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West Bengal spent Rs 32.5 crore on 13 inquiry panels, tables 3 reports

Of three reports that have been tabled, two are of low-profile incidents during the Left regime.

india Updated: Jul 29, 2018 10:09 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Kolkata, Hindustan Times
West Bengal,Mamata Banerjee government,commissions of inquiry
File photo of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (PTI photo)

The Mamata Banerjee government has spent Rs 32.53 crore over the past six years for 13 commissions of inquiry headed by retired judges, but has tabled only three reports in the state Assembly so far. Of these three reports, two are of low-profile incidents during the Left regime - the suicide of a block development officer in 2008 and the suicide of a CPI(M) MLA in 2011.

The other was on the fire in AMRI hospital during the Mamata Banerjee regime that claimed 92 lives. All three reports are congruent with the earlier findings of the police.

“On the floor of Assembly, we have repeatedly asked for a status report on the commissions and the expenses incurred but the government provided us with no information,” said Congress leader Abdul Mannan, Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly.

Acting on pre-poll promises, Mamata Banerjee constituted eight commissions soon after assuming power. Later, commissions were constituted to inquire into five incidents during her regime. Of the incidents that happened before she came to power, five are high-profile cases.

Congress leaders and policemen were accused in the Cossipore-Baranagar massacre of Naxalite activists and sympathisers in Kolkata in 1971, when the state was under President’s Rule. The Left faced accusations in four others – the killings of three members of Congress-supporter Sain family in Burdwan district in 1970, the killing of 16 Ananda Marg missionaries on Bijon Setu in Kolkata in 1982, death of 13 Youth Congress supporters in police firing on a Mamata Banerjee-led rally in Kolkata on July 21, 1993 and the ‘accident’ in Midnapore in 1999 in which 23 tribals were run over by a truck.

In the most high-profile case of Mamata Banerjee regime, the ponzi scam, Trinamool Congress leaders are key accused. Four of these reports are lying with the government.The Shyamal Kumar Sen commission on the ponzi scam submitted its report in 2014. The Sushanta Kumar Chatterjee commission on July 21 firing submitted its report in 2014, and the chief minister announced at a public meeting in July 2017 that her government will accept its recommendations.

None of the reports have been placed in the Assembly. “I submitted the report in September 2017 and have not heard from the government since,” said retired justice DP Sengupta who headed the commission on Cossipore Baranagar massacre.

The NN Bhattacharjee commission’s report on the incident of tribal death was submitted earlier this year. According to Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, reports are to be placed in the Assembly, along with the government’s action-taken report, within six months of the commission submitting the report to the government.

“The commission that, indeed, required extension of tenure was the Sen Commission on chit funds because it was refunding depositor’s money. But the way its extension was denied and the commissions on Sain family and Bijon Setu incidents are granted repeated extensions makes government’s political agenda crystal clear,” remarked Sujan Chakraborty, the leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s legislative team in the state Assembly.

The Arunabha Basu commission, inquiring into the killing of Sain family members, and the Amitabha Lala commission inquiring into the Bijon Setu massacre, started work in 2012 and 2013, respectively. As of July 2018, their probe is not complete. The government has so far spent Rs4.1 crore for the Basu Commission and Rs3.2 crore for Lala Commission.

The Sen Commission that was empowered to confiscate and auction properties, had disbursed Rs148 crore to about 5 lakh Saradha depositors (up to Rs10,000). Its functioning for 18 months cost Rs2.6 crore. In 2015, Sen, a retired chief justice of Allahabad high court, publicly regretted that he could have refunded money to more depositors given another extension.

“She is wasting public money for political games,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh alleged.

Rights activist Ranjit Sur, vice-president of Bengal’s largest rights organisation, Association for Protection of Human Rights, said, “The government did not publicise the commissions properly. Also, it seems like the reports will not be tabled unless they serve the ruling party’s political purpose,” Sur said.

No Trinamool Congress leader agreed to speak on the issue, saying that no one other than the chief minister will speak on the commissions.

The budget comes from home (police) department, a portfolio that she holds.

First Published: Jul 29, 2018 10:08 IST