The arrest of Saradha Group chairman and managing director Sudipta Sen, along with two accomplices, has offered a faint glimmer of hope to the beleaguered company’s agents and investors, although doubts remain over the return of their money.
A mob of mostly women depositors and agents take out an anti-Saradha procession in Siliguri, one of hundreds of similar demonstrations seen across Bengal over the past few days.
Most of the agents have been forced out of their homes and into hiding for the last six days since the company went bust, because they have been besieged by distraught investors demanding the return of their funds.
“What remains to be seen is how much money can actually be recovered from Sen. The banks have already taken possession of Global Automobiles in Hooghly district for defaulting on loans. We fear that many such properties will also be seized by banks and the total money might never be recovered at all,” Falta agent Sujata Maity told Hindustan Times.
The agents also fear that the arrest was made under pressure and that Trinamool leaders were aware of Sen’s whereabouts all the while.
“The nexus between Sen and ruling party leaders is very clear. The arrest has actually been made to make the Trinamool’s position stronger in the wake of the public outburst and backlash the party has received over the chit fund issue. But since Sen has been arrested at last, we hope at least some amount is recovered to cool the frayed tempers of the people,” Kolaghat agent Johny Mullick said.
The agents are not willing to take any chances, given that they believe the ruling dispensation will do all in its power to protect its own leaders who have been tainted by their association with Saradha.
“Our agitation will continue until we receive the money in hand. We need to apply constant pressure on the government, else matters will cool off,” Behala resident Gautam Sadhukhan said.
Adding to the fear is the chief minister’s by now infamous comment at the Writers’ Buildings on Tuesday.
“Jaa geche taa geche. Ektu dhairjo dhore shanto thakun (What is lost cannot be recovered. Be patient and keep calm),” Mamata Banerjee had said, putting herself immediately at odds with all those who still held on to the hope that their money had not yet been lost.
Many had invested their life savings in Saradha schemes, assured by the perceived proximity between the company’s honcho and the ruling party. Lakhs of families across the state and beyond are facing an uncertain future, one made all the more palpable by the chief minister’s statement.
And Sen’s arrest on Tuesday evening has done little to soothe their frayed nerves.
“How can the manabik (humane) chief minister be so insensitive? The government should have sensed something was wrong since Saradha promised higher returns than normal banks. Instead, they went on patronising the company. After all, why should Mamata be bothered? She did not invest her sweat and blood into this,” agent Sujata Maity said.
Saradha agents demanded that the government seize the company’s properties and refund depositors, since they feel this is the only way they can return to their homes safely.
“No one knows where the money siphoned off by Sen has actually landed. If it’s stashed in a different country, we’re unsure whether the money can be recovered at all. It isn’t possible for Sen to carry the whole amount in cash with him. If he has already spent some amount or has invested elsewhere or passed off a certain percentage to the administration, a refund is highly impossible,” Mullick added.