Yet more central teams in Bengal, TMC cries foul, calls them BJP proxy

The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 16-01-2023 | 11:45 am

Yet more central teams in Bengal, TMC cries foul, calls them BJP proxy

For the past several months, the West Bengal government is facing a “central teams” problem. Investigative teams from the Centre have regularly been making forays into the state, following allegations of corruption made by the Centre against various departments of the state administration, often in tandem with the BJPs own “fact finding” teams, keeping the Mamata Banerjee-helmed TMC government on its toes.The TMC alleges the BJP has been using central investigators as political tools since 2019, when it won big in the Lok Sabha polls, and especially after the 2021 Assembly polls, in which it received a drubbing.In their latest foray, central teams have been inspecting allegations of “misappropriation of mid-day meal funds” in the run-up to the panchayat polls, a week after the BJP’s Leader of Opposition in the state, Suvendu Adhikari, wrote to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, urging him to audit the state’s utilisation of funds for the Centre’s PM Poshan scheme.In a communication to the state government last Friday, the Union Education Ministry conveyed that a team of nutrition specialists and central government officers would be visiting the state to take stock of the implementation of the PM Poshan scheme, across 16 parameters.Earlier, on January 6-7, two central teams arrived in the state to look into allegations of irregularities in allotment of houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). Discontent over PMAY allotment has been growing across West Bengal for close to a year now. The Centre has initiated action by withholding its share of funds in the scheme. The Centre and the state bear the cost of the scheme at a 60:40 ratio. As the first two central teams surveyed in East Midnapore and Malda districts, more central teams arrived in West Bengal to survey the details of PMAY lists in other districts of the state.Before that in 2021, just a week after the Assembly elections, the Centre sent teams of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and National Commission for Women (NCW) to probe post-poll violence, including alleged atrocities on women.Even during the Covid outbreak in 2020-2021, central teams visited Bengal over the TMC government’s perceived mishandling of the pandemic. And last November, the state BJP had demanded that a team of medical experts visit Bengal over a dengue outbreak.According to TMC leaders, it is a common tactic to remain relevant by the BJP as it doesn’t have a grassroots organisation in West Bengal. A senior leader of the BJP said, “It is obvious that we will try to gain political mileage from this. But you can’t deny the corruption of the TMC government at all levels of administration.”This is not the first time the Centre has been alleged to be using government investigators as proxy to influence West Bengal politics. During the Left regime, Mamata Banerjee, then the Rail Minister in the UPA 2 government, had forced the Centre to send a team to probe the violence in Nandigram and elsewhere.Expectedly, the TMC is now sharply criticising this “sending central team culture” of the BJP-led central government. TMC MP Sougata Roy said, “The idea is to irritate and vex the government and disturb its activities as much as possible. They won’t succeed in their attempt.”Another TMC leader, Kunal Ghosh, said, “The Centre can send as many teams as they want and try and spread as much disinformation they wish, but the people of Bengal would see through their motives. Their leaders, who have no connection with people and are trying to stay politically relevant by resorting to letter politics, will also be rejected.”BJP leader Rahul Sinha said, “If there was no corruption the central teams would not have come here.”Echoing his sentiments, state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said, “TMC leaders at the helm of panchayats actually run the show on the ground. They are responsible for this corruption. What has TMC leadership done to stop it?”Senior CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “It is unfortunate that the Chief Minister is trying to hide the fact that there has been a huge corruption in the implementation of the scheme.”

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Times of India | 1 day ago | 31-01-2023 | 07:09 am
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To be de-novo, JJ School in Mumbai may need to show the art of business