New Delhi [India], October 2 (ANI): Alleged non-allocation of funds for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and other schemes by the Centre for the West Bengal sparked sharp exchanges between the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders today.
The TMC has alleged denial of MGNREGA and other housing scheme funds by the central government to the state while the BJP-led Centre has dismissed the claim by Mamata Banerjee's party. Trinamool Congress general secretary Abhishek Banerjee along with party leaders and workers sat on a dharna at the Rajghat here on Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary on Monday demanding the release of funds for West Bengal by the Centre.
Abhishek Banerjee, who joined the protest in the national capital on Monday, has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the school teachers' recruitment case.
Abhishek Banerjee has claimed that he would not be honouring the ED notice.
"Stop me if you can," he wrote on X immediately after receiving the ED notice.
The Trinamool Congress leaders sat on protest at Rajghat with placards reading'Release Bengal Funds Now', 'Bengal deprived 1 lakh 15 thousand crore families, Rs 15,000 crore owed'.
Ripun Bora, the TMC state president of Assam, while speaking to ANI said the TMC was "compelled" to come and protest at Raj Ghat as the BJP government "deliberately stopped" the release of MGNREGA funds.
"The BJP government has deliberately stopped the release of MGNREGA funds and even PM Awas Yojana funds. Rs 15,000 crores of West Bengal government has been blocked. This is injusticea violation of centre-state relations. West Bengal is not begging; it is the constitutional share of the government...We gave multiple memorandums but did not receive any response. We are compelled to come and protest at Raj Ghat and tomorrow we will protest at Jantar Mantar," Bora said.
MP Abhishek Banerjee who was addressing a gathering here in the national capital during the protest, alleged that the attempts were made by the Central Government to stop his party's protest.
"As I said, a lot of attempts were made and a conspiracy was hatched to stop our two-day event in Delhi on 2-3 October. First, permission was not granted. Now we are not being allowed to speak," he said while addressing a gathering here in the national capital.
Banerjee also alleged that the police manhandled women protesters at Raj Ghat and lathi-charged them.
"The police lathi-charged women protesters. They tried to turn the protest violent. They were continuously asking us to get up when we were sitting there peacefully. They were treating us as a commodity. We did not engage in any political sloganeering, neither did we speak. Only MPs and MLAs were present there. At first, some of our supporters reached the place, but then on requesting they went away," the TMC general secretary said said.
"Tomorrow from 1 pm to 5 pm a meeting will be held...At around 5:30 pm, the TMC delegation will go to meet her (Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti) in Delhi..." he added.
TMC MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay claimed that he had met Union Minister Giriraj Singh in September this year regarding the allocation of funds wherein Singh assured the help to the West Bengal government.
"I met Giriraj Singh on 20th September...I told him that the CM would come to meet him, so give us an appointment. He said that he has been given BJP's responsibility and he will have to take care of that...I told him to speak with PM Modi or JP Nadda instead about CM's meeting. With folded hands, he told me that he would try for it. But he left..." Bandyopadhyay said, adding that Rs 1 Lakh 15,000 Crores remain to be paid to the State by the Centre from 2019.
However, West Bengal BJP President and MP Sukanta Majumdar alleged that the ruling TMC has "misused" the MGNREGA project in the state.
"It's a fact that there's no audit done by the TMC government because they can't do as the truth will come out. This MGNREGA is used by the TMC for their workers to keep them in their party. It is a tool to pay their workers for doing meetings, procession and all these things. They have misused this MGNREGA project and that's why they are unable to perform the audit. Otherwise, the truth will come to the surface," Majumdar said while talking to ANI.
Earlier in the day, Union Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Giriraj Singh rejected allegations of the West Bengal Government on discrimination in rural development schemes.
Singh said that during the tenure of the Modi government, the West Bengal government was allocated more money for rural development schemes than the UPA government.
"While West Bengal got only Rs 58 thousand crore during the UPA government, the Ministry of Rural Development under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given more than Rs 2 lakh crore to West Bengal for development in the last 9 years. This shows the commitment of the Prime Ministerof the country towards the development of West Bengal. Under schemes like MNREGA, more than Rs 54 thousand crore were given to West Bengal in the last 9 years, whereas during the time of UPA, this figure was only Rs 14,900 crore. Under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, while only Rs 5,400 crorewas spent during the UPA government, more than double Rs 11,000 crore has been spent in the Modi government," Singh said while addressing a press conference in Patna.
He further said that under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, only Rs 4,400 crore was spent during the UPA government, whereas the Modi government gave Rs 30 thousand crore to Bengal.
The Union Minister said that today under NRLM, the bank linkage of Didis of West Bengal is worth about Rs 74 thousand crores, whereas during the time of UPA, it was only Rs 600 crores.
"Apart from this, the present government gave approximately Rs 7 thousand crore under NSAP, whereas during the time of UPA, this figure was half of it. Under the Finance Commission, Rs 25 thousand crores were released to West Bengal, whereas during the UPA, only Rs 3,200 crores were allocated,"he added.
However, the TMC has countered claims of Singh that the Central assistance to various schemes to the state increased during the NDA-led government, saying that increasing funding over a period of 10 years is not charity but a necessity considering the changes in demography, economy and rising cost of living.
In a post on X, the TMC said that Giriraj Singh should get his facts straight before attacking the government of West Bengal and undermining the struggles of lakhs of deprived rural poor.
"Increasing funding over a period of 10 years is not charity but a necessity considering the changes in demography, economy and rising cost of living. Under the Awas Yojana, the GoWB compiled a list of 11.36 lakh eligible beneficiaries and submitted it to the Centre in November 2022. After conducting a thorough investigation by 69 Central Teams, it was concluded that there has been no major irregularities in the housing scheme, yet funds worth Rs 8,141 Cr have not been released," the TMC said.
It further said that even under MGNREGS, 48 Central teams were sent to assess its implementation. Despite the state government's compliance, they refuse to release funds worth Rs 6,907 Cr.
"Similarly, funding under MGNREGA and NRLM has to increase since these are demand-driven schemes. West Bengal has been one of the top performers in job-card holders, person-days generated and even in the formation of SHGs," it added.
The Mamata Banerjee-led ruling party also dismissed Giriraj's claims that the Centre has not withheld funds and called it"completely baseless".
"If we just go by simple statistics - a state which has continuously been in the top 2 performers of person-days generated suddenly dropped to 16th rank in FY 2022-23, ever since the funds were halted," it said.
Union Minister Anurag Thakur on Monday hit out at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government saying that they also did a scam in a scheme named after Mahatma Gandhi.
Addressing a press briefing, Union Minister Thakur said that to cover up the scams in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme, the West Bengal Chief Minister has sent her "corrupt" MPs to Delhi.
"A central team conducted a three-day enquiry (in Bengal) from January 22, 2019, to January 24, 2019, in six gram panchayats of Purba Bardhaman and in seven gram Panchayats of Hooghly. From here Rs 4.84 crore was recovered. Another Central team was constituted in 2021. This team went on 13 September 2021 and enquired till September 17, 2021. The observation by the team revealed that huge corruption was divided into small parts... Then the existing works were presented as new works... They also did a scam in a scheme named after Mahatma Gandhiji," the Bharatiya Janata Party MP said. (ANI)