As the victims of the alleged Ponzi schemes run by the Saradha group and other companies throng the office of the Justice Shyamal Sen Commission,they wouldnt be comforted by the knowledge of what came out of a similar inquiry set up by the Left Front government 30 years ago.
To a trickle of investors who continue to show up at the office of the commission on Sanchayita Investments,the original chit fund scheme that collapsed in the 1980s,justice has been coming agonisingly slowly,and in packets so small as to be negligible.
The number of complaints at the Sen commissions office on Council House Street has crossed 6 lakh. Barely 500 metres away,at the Sanchayita commissions office at the Bankshall court,hapless depositors cheated out of their lives savings have been coming back for years for sums as small as a few hundred rupees at a time.
Outside the commissions office,66-year-old Abdul Hakim Kayal of Kidderpore,a retired government employee,narrated his story:
I had invested Rs 3,000 in 1979. I got back Rs 150 on June 28,1986. The next instalment came four years later,on June 8,1990,of Rs 85. The third instalment was on December 12,1994 Rs 765. Today,19 years later,I got the last instalment of Rs 250. So I have got back Rs 1,250 in 34 years and thats probably all that I will get.
Anjan Banerjee from Thakurpukur in South 24-Parganas and Abhay Dutta from Nayanchand Dutta Lane in north Kolkata had invested Rs 5,000 each in 1979. They said they have so far got back about Rs 1,400 each.
The commission was set up after the Supreme Court ordered the seizure and sale of Sanchayitas properties and use of the proceeds to repay investors. Nearly 1.31 lakh investors registered for a refund. The chit funds property included buildings and cinema halls in Kolkata,Mumbai,Chennai and Delhi,which were sold. Disbursements began in 1986,but was halted by litigation between 1998 and 2008. The commission resumed work in 2009.
Commission officials said some hopeful depositors still come back to the office periodically. The depositors are paid back when some property is found,attached and sold. The court had ordered that those who had deposited up to Rs 1,000,and those who were suffering from terminal disease be paid back in full. But those who had invested over Rs 1,000 would be paid in proportion to their deposit, M C Ghosh,commissioner,Sanchayita Investments,told The Indian Express.
Officials said that while total claims stood at Rs 200 crore,only Rs 30 crore had so far been realised and made available for disbursement. If people expect full redemption,we throw up our hands. We are returning as much as we get, Ghosh said.
The commission got Rs 2 crore from sale of property in 1998. Officials said bits from that corpus are still being handed out.
Sanchayita Investments was floated in 1976 by three businessmen,Shambhu Mukherjee,Biharilal Morarka and Swapan Guha,in Kolkata with a corpus of Rs 7,000. In just four years,the fund attracted deposits of over Rs 120 crore. In 1980,following complaints of non-payment,Sanchayitas offices were raided.