CBI probe tracks railways’ deal with Saradha tours

Bharat Tirtha project was announced by then railway minister Mamata Banerjee in the 2010-11 railway budget.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata | Published: September 2, 2014 3:45:40 am

Investigations into the Saradha chit fund scam has revealed a deal between the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Ltd (IRCTC) — a subsidiary of the Indian Railways — and the Saradha Group-owned travel company when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was the Union Railways Minister.

While the Opposition has called for a separate inquiry — by the Indian Railways — Union minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha has said “there is no need for it”.

“Bharat Tirtha” — a tour project announced by the then railways minister Mamata Banerjee during the presentation of the railway budget for 2010-2011 — was undertaken jointly by IRCTC and Saradha Tours and Travels (STT).

The scheme required Railways to run 16 special trains on 10 routes across the country with STT becoming a partner for the South India leg of the project. The firm, however, withdrew itself from the contract a year-and-a-half later.

Sinha, who arrived in Kolkata on Sunday, said since the CBI is already conducting an inquiry into the Saradha scam, there is no need for the Railways to launch an inquiry of its own.

“Law will take its own course irrespective of whomsoever is found guilty,” Sinha, who presided over a series of meetings with general managers and senior officials of the Eastern, South eastern and Metro railway on Monday, told reporters.

When Sinha was pointed out that Mamata was the railways minister when the agreement was signed, he said: “I am not taking any name.”

The report on the deal first appeared in a Bengali vernacular — Bartaman Patrika — on Sunday.

Soon after, state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury, who was also the minister of state for railways in UPA II, said that the CBI should interrogate Mamata, too.

“Only an interrogation of all of them — Saradha, IRCTC and Mamata — can unravel the mystery. And unless there is directive form the top, IRCTC cannot do this. Saradha, being a Bengal-based firm, had close relations with Mamata and so there could have been an attempt on her part to give some advantage to the company. CBI should probe the matter comprehensively to unravel the truth. And the Railways must conduct an inquiry, too because fingers are being pointed at the Railways as well,” Chowdhury told The Indian Express.

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