Chorus of dissent grows louder

'Whistleblower' loses post in KMC reshuffle

Tuesday's reshuffle in Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), which had the stamp of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, caused a huge uproar on Wednesday with many voices within the Trinamool Congress questioning the rationale behind stripping party councillor Tarak Singh the charge of Entally workshop despite his role in unravelling the trident lamp post scam.

It was Singh whose letter to Urban Development Minister Firad Hakim had brought to fore the alleged scam as he questioned why contracts of installing trident lamp posts in Kolkata were given to private parties at higher rates even though similar poles are manufactured at the Entally workshop at a much cheaper rate.

Singh, who has now been given the charge of bustee department of the KMC, refused comment on the reshuffle.

"The manner in which Singh has been a shunted out reflects poorly on the party's image. The decision may hit the party's fortune in the KMC elections," said a Trinamool councillor on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, Congress councillors, who have been demanding a CBI probe into what they call a "big scam", termed Singh's transfer as "unethical". "It will only encourage corruption and send a message that those who will expose corrupt elements in the KMC will be punished," said Prakash Upadhyay, a Congress councillor.

Union minister Deepa Dasmunsi said that she called Singh on Tuesday and congratulated him for exposing the corruption. "He had come to Delhi to brief me about the scam," she said.

The Opposition has claimed that one trident lamp post costs something around Rs 9,000. But without floating tenders, contractors were appointed to install trident lamp posts at a much inflated rate. KMC authority, however, argued that tenders were not floated because all the tender had cost less than Rs 5 lakh. Mayor Sovon Chatterjee has rejected the demand for a CBI probe and has been referring to the internal audit currently being conducted.

The other controversial decision has been removing Debabrata Majumdar from revenue department. In order to boost revenue collection, Majumdar had proposed assessment of property tax in areas that have not been assessed so far. The revenue department has now been given to the mayor.

Now, Manna faces Singur farmers' ire

Becharam Manna, the new minister of state for agriculture, was at the receiving end of a group of unwilling farmers of Singur who chanted slogans against him and the government when they saw him at the BDO office on Wednesday while they were collecting slips for getting subsidized rice.

Manna, who was at the BDO office to supervise the distribution, had to face the ire of the unwilling farmers who complained that they are not receiving Rs 2000 and 8 kg of rice per month as promised by the government for the family of unwilling farmers. "We have repeatedly told our leaders that we are not getting the money and the ration as announced by the chief minister. But nothing happened. We are yet to get our land back. The state government is not keeping its promises. So today when we saw Becharam Manna, we expressed our anger," said Mritunjai Patra, who is one of the hundreds of farmers who "unwillingly" gave their land for setting up of Tata Motors' car factory.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's gameplan to remove veteran Singur MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya from the crucial agriculture department and appoint Manna as the junior minister in the department seems to have backfired with the factional war in the local unit of the party coming out in the open.

The mudslinging between the two factions intensified further with Bhattacharya alleging that some party leaders are extorting money. Manna, on the other hand, has hit back at Bhattacharya by alleging that his son was involved in running an extortion racket.

Rubbishing the claims made by Manna, Bhattacharya on Wednesday said: "Becharam Manna has at least accepted that extortion racket is being run in Singur. He has targeted my youngest son Tushar Kanta Bhattacharya and this is not the first time. During the Singur movement, CPM leaders had made similar allegations. I had inquired into the matter then and also now. But the allegations could not be proved. If Manna can prove the allegations against my Tushar, I would not spare my son and he will be punished."

Despite several attempts, Manna remained unavailable for comment.

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