Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, June 19:
Victims of the multi thousand crore chit fund scam in Odisha have been cheated a second time – this time by no less than the state government, which had promised back in July last year that it would create a corpus fund of Rs 300 crore for those who lost their hard earned money in the scam ‘within three months’.
But nearly a year down the line, there is no sign of the elusive corpus fund. With the annual budget presented by Finance minister completely silent over the fund, it has now become clear that the promise made by the Naveen Patnaik government last July was merely an exercise in fire fighting and was never intended to be fulfilled.
Thousands of investors duped by dozens of chit fund companies of thousands of crores were out on the street at the time demanding action against the companies, many of them patronised by ruling party bigwigs, and refund of their money.
What makes the intention of the government even clearer is the fact that it is yet to seek the approval of the Controller General of Accounts, Government of India for creation of such a fund as required under the rules.
Coming down hrad on the Naveen government on the issue, Editor of Sambadand president of Ama Odisha Party (AOP) Soumya Ranjan Patnaik pointed to the absence of allocation for the corpus fund in the budget presented in the Assembly as an indication of the indifference of the government to the plight of the victims.
“The chief minister did not utter a single word on the issue of refund of money to the depositors. His silence proves he is not the common man’s CM,” Patnaik had said addressing a rally of chit fund depositors at PMG square yesterday.
BJP leader Sajjan Sharma accused the government of having forgotten all about the plight of chit fund depositors after the elections. “It has neither shown any interest in arresting and taking action against the culprits nor has it bothered to create a corpus fund to compensate the losers,” he said. He said party MLAs would raise the issue in the ongoing Assembly in the interest of the people.
While rejecting the charge of indifference, the ruling BJD has provided nothing concrete to convince the investors about its intention to help them out.
“The government is actively considering the issues of chit fund depositors and is committed to the creation of the corpus fund,” said Finance Minister Pradip Amat.
But the question is: what use is this ‘commitment’ if the government has failed to refund the money to the hapless depositors a year after its promise and even after arming itself with the Odisha Protection of Interests of Depositors (in Financial Establishments) Act?
Chit fund operators in Odisha have allegedly cheated nearly 40 lakh families of nearly Rs. 60,000 crores, though the exact number of duped depositors and the money involved has not yet been authentically determined.
There is now enough material to suggest that many people in high position, including politicians and bureaucrats, had a stake in the unbridled operation of the chit fund companies for years.
The investors are now banking on the CBI inquiry ordered by the Supreme Court, which the Naveen government moved heaven and earth to prevent.