Mamata to raise funds for chit fund victims, to tax smokers

Kolkata, April 25: Cornered by the backlash in the wake of a massive chit fund scam, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday announced to hike tax on cigarettes by 10 per cent and tobacco to raise money for a relief fund for those depositors who lost their life-long savings in the scam. A whopping Rs 30,000 crore of investors' money disappeared in the Saradha chit fund scam which also saw the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) allegedly involved in it.

The chief minister said that the relief fund will be used selectively for the poor and the lower-middle class people and not for all who had deposited money with Saradha Group chairman-cum-managing director Sudipta Sen's numerous companies.

Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat that the final relief amount would be decided by the inquiry commission that has been set up. She said her government has set up a Rs 500-crore relief fund, particularly for those poor people who have lost their money in the scam and have to meet pressing financial needs. She said to raise the money, the government is imposing 10 per cent tax on cigarettes and tobacco.

The relief scheme, however, doesn't discuss specifics like how Rs 500 crore would be distributed among a select few out of lakhs of people who have lost their money and what would be the criteria for selecting the needy ones.

On imposing the extra tax, Banerjee said the government doesn't want that cigarette companies s get hurt, but it also needs to look after the poor. She said tax on cigarettes in West Bengal is 25 per cent lesser than in come other states. ITC, the largest cigarette company in the country which is headquartered in Kolkata, had raised cigarette prices after the West Bengal government had raised taxes from 20 to 25 per cent in this year's budget.

Banerjee added that the state government is also planning to auction off the chit fund company's property to raise funds.

Meanwhile, the Kolkata Police on Wednesday got fou-day transit remand from Ganderbal chief judicial magistrate in Jammu and Kashmir to take Sen and two of his associates, including one woman, to West Bengal. They were brought to Kolkata later in the day. The trio was arrested from Sonamarg in Kashmir on Tuesday. They had left Kolkata on April 10 and were passing through various places in north India to evade law.

OneIndia News

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