The deaths after the deposits & deceit

The deaths after the deposits & deceit

In string of chit fund-related deaths are stories of shattered depositors,pressured agents and a humiliated father.

Not all the suicides triggered by West Bengal’s chit fund scam — 13 in less than three weeks till Wednesday,besides a murder — have been of depositors who had lost all hope of recovering their lives’ savings. Not all of them involved the Saradha Group either,though it was that scandal that triggered panic among all depositors in such companies.

Many of those who killed themselves were agents,some of whom had deposited in the companies they represented,and all of whom were under pressure to repay the depositors they had drawn in. There was an executive of a chit fund company,who killed himself after the owner had been murdered,while the owner of another company committed suicide. And there was the father of an agent; he killed himself after investors had humiliated him for the funds collected by his son.

The first FIR against the Saradha Group was lodged on April 16 with the Salt Lake Electronic Complex police station. The first suicide to come on record happened on April 20. As more and more companies came into focus,it emerged that some of them had gone bust even before the Saradha exposure.

District-wise,South 24-Parganas,close to Kolkata,has seen the most complaints,28,registered against chit fund companies,including Saradha Group. North 24-Parganas and South Dinajpore have registered 25 or more complaints each. The South 24-Parganas administration has reported to the government that 120 major and minor chit fund companies operate there. It has seen five suicides,the highest for any district.


Of all the deaths so far,few have shocked Bengal as deeply as that of the agent’s father.


Humiliated by investors

JAGADISH CHANDRA ROY,May 5. Roy,64,was not connected to the chit fund business himself. It is his son Bidhan who was an agent collecting deposits for a company,since shut. Investors in Sodepur,North 24-Parganas,came looking for the son but failed to find him. The 15-odd investors,mostly women of the neigbourhood,turned their ire on the father,a retired central government employee. They dragged him out on the street,tied him to a lamp-post,blackened his face with shoe polish and took turns at slapping him with their slippers. When his younger son Suren tried to come to his rescue,they tied and thrashed him too. A shattered Jagadish Roy,known to have been gentle and soft-spoken,locked himself in his room and hanged himself. The company that his elder son represented,Annexe Infrastructure India Ltd,was based in Siliguri and shut down in March after running up liabilities of Rs 1 crore. Bidhan,who was with the company for six years,has gone into hiding to evade investors. Since his father’s suicide,three women have been arrested.


Pressure to pay

JADAV MAJHI,April 20. Majhi,33,was the first one known to have committed suicide as a result of the Saradha Group chit fund scandal. His suicide in Durgapur,Burdwan,came around the time 5,000-odd agents were demonstrating near the chief minister’s residence in Kolkata,amid revelations about alleged connections between the Sharda Group and Trinamool Congress leaders. The demonstration,Majhi’s suicide and a number of subsequent ones also highlighted the fact that many agents were as much victims of fraud as depositors were. Majhi,who had been working for the company for two years,was under pressure from depositors,whom he could not repay. Majhi,who hailed from Bankura district,locked himself for three or four days inside a building materials shop in Durgapur,where he worked. His body was eventually found hanging inside. The shop-owner,Gopal Sutradhar,has told the police Jadav was devastated by the scandal,while his relatives have said he feared investors would lynch him.

DILIP MONDAL,April 25. For four days,Mondal could not enter his home in Falta,South 24 Parganas,because he would have had to face investors demanding repayment. Mondal,60,represented a Saradha Group company. When he finally managed to return home,he consumed poison. When the investors came calling,they found the door locked from inside. They called the police,who broke open the door and found the body.

SWAPAN KUMAR BISWAS,April 26. Apart from collecting from depositors,he had deposited his own savings of Rs 4 lakh with the Saradha Group. Devastated by the exposure of the scandal,he hanged himself at his home in Balrampur,Purulia.

PRATIMA DAS,May 2. Pratima Das of Salar,Murshidabad,had collected an estimated Rs 3 lakh over one-and-a-half years from 200-odd depositors on behalf of two companies,ATM Group and Burdwan Sanmarg Group. The default crisis precipitated by the Saradha Group scandal brought most of these investors frequently to her home. When she found the companies’ offices and the house of one of the managers locked,she consumed poison and died in hospital. She was married,with a teenage daughter.

MRINAL MONDAL,May 7. Mondal,a resident of Basirhat,North 24-Parganas,was an agent for the Kolkata-based Self-Trust Enterprises Ltd,shut since March 28. He had collected Rs 7.5 lakh and was being heckled and threatened by investors,says a police official. Father of two,Mondal drank pesticide on May 5 and died two days later in a Kolkata hospital. He was a small-time farmer who used to grow vegetables on his 16 cottahs of land and work as a daily wager before he was lured into the chit fund business.

SANKAR SANKHARI,May 7. A resident of Raidighi,South 24-Parganas,he worked as an agent for the Tower Group. When it shut down its office in Raidighi,the onus of facing investors fell on him. He had roped in around 50 of them and they were pressuring him for repayment. The company has another office in the district,where he went several times and was given the assurance that the Raidighi branch would reopen soon. When the Saradha scandal broke,Sankar apparently saw the writing on the wall. Police said he too had invested all his savings in Tower. His body was found hanging from a tree near his home.


Savings of lifetimes

URMILA PRAMANIK,April 21. She had invested Rs 30,000,savings of her lifetime,with Saradha and set herself on fire once it became clear that the company had gone bust. Pramanik,50,of Baruipur,South 24-Parganas,worked as a domestic help while her husband is a van-puller. Her family said she had invested the Rs 30,000 in three instalments in 2010 and been promised Rs 45,000 in 2017 and Rs 2 lakh in 2024,or a plot of land in lieu of the cash. After Saradha came under probe,she searched for her agent but could not find him. She set herself on fire at her home on April 20 and died in a hospital in Kolkata the following day.

PRABODH SINHA,April 28. Sinha,43,was supposed to be paid Rs 2 lakh following the maturity of his deposits in the Saradha Group. Denied the payment,he hanged himself at his home near Farakka,Murshidabad,his family has told the police. Sinha,who had a job as a tax collector in the local gram panchayat,was a bachelor and looking after his parents.

NABIN MAHATO,May 2. Mahato,40,was a farmer who put up a show of optimism but was apparently not convinced about ever getting back the money he had deposited in the Saradha Group. His body was found on the railway tracks near Azimganj junction of Howrah division. Before killing himself,he had reportedly been telling his wife that people would get their money back as the chief minister has set up a special relief fund of Rs 500 crore.

RANJIT PRAMANIK,May 3. He saved Rs 3,000 from his daily wages and deposited it in a Saradha Group company four years ago with a promised return of Rs 7,500. His family in Joynagar,South-24 Parganas,says the deposit was due to mature this year but he wanted money for treatment urgently. He went from branch to branch of the Saradha network,only to find some closed and agents at others telling him there was no chance he would ever get his money back now that the group was under a probe. Pramanik,the family’s sole breadwinner,hanged himself in his room.


Suicide & murder too

JAYANTA SARKAR,May 6. He was murdered at his home in Chinsurah,Hooghly,allegedly by agents of Hello India Express,a company he owned. The suspected motive is that the agents were under pressure to repay investors and Sarkar could not provide the money. According to a police complaint lodged by his wife,Papiya,three agents,whom she named as Abhijit Saha,Abdullah Rashid and Biplab Biswas,killed her husband after a late-night meeting. “The meeting was held upstairs while the rest of the family slept downstairs. As per her complaint,the three left at 3 am,after Biplab Biswas asked Papiya Sarkar to shut the door. Early in the morning,she found her husband had been strangled with a wire.” Biswas was arrested from Nadia the following day.

INDRAJIT ROY,May 7. Roy was a director in the company Sarkar owned. He hanged himself at his home in Kolkata the day after Sarkar’s murder. Police sources said he was depressed because of the losses the company was suffering.


AJIT SEAL,May 4. He hanged himself when he found himself unable to repay depositors in his chit fund company,Aparupa,named after his daughter. Seal,50,had set up two hotels in South 24-Parganas with funds reportedly diverted from deposits in his company,running for four years and with 56 branches in the district. He slashed his wrists and hanged himself in one of his hotels. Praveen Tripathi,SP,said they recovered a suicide note. Seal reportedly wrote that he owned 96 per cent of the company,that his business had suffered huge losses and that no director and employee was responsible for his death.