Pradeep Pattanayak

Meet Pushpabati Parida, a resident of Shaymsundarpur village in Balasore district. Pushpabati, who runs a grocery shop in the village to keep the wolf from the door, has a bitter story to narrate.

In order not to run from pillar to post in rainy days and skimping on family expenditure, she had been depositing Rs 7,000 with a chit fund company, Micro Leasing, since 2011. She had a secure feeling so long as the company was there.

One morning, she woke up only to hear a news which gave her the shock of her lifetime. The chit fund company had done a vanishing act.

Hearing the news, she felt the ground beneath her feet disappear.

The announcement to refund money to small depositors made by the State government in 2013 brought her a huge relief. She even got her name registered at the nearby RI office.

However, the announcement proved to be hollow. She is still waiting to get back her hard earned money she lost to the chit fund company.

"I would deposit Rs 200 a month. As many years have since passed,  I have already given up the hope of getting the money back," said Pushpabati.

She is not alone in her predicament. Kanakalata Patra of Sahadebkhunta area in Balasore district has a similar experience to narrate. Hoping to get a lump sum money at the time of her daughter's marriage, she had deposited a whooping Rs 4,00,000 in Rose Valley and AT chit fund companies.

At a time when she had already lost her hope of getting her hard earned money back, the government's announcement came as a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Like Pushpabati, she is also waiting for the day when she gets her money back.

"I had deposited Rs1.5 lakh in Rose Valley and Rs 2.5 lakh in High Tech. Hoping to get more money at the time of my children's marriage, I had deposited the heard earned money. In towns, people are getting money as KALIA beneficiaries. Here, it seems our wait to get our own money will never end," Kanakalata rued.

Over 44 companies including Artha Tatwa, Sea Shore, Rose Valley  duped gullible people in Odisha of crores of rupees.

Initially, the State government had decided to identify the small depositors and return them their money.  For this, special chit fund courts were also set up. In the Cuttack Chit Fund Court, 60 cases of confiscation of properties were lodged. Of those, the court had given its final judgment to confiscate the assets of 18 companies.

Money to the tune of Rs 275 crores belonging to companies like Rose Valley, High Tech and Goldensand deposited at several banks has been directed for confiscation. Of them, only Rose Valley's Rs92 crore has so far been distributed among the depositors.

Meanwhile, the process of identifying the depositors for Rs 64 crores of High Tech company is underway.

At the same time, a petition has been filed at the Cuttack Chit Fund Court, requesting to confiscate 1028 acres of lands belonging to these companies. Of them, Sea Shore alone has over 1000 acres of land.

Similarly, in the Berhampur Chit Fund Court, while 10 cases have been finalised, 120 are still pending.  In nine cases, punishment has been pronounced and direction has been issued to attach the properties of five companies. Of them, Oscar alone has properties worth Rs3,45,00,000.

The process which started in 2015 is still continuing.

In Balasore Chit Fund Court, as many as 34,042 forgery cases have been registered against Rose Valley company. Of them, over Rs 6,39,00,000 has already been distributed among 17,056 small depositors.

And, the fate of the rest of the depositors seems to be in dark.

Meanwhile, the convener of  Chit Fund Depositors Association, Jayant Das, said the depositors were first duped by the companies and now they are being cheated by the State government. "The government has kept the money recovered from the attachment of companies' properties. We will stage a sit-in in front of Collectors' offices till the depositors get their money back," he said.

When contacted,  special public prosecutor, Cuttcak Chit Fund Court, Subrat Mohanty said, "18 cases have been decided and the State government has been directed to sale the assets of the companies and attach their money deposited in banks. The money would be distributed among the depositors. Our efforts are on to distribute the money as quickly as possible."