The Saradha fraud in West Bengal is reverberating in neighbouring Assam as well, with depositors, as well the company’s former agents and employees, holding protest demonstrations here against Saradha Realty India and its sister concerns.
On Tuesday, the authorities sealed a Saradha office at the Lalganesh area in Assam, after protestors ransacked the office.
Protests were also staged by employees at a Saradha Group biscuit factory in Dhubri, lower Assam.
“Fraud and cheating cases have been lodged against the company in Assam.
"The management executives who were earlier based in Assam have suddenly vanished. We are looking for them.
"A lookout notice has been issued against Sudipto Sen (chairman and managing director of the company) in West Bengal.
"We are also trying to trace him,” said a police official.
Today, Deven Deka, a former employee of the Saradha Group-owned Bengali daily Sakalbela, levelled charges against state cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, former director general of police Sankar Baruah and social activist Sadananda Gogoi.
He alleged these people had connived with Saradha Group and helped it carry out fraud activities, as well as its vanishing act.
The allegations were made at a press conference called by Deka.
In October 2010, Sarma had inaugurated the Saradha Group biscuit factory in Dubri.
Earlier, Sakalbela journalists and other employees staged protests in Guwahati, following the closure of the daily.
Saradha Group-owned English daily Seven Sisters Post which was published from Guwahati, also stopped operations.
Journalists and other employees of both the newspapers have complained of not receiving salaries for three consecutive months.
“We had no inkling of what was going on behind the scenes.
"We never knew we were working for a fraud company and that suddenly, it would disappear from the scene and we would be left jobless,” said a Seven Sisters Post journalist.
This wasn’t the first instance of a media house in Assam being owned by a non-banking financial company against which there were allegations of fraud.
Earlier, Jeevan Suraksha Group, which owned Guwahati-based channel Prime News, had suddenly fled the state; it had taken with it all the funds of its depositors.
However, unlike the Saradha Group-owned media houses, Prime News channel survived the crisis, as Jeeven Suraksha had sold its stake in the channel.
Meanwhile, Right to Information activist and peasant leader Akhil Gogoi demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the case.
He, too, alleged Sarma was involved in the Saradha fraud.