The State of West Bengal is under siege! It is under the siege of political leaders who have worked in tandem with non-banking financial entities (known in local parlance as “Chit Fund”) who have siphoned of billions of rupees, most of which was life’s entire savings of poorer families. Some Members of Parliament, ministers and political leaders have been accused of having benefited from their acquaintance with what the Saradha Agency that is in news of late. Every political party is crying foul of the other of having benefited from the group, as the group was dragged into media, real estate, tourism and you name it. After at least three deaths and suicides have been reported due to this micro-finance scam that is haunting the state and after thousands of agents and journalists have lost their job, the governments are trying to wash their hands off. Finally, action was forced upon, and some of the Directors have been detained, including the CEO. The Chief Minister has proposed that cigarettes will be made costlier by 10% more by way of special tax, and 1.5 billion rupees will be recovered through that to pay the small investors and some medium investors. The government plans to put in 3.5 billion to add to it. The large investors and the high medium may not be that lucky as the 5 billion proposed money will not be enough to pay all. At a press conference the Chief Minister asked people to “smoke more so that the money can be recovered fast”, so that the poor can be paid their capital back. Good intention wrought with ill impacts? Many doctors have questioned the reasoning as to what about the health impact of increased smoking.
The government, including the Chief Minister, at the state seems to have some good intentions to put things in order. The main culprits have been arrested, and she has promised more action, even if the other culprits come from her own party. It is also important that the investigation is done in a non-partisan manner, and all those who cheated the poor are brought to book soon. Or else, the party that came to power on pro-poor issues may end up paying the price.