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Why compensate some with money of all, WB auditor asks State govt

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Saradha series logoKolkata — When the West Bengal government announced compensation for investors in Saradha chit funds, many people had raised the legitimate question as to why all taxpayers must be made to pay for the decision of some who had invested in a private company. The Auditor General of Bengal (AGB), the State Branch of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, sought the same explanation from the West Bengal Government 17 months after the announcement of compensation was made. This has been conveyed to the State government through a letter.

Now it has been a month since the State secretariat Nabanna received the letter, but the WB Government has not responded to it as yet. However, since the date of receipt of the letter, the State government has not deposited money in the fund for compensating victims of the Saradha scam.

A section of the State administration thinks, though that the Trinamool Congress Government’s inability to answer the question owes to its connivance with the Saradha group. Sources in the government say there is no precedent of the West Bengal Government instituting a fund to compensate for the loss of investors of any other private company. Why was an exception made in the case of Saradha, they ask.

The AGB has found out that two ministries of the State Government have footed the compensation bill so far. Out of Rs 267 crore deposited in the fund, Rs 80 crore has come from the West Bengal Home Ministry in instalments of Rs 50 crore and Rs 30 crore and the rest has come from the State’s Finance Ministry, informed a source in Nabanna.

Since the fund was inaugurated with the first instalment of Rs 50 crore from the State’s Home Ministry, it is this ministry from which the AGB has sought an explanation, the source said, adding that the AGB is now auditing the accounts of different departments of the local government. It unearthed the fact that the aforementioned instalments went out of the exchequer as extra-Plan expenditure in the fiscal year 2013-14. The Plan does not include the money that went out of the State’s Finance Ministry either and is, hence, liable for explanation too.

Once the Saradha scam surfaced, Sudipta Sen and his companion Debjani Mukherjee were arrested from Jammu & Kashmir on 23 April last year. Two days later, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced at a press conference convened at the Writers’ Building that a fund of Rs 500 crore — of which Rs 150 crore would come from a cess levied on tobacco products — would be instituted to compensate for the loss of investors of the ponzi scheme. The chief minister had also announced that day institution of the Shyamal Sen Committee to officiate over the process of reparation. The Opposition in West Bengal had questioned then as to why the State exchequer should pay for the corruption of a private firm and why no such provision had ever been made in the of the State in response to acts of embezzlement by the of any other private company.

सिर्फ़ NEWS will cover the Saradha Group financial scandal regularly under the title “Sordid Saradha”.

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Surajit Dasgupta
Surajit Dasgupta
Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sirf News Surajit Dasgupta has been a science correspondent in The Statesman, senior editor in The Pioneer, special correspondent in Money Life, the first national affairs editor of Swarajya, executive editor of Hindusthan Samachar and desk head of MyNation

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