Unspent funds, incomplete work mark gram panchayats in rural Bengal: Mahua Moit...

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Home / India News / Unspent funds, incomplete work mark gram panchayats in rural Bengal: Mahua Moitra

Trinamool Congress (TMC) national spokesperson and Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra on Sunday took a swipe at the gram panchayats within her constituency, Krishnanagar, mostly run by her own party, for unspent funds and unplanned work. Moitra has initiated a series of video messages to empower people and educate them about their rights and the need to stand up against corruption by local political leaders.

In a 6-minute video clip, Moitra alleged that the gram panchayats were not taking up necessary work that required funds over Rs 3.5 lakh so that they could avoid mandatory administrative scrutiny. She advised people to get their own work done by dealing with the gram panchayats.

“The tenure of the 14th finance commission ended in 2019-20 and the money from the 15th finance commission will start coming in soon. A panchayat on an average gets Rs. 1.2 crore every year. Those under the ISGPP (Institutional Strengthening of Gram Panchayats (ISGP) Programme) get around Rs 2 crore a year. There are 82 gram panchayats within my constituency. Many of them have failed to spend the previous money allocated. By rule, 60% of the allotment has to be spent by December, which was not done in many cases. If the money was used in a planned way, there should have been no kutcha roads in those areas,” Moitra said.

The TMC MP said that each of the panchayats had unspent money ranging between Rs 1 crore to Rs 3.5 crore. She also said that there has been a misinformation campaign against her at the ground-level for taking up these issues with the administration. She alleged that she had been facing opposition in her drive to get the unspent money utilized.

According to an officer of the Nadia district administration, more than 90% of the panchayats within Moitra’s constituency were run by her own party.

Explaining why the panchayats were working slow and neglecting focus on essential needs, Moitra said, “The thing is, in 2014, the state government made e-tenders mandatory for any work above Rs 5 lakh. Most panchayats have not created the infrastructure yet and work requiring above Rs 5 lakh has not been taken up at all. Further, scrutiny at the block level is also mandatory for work above Rs 3.5 lakh. So, panchayats are focusing on work requiring less than Rs 3.5 lakh. As a result, crucial roadway connectivity has been neglected. Assets have not been created.”

Her comments came barely two days after chief minister and party chief Mamata Banerjee warned TMC leaders about making comments against the party and their colleagues during a meeting over video conferencing.

Banerjee’s warning came after consumer affairs minister Sadhan Pandey traded barbs with urban development minister Firhad Hakim, MLA Paresh Pal took digs at Pandey and panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee criticised the irrigation minister – all in the media.

On Sunday, no other TMC leader agreed to comment on Moitra’s remarks. “She is a spokesperson. If anything has to be said, the party chief will decide,” said a senior minister who did not want to be named.

Mitra, herself, knew that her remarks could be politically controversial and gave a disclaimer: “I’m not saying these to turn into a subject of the opposition’s mockery. I am saying these in the people’s interest. Panchayat members are only interested in getting their quota of allocation.”

Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Md Salim said that he agreed with most of what Moitra said and that the panchayat system in Bengal had collapsed under the TMC regime.

“Before her, another MP, Kabir Suman, had raised the issue of corruption at the grassroot level. The party chief first dubbed him as a ‘guest’ and then sidelined him. If Moitra keeps making such remarks, she too would be dubbed a guest in TMC soon,” Salim said.

Bharatiya Janata Party national secretary Rahul Sinha said, “Why is she publicly slamming panchayats run by her own party? Is she trying to save her skin sensing imminent danger of her party?”

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