Release Bengal’s funds or step down: Mamata Banerjee tells Centre
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said she will be in Delhi with TMC MPs on December 18, 19 and 20 and that she has sought time from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a meeting
The central government should lift the suspension on funds for social welfare schemes in West Bengal or step down, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Sunday at a government programme in north Bengal’s Alipurduar district.
“The Centre is not giving our share of GST (goods and services tax). It is not giving us funds for housing and rural employment schemes. Either you release our funds or leave the chair. I will be in Delhi with some MPs on December 18, 19 and 20. I have sought time from the Prime Minister. I hope the Prime Minister will give me time,” Banerjee said while inaugurating 70 projects aimed at benefitting mainly local tea garden workers and tribal people.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) is at loggerheads with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over suspension of funds under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) and mid-day meal (under PM Poshan) projects following allegations of mismanagement and corruption. The Centre has sent numerous teams to Bengal’s districts since 2021 for investigations.
On Sunday, Banerjee announced a monthly stipend of ₹1,500 for workers of closed tea gardens and distributed 6,442 land deeds among homeless workers each of whom were promised ₹1.20 lakh for building houses on those plots.
“In addition to ₹1,500, give these people free electricity and healthcare facilities. This must be done by January,” Banerjee told bureaucrats present at the event.
She also promised to allot land for erstwhile refugees who came from Bangladesh.
“Refugees will get land permanently. Nobody can oust you. Live like proud citizens,” she said.
“There are a lot of tribal people who do not have caste certificates. If even one member from their families has a certificate, then the others will get it too. Also, many have fake certificates. These will be scrutinised and cancelled,” the chief minister said.
With the Lok Sabha polls likely to be held in a few months, the TMC chairperson targeted the BJP.
“They (Centre) distributed free ration during the Covid-19 pandemic and then stopped it. Now they have announced it again. Don’t get carried away by these gimmicks. I never stopped giving free ration,” Banerjee said.
“Poor supply of drinking water is a problem here. We have already supplied water to 43,000 households. Our target is to cover 1,20,000 households by December next year. The Centre only advertises the water project but it is the state which provides land and maintains the projects. The BJP only makes noises,” she said.
“ ₹24,000 crore will be invested in north Bengal by small-scale industries in the coming years. Focus on tourism and homestay facilities,” Banerjee told the audience.
Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said: “The funds given under PMAY or MNREGA is not Narendra Modi’s money or the Centre’s money. It is tax payers’ money. The corruption that has taken place is known to all. The Centre is answerable to the people and the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India). The financial impasse is a fallout of the TMC government’s mode of functioning.”
Banerjee’s week-long north Bengal tour is being described as significant by political observers because the support of tea garden workers, tribal people and ethnic communities such as the Dalit Rajbangshis had helped the BJP win seven of the region’s eight Lok Sabha seats in 2019 and 30 of 54 assembly seats in 2021.