October 16, 2013

PM's help sought on Saradha solatium

TNN Oct 8, 2013, 04.12AM IST

NEW DELHI: CPM leaders Sitaram Yechury and Surjya Kanta Mishra have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention so that payment is made to victims of Saradha scam who lost their deposits. They have also demanded Supreme Court-monitored CBI probe into the scam.
Left leaders have suggested that prompt payment be made promptly by attaching the properties of Saradha Group in accordance with law and order as also directed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India ( Sebi) in April. They pointed out the solution is not giving grant through the Commission as is being done by the state government. "This process should start immediately with focus on attachment and disposal of properties, along with punishment for the offending group," the duo wrote to PM. Yechury and Mishra also met corporate affairs minister Sachin Pilot on Monday.
Talking to journalists, Yechury said, "The loss of time in attaching their properties is permitting these companies to clandestinely transfer their assets. We feel there is a complicity of the state government in blocking investigations and not attaching the properties." He said investors' money should be refunded through an auction of the assets of these companies. "To dole out some money out of its coffers to some of the lakhs of small investors who have invested their life's savings, is illegal," he added.
Yechury pointed out that the total fraud by the chit fund companies amounts to Rs 1 lakh crore out of which Rs 30,000 crore is by Saradha alone. "State government has created a fund of Rs 500 crore to pay investors. But it is less than 1% of the total value of scam," he said.
The letter to the PM also said that in the light of allegations made by one sitting Rajya Sabha member of Trinamool Congress against a senior party leader of having financial relations with Saradha Group, there is a need for immediate CBI inquiry. Yechury asked, "Why is he just threatening? He should give out the names. He should also cooperate with the SFIO (Serious Fraud Investigation Office) probe. He should have the courage to do that."
As to what action the erstwhile Left Front government had taken against such frauds, Mishra said it had not only attached the properties of such firms and compensated the victims, but also moved a PIL in the Calcutta high court. "After that, we also got a unanimous resolution adopted in the state Assembly. Even if the relevant legislation of the state government is pending, why are they not going by the high court verdict and attaching the properties of these fraudulent companies?" Mishra asked.

Mamata woos duped Saradha investors with money, feast

KOLKATA: Hilsa head and shrimp with vegetables, rohu kalia, potato stir fry, raj bhog (big size sponje rosogollas). No, this is not a lip-smacking menu of any famed Bengali food joint, but part of the repast laid out by the  government for those who lost their money when the chit fund aided Saradha Group downed shutters earlier this year.
The venue: Kshudiram Anushilan Kendra. 
The occasion: distribution of cheques by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to 929 investors who have been duped after parking their money in the ponzi schemes of the scam-tainted Saradha Group.
It was Banerjee's way of tackling any fallout of the scam, which came as the biggest challenge for her regime as it was perceived to be close to the Saradha boss Sudipta Sen.
Banerjee, who had earlier promised to compensate the depositors - mostly poor people in villages and small towns - decided to celebrate the occasion by organising the grand feast.
With the scandal having broken out shortly before the statewide rural polls, she had earlier formed a commission to probe the scam and recommend ways to return the money to the depositors and also announced a Rs.500 crore fund for the purpose.
Her steps at damage control seemed to have paid off, and the Trinamool came up with an impressive show in the July panchayat elections.
The well-publicised and lavishly organised programme inclusive of the sumptuous food is being regarded by observers as a continuation of her efforts to give a message to the duped investors that the government was by their side.
The beneficiaries of the day had deposited up to Rs.10,000 in the schemes, till the company went bust and closed shop across the state unable to repay the investors who had been lured by the promise of high returns.
Lakhs of people, mainly poor people in villages and small towns, have been affected by the Saradha scam. There has been a spate of suicides by investors and agents.
The government machinery kept no stone unturned to showcase the occasion and ensure its success.
Twenty cooks were engaged to prepare the food, while the beneficiaries were brought from all over the state at government cost.
"We were taken in a government vehicle to the local police station. There were were provided a good tiffin and given the bus fare. We took a bus and came to the venue in Kolka"a," said a beneficiary from Darjeeling district.
Official sources said the concerned district administrations were made responsible for bringing the beneficiaries for the programme and taking them back home.
From breakfast to lunch, evening tiffin and dinner and night stay - all arrangements were made.
The Murshidabad district administration, for instance, had sent vehicles to the Samserganj home of beneficiary Motiur Rahman."
"We spent a night at a panchayat training centre on the way. We were given a grand dinner there - rice, dal (lentils), fish curry, mixed vegetable, potato fry, chutney, papad and swe"ts," said Rahman.
Arrangements for around 3,000 people (including support staff) were made at the Kshudiram Anushilan Kendra, as the government spent lakhs of rupees to ensure the scam did not make any impact on the ruling p'rty's vote bank in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
A depositor seemed amaz"d. "I got back a part of the amount I had invested with the Saradha Group. But the money spent on the lavish arrangements could have been better utilised to give me back the entire am"unt".
The opposition Left Front lost no time in attacking the government for "he "money squand"red"."
"The government says it is deep in debt and has no money for development programmes. But at the same time it is squandering the tax p'yers' money to indemnify the investors who had been duped by the Saradha Group. What is worse is the lavish arrangements. They should have attached Sudipt' Sen's property and repaid the victims fro" it," said Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra.
Undaunted, the government has anoounced it would indemnify 104,000 more depositors before the Durga Puja (beginning Oct 10). Two lakh more investors would get their money back after Diwali (Nov 2).
The government has set aside Rs.50 crore for indemnifying the depositors upto Diwali.
(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at s.panth@ians.in)

Can Mamata still afford to call all this a political conspiracy?

KOLKATA: No garlands, no wreaths and his body covered with an old tattered sheet. This young man paid the price for his bravery was murdered in cold blood for standing up to goons who tried to molest his sisters in Burdwan District of West Bengal.

Victim's sister said, "At 3 in the morning, 4 men broke into our house and tried to molest me and my sisters. When my brother intervened, they shot him in the chest. When my parents raised a hue and cry, they ran away and we couldn't even recognise them." But his death is making no difference to the authorities in West Bengal.

Neighbour said, "The 2 sisters and their brother were sleeping in the same room. When they tried to molest the sisters, the brother opposed them. So they shot him in the chest."

Leave alone arresting his murderers, the West Bengal Police in the state are still scampering to identify them. Villager said, "We want stringent action to be taken. This is the third time women are being brutalised in this area. We demand action but we know that the guilty are being shielded."

A TV anchor publicly harassed, an actor's sister stalked, a state level swimmer targeted and now a brave heart shot dead for protecting his sisters from molesters. Can Mamata still afford to call all this a political conspiracy?

Ballot Papers Printed after Results To Manage Manipulations in Counting

Kolkata: THE ruling party along with the state's administration has turned the recent panchayat election into a farce in one third of the state. Now, with a motive to hide their gruesome manipulation at the time of counting, ballot papers are being printed in secret. On August 26, the leader of opposition, Surjya Kanta Mishra, made this serious allegation while addressing a press conference in the assembly. He had brought a motion in the assembly on the atrocious acts of violence at the time of the panchayat election that is still continuing. But the assembly speaker ruled it out. In protest, the Left Front staged a walk-out in the assembly but after a while they entered again to take part in the important discussion on the burning problem of the masses.

Later in the day while addressing a press conference Surjya Kanta Mishra said in connection with the panchayat election that the ruling party has continued with endless violence. They had indulged in fraud and malpractices at the time of counting also. The election commission has not been able to upload till date in the website information regarding details of votes in districts like Burdwan. It is because the ruling party has conspired with a section of the administration in tampering the counting process in the panchayat election. In counting centres, there were widespread tampering and forced manipulation of results. And now the account of ballots will not match with the results. This is the reason for which the election commission could not upload the result of Burdwan district. In all the districts the District Magistrate is the election official on behalf of election commission. The ruling party is continuously mounting pressure on them.

He said we have information that fresh ballot papers are being printed. This is to keep parity with the final result of the voting ballot papers are being stamped. We have news that somewhere near Durgapur, ballots are being printed afresh so that they can be stamped and their tampered result can be shown in accounts. If any case is registered in the court then they can hush up the matter. This is also something unusual that after counting re-elections are being held.

Mishra said in spite of all such deprivation and instances of vulgarism, Left Front has contested in 81 per cent of the seats. In one-fifth of the total seats, Left Front has not been allowed to contest. Apart from this, many Left Front candidates were not allowed to campaign even after filing nominations. They had to abandon their houses and live elsewhere. From the time of filing nomination to election campaign, the ruling party resorted to violent domination. On the day of the election, in some places there was partial capture of booths, while in some others, the booths were fully captured. The ruling party did not allow free and fair elections to be held in around 12,000 seats. In the assembly session the government refused to allow the discussion on panchayat elections as they are scared about the truth coming out.

CPI(M) West Bengal State Committee in its meeting on August 22 while reviewing the results of the just concluded panchayat election, was of the view that wherever elections could be held combating the terrorisation and maintaining intimate relationship with the masses, results for the Left Front has been positive.

In a statement after the meeting, it was pointed out that the panchayat elections were held amid widespread violence in the rural areas. The ruling party and the state administration turned it into an undemocratic process right from filing of nomination to withdrawal, campaigning and counting. People’s verdict has not been properly reflected. Even after this the ruling party has continued with its path of violence, arson to capture the Boards. The Left Front and the Party activists and sympathisers have risked their lives and fought bravely to combat the attacks perpetrated throughout the election. Specially many new activists have faced the challenge valiantly.

It said that the review work is on but primarily it has been found that due to violence, candidates could not file their nominations in 5206 Gram Panchayat, 782 Panchayat Samity and in 8 Zila Parishad seats. Even after filing of nomination, candidates have been compelled to withdraw in 2176 seats. Barring one district, the ruling party totally captured 3834 booths and partially captured 2309 booths and has resorted to rigging ruthlessly. At the time of counting, leaving four districts, it has been found that in 1486 Gram Panchayat, 363 Panchayat Samity and 58 seats in Zila Parishad rigging has been practiced in the counting centres or results have been overturned and the seats have been captured by the TMC. In spite of all these, the percentage of votes captured by Left Front in 16 districts is 37.97 per cent. TMC has got 43.03 per cent. The Left Front got more than 40 per cent votes in 4 districts, 37-40 per cent votes in 6 districts.

The state committee also noted the rampant use of money power by the TMC in these elections. In the analysis of the results of the election, along with the political situation, the organisational weakness of the Party, weakness in maintaining mass contact, weakness in running panchayats has also been pointed out. More detailed analysis of the results will be done at every level of the Party.

The meeting was attended by Pparty’s general secretary Prakash Karat who called for continuing the struggle for maintaining democracy, combating the attacks of the ruling party and its government.

Karat explained the decisions taken in the just concluded central committee meeting. He said economic condition is deteriorating at a rapid and grave pace. Movement will be launched across the country on the issues of price rise, unemployment, food security, wage, land etc. Central gatherings will be held in the state capitals on alternative policy. It shall start with the Chennai rally. Emphasis shall be paid on country-wide campaign against communalism. In this context, a central convention will be organised in Delhi with other secular parties.