Bengal Facing Discrimination Over MGNREGA Fund Disbursement: Mamata

"The central government is not releasing MGNREGA funds for West Bengal. It owes us Rs 6,000 crore. BJP-ruled states, however, are getting funds for the 100 days' work scheme.

Bengal Facing Discrimination Over MGNREGA Fund Disbursement: Mamata

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday alleged that the BJP-led Union government was discriminating against the state when it comes to disbursement of MGNREGA funds.

She claimed that the Centre owes West Bengal Rs 6,000 crore for the scheme.

"The central government is not releasing MGNREGA funds for West Bengal. It owes us Rs 6,000 crore. BJP-ruled states, however, are getting funds for the 100 days' work scheme.

"Why is West Bengal facing such discrimination despite being number one in MGNREGA implementation? We are running the scheme without any central assistance," Banerjee said at an administrative review meeting at Sagardighi in Murshidabad district.

The chief minister alleged that funds for rural roads, too, are yet to be released.

"They are, however, collecting tax from here. Anyone who thinks the BJP can have its way is wrong. Duping people, killing their livelihood cannot continue. Ram, Bam (Left Front), Shyam (Congress) have become one.

"In a bid to defeat me, you are attempting to kill the livelihoods of workers and farmers. Are you trying to exhibit your power? Today, you are a hero, but tomorrow, when you are not in power, you will be a big zero. I'm not here to take any revenge but I'll bring about a change," she said.

Banerjee rued the lack of central funds for the Gangasagar Mela, despite the heavy footfall at the annual congregation.

Banerjee, who had been demanding the status of ‘national fair’ for Gangasagar Mela, noted that 70 lakh pilgrims have taken holy dip at the congregation this year.

"Whatever we could, we did for the Gangasagar Mela. There's nothing to be worried about; we will generate funds as per our capability... I will not impose tax on pilgrims, but I will definitely try to get funds for the fair.

“You (Centre) cannot just decide on not giving funds and then disallow us, too, from sourcing it from elsewhere," she said.

The TMC supremo, during the day, urged her party workers to be honest and humble.

"Don't be greedy. Apologise to people (for mistakes), and if you taken something from someone, give it back to them," she told her partymen.

On visits by central teams to West Bengal to oversee the implementation of various schemes, Banerjee alleged that they were being sent to "harass" the state government.

"A central team is sent to West Bengal even if a firefly enters a BJP leader's house. Why are such teams not sent to Uttar Pradesh, Delhi or Gujarat over any incident? The Union government is harassing West Bengal by sending central teams over trivial matters," she added.

Referring to the seizure of a large amount of money from properties linked to party MLA Jakir Hossain by Income Tax officials, Banerjee said the leader was targeted because he is from the TMC.

She also claimed that Hossain, the MLA of Jangipur in Murshidabad district, has been framed.

Cash amounting to around Rs 11 crore was seized from at least 20 properties linked to Hossain in Kolkata, New Delhi and Murshidabad during the I-T raids on January 11 and 12.

"Jakir is a 'bidi' industrialist. Around 20,000 people work for him. Will he be paying them through bank transactions? How many bidi workers have bank accounts? Central agencies are selectively targeting TMC leaders. There were attempts to kill Jakir. A conspiracy is being hatched against him," Banerjee said.

Hossain had earlier claimed that the seized money was meant for paying salaries of his employees.

In an apparent reference to BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari, who, earlier as a TMC member, had looked after party affairs in Murshidabad, she said, "It's my ill fate that someone who was entrusted with the responsibility of this district is now directing central agencies to the homes of TMC leaders."

The TMC supremo also criticised the "illegal" arrest of party spokesperson Saket Gokhale by Gujarat Police from Banga Bhavan in New Delhi last week.

Claiming that a team of the Gujarat Police, along with their Delhi counterparts, entered Banga Bhavan sans permission and seized the CCTV footage of the incident, Banerjee said she will ask Chief Secretary H K Dwivedi to be on guard and take legal action against anyone seen entering a state government-owned property without approval of authorities.

"You (cops) have seized the CCTV footage from Banga Bhavan, where governors, judges and journalists, too, put up. Even I stay there sometimes when I visit Delhi. Who gave you the right to seize the footage? Where did you get the audacity to do it?" Banerjee said.

- With PTI Input