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Thursday, Oct 24, 2019

Mamata Banerjee’s 6-year rule riddled with Saradha, Narada, Rose Valley scams

CBI probe into Saradha and Rose Valley scams has already embarrassed the Trinamool Congress, along with arrest of its senior leaders

india Updated: Mar 18, 2017 11:47 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Assembly in Kolkata on the budget day on Friday.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Assembly in Kolkata on the budget day on Friday. (PTI Photo)

The handing over of probe into the Narada sting operation scandal to the Central Bureau of Investigation is the third big blow to chief minister Mamata Banerjee in the past three years.

In May 2014, the Supreme Court directed the central agency to investigate Saradha chit fund scam that duped millions of depositors spread across states spanning from Odisha and Jharkhand to Assam and Tripura.

Saradha sank in April 2013 and its chairman Sudipta Sen and executive editor Debjani Mukherjee were arrested from Kashmir. Agitations and a spate of suicides gripped the streets of Kolkata and suburbs and villages of Bengal as dozens of agents and depositors who lost their money ended their lives.

The ruling party of Bengal was not hit any less hard. Though it did not showed in the election results -- 2013 rural polls, 2014 Lok Sabha and 2016 Assembly elections -- the CBI investigation resulted in the arrest of a few prominent party leaders and interrogation of several others.

The most important face to suffer the Saradha blow was Madan Mitra, sports and transport minister and a confidante of chief minister Mamata Banerjee who was arrested on December 12, 2014. He eventually got bail on September 10, 2016 after spending 21 months behind the bars.

Other party functionaries to be jailed were Rajya Sabha MP Srinjoy Bose and vice-president Rajat Majumdar. High profile leaders who were subjected to grilling included party number two Mukul Roy. After the grilling on January 31, 2015, Roy’s relations with Mamata Banerjee suffered.

The second wave of CBI probe into the chit fund scam involving Rose Valley Group has also cost Mamata Banerjee’s party dear. The party’s leader in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandyopadhyay was arrested on January 4 this year and fellow MP Tapas Paul was arrested on December 30 last year. Both are behind bars.

It is speculated that a few more leaders may be summoned by the central agency for interrogation in the Rose Valley scam.

Worse, the list is by no means over. Just a couple of days ago, CBI arrested Basudeb Bagchi and Avik Bagchi, father-son duo of Prayag Group who are behind a film city on 12,500 acre in Chandrakona in West Midnapore district. It is rumoured that ruling party leaders may be under the scanner even in this case.

While Saradha sunk about Rs 2,500 crore, Rose Valley involved about Rs 17,000 crore, or six times the amount of Saradha.

Bengal’s scam woes
The handing over of probe into the Narada sting operation to CBI is another blow to Mamata Banerjee in the past three years. Here are some of the other scams
A major financial scam by Saradha Group, a consortium of over 200 private companies. The group collected around Rs 2,500 crore from over 1.7 million depositors before it collapsed.
DEC 12, 2014: Madan Mitra, sports and transport minister, arrested
JAN 31, 2015: RS MP Srinjoy Bose and TMC vice-president Rajat Majumdar quizzed
SEPT 10, 2016: Mitra granted bail after 21 months in jail.
The West Bengal-based hospitality-to-real estate group Rose Valley cheated investors of Rs 17,000 crore. Most of the investors who were promised exaggerated returns belonged to low-incom ome group, in at least 10 states, including West Bengal, Odisha and AP. The little-known Rose Valley group is the biggest player in the scandal.

The cash received by Trinamool leaders in Narada videos -- about Rs 5 lakh each -- may be a small fraction of that raised by these deposit-raising companies, but it is worse on two counts. It has allowed the people to see leaders accepting cash on TV -- a shock that Saradha and Rose Valley could not deliver. Two, the number of faces involved are far more than in the chit fund cases.

Last year, another major controversy hit the Mamata Banerjee government was the collapse of the under-construction Vivekananda Road flyover in north Kolkata that killed 27 people on March 31, 2016. It was alleged that Trinamool leaders of the area supplied substandard building materials that were used in the construction.

However, Kolkata Police investigated the case and filed the charge sheet in end June 2016 in which 10 engineers and officials of construction firm IVRCL were charged with criminal sections. IPC?sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) were slapped against them.

First Published: Mar 18, 2017 08:24 IST

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