Angry depositors of Oriental Cooperative picket Baluwatar

- Rajesh Khanal, Kathmandu
Depositors ask govt to pass new Cooperative Act under which an Assets Rehabilitation Committee would be set up to recover savings stuck in troubled cooperatives

Jun 3, 2016-Depositors of troubled Oriental Cooperative on Thursday picketed the prime minister’s official residence at Baluwatar demanding that the government arrest its chairman Sudhir Basnet.

They also asked the government to pass the new Cooperative Act under which an Assets Rehabilitation Committee would be set up to recover the savings of depositors stuck in troubled cooperatives. 

The demonstrators, who numbered about 500, blocked traffic on the road leading to the prime minister’s official residence to press their demand. They also accused government officials of protecting Basnet who has been charged with embezzling Rs6 billion from the cooperative. 

Two years ago, a high-level commission led by former chairman of the Special Court Gauri Bahadur Karki was formed to probe troubled cooperatives. It had urged the government to set up a rehabilitation committee.

The committee was supposed to confiscate Basnet’s assets and distribute them among the depositors.

As per the proposed Cooperative Act drafted by the Ministry of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation, a rehabilitation committee will be formed and those convicted of embezzling money from cooperatives will be jailed for 20 years. The proposed jail term has been slashed to seven years, and the bill has been languishing at the Cab-inet for the last six months. 

Kuntidevi Pokharel, coordinator of the Cooperative Victims Women Welfare Protection Committee, said they had staged the protest due to the government’s apathy towards resolving their grievances. 

“Instead of initiating quick action against the accused, the government has been delaying approving the new act,” she said. 

Urmila Shrestha from Sanepa sought the government’s intervention to make Basnet pay back the savings of small depositors. “At the time, some of the banks had already auctioned off Basnet’s assets to recover their outstanding loans, but the government has been ignoring the problems of small depositors,” said Shrestha who had deposited Rs1 million in Oriental Cooperative. 

Yaj Kumar Prajapati from Thimi said they were ready to forget the interest if Basnet repaid the principal. Prajapati, who is in his 70s, had deposited Rs1.3 million in Oriental Cooperative.

The victims also protested Basnet’s recent move to resume Oriental-funded businesses. On May 19, Basnet had asked the Department of Cooperatives to allow him to complete his housing projects so that he could settle his liabilities by selling the houses.

Basnet said he had already hired a consultancy named Chhetri & Associates for the purpose. According to him, the firm will resume the construction work at his three housing projects—Chakrapath Heights in Dhapasi, Imperial Apartment in Naxal and Vegas City in Imadol. He has assured the department that he will pay back the depositors’ money once the houses are sold. 

The victims, however, expressed little faith in Basnet’s promise. He had made a similar commitment two years ago at a meeting with the depositors. 

Published: 03-06-2016 08:39

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