West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has issued show-cause notices to four of its leaders over alleged corruption in the distribution of relief materials meant for people hit by last month’s Cyclone Amphan.
Over 350 party supporters from 72 families have fled since June 18 following alleged threats at gunpoint by miscreants purportedly led by North 24 Parganas zilla parishad member and TMC leader Feroz Kamal Gazi. He allegedly objected to people applying for government welfare schemes to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 crisis and Cyclone Amphan without his approval.
While chief minister Mamata Banerjee has ordered authorities across the state to identify and penalise ruling party leaders involved in malpractices related to the relief measures, critics say the Hasnabad instance is indicative of a larger malaise. Sources in the party said over 2,000 complaints related to misappropriation of Amphan relief funds and material alone have been received in a matter of days.
Around 65 members, including several popular leaders in the districts, have been sent show-cause notices and other cases are being looked into. According to TMC Paschim Bardhaman district president Jitendra Tiwari, the four leaders are Asansol Municipal Corporation deputy mayor Tabassum Ara, the civic body’s councillor Baby Khatun, Shankar Chakrabarty, and Prabhat Chattopadhyay.
“The show-cause notices have been issued at the direction of the party leadership. They have been given 48 hours to respond. After getting their response, the next course of action will be taken,” said Tiwari.
CPI(M) leader Kanti Ganguly alleged that the poor people in need are not even getting temporary shelter. "TMC leaders are taking money for themselves. All lower-level TMC leaders are culprits. They are taking Amphan relief fund money for themselves and for their family members. This Amphan relief fund money-receiving process is not very transparent," he said.
“It is very unfortunate that a party person attempted to misuse the state relief fund in this time of crisis. The whole district is dealing with coronavirus and post-Amphan disaster,” said TMC Hooghly district president Dilip Yadav.
According to a senior TMC leader, all four members have denied the accusations against them. Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh has alleged that only TMC leaders are involved in corruption in the state.
“It [corruption] is only possible in TMC. Today, one step has been taken. But earlier no action was taken against the food minister after the PDS scam. This is nothing but an eyewash. How many police cases have been initiated against ruling party leaders?” he asked.
On Saturday, former state minister and Bishnupur MLA Shyam Mukherjee had been served a show-cause notice following similar allegations. The TMC leadership in Bankura district served Mukherjee and two others the notice a day after MP Abhishek Banerjee’s virtual meeting with district leaders. The two other leaders under the scanner are Taldangra block president Tapas Sur, and Patrasayer block president Partha Pratim Sinha.
The TMC leadership served notices to these party officials days after governor Jagdeep Dhankhar urged chief minister Mamata Banerjee to take action against those misappropriating relief material, and ensure transparency in the distribution process.