The West Bengal government on Friday welcomed the Supreme Court verdict asking the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the Saradha chit fund scam in which lakhs of investors were cheated of their money in the state and elswhere.
State finance minister Amit Mitra said, "We welcome the order although it has come just two days before the last phase of the Lok Sabha poll."
Initially reluctant to involve the CBI in the investigation on the ground that the central agency had not been able to make any headway into the Nandigram and Netai killings, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee later changed her stance, saying that the government was not averse to it.
Mitra also demanded that the CBI probe all the chit fund companies which were operating in the country besides those in the state.
He said that although the CBI had not been able to make any breakthrough into the Netai and Nandigram cases, the government was hopeful that the central agency would be able to come out with results this time, and the cheated depositors would repaid their hard-earned money.
"It is heartening to note that the SC has praised the work so far by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the state government in connection with the Saradha scam, although the judgement is yet to be seen".
"The apex court also said SIT would continue with its investigation on all the chargesheets filed by it. This shows that the SC has reposed its faith on the state-formed body," he told reporters in Kolkata.
He said that the CBI should probe the CPI(M)'s links with Saradha since seeds of such fraudulent firms and schemes were sowed during the erstwhile Left Front regime.
"I have tabled pictures in the Assembly which showed various Coomunist Party of India-Marxist leaders inaugurating projects promoted by the Saradha group," he pointed out.
The Saradha group had also doled out money to the CPI-M by insertions of innumerable advertisements in their mouthpiece "Ganashakti" and telephone directory "DIAL".
"These matters will also have to be investigated," Mitra said.
"A similar chit fund scam "Sanchayita" had surfaced during the Left rule. A commission was formed, but what happened to it? All this will also have to be probed," he demanded.
Mitra said that the West Bengal government had made some unprecedented gestures by repaying four Saradha-affected depositors after setting up a commission.
"The government has repaid 400,000 depositors.
Before the poll code of conduct came into force, the government also announced that another 250,000 people will get repaid.
"Tell me which other government has done this?" he wondered.
"I have also read that a chit fund company from Punjab and Haryana had vanised collecting Rs 45,000 crore (Rs 450 billion) from 5 crore (50 million) people.
"Did any of the defrauded get repaid?" Mitra expressed surprise.
He also said that the SIT arrested Saradha owner Sudipta Sen from Kashmir and arrested a party MP and sent him to jail.
"Is this not an unprecedented move?" he wondered.
Image: Police officers escort Chit-fund company Saradha Group's Chairman Sudipta Sen (R) to a police van outside the airport on his arrival in Kolkata. Photograph: Reuters