Srijan Scam: Manorama Devi died of illness at the age of 65 on February 13 and her organisation is now in the dock for allegedly conniving with government officials and bank employees to siphon off Rs 700 crore of welfare funds by fudging records over the last 10 years.
Srijan Scam: ounder of Srijan Mahila Sahyog Samiti Ltd, Manorama Devi had just two sewing machines in a one-room rented house in Bhagalpur 20 years ago which later transformed into an influential cooperative society with over 6,000 members, 60 staff and office premises spread over 24,000 sq ft on government land. Devi died of illness at the age of 65 on February 13 and her organisation is now in the dock for allegedly conniving with government officials and bank employees to siphon off Rs 700 crore of welfare funds by fudging records over the last 10 years.
Earlier, on Thursday the Bihar government ordered a CBI investigation into the scam, following nine FIRs and 12 arrests registered by state police in the case. As per the Indian Express investigative report, the scam was operated by the founder itself, right under the government’s nose, sharing the stage with ministers and flaunting her links to senior bureaucrats, businessmen, and politicians. Devi was known as “Srijan Didi.”
As per IE report, police officers suspect that the preparation of sattu, bindis, incense sticks, etc could have been a cover. They say they are investigating charges that the cooperative society enrolled the relatives of bureaucrats as members, giving them “heavy loans”, far above the limit of Rs 50,000.
Police sources further said that the year of 2003 was very important for Devi. It was at the same time when K P Ramaiah took charge as the District Magistrate of Bhagalpur and had launched several schemes to promote cooperative initiatives.
An official posted at Bhagalpur DM’s office told IE, “citing a government scheme, the DM announced a subsidy of 50 per cent for purchasing sewing machines. Srijan purchased 1,000 machines from a vendor, who now runs one of the biggest electronic showrooms in Bhagalpur. These machines were given to 1,000 women, who were enrolled as members. This was how Manorama Devi became a known face here.”
“Later, she cultivated links with bureaucrats banking on her image as a rising entrepreneur working to uplift women. In 2005, she started a cooperative bank, which was not affiliated to the Central Cooperative Bank of Bhagalpur. The district administration opened branches of the CCB in all blocks of Bhagalpur, except Sabour,” the report quoted another police report saying.
Meanwhile, a source close to the Srijan management told IE, “at the time, Sabour had only one nationalised bank and people started flocking to Srijan without knowing that it was not a full-fledged bank. In 2006, an official from the state cooperative department arrived for an inspection but Devi got him to talk to a senior official and the matter came to rest. By 2007, she had started giving heavy loans to the market at an interest rate of 16 per cent.”
Earlier on Saturday, IE reported that the key to the scam were two methods: direct deposit of government funds to Srijan’s accounts through fake third-party endorsement and via duplicate cheques with forged signatures. “Let the forensic department examine the signatures of some of the DMs on these cheques. We suspect some of them would turn out to be genuine. But it is now up to CBI to take the investigation further,” said the officer.
Apart from daughter-in-law Priya, whose father is Jharkhand Congress’s vice president Anandi Brahma, and her husband Amit, police sources say Srijan was being run by a chartered accountant P K Ghosh, auditor Satish Chandra Jha, who has been arrested, and staffer Bansidhar Jha.