Company offices sealed in Assam

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By OUR BUREAU
  • Published 24.04.13
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Dibon Deka, publisher of Sakalbela, addresses a news conference in Guwahati on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati/Bongaigaon, April 23: Assam police sealed five offices of Saradha Group today amid protests by depositors, agents and employees and accusations that a minister, a former DGP and government officials had facilitated the group’s business ventures in the state.

Dibon Deka, publisher of Sakalbela, a Bengali newspaper of the group, accused state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, former state director-general of police Sankar Baruah, and Publication Board, Assam, secretary Sadananda Gogoi of assisting the group’s business ventures in the state.

Deka alleged that the group’s chief executive officer Sudip Ghosh Dastidar, who looked after the company’s businesses in Assam, took the trio’s help in running Saradha Realty, which collected money from depositors under different schemes.

“In case of any problem with the police, Sadananda Gogoi sorted them out through the then DGP (Sankar Baruah) and in case of an administrative problem through Himanta Biswa Sarma. When Calcutta-based Dastidar visited Guwahati every month, he used to meet the trio,” Deka alleged at a news conference at Guwahati Press Club here today.

Refuting the charges, Sarma said, “I have no direct or indirect link with the company. I will decide my future course of action after going through the charges and media reports, including filing a criminal defamation case.”

Gogoi, also a documentary filmmaker, rubbished the charges and said he had met Dastidar in connection with making an ad-film for the company’s products.

Deka had joined the company in 2010 and looked after publishing of Sakalbela, Seven Sisters Post, the group’s English daily, and Ajir Dainik Batori, an Assamese daily in which the group had invested money but had later withdrawn.

Employees of Sakalbela had lodged an FIR at Paltan Bazar a few days ago while and those of Seven Sisters Post lodged an FIR at Dispur police station here today. They complained that they had not received their salaries since February this year.

Deka said, “I have never met the minister (Sarma) for official work but I accompanied my boss Sudipto Sen (the owner of Saradha Group) to Guwahati Town Club last year where he met the minister. But today no one is helping us. We want a thorough investigation and our salaries. If I don’t get my salary, I will either have to fight for it or commit suicide.”

A large number of aggrieved depositors and agents staged a protest before a branch office of Saradha Realty at Lal Ganesh here today and demanded immediate return of the money collected by the company. They attempted to ransack the office after finding no employee there. Police intervention prevented the situation from turning ugly.

Dipika Saha, an agent, told this correspondent, “I had collected Rs 30,000 from different people and deposited the amount at this branch. I personally deposited Rs 30,000 after company officials promised high returns on my investment. The company told me that I would also receive higher commission if I got more depositors. How will I now face the people from whom I collected the money? The depositors are demanding their money back immediately.”

Purnima Choudhury, another agent, said, “I had deposited Rs 1 lakh, of which Rs 50,000 was collected from people. The company promised me high returns within April. I had approached the company’s officials several times till April 10 to collect the money. I never thought they would do the vanishing act, taking advantage of Bihu holidays.”

Senior superintendent of police (city) Anand Prakash Tiwari said the police had locked up four offices of the company in the city today and deployed policemen to maintain law and order. “Two cases have been registered against the company for criminal breach of trust and we have started our investigation. We want to protect the company’s assets for evidence,” he added.

Bongaigaon police today sealed the company’s office after depositors ransacked it yesterday. The depositors today lodged an FIR against two local employees of the company, Biplab Dutta and Bin Dey, at Bongaigaon police station.

RTI activist and KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi demanded a CBI probe following the allegation that a minister, a former DGP and government officials had assisted the defaulting company.