Three stakeholders of the money-pooling business in West Bengal-a depositor, an agent and the owner of a deposit-raising company-committed suicide on Friday, taking the death toll in the financial scam to eight.
Ranjit Pramanik, a barber in Jaynagar (South 24-Parganas) who had deposited Rs 3,000 in Saradha Realty a few months back, hanged himself. He was promised that his money would be increased to Rs 7,000. Pratima Das, an agent of Saradha from Salar (Murshidabad), with huge liabilities, consumed poison. Ajit Sil, who used to run a small money-pooling company in South 24 Parganas, also committed suicide, as he was incapable of refunding deposits.
While Pramanik, Das and Sil are among those who gave up hope of getting their money back, there are several thousands who are banking on the Mamata Banerjee government for refund.
Their hopes rest on a four-member inquiry commission headed by former Allahabad High Court chief justice Shyamal Kumar Sen, which has started probing the multi-crore scam. The terms of the commission include receiving complaints about Saradha and other similar companies.
Samit Kumar Dutta, around 70 years, is a former employee of a public sector bank. He invested a large part of his retirement benefits of Rs 10 lakh in Saradha. Similarly, Biswanath Pramanik, another retired public sector bank employee, invested in land at Saradha Gardens in Joka (South 24-Parganas).
He has been vying to get a certificate of deed for his land from Saradha since 1998. On Friday, at the commission's office, both Dutta and Pramanik wait in the sweltering heat with hopes to get back the lost wealth. "We are hopeful that the government will give us the money," says Pramanik.
Even before the official date of submitting applications, thousands of depositors had queued in an otherwise deserted office of the commission at 5 Council Street. "We are collecting applications on humanitarian grounds," said an official of the commission.
But chaos prevails as this was not the venue stated by the commission's notification. It was earlier announced that complains would be received on May 6-19 at the Finance Centre building in New Town.
"We were told applications are being collected here, but here they are not even giving stamped receipts of our submission," said Biswanath Parit, an agent of Saradha.
Once depositors submit applications, they will be heard. And once all the depositors-must be several thousand-are heard, the commission will make recommendations to the state government for compensation from the Rs 500-crore relief fund.
As of now, the fund is more like an illusion. The cigarette tax apart--which will fetch, according to Banerjee's math, Rs 150 crore-the means for the balance is anything but clear. Last heard, the Trinamool Congress leader was pinning hopes on the Centre, a penalty for not cracking down on the fraudulent companies on time.
But Banerjee has time in hand, the snaking queues outside the commission's office assure.