One of the most popular newspapers in Bengal carried the top story today wishing a very happy birthday to the Special Investigation Committee, SIT, and congractualted it for living up to its acronym. Nothing could better sum up the multi-crore money laundering Saradha scam investigation which is the last one year has created more questions than delivered answers to the people.
The tussle between the SIT and the Enforcement Directorate is not yet resolved though the reigns of the investigation has now clearly moved over to the hands of the ED. There are reports that after bringing in Saradha head Sudipto Sen’s wife, son and the daughter in law, the ED could now turn to questioning two TMC MPs, a minister, a TMC candidate and a TMC leader from Borth Kolkata according to various local reports. But the first FIR was lodged against Sudipto Sen on 16 April 2013, and questioning the immediate family members after a year will not be enough to make people happy. Things look worse when one takes into account the ED’s repeated complaints to both High Court and Supreme Court for not getting help from the state government and the SIT. The intentions and efficiency of the SIT was questioned further when the ED arrested Sudipto Sen’s wife and son from Kolkata after a month of no cooperation in this matter from the state police.
There could be three major opinions surrounding the case: the first is this is not about parties, ministers or politics. The state police have been simply inefficient. The ED must quickly figure out where all the money has gone. This is case about the 17 lakh investors who lost their money and it should be only about bringing justice to them.
The second is a growing cynicism that the enthusiasm of the ED is just one of the political gimmicks and just like many other cases in India, as the names of those in power come up, the investigation would die its own death. This has been most of our experiences of the past, especially bringing back the memories of Sanchayita Investment scam in Bengal in 1980s where among three guilty promoters one is absconding, one was declared insolvent and one is dead. This must not just be seen as a TMC party line which insists that the central investigating agencies are agents for the Congress. And the CPIM cannot escape its own responsibility under whose rule Saradha had flourished as well. All the parties who now want a proper investigation to gain brownie points for the election might not be so keen after it is over.
But I would rather stick to a third line, where simply finding out where Saradha’s money is gone, and gaining it back to return it to the investors would not mean justice. One must remember that the scam came into limelight after few investors committed suicide sensing they would never get their hard earned money back. The human face of the tragedy must take it beyond just mud slinging among political leaders, but not take away the political angle to the money laundering.
TMC might find it almost impossible to negate its own closeness to Saradha, with Mamata Banerjee accepting all its “donations” of ambulances, bikes etc to be taken to Junglemahal. It had invested more than Rs 1.5 crore in buying Banerjee’s paintings. The erstwhile DG Rajat Majumdar is also now being questioned who worked as the security advisor of Sarada after his retirement and also used to sit in the TMC Bhavan in Kolkata. The deals of media houses owned by Saradha also need to enquired into that could involve heavyweight TMC names like Mukul Roy and Srinjoy Bose.
It is often asked that whether the scam will affect TMC’s votes this election season. Indian elections are far too complicated to throw up concrete answers to such specific questions. But real justice will only be served if the people not only get back their money, but an explanation of who were responsible for their loss in the first place. I am not sure of a specific election, but if some could be thrown on the alleged collusion between the political leaders and Saradha, it could bring a new ray of hope to Indian democracy.