“Hope – Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering it will be happier.” ~ Alfred Tennyson.
One such hope of better future emerged in thousands of people in the West Bengal district of Dakshin Barasat who had invested their hard earned money in the chit fund scheme started by the now infamous Saradha Group. The journey of these investors (mostly rural poor people) was embarked with a ticket to Utopia. However, they were thrown right at the doorstep of Hell.
Thousands of people became pauper overnight as they had invested all their hard earned money including their life savings. Little did they know that the plant which they were worshipping and nurturing so devotionally was no Kalpataru but a devil in disguise which would not only destroy them but finish them completely.
From the day the scam has been exposed the suicide rate is just scaling up. Not just the small investors who had invested their dream in the scheme but even the agents of the company who were supposed to return the huge sum of the money to the investors are committing suicide after the company busted.
The Promoter-Chairman of the fraudulent company, Sudipta Sen has been arrested but there are many questions that still remain unanswered. Out of the many the most significant ones are – Will they be able to get even half the money they invested? Will they be able to survive the pain caused? Will they trust anybody in future? Will they dare to dream next time? And most significantly will they be able to exist in this world, let alone live?
You may wonder when the current rate of interest is anything between 8 to 9% the return around 20% is blatantly absurd. Then what made the rural poor people flock towards a fraudulent company like Saradha Group? Well here is the reason –
If we get into the detailed numbers of the investment portfolio of the domestic segment, we stumble upon the fact that although there has been rising in the stocks, debentures and insurance funds from 2005 to 2010 there has been a steady decrease in the Government schemes largely the small saving investments, which scaled down to 2.6% in 2005-2010 from a good 19.5% in 2000-2005. This crash in small savings investment is mainly due to these reasons –
- Interest rates declined and
- There were other monetary instruments now available in the marketplace.
Moreover, the committee assigned (headed by Shyamala Gopinath) in retrospect to these small savings further failed to woo any investor. Firstly, it discontinued the Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP). So, the scheme which all the middle class Indians relied on for decades doesn’t exist now. However, the money ought for investment is still there and has to find some or the other new instrument. Given the fact that the interest on Government schemes are not very rewarding, it is quite reasonable that the money to be invested will find channel in financial organizations (fake or not, who knows) like the Saradha Group.
Secondly, the interest rates on the monthly income (MI) scheme which was once around 22 percent of the total deposits has now been decreased. In addition the promised 5% maturity bonus in this scheme has been suspended which makes this scheme less striking.
Thirdly, the commission fees of the agents have been decreased significantly. In national certificates and different deposits, the commission has been reduced to 0.5%from 1% while the commission on Senior Citizen Savings Scheme (0.5%) and PPF (1%) has been abolished. These factors have played a major role in leading the agents to enroll people in the small savings schemes. However, groups like Saradha used this occasion to target these agents, who by now had the confidence of the people. By promising a much higher commission, these agents began mobilizing money for Saradha and that is how the poor invested huge sum of their living in the fund. In addition, the groups alleged links with the Mamta Baneerjee’s party Trinamool Congress (TMC) further reinforced the aam aadmi’s trust and faith.
This chit or should I say cheat fund scam of the Saradha Group is not at all new in West Bengal or India. There have been similar cases in the past in the name of SpeakAsia and Stockguru. However, still, these scams prevail and continue to haunt us in one form or the other. Here, it becomes our responsibility to understand that nobody can become rich overnight. We should not only help ourselves with this fact of understanding but also convey it to the needy section of our society who easily fall victim to such fake schemes. You never know how your small contribution can keep alive the hope and help in materializing someone’s dream of living a good life.
Image Source : IANS