Wayanad: Putting the CPM leadership as well as the district administration in a fix, a group of depositors who had invested in various projects of CPM-controlled Brahmagiri Development Society (BDS), have approached the district collector over unsettled dues.
The district administration is likely to be forced to take a procedural course of action as BDS is a quasi-governmental agency.
The crisis in the co-operative came to light in April when a group of depositors, who were not paid the monthly interest for their deposits despite repeated requests, barged into the head office of BDS at Pathirippalam, Sulthan Bathery. The group of complainants includes a farmer and a retired bank official, both from Sulthan Bathery.
The major projects of BDS, including Malabar Meat and Kerala Chicken, have been defunct for the last several months. The employees of the Malabar Meat factory had an unceremonious exit without any notice. They were allegedly told that the factory was shutting down for a few days and would reopen later. The KSEB has also disconnected the power supply over unpaid bills.
It is the first time that individual depositors have approached the authorities. Going by the complaint of two persons, they had deposited Rs 5 lakh each in BDS projects in 2019. Though the interest for the amount was issued earlier, since June 2022 the payment of interest has stopped.
The complainants have said the BDS administration did not respond to their registered letter sent in January. In total BDS owes Rs 6.5 lakh to the two complainants.
Among the 21 directors of BDS, six members are government nominees including Mananthavady MLA OR Kelu of CPM, the others are IAS officers heading various departments.
Debt-ridden after the COVID-19-driven crisis, BDS has a total debt of Rs 88 crore, of which Rs 20 crore is from various banks and the rest mobilized from organisations and individuals. About 50 depositors participated in a meeting convened by the action council of depositors by the end of August. They were, reportedly, promised by the party leadership that the debt would be settled by December. As the majority of depositors are members of CPM, the leaders of the action council are under pressure from party leadership against opting for an open agitation. Most of the depositors are retired employees and teachers, all former members of pro-CPM trade unions.
After the closure of Malabar Meat, the flagship project of BDS, the outlets across the northern districts either closed or gave way to products of private players. Former chairman of BDS, P Krishna Prasad, had portrayed it as an alternative to the corporate world to save the farm sector through agri-based projects owned by farmers and workers.
CPM state secretary MV Gonvindan, who met the media at Kalpetta in June, had promised all measures to settle the debt of depositors as soon as possible.
Moreover, the Union Bank of India is all set to attach the property of P Krishna Prasad. It had been pledged as security for availing loan for the Kerala Chicken project when the government funding for the project was delayed. The total amount due to the bank by BDS is more than Rs 6 crore, it is learned. The property includes his ancestral home, apart from other farmland. Prasad had stepped down from the chairmanship of BDS a year ago. The present chairman PK Suresh is the district secretariat member of CPM.