Balasore: Saraswati Das, from Odisha's Balasore district, is one of the thousands of people in the state who have lost their life's savings in the multi-crore chit fund scam.
"If I don't get my money back, I will commit suicide, what can I do? My husband is dead. I have an old father to take care of," she asks in despair.
Across the state, thousands of people had bought into schemes issued by Sea Shore and Artha Tatwa, the two biggest chit fund companies in the state, and many others. They had been lured by promises of 24 percent returns on their investments per year. They trusted these companies, they say, because of their alleged association with the state government and political leaders.
A photograph, dating back to 2011, shows Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and other top party leaders at the launch of a news channel of the Seashore Group. Prashant Das, the owner of the group who was later arrested for allegedly defrauding investors, can also be seen in the photograph.
Senior BJD leader and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's aide Pravat Tripathy is currently under the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI's scanner for allegedly protecting chit fund companies. He is also suspected of covering up for Mayurbhanj Member of Parliament Ramachandra Hansdah, who allegedly was a founder-director of one such company.
Senior BJD leader Pinaki Misra defended the Chief Minister, saying, "As public figures, we have to attend hundreds of functions. How can we control someone from getting a photograph clicked"?
Ganesh Chandra Mahto, an agent who worked for the now-defunct Sea Shore, had a monthly collection target of Rs 1 crore and was paid a salary of Rs 90,000.
When asked if he ever felt anything was fishy, he says, "So many companies were sprouting up, everyone was joining them. I never felt anything was wrong".
As of now, the Odisha chit fund scam features 43 bogus companies and hundreds of crores of money swindled from the public. For these who have lost their life's savings, there is still no word on whether they will ever get their money back.