Millennium Post

Law, literacy and limits of ponzis

With absolutely no regard for the hand to mouth situation that millions of Indians still find themselves in, Ponzi schemes have ravaged and may continue to agonise if a stringent law to counter it is not brought in soon. Incidentally the West Bengal government in April 2013 had passed a bill in the assembly called ‘West Bengal Protection of Interest of Depositors in Financial Establishment Bill 2013’ and the first bill was duly sent for Presidential assent by the governor of the state.

This happened when the infamous Saradha scam was unfolding. However, the bill which was forwarded by the state government to the centre almost one and a half years ago, it seems has hit enough hurdles and the approval for taking effective action against errant individuals and groups seems to be languishing in the corridors of power. Ponzi schemes, named after Charles Ponzi, a 20th century American scamster, have affected our poorest. Promising astronomical returns, these schemes ruin households and leave people trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. Ponzi schemes like that of the Pearls group, Saradha group and the Speak Asia group had targeted the poorest of the poor investors in states like West Bengal, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Mostly illiterate with no understanding of the pitfalls, gullible investors sacrificed their lifelong earnings.  

Yet nobody knows what has stopped the centre from taking any action on the bill submitted by the West Bengal government. To make matters clearer, a long term ally of the saffron party is in the dock for having played a substantial role in one of the many Ponzi schemes that have unearthed. So, does this mean that if the centre is not taking any action it is in direct correlation to the fact that it does not want its own political equations to be disturbed? And even after having been sent three reminder letters by Dr Amit Mitra, Bengal’s finance minister to take necessary action, the centre has still not blinked and it seems may not either. 

Currently whenever a Ponzi scheme is exposed it is the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (CrPC) which comes into effect. The CrPC which has sections on charges related to fraud, forgery, criminal misconduct among others is ineffective as most of these offences are bailable in nature. The bill proposed by the Bengal government on the other hand will empower state government to seize assets of Ponzi scheme companies, sell them and return the money to poor investors. But how soon is the centre going to bridge this gap is case in point. 
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