The West Bengal government has issued show-cause notices to at least five block development officers (BDOs) while the ruling Trinamool Congress expelled one of its panchayat pradhans for alleged irregularities in Amphan relief distribution.
The Federal had earlier reported how rampant corruption in distribution of relief to cyclone victims by the panchayats had become a major concern for the top leadership of the ruling party ahead of the assembly elections, due in less than a year.
Launching a crackdown, the panchayat and the rural development department reportedly show-caused five BDOs. The department sources said that they had been asked to reply to the show-cause notices within 10 days.
“They will face action if their clarification is not found satisfactory,” a senior official of the department said while revealing the state government’s anti-graft drive.
The action was initiated after hundreds of complaints were lodged about the irregularities directly with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee through her flagship “Didi ke bolo” platform.
Didi ke bolo, which literally means ‘tell the elder sister’, is an initiative launched by the ruling TMC, wherein a person can convey grievances through phone calls or by registering complaints on the official website. A 250-member team runs this “grievance cell” and provides feedback directly to the chief minister.
Related news: BJP hopes to ride ‘Amphan fury’ to power in West Bengal
Most of the complaints lodged through this initiative were pertaining to irregularities in the disbursement of ₹20,000 each to those whose houses were damaged by the cyclone. Many relatives and close aides of the TMC’s panchayat-level leaders allegedly received the financial aid through the government’s relief measures even though their houses were unscathed. The BDOs are now facing action for being complaisant.
The erring BDOs are from the three districts of North 24 Parganas, Hooghly and Howrah, the official said, refusing to divulge further details of the officers in the docks as they were still not “pronounced guilty.”
The ruling TMC also expelled the pradhan (president) of Garalgacha panchayat in Hoogly district for alleged nepotism in Amphan relief distribution. Sources said that in the list of 166 victims submitted by the Chanditala II block of the district, 119 names were linked to panchayat president Narendranath Singh. It also included the name of his wife.
Several senior TMC leaders, including the party’s most vocal face in the Parliament, Krishnanagar MP Mahua Moitra openly expressed her displeasure over the functioning of the panchayats recently.
Even the chief minister, from time to time, warned the party functionaries against misappropriation and nepotism in relief distribution, but the menace continued as both the government and the party was initially pussyfooting about taking actions.
Now, as the complaints started flooding the ‘Didi ke bolo’ platform, the government took note of the menace and even started an awareness drive, asking people to lodge direct complaints about any irregularity at their nearest police station.
However, despite the actions initiated by the government, violent protests over alleged irregularities in relief distribution continue in various parts of the state.