After almost four years of fighting for financial relief, some of the victims of the AgriGold scam finally have reason to cheer. The Andhra Pradesh government has ordered Rs 250 crore to be disbursed to lakhs of victims who were affected by the scam, a move that has been praised by the welfare association.
On Thursday, the state government released a Government Order which will provide immediate relief to close to 10 lakh depositors, who had deposited Rs 10,000 and below in the company. The government had identified close to 19 lakh depositors in Andhra Pradesh alone who were cheated by Avva Venkata Rama Rao, managing director of M/s AgriGold Farm Estates India Private Limited. The GO released by the Home Department states that the Advocate General will appraise that the High Court and obtain necessary orders for payment.
According to the order, Rs 250 crore is being sanctioned "as an immediate mitigating measure to provide solace to the AgriGold depositors of Andhra Pradesh who deposited Rs 10,000 and below." The distribution, which has been delayed "due to various circumstances," is subject to the sale of certain AgriGold properties through auctions that will be conducted by the Court and the District Level Committees monitored by Court, the order reads.
While the GO makes it clear that the depositors who invested Rs 10,000 and less will receive the money after AgriGold properties are auctioned, there is no mention of victims who invested more than Rs 10,000.
Nevertheless, the AgriGold Customers and Agents Welfare Association was elated by the government's decision. M Nageshwar Rao, honorary president of the association, told TNM, "We are happy with the government's decision. We fought a relentless battle with the government asking them to expedite the process to sell the AgriGold properties and distribute the money to the victims."
Nageshwar Rao noted that "the health of three protestors who went on a hunger strike numerous times, have worsened. Many even lost hope, but with a resolve, we continued the struggle. It would be great if the High Court expedites the process and distributes the cheques to the victims by the end of the month," he added.
In the Rs 6,380-crore AgriGold scam, 32 lakh depositors from nine states, including Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, were lured in on the promise of high interest for their deposits, but were ultimately cheated by the company, according to AP government.
The company was set up by Avva Venkata Rama Rao in Vijayawada in 1995. However, the company began flailing in 2014, and numerous investors complained that their cheques were bouncing. Subsequently, scores of depositors approached police alleging that the company cheated them. The government said that the company had defaulted to tune of Rs 500 crore at various banks, and that cheques worth Rs 700 crore were dishonoured by the banks. Government agencies later seized several of its properties.
After a sustained campaign by the victims under the Agrigold Customers and Agents Welfare Association, the CID investigated the scam and arrested Avva Venkata Rama Rao, his brother Avva Hemasundara Varaprasad and others. They were later granted bail, allegedly after the CID failed to file the charge sheet.
The scam also turned into a political flashpoint when the Leader of Opposition YS Jaganmohan Reddy accused Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu of delaying the property auctioning. He further assured that he would give Rs 1,100 crore for the victims, if voted to power.