Trinamool feels the heat as allegations of corruption in PMAY surface

A Trinamool Congress activist rides his bike with the party flags. File image for representation.

A Trinamool Congress activist rides his bike with the party flags. File image for representation.
| Photo Credit: PTI

The Trinamool Congress is feeling the heat of allegations of corruption in the selection of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) beneficiaries in West Bengal.

On Saturday, more than a dozen functionaries of a panchayat samity in Murshidabad resigned fearing protests by locals over alleged irregularities in the identification of PMAY beneficiaries in the panchayats. Seventeen members of Bharatpur II panchayat samity tendered their resignation at the Block Development Office of Bharatpur II.

“A number of poor who do not have pucca houses or are living in tents have not been included in the list. We are resigning with a heavy heart,” one of the panchayat functionaries told journalists.

The development created a controversy in the political circles of the State as so far there were only reports of allegations, while this was admission of corruption by the panchayat functionaries themselves.

According to reports, the panchayat functionaries feared a backlash by the people who were denied the benefits of the PMAY scheme. Trinamool Congress MP and district president Abu Taher tried to pass the blame on the officials and said that the list of beneficiaries was prepared by the officials and not the panchayat functionaries. 

 It was only a month ago that the Union government lifted the freeze on the PMAY funds in the State, approving its share of ₹8,200 crore for the year 2022-23.  The funds were on hold since April this year. According to senior officials of the West Bengal government, funds for a total of 11 lakh dwelling units were approved. The Union government approved its share of 60% which is about ₹8,200 crore.

 After the list of beneficiaries under the PMAY was made public, protests erupted in different districts of the State. The list of beneficiaries at several places includes relatives of elected panchayat functionaries as well as those who have multi-storied houses in the same area. Protests have been reported from North 24 Parganas, South 24 parganas, Purba Bardhaman, Murshidabad, Purulia, Bankura and Hooghly among other districts of the State.

The protests are also bringing the left and right supporters together. On Friday, supporters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) were seen at a rally organised by supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a gram panchayat in Hooghly district. 

Meanwhile, the State government has struck off names of hundreds of beneficiaries and started scrutiny of the list of beneficiaries. 

While the Trinamool Congress leadership has described these irregularities as isolated incidents, the Opposition has accused the ruling establishment of widespread corruption. 

Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari said he, along with State BJP president Sukanta Majumdar, met Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Giriraj Singh on the issue.

 The development also comes at a time when the Centre has not issued funds under the MGNREGA scheme to the State since December 2021. Trinamool leader Abhishek Banerjee recently said the Centre owed ₹5,433 crore in MGNREGA dues to West Bengal from the total of ₹10,162 crore in dues to all States.

 This is not the first time that the Trinamool Congress is allegations of corruption at the grassroots level. In 2019, protests had erupted in different parts of the State against panchayat functionaries for taking ‘cut money’.

‘Cut money’ is the term for money taken as bribe by local panchayat officials for including people as beneficiaries in several welfare schemes, including PMAY. 

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