May 10, 2013

The chit fund, media, Trinamool tangle in West Bengal

Reported by Alok Pandey, Edited by Sindhu Manjesh |
NDTV, Updated: May 01, 2013 22:15 IST
Kolkata: The Saradha Group that collapsed last month controlled many television channels and newspapers in West Bengal. So do some other companies that have been accused of running Saradha-like get-rich-quick schemes.

Over the last two years, Mamata Banerjee's political opponents have alleged that the ruling Trinamool Congress that she heads has tried to control the media in the state, particularly through the publications and channels owned by such companies.

Senior journalist Manas Ghosh of The Statesman says that the editorial stance of these media groups is very pro-Mamata Banerjee. "When Mamata came to power, I told her, 'What is this?' She said to me 'these people are all cheats'. Yet, a few days later, I started seeing government advertisements with prominent photos of Mamata in these papers and TV channels," he said.

At inquiry into Saradha's chit-fund scam, stories of loss and despair In March last year, Mamata Banerjee controversially banned several leading newspapers from public libraries in the state and listed eight newspapers they could subscribe to. Two of them were Saradha group publications and one published by the Rose Valley Group, which is being investigated by market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India.

Also last year, Ms Banerjee picked four journalists to be Rajya Sabha MPs from her party, provoking more allegations that she was trying to control the media in the state.

One of these MPs was Kunal Ghosh, who headed the Saradha Group's media wing and who is now in trouble because of that association. Two FIRs have been filed against him by Saradha's media employees, who allege he knew of the group's precarious finances, but did not warn them.

Mr Ghosh has promised to quit his Rajya Sabha seat "if any probe reveals that I have taken advantage of the chit fund business".

The Saradha Group had four TV channels and about 10 newspapers, all of which have shut down. The Rose Valley Group owns nine satellite television channels, including news channels and also a newspaper.

Other groups against whom the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has received complaints - like the Chakra Group, the Tower Group, and the Rahul Group - also own media publications or channels.

Story first published: May 01, 2013 19:42 IST 

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