Centre to inspect Bengal’s PM POSHAN, Jal Jeevan projects; TMC fumes

Jan 29, 2023 07:20 PM IST

The inspection will take place amid allegations by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that mid-day meal funds were misused by the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) government

A union education ministry team will pay random visits to schools in West Bengal from January 30 to review the implementation of the centre-sponsored Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN) scheme for children, state government officials said on Sunday.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee (HT Photo)
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee (HT Photo)

“The state government has asked schools in all districts to ensure that infrastructure for preparation of mid-day meal for children are in proper order and students are present when the team arrives,” a state education department officer said on condition of anonymity.

The inspection will take place amid allegations by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that mid-day meal funds were misused by the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) government.

Also Read: Ahead of central inspection, Bengal govt asks schools to ensure cleanliness

The BJP raised similar allegations in regard to the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) which provides a home to the rural poor, supply of piped water under the Jal Jeevan Mission and rural employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA).

Several central teams have visited Bengal since July 2022 to probe alleged irregularities in PMAY implementation. A team is currently touring the state to look into complaints regarding MNREGA projects.

The centre has informed the state that it will deploy an agency to review Jal Jeevan projects in the state.

A bureaucrat in Kolkata said: “The team coming to inspect the mid-day meal scheme is part of the joint review mission (JRM). The mission’s job is to review the availability of raw material, distribution of funds, quality of food and health of the children.”

Leader of the opposition in the state legislative assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, alleged on Saturday that the Mamata Banerjee-led government in Bengal siphoned mid-day meal funds to compensate families of the 10 victims of the March 2022 massacre at Bogtui village in Birbhum district.

The TMC denied the allegation which led to a political slugfest.

On January 5, Adhikari wrote to union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan alleging misappropriation of mid-day meal funds.

Pradhan, who visited Bengal on January 14, said: “We read some media reports on irregularities in the PM POSHAN scheme. The leader of the opposition also submitted a note on large-scale irregularities. In 2020, the state objected to a JRM inspection. This time around, we are determined to send a team.”

Also Read: ED arrests TMC youth wing leader in West Bengal school recruitment scam

Reacting to the visits by various central teams, the TMC alleged on Sunday that this was the BJP-ruled government’s ploy to stop the flow of funds before the coming panchayat elections and thus embarrass the ruling party.

“Back-to-back visits by central teams are part of the centre’s ploy to freeze the flow of funds on some pretext of the other. It wants to embarrass the TMC government before the panchayat polls by stalling funds for PMAY, MNREGA, PM POSHAN and Jal Jeevan schemes. Adhikari makes baseless allegations. The state has already taken corrective measures wherever irregularities were found,” said TMC national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member Sukhendu Sekhar Roy.

Roy alleged that a record number of fake job cards under MNREGA and other irregularities under various scheme were hatched in the BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, but the centre does not send teams these states.

“Delhi has proved that it is anti-people and anti-Bengal,” Roy added.

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