The Calcutta High Court has slammed the West Bengal government on Thursday for granting ₹50,000 to each club committees in the State for organising Durga Puja. On September 24, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced the grant due to the of the lack of sponsorships and advertising money to 37000 registered puja club committees, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.
While hearing a petition by one Sourav Dutta who questioned the government’s move for hurting fundamental rights and India’s ‘secular ideals’, a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court inquired whether such incentives are provided during Eid as well. Dutta, the leader of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), was represented in the Court by advocate Bikash Bhattacharya. The petitioner had sought a complete ban of Durga puja festivities, owing to the rising cases of Coronavirus in the State.
On Friday, the Court ordered that 75% of the grant money must be used in procuring sanitisers and masks. The remaining 25% of the funds should be used by the State in deploying police personnel and strengthening security measures, in anticipation of the grand festival. The Division Bench had also ruled that the puja committees will report to the State government about their mode of expenditure.
While raising questions about the government’s decision to grant the incentive, justices Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee further quizzed the government whether it had laid down guidelines on how the funds were to be utilised. The Division Bench had also sought the government’s plan for controlling crowds and ensuring adherence to social distancing guidelines. The Court has directed the State police to print the court’s directives and send it in the form of leaflets to the puja committees.
In its response, the State government claimed that the grant was meant to increase awareness about protocols to protect oneself from Coronavirus infection and purchase of sanitisers and masks. However, the Court asked as to why did the government not hand out masks and sanitizers directly
Opposition raises questions about nexus between clubs and TMC
While speaking to ABP Ananda, CPIM leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “The government has been made accountable by the Court. They have to provide information now about the mode of expenditure of public money. The government was planning to siphon off public money (through puja committees) but now they will be caught red-handed.”
BJP leader Samik Bhattacharya claimed that there is now no difference between the party and the government, run by Trinamool Congress. Meanwhile, Bikash Bhattacharya, representing the petitioner in the case, said, “Not a single penny can be used for the purpose of Durga puja. So, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s plan to pacify the puja clubs had failed.”
Arambagh TV expose on TMC-club nexus
Earlier, Arambagh TV had questioned the Mamata Banerjee government over making donations to various clubs in the state during the Coronavirus pandemic. The channel had shown the images and list of 59 clubs which were given Rs 1 lakh each, asking how many of them actually exist. The web channel had also questioned the mismanagement of the health crisis in the state. After that, several FIRs were filed against Safiqul Islam and reporter Suraj Ali Khan under several different sections of IPC at the Arambagh police station. Notices were sent to them informing them that they have been booked under sections 420, 468, 469, 471, 500, 505, 120B, but the notices didn’t mention the exact reason of the FIR.