‘Bengal Govt Misappropriating Central Funds’

Leader of opposition in the West Bengal legislative assembly, Suvendu Adhikari on Saturday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing the TMC-ruled government in the state of utilising central funds for corruption. He alleged that a majority of these funds were being misused under most schemes of the central government that had been implemented in the state.

His action came a day after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee met the prime minister in Delhi and submitted a memorandum seeking release of dues over Rs 1 lakh crore under central schemes and other financial aid.

The chief minister had underlined that the Centre owed the state government funds under schemes such as MGNREGA, PM Awas Yojana and PM Gram Sadak Yojana. She had said the pending funds were required to implement these schemes properly so that beneficiaries could reap maximum benefits.

In his letter, Adhikari alleged that money under certain schemes had been spent showing false utilisation certificates. He also alleged that the state government had shown that the MGNREGA funds had been used for plantation drive, but crores had been wasted as there was nothing on the ground in reality.

“In the last couple of years MGNREGA funds have been swindled in the name of planting saplings. Most schemes, otherwise actively executed in a panchayat area, were overlooked or discontinued and officials were instructed to execute schemes related to plantation of mangroves or fruit saplings, under the MGNREGA scheme. The individual beneficiaries, mostly from the ruling party (TMC) did not bother to do anything. They deducted their own commission and that of administrative,” Adhikari claimed.

Mamata had also said the state government had not received any financial aid during exigencies like Covid-19 pandemic, as well as natural calamities like cyclonic storms Yaas and Amphan.

This was Mamata’s third letter stating that all protocols were being maintained and, therefore, funds should be released. Earlier in parliament, agricultural minister had clearly said Bengal had not maintained rules and the Centre had stopped providing funds for that very reason.

Even as Mamata visited Modi in the national capital, central government teams were visiting different districts of the state to assess the ground situation under schemes mentioned by the CM.

Adhikari provided the financial calculations under the scheme mentioned in his letter, saying: I request you (prime minister) to direct concerned departments to dispatch more such (central) teams in order to conduct comprehensive audit and unearth misuse of central funds. I believe that the scale of misappropriation of funds would shock the entire country,” adding, “the central government has been very generous to the people of West Bengal.” The BJP leader said central teams visiting Bengal have also raised this issue.

Sources in the state government said, “From 2018, whatever question is raised, it has been answered and, moreover, another final report has been submitted. These claims are not right.”
Sources on the ground said MGNREGA funds had been stopped at many places and the name of schemes were also changed. For example, PM Gram Sadak Yojana to ‘Bangla Gramin Sadak Yojana’.

The state government has denied these claims but TMC leaders have argued in favour of such name changes several times. According to them, if the Centre has reduced Bengal’s share and more money is being provided by the state government, then it was only fair to change the names of the schemes.

Reacting to Adhikari’s letter, the TMC said it was a clear effort to block central funds. Party leader Sudip Banerjee said “This is an effort to economically block Bengal; I will raise this issue in Parliament.”

Ahead of the panchayat elections, the state government desperately needs funds. But if these funds are not disbursed then it is possible that the BJP, which is trying to make deeper inroads into the state, will use the corruption angle in their campaign against the TMC.

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