A long way from Kolkata, Delhi...lies West Bengal's Saradha chit fund country -Ravik Bhattacharya
-The Indian Express
In the wake of life’s savings lost to scams, children have dropped out of school, marriages have been put off, people have left homes, and suicide, say some, is the only option. The Indian Express on the stories forgotten in the headlines.
Most days, Raqib Sardar can be seen hanging around a tea shop at Sonarpur Railway Station in South 24 Parganas district, 30 km from Kolkata, looking for odd jobs. The 33-year-old leaves his home, in Uttar Bansra village in South 24 Parganas district, in the wee hours and returns only past midnight. Sometimes, he passes the hours at other railway stations or at a friend’s house. The day he dreads the most is Sundays.
This has been Raqib’s routine since 2013.
That was the year the Saradha chit fund scam broke, when, for the first time since the group floated its ponzi scheme in 2006, its cash inflow was lower than its outflow. By April 2013, investors and agents had lodged hundreds of complaints with Bidhannagar police claiming unpaid dues amounting to crores.
The son of a small paan shop owner, Raqib was an agent as well as investor in Saradha (as was the case with most agents of the group), as well as in other chit fund companies. “I had collected Rs 9.5 lakh from neighbours, relatives and friends for Saradha. I took my father’s savings of Rs 50,000 and invested. Since the company shut down, I am hounded like a dog,” says Raqib, welling up.
“People tried to ransack my house, they wanted their money returned. Even now, especially Sundays, locals come to my house, abuse my wife and parents. I returned some of the money from my own pocket, but it was too less. I live like a thief. Hop from station to station, change jobs frequently,” says Raqib.
On February 3, the Saradha scam returned to the headlines — but as a tussle between the state and Centre. In more drama than the case had seen in six years, over two days, a CBI team that had come to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar over the probe he headed was detained, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sat on a dharna, Central forces took position outside the CBI office in Kolkata, the Opposition rallied behind Mamata, the Centre went to the Supreme Court, and even Shillong (where Kumar was questioned on Saturday) entered the picture.
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