West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday refused to answer any questions related to the controversy surrounding her chief advisor Alapan Bandyopadhyay, saying the chapter is closed now.
“Please don’t ask me anything about Alapan Bandyopadhyay. The matter is closed,” she told reporters when asked about MHA’s show cause notice to the former Bengal chief secretary under Disaster Management Act 2005.
“The West Bengal government will give full support to Alapan Bandyopadhyay in whatever is going around with him,” she added.
Bandyopadhyay has already started working as the chief adviser and was present at Wednesday’s meeting of the state irrigation department presided over by Banerjee.
Meanwhile, the chief minister has ordered an inquiry against “questionable” beautification work done in Digha in East Midnapore. Digha is nearly 185 km from state capital Kolkata and is one of the popular tourist-magnets in West Bengal.
It may be noted that BJP leader and Banerjee’s protege-turned-bete noire Suvendu Adhikari’s father Sisir Adhikari was the chairman of Digha Shankarpur Development Authority (DSDA) till January 2021.
He was removed months after his son Suvendu joined the BJP and also for allegedly making statements against the party line.
Sources in state secretariat Nabanna claimed that the chief minister ordered an inquiry after she found that most of the beautification and construction work carried out after cyclone Amphan that ravaged parts of the state last May, was damaged. She suspected that the damage happened due to poor quality of work done by the DSDA.
Banerjee also came down heavily on government officials and private construction companies for delay in construction, poor management and poor construction of embankments and roads.
At a press briefing, Banerjee said, “I want a task force which will monitor all the tendering and execution processes in the PWD and irrigation department. Why did the Bidyadhari embankment collapse? It was constructed during cyclone Amphan in 2020… then how come it was damaged so soon? Let the finance department begin an inquiry.”
“If private construction companies are not doing the government job properly then they will be asked to compensate. Either they will compensate or they have to maintain it (roads, government buildings etc.) for three years as per norms. I would like to tell all the departments to utilise money very carefully and logically,” she added.
Banerjee also asked for a report within three days on why dams/embankments are breaking again and again despite repairs. “There has been a lot of damage in Digha due to negligence. Let’s form an expert committee to deal with such natural calamities and there should be an inquiry,” she added.
Centre’s claims on vaccines ‘hoax’
Meanwhile, Banerjee dubbed as “hoax” the Centre’s claim of vaccinating the entire population above the age of 18 years by 2021, and asserted that the union government must provide jabs free of cost to states.
“That claim is just a hoax. The Centre says things like these. Before the Bihar elections, they had promised to inoculate its population after the elections, but nothing happened," she said.
Banerjee said considering the gap between doses, the process to vaccinate the entire eligible age group should take six months to a year to complete. She said her government has spent Rs 150 crore to procure vaccines, but only 1.4 crore of the state’s over 10-crore population could be inoculated so far.
“The Centre is not sending vaccines to states. Whatever little stock that is supplied, gets depleted within days… It must give free vaccines to state governments," she said.