Bengal chit fund scam: Another suicide, second FIR against Trinamool MP

Kolkata, April 27 (IANS) The human toll in West Bengal's multi billion rupee chit fund muddle rose to four, with another agent of the tainted Saradha Group committing suicide, while a second FIR was filed Saturday against Trinamool Congress MP Kunal Ghosh by employees of a Bengali daily run by the chit fund-aided company.

The agent Swapan Kumar Biswas,who had deposited over Rs.4 lakh, was found hanging at his home in Purulia district Friday night. Biswas' family claimed he was suffering from depression after the group went bust and downed shutters across the state, affecting lives of tens of thousands of depositors from poor families who had parked their hard-earned money in the firm.

The Saradha fiasco threatens to engulf other such chit fund companies - a large number of which operate in the state. The offices of many of them were rocked by protests by depositors and agents, who demonstrated outside for hours seeking immediate return of their money.

Many of these concerns running collective investment schemes have been splashing large display advertisements in leading dailies every day claiming deposits in their companies were safe, but that has failed to dissipate the mood of anger and panic that has taken over the society in the wake of the Saradha collapse.

A chit fund driven company, Tower Group organised a media meet to assure investors, but its chairman had to cancel the conference abruptly after he was besieged by angry journalists rendered jobless after the firm closed down its publications.

Under fire for his alleged complicity in the chit fund muddle, Trinamool Congress MP Ghosh wrote to party chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee pleading innocence and offering to quit.

"I am ready to resign if you instruct me to do so. I am ready to face any investigation and I am also ready to cooperate with the investigation process," Ghosh said in the letter posted on the party's official website.

Saradha Group chief Sudipta Sen, behind bars and facing prosecution for cheating, had written to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), accusing several high profile Trinamool Congress and Congress leaders, including Ghosh, of complicity in the chit fund scam.

Meanwhile, employees of "Sakalbela" filed an FIR against Ghosh, the head of the media arm of Saradha Group, for alleged financial irregularities.

Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS) meanwhile demanded the state government immediately seal offices and confiscate assets of all the fraudulent companies operating in the state. The forum also demanded ban on the so called chit-fund companies.

Under fire, the Trinamool brought out rallies and held meetings in various parts of the state decrying the "conspiracies" hatched by the opposition against the Banerjee government and blamed the ruling parties in the centre and the erstwhile Left Front regime in the state for the scam.

It found some support in Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi who echoed the Trinamool's claims that it was the responsibility of the central government to enact effective laws against dubious firms and sought immediate intervention of the prime minister in the chit fund muddle.

"It is very difficult to check these companies with state laws. These companies are operating in different states. So the central government should take measures," the BJP leader said.

Describing Banerjee as an "honest" person, he hoped she would take action against Bengal politicians involved with the chit fund mess and the tainted Saradha Group.

Meanwhile, Congress leader and union Minister of State for Health Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury admitted he had done a "mistake" by giving certificate to the tainted Saradha Group before the prime minister.

"After seeing what has happened and with poor investors left in the lurch, it seems it was surely a mistake," said Choudhury referring to his letter to Manmohan Singh where he had absolved the company of any dubious activities.

The opposition Left Front, on the other hand, increased the pressure on the beleaguered Trinammol, with LF chairman Biman Bose harping on the Trinamool's closeness to the Saradha Group to allege the two were synonymous.

Attacking Banerjee, the LF held her responsible for the chit fund muddle and said it would come out with a booklet explaining why the chief minister cannot shirk her responsibility.