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Mamata government passes bill against chit funds again



Kolkata, Dec 12: Seven months after passing legislation aimed to protect interests of chit fund depositors but failing to get presidential assent, the West Bengal assembly on Thursday cleared another bill on the issue, amidst the opposition’s apprehension that it would again be sent back for having unconstitutional provisions.

The West Bengal Protection of Interest of Depositors in Financial Establishments Bill, 2013, was passed unanimously, with Finance Minister Amit Mitra claiming that it contained more stringent provisions than the earlier legislation of the same name in bringing to book unscrupulous financial companies.

The bill, cleared by the House April 30 in a special session days after the Saradha Group chit fund scam came to light and sent for presidential assent, was returned to the state government with major queries in September.

The central government had objected to several provisions in the bill and sought a number of clarifications.

Mitra, who tabled the legislation afresh, said the earlier bill was being withdrawn, and referred to a letter he had written to the union home ministry Nov 30 decrying the delay in enacting the new law.

"We cannot be going to the legislator with newer and newer bills and with newer and newer suggestions. Therefore, we presume that the comments made by the government of India on the bill is comprehensive, full and final. You ould agree that much time has been lost on queries, suggestions… that has been thrust on us", the minister said, quoting from the letter.

Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra moved some amendments which were not accepted.

Mishra later told reporters that the Left Front extended support to the legislation as it wholeheartedly favoured a strong law which would bring perpetrators of such crimes to book.

"In April also we supported and the legislation was passed unanimously. Then they had withdrawn a bill that the LF government had passed. The same story has been repeated. There are lot of loopholes. The clause on granting retrospective effect is against Article 20 of the constitution."

Accusing the Mamata Banerjee government of keeping the house in the dark on the clarifications and changes sought by the central government, Mishra said: "They did not even tell us about the points they have accepted."

"Our apprehension is the loopholes have been kept to protect the real culprits. The government is buying time to help them. The government is compensating the depositors from the tax payers’ money. Properties of the Saradha group is being transferred illegally," he alleged.

The Saradha scandal came to light in April when the company closed shop across Bengal, unable to pay back the depositors, mainly poor people in small towns and villages, who had parked their life’s savings with the group, lured by the promise of huge returns

The multi-crore scandal, the biggest financial scam to hit the state, has triggered a spate of suicides by agents and depositors of ponzi firms.

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