Just a couple of years ago, it was an unqualified boom. Various ‘groups of companies’ sprung up in various corners of Bengal producing, or claiming to produce, just about everything under the sun — from cement to edible oil, newspapers to TV channels, apartments to resorts and motorcycles. However, on Thursday, the CID of the state police swooped down on I-Core group owner Anukul Maiti — making him the fourth promoter of the bigger chit funds operating in the state to land up behind bars. The development also marks, what one may call, the completion of an unqualified bust of that boom of two years ago.
The deputy inspector generalal (DIG) of CID estimates that deposits garnered by I-Core are worthh around Rs. 3,000 crore. If the figure is correct, it is clear that the cumulative deposits of the big four — Rose Valley, Saradha, I-Core andd MPS groups — run in excess of Rs. 20,000 crore. And, even this figure seems like peanuts when seen as part of the bigger picture.
Although the chit fund menace troubled several states, mostly in the eastern part of the country, Bengal accountedacco for an overwhelming number of these funds. According to a list submitted in Parliament by Congress MP Sachin Pilot, 73 of the 87 major chit funds were functioning in Bengal.
Estimates of the Union corporate affairs ministry reveal that public deposits mopped up in Bengal is to the tune of Rs. 75,000 crore, which is almost 27% of Bengal’s total debt of Rs. 2.74 lakh crore as on March 31, 2015. The actual figure, sources say, is much higher because the figure of Rs. 75,000 crore has been calculated on the basis of wired or cheque transactions or receipts.
“It’s impossible to calculate the actual figure… lot of transactions happen in cash,” an associate of the ministry, who was a part of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) team probing the chit fund scam nationally, told HT.
“There is a joke doing the rounds in government circles that says Bengal tops the list of states in the chit fund industry,” a police officer connected with the Saradha investigation quipped.
It’s an all too familiar story. One person orchestrates efforts to raise money from unsuspecting people, promising unsustainable returns, often showcasing false projects, use depositors’ money to lead a luxurious lifestyle and keep the machinery of fraud functioning till the entire system collapses.
Maiti did the same, so did Sen, and Kundu was famous for his pompous and lavish lifestyle! There were, and perhaps are, many more like them. But the losers were, always, the gullible masses.