Kolkata: Violent clashes broke out between the investors and employees of a chit fund company in Barasat, in the Moyna area of North 24 Parganas district, on Saturday. The incident happened after investors demanding refund gathered near a local chit fund organisation's office. Scores of people were injured after crude bombs were hurled and large scale brick-batting took place between the two groups. Police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the mob, but the situation remained tense.
Following statewide protests by depositors and agents against 'chit fund' company Saradha Group, which is virtually on the verge of collapse, the West Bengal government on Saturday also assured that strict action would be initiated. Irate depositors of the Saradha Group threw stones at its office on Krishnanath Road in Berhampore town in Murshidabad district during the day demanding their money back.
Superintendent of Police Humayun Kabir said that the police restored order and were investigating the matter. Widespread protests by investors were also reported from North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly and Burdwan districts. Many offices of the chit fund were damaged by the protestors, police sources said.
A Burdwan report said that Jadav Majhi (33), an agent of the group, was found hanging from ceiling of a room at Mayabazar in Durgapur town on Friday. Police have registered a case of unnatural death. Transport minister and senior Trinamool Congress leader Madan Mitra when asked about the government's responsibility to safeguard the interest of investors said, "Strictest action will be taken against defaulters as per our Chief Minister's instruction."
Trinamool Congress All-India General Secretary Mukul Roy said "I am not in the government, but as party functionary I can tell you that the government is seriously concerned with the functioning of chit funds. When a large number of people have been cheated, the government must take action and the Chief Minister is concerned about it," he said.
To a question, Roy said that 'some interested quarters' were pointing to the role of a Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member in the functioning of the Saradha group. "Such allegations are baseless. The Rajya Sabha member of our party is an employee of the group and not a part of the ownership of the group," he said.
Roy rubbished allegations by opposition parties that chit funds had mushroomed during the TMC regime claiming that these companies were patronised by the erstwhile Left Front government. CPI(M) leader Md Selim claimed that the previous Left Front government had formulated legislation to control chit funds, but it was still awaiting assent.
"This state government should have been careful long back about operations of chit funds to avoid a situation like this," he said. Bete noire of the Chief Minister, Congress leader and Minister of state for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury accused the state government of being hand in glove with the management of Saradha group.
"This government is directly and indirectly involved with the activities of this chit fund," he alleged. Union minister and Congress leader Deepa Dasmunshi, another Mamata Banerjee baiter, said "It can't be said that the state government did not know about chit funds. Whom are they shielding? They have to explain."
WBPCC chief Pradip Bhattacharya demanded a CBI probe and said that the state government should bring out a white paper on such non-banking financial companies. Alleging that many Trinamool Congress leaders were hobnobbing with the chit fund management, he said "The Centre had warned the state government to take action against these chit funds, but it refused to do so. People now demand an answer from the state government."
Trinamool Congress MP Somen Mitra, who had earlier raised his voice against chit funds, said, "I had earlier written to the Prime Minister on the mushrooming of chit funds in the state. Those who deposited their money in chit funds were poor people. They were the worst affected." Stating that chit funds had existed earlier also, he said "My responsibility was to alert the government, I have done my job."
In the wake of the controversy, CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta added said that the Centre should intervene and it should not be left within the domain of states. "Chit funds should be brought under the domain of the RBI and should be monitored by SEBI," Dasgupta said on Saturday. He said that the West Bengal government should have taken preventive action so that the current ruckus over non-payments to investors could have been avoided.
(With Additional Inputs From PTI)