Parties play blame game to rake in higher vote count
As the hills gear up for the municipality elections, allegations and counter allegations on issues raised by political parties to overshadow each other to win voters' trust have started to become a daily affair.
Predominantly, the ruling Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, finding itself on the backfoot of late, and the Trinamool Congress, working overtime to make its presence felt in the region, are engaged in the smearing campaign against each other.
The GJM in particular has highlighted the state government’s Gitanjali Housing Scheme, which it alleges, has not been implemented properly in the hills. The party claims that only those owing allegiance to the TMC were reaping the benefits of the scheme. “While identifying beneficiaries, the district administration has not followed transparency and proper procedures. In fact, the district administration told us that the list of beneficiaries was prepared in Kolkata and that they were not aware of developments,” claimed GJM central committee member D.K. Pradhan, who was recently appointed as the Darjeeling sub-divisional president by the GJM leadership.
Swaraj Thapa, a GJM study forum member and principal advisor to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, was more specific in his allegation, saying the list prepared by the state government was politically motivated. “The list of the beneficiaries under the Gitanjali Housing Scheme was prepared in a single day. Neither the district magistrate, the sub-divisional officer nor the block development officers have any knowledge about how the list was prepared. We have found out that two members of the same family have been included in the beneficiary list,” he said.
The GJM is also unhappy with the state government’s housing scheme, saying it has not been implemented properly since its inception in 2014 in the hills. According to the ruling party, for the year 2014-15, the housing scheme was made available to only 1,000 beneficiaries, much lower than in the plains.
"For 2014-15, the state government sanctioned houses for 3,353 beneficiaries which also included recipients from the 2009 list under the Economic Welfare Housing scheme. However, only 2,127 houses were completed. For 2015 as per records available, only 1,000 houses were constructed under the scheme, whereas in the plains around 2,000 houses have been constructed during the same period on average, said Thapa.
Demanding the state government to make the Gitanjali Housing Scheme beneficiary list public, the GJM has threatened to move court. “We will use the RTI act and if required also move court. The scheme is for the people and we want the right people to get the benefits,” Thapa said.
Bit the hill unit of the TMC rubbished the accusation saying the GJM was submerged in corruption and nepotism. “The GJM run-GTA is heaped in corruption and nepotism. We have proof that only GJM supporters are reaping the benefits of the Hamro Ghar Yojana that is being implemented by the hill body. The GJM has not allowed repairs of roads near the houses of TMC supporters and even drinking water is not given where our party has base,” claimed N.B. Khawas, the hill TMC general secretary.
Beneficiaries under the Gitanjali housing scheme whose family income is less than Rs6,000 a month are entitled to receive Rs75,000, while under the Hamro Ghar Yojana, Rs1 lakh is given by the GTA.
When contacted, Anurag Srivastava, the Darjeeling district magistrate, confirmed about meeting GJM leaders but refused to comment on the issue. (EOIC)