September 14, 2014

TMC RULE IN WEST BENGAL: Sleaze & Terror: A Lethal Cocktail

THE multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam that has looted crores of rupees from over 17 lakh poor people in West Bengal has now reached such proportions that it is becoming clearer by the day that the ruling Trinamool Congress party in the state and many of its prominent leaders are involved neck deep in this conspiracy. For over three years now, the CPI(M) has been actively demanding the intervention of Central investigation agencies to unearth the scam, identify the culprits and to bring them to book in accordance with the law of the land. Under the Left Front government, a letter was sent to the financial regulator, SEBI, asking for a thorough investigation into the scam. Subsequently, after 2011 assembly elections and the change of government, CPI(M) and Left Front delegations have met the president of India twice, prime minister on three occasions and the minister for corporate affairs twice. In all these meetings, the CPI(M) had stressed for an urgent need for central agencies to step in and ensure that the properties of the Saradha group of companies be confiscated and the consequent amounts used to compensate the victims adequately. But the then UPA-II central government pleaded helplessness as the Trinamool Congress state government was not agreeing to a probe by the central agencies. It is now clear why the Trinamool Congress and its government refused such an investigation. It was precisely because it wanted to hush up this scam and, instead of confiscating the properties of the scamsters decided to nominally compensate some of the victims, financing this through the state exchequer. A full scale drama was enacted when the chief minister transported people from all over Bengal, at state government’s expense, to the Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata and handed over cheques for paltry amounts to some of those who were defrauded. The people of Bengal eventually had to pay for the fraud committed by the scamsters. Clearly, the Trinamool Congress and the state government were protecting such scamsters. Eventually, after three years since 2011, at the intervention of the Supreme Court, the CBI was asked to investigate as the apex court described this scam as having larger dimensions. A Trinamool Congress member of the Rajya Sabha who once threatened to disclose the entire story of the scam including the involvement of the chief minister was promptly taken into custody by the special investigation team of the state government. He has remained in jail for nearly a year now. Another TMC Rajya Sabha member, Ahmad Hassan Imran, was interrogated by the ED for his connection with the scam tainted chit fund group. The investigations conducted by the Special Fraud Investigation Organisation (SFIO) has allegedly found the MP linked with over Rs 200 crore hawala transactions. The case has been handed over to the CBI to investigate the possibility of terror links in a neighbouring country. Various Trinamool Congress leaders, including various ministers in the state cabinet, had been summoned and interrogated. The latest has been the arrest of a former Director General of Armed Police, Rajat Mazumdar, who is currently the vice president of the Trinamool Congress. He had earlier served as DIG and DIG operations in the state. Media speculation is rampant regarding the chief minister’s involvement in the whole scam. Telegraph (September 10, 2014) reports that the CBI director said that he was aware of the reports of the alleged meeting between the West Bengal chief minister and Saradha Group boss, Sudipto Sen (now arrested and in custody), in Kalimpong in 2012. The CBI chief has reportedly said, “We are proceeding in the right direction and hope to achieve bigger results in short time”. Reports have also appeared that when the West Bengal CM was the union railway minister in 2010, the Saradha Group had bagged a contract with the railways to implement the minister’s pet project, `Bharat Tirtha’ programme. All these clearly show that the Trinamool Congress is equally guilty of large scale sleaze involving the loot of over 17 lakh poor people in Bengal. It can only be hoped that the CBI, SFIO, ED and other agencies expose the entire scam and bring the guilty to book while adequately arranging for the compensation of the victims. Such sleaze is in addition to the large-scale attack on democracy through the politics of terror and torture mainly targeting the Left throughout the state by the Trinamool Congress. The unabated violence and sexual crimes against women, extortions, widespread attack on teachers and educational institutions, openly rigging and manipulating the democratic election processes etc have all resulted in the virtual break down of democratic structure and institutions in Bengal. The CPI(M) and the Left have been consistently braving such attacks with hundreds of its valiant fighters being murdered and thousands rendered homeless. Fearing the possible early resurgence of the Left Front in Bengal, the Trinamool Congress, for some time now, has been indulging in whipping up communal passions hoping to garner the support of the minorities. This has dangerously played into the hands of the RSS/BJP to mount a counter communal offensive in order to consolidate its electoral base and possibly try to make a maiden entry into the Bengal state assembly. Such competitive communalism creates a potentially volatile situation in the state shattering the atmosphere of communal peace and social harmony that had been the hallmark of the over three decade Left Front rule in the state. This is a real danger that the people of Bengal are being subjected to today. The CPI(M) and the Left are determined to foil all such efforts and work for the restoration of both democracy and secularism while protecting and safeguarding the interests of the vast majority of the people whose gains under the Left Front rule are being constantly and seriously eroded. (September 10, 2014)