Kolkata, Sep 4 :
Amid a raging controversy over its reported tie-up with an arm of the Saradha Group, now under CBI probe in connection with the multi crore rupee chit FUND scam, the IRCTC Thursday said the company was empanelled as a sales agent but claimed no “special favour or privilege” was shown to it.
A statement issued by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) described as “factually incorrect” media reports that Saradha Tours and Travels was a service provider to it.
There have been allegations that in 2010 the company was favoured in getting a contract from the IRCTC for providing logistics support to the ‘Bharat Tirth’ project announced in the 2010-11 railway budget by Mamata Banerjee, who was then the railway minister.
In a bid to promote tourism, the scheme envisaged launching of 16 special ‘Bharat Tirth’ trains, connecting popular tourist sites and pilgrimage centres across the country.
IRCTC, noting it was in the tourism business and empanelment of travel agents for MARKETING of tourism products was part of its tourism business activities, said: “In line with this, M/s Saradha Tours & Travels Pvt Ltd was empanelled as direct sales agent of IRCTC/East Zone for marketing of tourism products on travel agent’s commission basis like several other agents empanelled.”
“Out of the three Bharat Tirth Trips originating from Kolkatta, Saradha Tours & Travels had booked passengers in first two trips along with other travel agents,” IRCTC said.
The statement disclosed that 185 tickets were booked through Saradha Tours & Travels on commission basis on par with all other travel agents.
“No special privilege or favour was extended to Saradha Tours & Travels Pvt Ltd,” it claimed.
The Saradha-IRCTC link has created a political furore, with the Congress demanding West Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee’s resignation.
Bharatiya Janata Party state unit chief Rahul Sinha wanted all Trinamool Congress leaders, whose names have been drawn into the scam, should step down form official posts for the sake of investigation.
Former Supreme Court judge Ashok Kumar Ganguly too attacked Banerjee, ridiculing the Trinamool Congress’ claim that she was a “symbol of honesty”.
But the state’s ruling party Trinamool has lashed out at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), accusing it of functioning as a “political organisation”.