With over 8.5 lakh complaints submitted to the Shyamal Sen Commission so far, the panel faces the daunting task of sorting out applications and figuring out a redressal procedure that would satisfy aggrieved agents and depositors of the Saradha Group. The number is only expected to rise by leaps and bounds as complaints would be accepted till June 29.
Since Saradha went bust in midApril, lakhs of agents and depositors erupted in protest, blocking roads and railway lines and attacking offices and houses of the company along with its officials across the state. The Saradha meltdown affected other chit funds, too, with 18 deaths being reported in the aftermath of the company going bust.
The Mamata Banerjee government is clearly on the backfoot, especially after names of a number of her party leaders surfaced in the scam. It announced a four-man commission headed by retired justice Shyamal Sen to register complaints of the affected and figure out a way ahead.
The commission, which also includes economist Amlan Basu, retired IPS officers Jogesh Chatterjee and Mihir Bhattacharya, started registering complaints from April 26. It would submit its report within six months.
Mamata’s announcement of a Rs 500- crore relief fund for the affected and her decision to provide compensation starting from the poorest among them has only complicated matters for the commission. Such measures could run into a legal wrangle as questions have been raised whether the state can provide compensation to those who have invested in companies that do not have clearance from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) or the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
What remains to be seen is whether the commission would also summon political figures whose names have cropped up in the scam. Most agents and depositors claim that the presence of ministers and other MLAs and MPs of the ruling party in Saradha programmes boosted their confidence to invest in the company. Not only that, Trinamool MP Kunal Ghosh was also the chief executive officer of Saradha.
The opposition has been vociferously demanding a CBI probe into the scam to unearth the ‘nexus’ between Saradha owner Sudipta Sen and ruling party leaders. Even Sen, in a letter to the CBI, revealed that he had to pay lumpsum amounts to political leaders, bureaucrats and journalists to keep the business afloat.
The commission, in its report, is supposed to identify key people who triggered the crisis, probe the modus operandi and assess the assets and liabilities of the Saradha Group. A major challenge for the commission would be to identify if at all Trinamool leaders or influential bureaucrats are involved in the scam.
If the commission fails to come up with names, there is always a chance that the opposition would label the whole exercise as a mere eyewash.