Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jan 15:
Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has come under severe criticism from the Opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after Justice R K Patra Commission of Enquiry probing the multi-crore chit fund scam admitted that the database of defrauded investors has not been prepared yet owing to lack of requisite infrastructure.
The Opposition parties stood united in spitting fire on the state government and questioning its commitment to return the deceived investors of their money from the corpus fund.
‘‘The state government has been repeatedly deceiving the chit fund investors in the name of corpus fund and the RK Patra commission. The Commission has said only scrutiny process is underway and database has not been prepared yet. This shows the government’s intention and will to return the money to the poor investors. Since last one and half years, the state government has been hoodwinking people,’’ former Congress MP Pradeep Majhi said.
As per government estimate, around eight lakh investors have been duped to the tune of Rs 5000 crore by these ponzi firms assuring high returns on their investments.
“After a database is prepared, notices will be served to the government and the chit fund firms following which hearings would commence in accordance with law. Only then can the process of returning money to these investors start,” Justice R K Patra said.
‘‘If the government were serious about returning money to the investors, it could have employed its staff to prepare the database of duped investors and the amount of money collected by these ponzi firms from them. Given the present staff strength of the Commission, it would take years to prepare a database. If the government prepares a database and files an affidavit, the Commission can verify its veracity based on the affidavits which could speed up the process. Had the CBI inquiry been initiated two years ago, the state government would have been in a position now to ascertain the money trail and return the investments to its claimants,’’ senior BJP leader Suresh Pujari said.
Even as the process of scrutiny of affidavits is still on, 2, 46, 897 sealed envelopes still remain to be opened. This could take at least three months. This apart, 3, 28, 582 affidavits have not been scrutinised or categorised. The 2, 02, 166 affidavits which have been scrutinised are pending digitisation, sources said.
‘‘The state government has committed to return money to the chit fund investors for which a provision of a Rs 300 crore corpus fund has been made in the budget. Patra Commission was constituted to look into the grievances of chit fund investors. Once the Commission prepares a database, the government would pay back the money to the duped investors. The Opposition parties are indulging in mudslinging. Instead of politicising this, the Opposition parties and government should look into how they public would get back its money,’’ BJD spokesperson Pratap Kesari Deb said.
As per reports, the required number of staff needed at the Commission’s office is not being provided. Besides, they are not being remunerated properly. The government counsel has not been appointed yet. Though the Commission has served three notices in the past, the government is yet to respond to it.
Odisha Computer Application Centre (OCAC) was entrusted with the responsibility to complete the digitisation process. A Maharashtra-based company, M/S Seal Projects Ltd was awarded the tender to install computers at the Commission’s office. However, it has not even begun its operations here.
As per initial estimates, around 20 computers were to be installed in three phases and 90 people were to be recruited.
Even after one and half years of formation of Justice R K Patra Commission of Enquiry, the tardy progress of work has raised serious questions about the completion of the inquiry process as the inquiry has already been given three extensions since its inception.