The controversy over the misappropriation of funds, meant for victims of Cyclone Amphan, is unlikely to settle anytime soon in West Bengal. Even though her two-storeyed house has been undamaged, Hamida Bibi Mollah, the president of Mathurapur II Panchayat in Raidighi, has received a total of ₹60,000 as compensation money for cyclone Amphan, reported Anandabazar Patrika. She has also listed her husband and her 17-year-old-son as beneficiaries and thus enmassed a total of ₹60,000 from the West Bengal government.
The West Bengal government had earlier decided to grant ₹20,000 per family whose houses had been destroyed by Cyclone Amphan. Since Hamida included 3 people in the list of victims, she was able to siphon off ₹60,000. She is also a member of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and lives near the Kashinagar junction on Diamond Harbour-Raidighi road. Anandabazar Patrika reported that her name, along with that of her family, had been added to the list of people whose houses were ‘completely damaged’ by Cyclone Amphan.
Hamida’s husband Farooq claimed that their names were submitted by the Panchayat itself. He added that the block administration had decided to pay compensation to one person per family. Highlighting his ‘concern’ for the poor, Farooq emphasised, “Amra sob dik dekha garib manuser kotha veba teen joner nama asha takai ferat diyachi” (We have returned the compensation amount, received in the name of three people, after thinking about the state of the poor people).
Panchayat Head siphoned off money
Sahana Sheikh is the head (pradhan) of the Panchayat that allegedly helped Hamida list herself and her family members amongst the victims of Cyclone Amphan. Just like Hamida, Sheikh also owns a two-storeyed house which has not been affected by the natural disaster. As per the report by Anandabazar Patrika, locals in Srinagar village have claimed that Sahana has fraudulently obtained the compensation amount by listing her husband Nur Mohammad Sheikh, son Farooq, brother-in-law Nuruddin, mother-in-law Nurjahan Sheikh as victims of Cyclone Amphan. Locals alleged that TMC booth Secretary, Ziarul Mollah, and 9 members of the family had also received compensation.
Real victims deprived of Cyclone Amphan compensation
A resident of Eksa Khari Sheikhpara, Alamgir Mollah had been devastated by the havoc wrought by Cyclone Amphan. He and his pregnant wife had been forced to live in a dilapidated tent after their house was destroyed in the calamity. Alamgir conceded that he was left with the ruins of a house, post the disaster. As such, he and his wife had to take refuge in a neighbour’s house. “It is difficult to adjust (in this temporary shed) whenever it rains. What should I do?” he lamented.
The Block Development Officer of Mathurapur II, Rizwan Ahmed informed that the beneficiaries of the compensation amount were being scrutinised, following on-ground inspection of the houses. Alamgir has recently learnt that his name has featured in the list of beneficiaries. Unsure about how many sleepless nights he has to spend under the night sky, in the rainy season, Alamgir asked, “Several people received the money. When will authorities notice the plight of real victims such as me? “
“Corruption is clear as daylight”, alleges BJP
When Anandabazar Patrika tried to reach Sana Sheikh, she did not answer calls or reply to their messages. BJP leader from Raidighi, Palash Rana rebuked, “There is nothing to answer (for Sana Sheikh). Corruption is clear as daylight.” However, TMC leader Shantanu Bapuli defended, “Tarahurai kichu bhul hoyechilo. Oneker takai firiya daowa hoccha (Few errors have been made in a hurry. The compensation among (illegally) received by several people is being returned).”
Son of TMC leader thrashed by locals
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. 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.
TMC leader shamed, made to hold ears in public
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.