A timely judicial intervention

The Calcutta High Court has issued an ad interim injunction till next Tuesday on the West Bengal Government’s decision to pay Rs 10,000 to 28,000 thousand Puja Committees in the State. The ostensible purpose of the donation was to create public awareness about “Safe Drive Save Life” by the Puja Committees in cooperation with the police. The total expenditure would have come to Rs 28 crore. The High Court has sought to know from the State Government why it was donating this money to the Puja Committees at a time when it admits to be cash-strapped. The High Court has raised several pertinent points. Does the State have a guideline on making such donations? Is there any in-built system to prevent misuse of public money? Are such donations given to festivals of other communities as well? Will Puja Committees other than these twenty-eight thousand also get such donations? If not, can such donations be made to only some select Puja Committees?
Giving monetary help to select clubs is a policy this Government has been pursuing for some years. Quite naturally, it has come in for criticism by the opposition parties who see in it a not-so-hidden purpose of keeping sections of youngsters under the political influence of the ruling party. There is reason to believe that the Puja Committees which have been selected are run by supporters of the ruling party. Therefore the State Government should make public the identity of the beneficiary committees. Spending public money in the interest of a political party under any garb is impermissible. It has been proved time and again that such ‘donations’ (others may call it ‘bribe’) do not help any political party in the long run.
Earlier, in order to win over the electoral support of the minorities, the State Government had announced a monthly allowance for Imams and Muezzins of Masjids. There was a public hue and cry over this. Questions were raised as to why priests should not be given such an allowance. Eventually the government decision was struck down by the High court. The TMC should have learnt a lesson from this and refrained from repeating the same mistake. But it did not. The only way to win over the support of the religious minorities is to spread education among them and create job opportunities for them. There is no shortcut method to get their love and loyalty.

Monday, 8 October, 2018