Terrifying consequence rears head Suicide after savings blow

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By OUR BUREAU
  • Published 22.04.13
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Bhola, son of Urmila Pramanik. Picture by Sushovan Sircar

Baruipur, April 21: A 50-year-old domestic help immolated herself today apparently over fears that she would not get back her life savings she invested in the Saradha Group.

If the suicide is linked without doubt to the unravelling of the sham schemes now unfolding in Bengal, it will be a portent of the terrifying cycle of consequences that usually follow such financial collapses.

The tragedy is also expected to escalate the crisis enveloping the Trinamul Congress. The poorest of the poor — Mamata Banerjee’s core constituency — are among the worst affected by the meltdown blamed on those who built their reputation by closely aligning themselves with her government.

Urmila Pramanik, who had deposited Rs 30,000 with the company in 2010, succumbed to burn injuries at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital this morning. She hailed from Daspara in Baruipur, around 30km south of Calcutta.

Urmila had made three deposits of Rs 10,000 each in a Saradha land scheme. One deposit was for seven years and the other two for 14 years on 66sqft in Saradha Gardens in Bishnupur, South 24-Parganas.

She was promised Rs 40,000 on the seven-year scheme and Rs 1 lakh each on the 14-year ones. The certificates given to her by Saradha guaranteed that she could either claim Rs 2.4 lakh or the piece of land upon the maturity of the scheme in 2024.

Urmila, whose husband had died when her son was two months old, had saved up Rs 30,000 over the past two decades by working in households in the neighbourhood.

Urmila lived in a one-room house near Chemical Ground with son Bhola, his wife Sandhya and the couple’s daughter. “Many people in the area were investing in Saradha because of its proximity to the Trinamul Congress. So, we invested as well,” Sandhya said.

“Once we heard that the offices of the group elsewhere were shutting down, we approached the agent asking for a premature return of the investment but were denied,” said Bhola, 28.

Bhola, who operates a cycle van, alleged that his mother had gone into a state of depression in the past few days after failing to get her money back from the agent. They were told that there would be a settlement on April 16 but the agent could not be found. “She could not come to terms with the fact her money was gone,” he added.

Urmila set herself on fire around 3am by pouring kerosene over herself near a tubewell outside her house. “She had suffered 100 per cent burn injuries,” said a nurse.

Urmila was among several in the neighbourhood who were allegedly duped. Dipak Pal, an oil trader in Daspara, had put Rs 30,000 in a monthly investment scheme in March 2011 on the promise that he would get Rs 450 each month for 60 months. He alleged that he stopped receiving the amount after January this year.

Bhola said he had not yet filed any complaint against the Saradha Group. “I need to consult my relatives,” he said.

A supervisor at a construction material shop, who reportedly had investments in the Saradha Group and doubled as an agent for another, had hanged himself in Durgapur on Thursday. But it is not clear yet if a personal problem or financial ruin drove him to death.