|Depositors and agents in Ranaghat protest outside an office of the Saradha Group. Picture by Somnath Kundu
April 22: An agent of the Saradha Group was taken ill in Siliguri today after a three-hour agitation that saw protesters hit the streets with placards asking the chief minister to give them back their money or provide them with poison.
Dinabandhu Pal, who had collected Rs 16 lakh for the Saradha Group, was admitted to Siliguri subdivisional hospital after he complained of palpitation in front of Siliguri police station.
His wife Ruma said Pal, 50, had been tense for the past few days. “We, too, had invested Rs 2 lakh, which we had saved for our daughter’s wedding. Besides, he had collected Rs 16 lakh. Now what will happen? The investors want their money back. He had been so tense,” said Ruma. Doctors said Pal’s condition was stable.
Agents of other micro finance companies said they were struggling to convince clients that their investments were safe. “We have no financial stringency and the business is steady. But if all investors want money at one go, it is impossible for us to give it. People have stopped paying money since last week and are demanding whatever they have invested several months ahead of the maturity period,” an agent of a north Bengal-based company said.
Some of these companies were targeted across the state as investors trooped into their offices, asking for their money.
Nearly 200 people claiming to be depositors of Rose Valley attacked its office in Tamluk town this afternoon. The mob ransacked the reception area and manager Golok Bera’s chamber.
Around 400 people attacked the office of Alchemist Ltd, also in Tamluk. At Durgachak, nearly 100 people ransacked the office of Burdwan Sunnmarg.
Several residents who had deposited money with Rose Valley demonstrated outside the company’s regional office in Raniganj, demanding their money back. In Burdwan town, the police interrogated two Saradha agents who were arrested yesterday. Another agent Sourav Banerjee was arrested today.
Nearly 150 workers of Global Automobile, the motorcycle manufacturing unit of the Saradha Group, gathered in front of the factory in Polba to protest against non-payment of salary for three months.
Global Automobiles was a joint venture of Xenitis and a Chinese company and was inaugurated in 2007 by then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. It was purchased by the Saradha Group in 2010. The officer in charge of Polba police station, Atish Das, said: “Representatives of seven banks from whom the company had borrowed money, had come to the factory.”
In Ranaghat, nearly 300 Saradha agents took out a procession demanding refund of deposited money. They also demanded a probe into transport minister Madan Mitra’s alleged involvement in the dealings of the Saradha Group.
Around 11am the demonstrators assembled in front of Vivekananda Bhavan, which houses the office of north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb. Around 500 people shouted slogans, demanding “money or poison”.
“Didi (referring to chief minister Mamata Banerjee) amader taka pherot din ba bish din (Didi, either return us our money or give us poison),” read the placards held by the demonstrators. They submitted a memorandum addressed to Deb, asking for government intervention to get their money back.
At shopping complex Shanti Square, where the north Bengal headquarters of the Saradha Group is located, two shops complained that they were incurring losses by sharing the premises with the company. On the advice of the local administration, they remained shut for the third day today.
Suresh Garg, the owner of Garg Enterprises — the sanitaryware and tiles shop on the ground floor — said he had suffered a loss of around Rs 7 lakh to Rs 8 lakh in the past three days. The manager of a garments shop said the establishment had lost around Rs 1.5 lakh in the past three days.