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Second person arrested as ‘cut money’ agitation in Bengal grows

According to Purnendu’s wife Rina, a few people had shown up at their house on Tuesday and demanded Rs 30,000, which they alleged Purnendu had taken from them as “cut money”, or illegal commissions.

india Updated: Jun 26, 2019 21:28 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Kolkata/Midnapore
Bengal’s “cut money” controversy,Trinamool Congress,Bharatiya Janata Party
Emboldened by the chief minister’s words, people have begun filing police complaints. A TMC panchayat samiti official of North Dinajpur district, Sunil Biswas, has been arrested on charges of embezzlement of government scheme funds after a complaint .(PTI PHOTO)

The first unnatural death allegedly related to Bengal’s “cut money” controversy was reported on Wednesday after the body of a Trinamool Congress (TMC) worker was found hanging from a tree in East Burdwan district, but police refused to confirm any reason even as ruling party leaders pointed fingers at the rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Purnendu Chatterjee’s body was found in the morning about 3 km from his home, additional superintendent of district police Priyabrata Roy said. “A post-mortem exam is being conducted. Investigations are on,” he told reporters.

According to Purnendu’s wife Rina, a few people had shown up at their house on Tuesday and demanded Rs 30,000, which they alleged Purnendu had taken from them as “cut money”, or illegal commissions. “They turned me out of the house and locked it. My husband was not in the house. He did not take cut money. They put pressure on him unfairly,” she said.

Then she alleged, “My husband was murdered and BJP men were behind it.”

TMC leader Kanchan Kazi, who took out a protest rally in Burdwan town, about 100 km from Kolkata, echoed her. “We have told the police that BJP men are behind the crime,” he claimed. “We will start an agitation if the culprits are not identified after a fair probe.”

The BJP, however, denied any involvement. Sandip Nandi, the party’s East Burdwan district president, said, “The BJP is not involved. We don’t have a strong organisation in that area. A police investigation will prove it.”

The “cut money” controversy has been simmering since June 18 when chief minister Mamata Banerjee told municipal councillors at a meeting that TMC leaders who have taken illegal commissions from beneficiaries of government schemes must return the money.

Banerjee reiterated her stand in the Assembly on Wednesday. “What is wrong if I try to discipline my party workers? What is wrong if I ask my party workers to ensure that there is no misuse of government schemes?” she asked.

Emboldened by the chief minister’s words, people have begun filing police complaints. A TMC panchayat samiti official of North Dinajpur district, Sunil Biswas, has been arrested on charges of embezzlement of government scheme funds after a complaint against him.

“A person had lodged a complaint against Sunil Biswas. A Balurghat court has sent him to six days in police custody,” said Dhiman Mitra, the deputy superintendent of South Dinajpur police.

Jayanta Sarkar, a local contractor, had complained that Biswas demanded Rs 2 lakh from him and threatened that if he does not pay up, no work would be awarded to him.

Biswas is the second person to be arrested on allegations of taking “cut money”. On June 19, Sukesh Jadav, a former gram panchayat pradhan, was arrested for allegedly embezzling Rs 1 crore of MGNREGA funds two years ago.

First Published: Jun 26, 2019 21:28 IST