On Thursday, Uttam, the son of a Trinamool Congress (TMC) member of Dharmapukuria Panchayat in Bangaon was thrashed by the locals with brooms and sticks, reported Anandabazar Patrika. The incident took place in the Sukpukur area where the locals attacked the house of the TMC leader, following allegations of corruption in the disbursement of relief funds for Cyclone Amphan.
Dismissing charges of misappropriation of funds and alleging that the BJP supporters had been behind the attack, the TMC politician Gopal Dey said, “If anyone can prove the allegation of corruption, then, I will thank him personally. My own house has been damaged but I didn’t take the money. Instead, all the affected families in the area have been provided financial assistance.”
Anandabazar Patrika reported that the residents of the village had gone to the house of Dey and thrashed his son Uttam with brooms and shoes. A protestor by the name of Urmila Pal claimed that she did not receive the relief amount of ₹20,000, even though her house was damaged during the Cyclone Amphan. She alleged that people whose houses were unaffected in the natural disaster had somehow siphoned off the money.
Protestors had alleged that even though the house of Gopal Dey did not suffer any damage, yet he was a beneficiary of the relief fund. They demanded that the TMC member has to return the money or pay compensation to all the families in the village. The protestors, comprising mostly of women, informed that Uttam was thrashed by them after they saw him beating his own mother.
Deputy chief of Dharmapukuria panchayat Sukdev Shikari told Anandabazaar Patrika, “A list of all victims of Cyclone Amphan has been prepared. The owners of completely damaged houses have received the money. Partially damaged homeowners had not yet received financial assistance in the block.” He assured that stringent action would be taken against those found involved in corruption. Sukdev conceded that a family received double the assured sum but clarified that the mistake had been corrected.
BJP distances himself from the attack
In his defence, BJP’s co-president (Barasat) Devdas Mandal said that the attack was carried out by a group of villagers who did not receive their due share of compensation and that the party had nothing to do with it. There have been widespread protests in several districts, following allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds on the part of TMC panchayat members. The demonstrations were accompanied by the public humiliation of the accused, vandalism, and obstruction.
TMC Panchayat member publicly shamed for irregularities in compensation distribution
In a similar incident this week, TMC leader and panchayat member Swapan Kumar Ghatu was was gheraoed by the residents of Kailashpur village in South 24 Paraganas and held hostage at a local school playground for illegally receiving compensation amount, originally meant for the victims of Cyclone Amphan. The locals had alleged that the TMC politician had siphoned off relief funds by listing his family members as the beneficiaries. Later talking to media , Swapan Kumar Ghatu conceded that there were anomalies in compensation distribution. He said that there were some mistakes in preparing the list of beneficiaries, and he apologised for the same.
CM Mamata Banerjee orders probe in all allegations
Due to growing allegations of misappropriation of cyclone compensation funds by TMC leaders, West Benagl CM Mamata Banerjee has ordered probe into the allegations. According to reports, CM Mamata Banerjee informed Chief Secretary Rajiv Singh that she had received the said complaints through her sources and directed him to look into every allegation and take appropriate action. The report said that a majority of complaints were about the distribution of funds for farmers and house reconstruction.
Reportedly, the State Chief Minister had also learnt about the ‘partiality’ displayed by officials in reconnecting power lines in several areas. The government officials had also informed that all complaints received by Prashant Kishore’s organisation, regarding the distribution of relief funds, had been communicated to Mamata Banerjee. The CM has said that corruption in the distribution of relief funds would not be tolerated. About 5-6 Block Development Officers (BDOs) from Hooghly, North 24 Parganas, and South 24 Parganas have been handed show-cause notices, following complaints of misappropriation of funds. If the response to the show-cause notice turned out to be unsatisfactory, then, stringent action would be taken against the said officials.
Mamata Banerjee on June 6 had warned her party workers against politicising relief work. She had reiterated that relief funds for both Coronavirus and Cyclone Amphan must reach all victims irrespective of party affiliation. Besides warning of dire consequences if found involved in corruption, West Bengal Chief Minister had advised the party leaders not to get involved in relief work and leave it to the administration.