A ONE-MAN commission, constituted by the West Bengal government to inquire into the Saradha chit fund scam, has decided to auction three TV channels of the group, to raise funds and return it to the investors.
“It has been decided that three channels of the Saradha group —- Tara Muzik, Tara News and Tara Punjabi —- will be auctioned to raise money and return it to the creditors,” Justice (Retd) Shyamal Sen, chairman of the commission, said Monday.
He announced this soon after Sudipta Sen chairman of the Saradha Group, who was arrested in April last year after his company went bust, came to attend the hearing of the commission. Sen will be signing the necessary documents for handing over ownership of the three channels at the Commission’s office on January 24.
“I want Saradha Group’s property to be auctioned to return money to all creditors,” Sen told journalists.
Meanwhile, Sen said those people who have paid the booking amount for 15 bungalows and flats at the Saradha Group-owned Saradha Garden at Bishnupur in South 24-Parganas, will be granted possession of the property if they pay the remaining amount to the commission.
He said the Commission will also sell 235 seized cars of the Group and the company-owned Lincoln School situated in Siliguri to raise funds.
Justice Sen also assured the Employees Association —- running Tara Muzik, Tara News and Tara Punjabi —- that the Commission will take care of those who are still working for the channels.
Last year in May, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced that the government will acquire the channels with 160 employees to save them from starvation. But the ordinance for acquisition, promulgated thereafter, never got the assent of the President as the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting did not give its approval citing a TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) order banning all acquisition of TV channels by any state government.
Since then, the employees have been receiving monthly remuneration of Rs 16,000 each from the chief minister’s relief fund —- a move that has been criticised by the Opposition CPM.
State Minister for law and justice Chandrima Bhattacharya, however, said, she was hopeful that if the ordinance got Presidential nod, it would not clash with the Commission’s order. “We can’t comment on the activities of the Commission,” Bhattacharya told The Indian Express.
The Employees Association, meanwhile, said they are ready for any situation. “We are waiting for the order of the commission and then we will decide on our next course of action. (Mamata) Didi saved us from starvation and we are sure she will never allow anything that could jeopardise our livelihood,” Deepankar Nag, a member of the Association said.
It was the Association that had moved the Calcutta High Court after the arrest of Sudipt Sen with a petition to give it the right to run the channels. The court had set up a committee and gave them the permission to oversee the running of the channels.