamool Congress.