Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 27:
The BJP has smelt a rat in the Odisha government’s refusal to include Seashore and Atha Tatwa, two of the biggest beneficiaries of the multi-thousand crore chit fund scam in Odisha, in the list of companies to be probed by the CBI.
During Wednesday’s hearing in the apex court on the PIL filed by social activist Alok Jena, the counsel for Odisha government S. Mishra submitted a list of 37 chit fund companies that could be referred to the CBI for inquiry. But strangely, Seashore and Artha Tatwa, which between them had the biggest share of the loot in the ponzi racket, were not part of the list.
“The refusal to include Seashore and Artha Tatwa Group in the list prepared by the government, which was presented before the apex court yesterday, shows that the government is scared of the possible outcome, if these two companies are investigated by the central investigating agency,” the state BJP said in a statement released her today.
“While the crime branch of the state is yet to make any headway in the scam, the government is trying to shield the ministers and politicians of the ruling party involved in the scam by engaging a battery of noted lawyers paying heavy amount from the state exchequer,” the statement issued by party spokesperson Sajjan Sharma said.
The lengths to which the state government went to shield the two companies has raised eyebrows not just in the BJP, but also among those who lost their hard earned money in the bargain.
“The chief minister had then said, ‘The state government will do the best it can to punish the guilty and recover the looted money from them.’ Well, with the stand it took in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the government has certainly given a clear indication of what exactly the Chief Minister meant when he said it would do its ‘best’,” said a sarcastic Ashok Sahu, an angry depositor from the Chandrasekharpur area in the city, who is one of the nearly million people who lost their savings in the chit fund scam.
“They are obviously hiding something and the so-called probe is all sham. All that they are trying to do is to brush it under the carpet and postpone things until elections are over because they know the complicity of influential ruling party politicians, bureaucrats, police and media persons will be exposed once there is a CBI inquiry,” he said.
The grounds on which the state government sought the exclusion of these companies from a possible CBI probe are even more shocking than the attempt to bail them out. In what can only be called preposterous and perverse logic, the government counsel actually argued that Seashore and Artha Tatwa need to be exempted from the CBI probe because the volume of the fraud perpetrated by them was less than Rs 500 crore and their operations were limited within the boundaries of Odisha!
It is another matter that the learned bench comprising Justice TS Thakur and Justice C. Nagappan refused to let these two companies go off the hook and ordered their inclusion in the list of 43 companies involved in cheating depositors through ponzi schemes.
The fraud involving the Seashore Group had triggered state-wide protests with duped investors hitting the roads, demanding the arrest of its chief Prashant Dash. The fraud had left the state government in a spot as Seashore Group operated several of its businesses in partnership with the state government departments.
The Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on May 30, 2013, had announced a judicial probe into the chit fund scam and requested the High Court to suggest the name of a sitting judge to head the panel despite the fact that the Supreme Court in 2006 had put restrictions on engagement of sitting judges of different high courts in inquiry commissions.
The Justice RK Patra commission of inquiry which was subsequently set up by the state government has been a non-starter.
No wonder, people are now reading meanings into the state government’s stout defence in favour of the two infamous ponzi firms in the state.