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Under fire, Banerjee tries to deflect attack to the Left

Under fire, Banerjee tries to deflect attack to the Left

Kolkata: With her government drawing flak after the Saradha Group downed shutters, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Monday blamed the erstwhile Left Front regime for the mushrooming of chit funds, alleging it had not even acted on presidential advice for a strong legislation to contain the menace.

Breaking her silence on the issue days after the firm went bust, affecting lakhs of agents and distributors who had parked their funds in the group's companies, Banerjee claimed the Left Front government had not taken any action through the years to contain the activities of such chit funds.

She alleged that the LF government had passed a legislation in 2003 and sent it to the central government for approval. "In 2006, then president Pratibha Patil wrote to the state about shortcomings in the law and asked it to come up with a fresh legislation after effecting changes on four-five points."

"But the LF did no withdraw the Act. As per rules, if any legislation sent to the president is is not withdrawn, then no new legislation is possible on that.

"In 2008, the LF government sent a new legislation. It is still with the central government. After we came to power, the Securities and Exchange Board of India wrote to us about the complaint against this (Saradha) Group. We then found that the state Act was not powerful," she said.

Banerjee said her government was ready with the draft of a fresh bill to bring to justice funds duping people by money laundering.

"It has strong provisions for punishing the guilty chit fund owners. It has provisions for inspection, seizure and attachment of property and for returning money to the depositors. But because the earlier legislation has not been withdrawn, we cannot go ahead with the new bill," she claimed.

The chief minister said three months back her government had given a letter to the central government to return the old legislation.

"But so far there has been no progress. When President Pranab Mukherje called me up on Sunday I requested him to ensure the bill was returned to us fast, if possible within 24 hours," she said.

"Because they (the Left) did not bring the proper Act, the chit funds are flourishing. I don't know whether they did this deliberately," she remarked.

Banerjee admitted that there was now a law and order problem in the state because of the chit fund muddle.

"No, this is not a crisis. People have been duped. Because the CPI-M led Left Front is no more in power, the irregularities have been exposed. They made West Bengal the breeding ground of corruption".

Attacking the Congress, which has been targeting her government on the issue, Banerjee said: "How come they have the guts to demand replies from us on this? Had the central government acted in time, the situation would not have come to such a pass".

The chief minister claimed her government was "completely in the dark about the wrong-doings of the Saradha Group.

"We came to know of it when channels like Tara Newz and Tara Music filed an FIR. From then on, our government has acted. These funds collecting money illegally are governed by rules of SEBI and RBI. The state has no role in it."

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