The Congress members staged a walkout in the Assembly on Monday over the State Government’s hesitation in agreeing to a CBI probe into the chitfund scam even as Finance Minister Prasanna Acharya put the blame squarely on the Centre for the large-scale fraud perpetrated on lakhs of investors of the State.
The issue cropped up during discussion on the admissibility of an adjournment motion notice on the scam with the Congress members alleging that the State Government is trying to cover up the irregularities because of alleged involvement of the Chief Minister, ministers and ruling party MLAs in promoting the chitfund companies, which cheated people of thousands of crores of rupees.
However, neither Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik nor other senior ministers, except Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kalpataru Das, were present in the House during the discussion, which stretched for more than three and a half hours. Alleging that the bigwigs of the BJD are directly involved in the scam, Prasad Harichandan (Cong) said the Government is now trying to wriggle out of the situation by putting the blame on the ‘weak’ Self-help Group Act, which was repealed during the session. The Act was passed in the House in 2002 and the State Government did not bring any amendment to it despite a proposal from the Cooperation department on November 5, 2002.
Harichandan said the Government also turned a blind eye to a letter from the RBI which had warned about the functioning of 57 organisations.
The Government ignored the fact when chitfund companies published brochures inviting investment with the photographs of the Chief Minister, Minister and ruling party MLAs. He wanted to know whether the Government initiated any action against the companies.
However, BJP-backed Independent MLA Pratap Chandra Sarangi created a ripple in the House when, quoting from a ‘newspaper,’ he alleged that Ministers Kalpataru Das, Damodar Rout, Surjya Narayan Patro and Arun Sahu, government chief whip Pravat Tripathy and deputy government chief whip Sanjay Dasburma received crores of rupees from Artha Tatwa, a chitfund company.