| KMSS president Akhil Gogoi in Guwahati on Friday. Picture by UB Photos |
Guwahati, Aug. 29: The CBI search operations in the multi-crore Saradha scam in the state figured in the Assembly today as the KMSS reiterated its demand for a probe to cover chief minister Tarun Gogoi.
Anjan Dutta, one of the two senior Congress MLAs whose houses were searched yesterday (the other being Himanta Biswa Sarma) clarified his position for the second day running with documentary evidence at a news meet held on the Assembly campus.
The CBI search issue was raised in the House by MLA Padma Hazarika, who has been suspended by the AGP, through a point of order during Zero Hour. He demanded that Dispur inform the House about the persons whose premises were searched by the CBI as there were “reports of the houses of two MLAs and a retired top police official being searched”. He said the matter was very important as it related to siphoning of small depositors’ hard-earned money.
Senior AGP legislature party leader Phani Bhushan Choudhury joined Hazarika but none of the BJP and AIUDF MLAs raised the issue.
Outside the House, AIUDF legislator Hafiz Bashir Ahmed Qasimi said, “After the government said they didn’t have any official information about the searches, there was no point in pushing the issue. But we had raised the issue earlier in the House.” BJP Legislature Party leader Jadab Chandra Deka echoed Qasimi.
Cabinet minister Rakibul Hussain, in his reply, said the CBI had not informed Dispur about the searches. He said the CBI informs the state government about arrests but it is not mandatory for the agency to inform about searches.
He said in May 2013, Dispur had recommended CBI probe into 15 cases registered in the state against deposit-collecting agencies, including two against Saradha group. “The chief minister has already said the law will take its own course,” Hussain added.
Later, Dutta, who attended the Assembly session today, told reporters that his relationship with prime accused Sudipta Sen was purely “business-related” as Sen used to print his Sakalbela newspaper from Dutta’s printing press in Guwahati and Sivasagar. Dutta alleged that Sen owed him Rs 3.5 crore. He added that he carried all his financial transactions through account payee cheques. “I had initiated legal steps to recover my dues from Sen in 2011. Seven cheques of Rs 50 lakh each issued by Sen’s company to my publishing firm bounced. A money suit for recovery of Rs 50-plus lakh was filed by me in Guwahati, much before the scam erupted and the CBI ordered the probe,” Dutta said.
Outside the House, the KMSS turned the heat on the chief minister, demanding that Gogoi, too, be probed for allegedly facilitating the Saradha scam, without which, the ongoing inquiry would be “half complete”.
KMSS president Akhil Gogoi alleged, “It all happened with the knowledge of chief minister Tarun Gogoi who is also in charge of the finance and home departments. The Bureau of Investigation (Economic Offences) registered the first case against chit fund agencies in Assam in 2006 and the second one was in 2009. Despite two such cases, the finance and home departments did not take any initiative to stop it. This shows how Gogoi was facilitating these chit fund companies in the state.”
Akhil said Gogoi had, in a reply in the Assembly in 2012, refrained from mentioning the name of Saradha in the list of illegal chit fund agencies operating in the state.
He demanded that Sarma’s MLA quarters be raided and his property along with that of singer Sadananda Gogoi and former DGP Sankar Barua, be confiscated and sold to pay the people who lost money. The CBI had also searched the premises of Gogoi and Barua. “The shortfall should be paid by the government,” Akhil added. If West Bengal can take steps to compensate the affected why can’t Dispur?” Akhil asked.