The West Bengal government will set up a Rs. 500-crore “relief fund” to help out the depositors who have lost everything after the Saradha Group’s collective investment schemes went bust, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Wednesday. The money would be given to those recommended by the commission of inquiry that had already been set up, she told journalists at the State Secretariat here.
“The relief fund will help the most ordinary and small investors who have lost everything. This cannot be done arbitrarily. We shall act according to the recommendations of the commission,” she said.
Ms. Banerjee said the police had started seizing the property and assets of the Saradha Group, and they would be auctioned off to repay the investors. The fund would be in addition to the sum to be raised from the auction.
“Suicide is not an alternative,” she said, assuring the people that her government would do all it could. Days after the group of chit fund companies shut down its operations, at least two persons have killed themselves, while others have attempted suicide.
Ms. Banerjee announced an additional 10 per cent tax on tobacco and tobacco products to raise money for the fund.
“We may raise about Rs. 150 crore from this additional tax…We shall have to see where we arrange the rest from.”
To justify her decision, she pointed out that some States imposed up to 50 per cent tax on tobacco and tobacco products, but West Bengal levied 25 per cent.
As the names of Trinamool Congress leaders have figured in the scam, Ms. Banerjee warned the Opposition against “heating up the political atmosphere” over an issue that concerned the people. “They are targeting one journalist and bad-mouthing him… If I wanted, I could reveal the names of several journalists who are involved,” she said, referring to Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member Kunal Ghosh, who was the Media CEO of the Saradha Group and who has been implicated in the fraud.