Former TMC Municipal Officer Under Scanner for Allegedly Siphoning Off Rs 9 Lakh in 'Cut Money'
Shankar Mondal, chairperson of the Jiaganj-Azimganj municipality, had allegedly withdrawn Rs 9 lakh for the accommodation and food for labourers engaged in repair work at a cinema hall in Murshidabad.
File photo of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee (PTI)
Kolkata: A fortnight after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called upon party functionaries to return "cut money", the state government has come across a case in which a former municipal officer allegedly withdrew Rs 9 lakh for the accommodation and food for labourers engaged in repair work at a cinema hall in Murshidabad.
Shankar Mondal, chairperson of the Jiaganj-Azimganj municipality, is under the scanner for siphoning off public money and the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) has started an investigation into the case, said a senior leader of the Trinamool Congress.
The municipality had allegedly released the whopping amount to Mondal for the arrangement of accommodation for labourers. Mondal, being the chairperson, is accused of having signed the bills himself.
Banerjee had earlier directed party leaders to give back any money they might have taken as bribe from beneficiaries of government schemes, elected representatives faced public ire in various parts of the state with the people demanding return of the "cut money".
The issue of “cut money” in the state has heated up, with angry people gheraoing TMC leaders and elected representatives of panchayats and municipalities in Birbhum, Malda, Purulia and Bankura districts. They have demanded that the leaders return the money allegedly taken from them to provide them benefits from various schemes of the government.
The state police has urged protesters to lodge complaints against the accused instead of resorting to violent protests.
"Can you believe this? Rs 9 lakhs (approx) for accommodation and food for labourers for 10-12 days. This is a five star (hotel) rate. This happened in 2014-15. Shankar Mondal runs few educational institutions including one in Nursing in Murshidabad. The Economic Offence Wing (EOW) has started investigation against Shankar Mondal for syphoning public money in Crores,” a senior TMC leader said.
The leader added that the volume of corruption could exceed Rs 15 crore in just this case. “There are instances where bus shades are there on papers only and funds (Rs 3 lakh to Rs 4 lakh for each stand) were withdrawn, but in ground reality no such bus shades or stands exist,” he said. “This is very unfortunate. He was removed from the party and the EOW is looking into the matter.”
When contacted, Mondal, who recently joined the BJP, disconnected the call after listening to all the charges labelled against him by the state government.
A similar case was reported from Rajpur-Sonarpur municipality where its vice-chairman Shanta Sarkar was removed by Banerjee last week for indulging in corruption. Sarkar and her brother were allegedly involved in extorting ‘cut money’ from builders and other beneficiaries of government schemes.
At a meeting with officials, Banerjee reportedly expressed satisfaction over the cleansing drive in the party and the system. Banerjee recently appointed Colonel (Retd) Diptanshu Chaudhary, a Kargil war veteran, to head a grievance cell regarding “cut money” allegations.
The matter against Mondal’s alleged corrupt practice came to light after a few councillors of the Jiaganj-Azimganj municipality sent complaints to the grievance cell of the state government. 2) The cell forwarded the matter to probe agencies, including the EOW, and an investigation based on their complaints is underway.
Chaudhary told News18 that the “cut money charade” is not a new terminology invented by a Banerjee.
“An equal number of corruption complaints have been received against political members of the BJP in panchayats governed by them and so are complaints against their leaders who had indulged in corruption in LPG dealerships, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, teachers’ recruitment, among other schemes,” he said. “The state BJP president is involved in forgery of educational qualifications. Banerjee has realised that irrespective of anyone’s party lineage, colour and creed, this corruption issue must be fought for the betterment of Bengal.”
Chaudhary rejected claims that the drive against “cut money” was the brainchild of poll strategist Prashant Kishor. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) national vice-president had met Banerjee twice last month, fuelling speculation he might take a lead role in preparing the party's strategy for the 2021 West Bengal Assembly polls.
“Many have tried to claim that this very idea is of Prashant Kishor, but it’s far from the truth,” said Chaudhary. “In fact, it’s the core issue of Mamata Banerjee and after deliberate discussions with two of her most trusted aides, she took the decision a month before to raise this issue publicly before Kishor’s arrival. Mamata Banerjee’s endeavour to combat corruption should not be overshadowed as his idea.”
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