A clear directive from chief minister Mamata Banerjee to act fast and tough on building material syndicates prompted the police on Monday to make an unprecedented number of arrests — around 11,000 — and seize a number of firearms and bombs throughout the state.
The timing was also significant — just three days before the showpiece annual party event on July 21 in Kolkata, when the chief minister is expected to drive home the message that she won’t tolerate indiscipline by party workers, many of whom are involved in such activities.
On Monday morning, the chief minister directed all the officers of the chief ministers’ office (CMO) to act immediately and without mercy on all the complaints coming to the CMO relating to extortion and real estate syndicate-related menace. These syndicates typically operate with patronisation by local ruling party leaders and force those building/repairing houses to buy raw materials from them, which in reality translate into poor material being forced down the throat of the buyers at a premium.
Within hours of the chief minister’s direction, the additional director general (law and order), Anuj Sharma, informed the media that following her order the police have arrested around 11,000 miscreants directly or indirectly related to the crimes. “The police have arrested around 1,000 persons against whom there were prior warrants. Apart from that, we have also made 9,972 preventive arrests. The police have also seized 781 bombs and 85 guns,” Sharma said at the state secretariat on Monday afternoon.
Sources in the government said that in the meeting with the CMO officers on Monday, the chief minister was quite clear in her directives on this matter.
The crackdown seemed to be coming when, a few days ago, she ordered the arrest of one of her party councillors in Salt Lake, Anindya Chatterjee, for trying to extort money from residents of his ward (No. 41). The cops have slapped non-bailable sections against him and two of his accomplices and the court sent him to jail custody for 14 days.
“The chief minister lamented that it was quite unfortunate that the police act only after cases of extortion and other syndicate-related menaces are brought to her notice. She clearly said that any complaint received by the CMO should be acted upon immediately and without leniency. She also said that no discrimination on the basis of political affiliation should be made while dealing with such cases,” said a government official.
Congress MLA and leader of the opposition Abdul Mannan, however, claimed that such developments are just an eyewash. “She is trying to be in the limelight through the arrest of Bidhannagar councillor Anindya Chatterjee. But there are thousands of such Anindyas in her party,” he said.
Since she assumed power for the second time, Mamata Banerjee has been emphasising the need to clean up the party.
She has made it clear that she will not tolerate her partymen indulging in such activities that was giving the entire party a bad name. “In the internal meetings of the party she warned leaders against involvement with real estate syndicates again and again. She is now irritated that despite her repeated appeals, a section of the party leaders are still associated with syndicates or are encouraging it,” said a Trinamool leader.
In fact, Trinamool leaders Sanjay Bakshi and Smita Bakshi were alleged to be involved with such a building material outfit that supplied raw materials to the Vivekananda flyover that collapsed on March 31 killing 27 people.