Malati Samanta has not been home for the last three years. Likewise, Madhab Das sneaks into his home only in wee hours. Jayanta Manna has taken up a menial job in a glass factory, while Prashant Paul has migrated to Mumbai and is working as a goldsmith in a small jewellery shop.
These are the stories for a few victims of Saradha scam, reverberations of which were once felt equally in state Assembly and Parliament. Almost four years after the Saradha scam, the anti-ponzi movement in West Bengal has not only fizzled out, but is also no longer even fodder for opposition in the state.
Chitfund Sufferers' Unity Forum, one of the umbrella organisations created after the scam in 2012, now hardly attracts 1000 members in its protest rallies, against about 30000 three years back. Notably, soon after the scam, the state government had announced creating a Rs 500 crore kitty through higher taxes on tobacco, to compensate the victims.
The government also constituted a commission under Justice Shyamal Sen to assess the extent of scam to facilitate refunds. However, the commission was abruptly wrapped up in 2014. Under the direction of the commission, cheques worth Rs 130 crore were issued as compensation for the victims.
However, of this cheques worth Rs 103 crore could not reach the beneficiaries because of wrong postal addresses, said Ashim Chatterjee, convenor, Chitfund Sufferers' Unity Forum.
Meanwhile, "People have lost hopes of getting back their money. Moreover, we been to a multiple political parties, but none of them seem to be ready to take up Saradha scam as a political issue. Given the cost of time the investors are required to invest in such rallies, clearly no one is interested in it anymore," said Ashim Chatterjee, convenor of the forum.
Subir Dey, convenor, All-India Small Depositors and Field Workers Protection Committee, said the association was planning direct action by organising a gherao of the Election Commission in West Bengal. The association claims that despite FIR against close to 60 companies in West Bengal, the state government has not done any arrest. The response from political parties has also been tepid.
"We anticipate that the funds from chit funds are being diverted to political parties," said Dey.
It may be recalled, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, the opposition in West Bengal, especially BJP, had taken up the Saradha issue as a political mandate. However, that the issue had hardly had a bearing on the political spectrum in the state became explicit with the results as BJP won two out of 42 Lok Sabha constituencies.
While Saradha had defaulted on payments close to Rs 2,400 crore to 1.25 million depositors.
During the Saradha probe itself, the Sen Commission received 1.7 million applications. Although most of these had deposited money in Saradha, investors of other companies such as Amazon Capital, Suraha Microfinance, Sunmarg, ICore, Rose Valley and Alchemist have also registered complaints with the Commission.
While the Enforcement Directorate (ED) estimates that Rose Valley alone collected close to Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion), the All India Small Depositors Association pegs the amount at close to Rs 40,000 crore (Rs 400 billion) -- 16 times the size of the Saradha scam.
"We have been seeking help of various political parties, but so far no one has shown much interest," said Jayanta Haldar of Chitfund Sufferers' Unity Forum.