Crackdowns in Chhattisgarh ensure justice to people duped by fraudulent chit-fund companies
CHHATTISGARH: It was a veritable loot in Chhattisgarh and elsewhere — dubious savings schemes collected tons of money from gullible people through unregulated non-banking financial organisations or chit fund companies. In Chhattisgarh alone, these fly-by-night financial companies duped over 2.60 lakh investors, according to official estimates. Today, the state government claims it has helped in returning the money to the duped investors.
Ahead of the 2018 Assembly polls, the then opposition Congress explained the issue in its election manifesto, assuring investors to secure their money from the fraudulent companies and bring their directors and office-bearers to book.
The BJP government had declared in the Assembly that from 2012 to 2016, unregulated companies in Chhattisgarh had duped 46,092 people to the tune of more than Rs 34.30 crore with the party’s assertion that prompt actions were initiated against swindlers.
In 2019, the Congress government realised that the deceptive operations of unchecked chit fund companies had taken the shape of a scam. The state government ordered a crackdown on fraudulent chit-fund companies to secure the deposits of the duped investors.
“Chhattisgarh is the only state returning the amount to the duped investors. The process of ensuring relief to the victims of the chit-fund fraud will continue. District collectors and superintendents of police have been instructed to deal with such fraudulent practices,” said Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.
In a couple of years, 457 cases have been registered against 204 unregulated chit-fund companies. There are over 125 cases pending with the collectors for interim orders in different districts and 66 cases are pending in court.
The police chiefs in various districts routinely review the progress of the cases. A monitoring cell has been created at the state police headquarters. Directors and office-bearers of various firms incriminated in the scam have been taken into custody.
“In all districts, a committee each has been constituted to initiate prompt action and recover the deposits of the investors from the fraudulent companies,” said a government spokesperson. Over 20 lakh applications have been filed against chit-fund firms in different districts of the state, prompting the refund initiated under the ‘Protection of Interests of Depositors of Chhattisgarh Act.’
According to the official figure, so far 629 directors and office-bearers and around 200 agents of different chit-fund companies have been arrested in 376 cases following a preliminary inquiry. Action was taken on the basis of grievances lodged by the victims. The companies are being identified and their properties being auctioned after the due process, said the official.
The court has given its final decision in 76 cases so far to auction the identified properties of 39 unregulated financial companies, worth Rs 68.14 crore. So far Rs 37 crore has been received through auction, attachments or settlement on the assets of 26 companies in 47 cases. In 32 cases, the properties worth over Rs 17.43 crore of 17 fraudulent companies have been auctioned and returned to 28,078 investors.
While the process of auctions and attachments continues, Rs 19.40 crore from the 13 companies was recently deposited in the government account and would be soon given to the investors. After court orders in 29 cases, collectors in various districts have initiated the process of auction of the assets worth Rs 31.30 crore belonging to 16 companies.
Government action has enthused Punnu Ram in Rajnandgaon, Sharda Bai from Bilaspur. They were among investors who were duped by companies that promised them sizable returns – thrice the invested amount in a few years. “We were extremely worried. Many people had lost their deposits. With the reassurances given by the state authorities, we are happy to have received nearly 40% of our hard-earned money so far,” said an investor.