Patient wait in Karuvannur scam shows little signs of end

The family of a recently deceased 98-year-old widow received some relief when the bank issued a cheque, contrary to earlier administrative claims that the money would be directly deposited into the legal heir's account.
Karuvannur service cooperative bank ltd
Karuvannur service cooperative bank ltd


Kochi | In a seemingly ceaseless narrative of relentless interrogations and courtroom battles, depositors of the Karuvannur Co-operative Society find themselves embroiled in a saga stemming from a staggering Rs 300-crore scam. Yet, akin to the soothing balm of rain upon parched Kerala, there emerges a glimmer of solace for some of the bereaved families of those who passed away, leaving behind their painstakingly amassed savings in this financial institution. But the poignant tales of patients, whose funds are tied up in the cooperative, grappling with the daunting challenges of settling their medical bills continues.

Lakshmikutty Amma, who spent her final days confined to her bed and passed away in March at the age of 98, had approximately Rs 3 lakh as term deposit in the bank in her vicinity. Following the intervention of the High Court, she received a partial sum at the fag end of her life. However, the entirety of her hard-earned savings eluded her grasp throughout her lifetime. It was only earlier this week, after numerous pleas with the bank, that her legal heir was finally handed a cheque representing the remainder of her savings. And no interest was paid on the term deposit after it matured more than two years ago.

The bank CEO had told Metro Vaartha last week that the funds belonging to deceased depositors would be transferred to the accounts of their legal heirs. When questioned about the customary practice of issuing a cheque, he explained that due to the ongoing Enforcement Directorate investigation and the prevailing circumstances, this was not currently feasible. Nevertheless, it seems reason ultimately prevailed, as the daughter of Lakshmikutty Amma was finally presented with a cheque this week for the outstanding sum.

However, the plight of patients presents a stark contrast. Padmini, the 71-year-old daughter of Lakshimkutty Amma, recently underwent surgery following a fall and now faces several months of bed rest. Despite having spent over Rs 1 lakh on her medical treatment, and holding a deposit of more than Rs 3 lakh in the bank, her prospects of receiving any form of assistance seem remote.

Not too far in the past, Joshi (53), who had been bedridden for over seven years following an accident and was later diagnosed with a tumor, was driven to contemplate ending his life despite having invested Rs 72 lakh in the bank. It was only after he resorted to a plea for euthanasia that the bank authorities were spurred into action.

While the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has estimated that the ruling CPM amassed deposits exceeding Rs 100 crore over the past decade through clandestine transactions, and has even suggested in court that the attached properties of the accused could be liquidated to compensate the depositors, relief for the victims remains a distant prospect.

The scandal came to light in 2021 following the tragic suicide of former panchayat member TM Mukundan. He was pressured to repay a Rs 50-lakh loan that he had never actually taken from the bank, exposing the fraudulent scheme. Despite being privy to these illicit transactions, the CPM made concerted efforts to conceal them from public scrutiny.

Following the exposé of the Karavannur scandal, a cascade of frauds in numerous comparable institutions has come to light. As investigations persist and political leaders attempt to distance themselves from the illicit transactions, depositors who entrusted their hard-earned savings are left abandoned, grappling with uncertainty and dismay.

Despite repeated questioning of the Thrissur district party leadership and the shadow looming over prominent figures like former Minister AC Moideen and Kerala Bank vice-president MK Kannan, observers, including former MLA Anil Akkara whose role in exposing the scam is laudatory, closely monitoring the situation fear that when the next FIR is lodged smaller players may be made scapegoats, allowing the true masterminds to slip through the net.

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