It’s been quite some time now that Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders have been facing flak after the cut money issue surfaced in West Bengal. The cut money scam surfaced after BJP made inroads and won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, and since then the TMC has been facing a crisis.
Now, reports have surfaced saying that there are ‘fixed rates’ for specific schemes, which ranged anywhere between Rs 200 to Rs 25,000. Shockingly, residents were not spared even when they were putting their loved ones to rest. A report by The Indian Express has now given out details of how cut money functioned. A local official in Hooghly told the leading daily, “Each scheme has a rate, and a network of local political leaders and panchayat members linked to the system. The system, which existed during the Left Front regime, has now become a full-fledged one.”
According to the Indian Express report, residents and even some Trinamool leaders point to a detailed break-up of “rates” for various schemes. For instance, Rs 500-600 per beneficiary was charged for LPG connections under Ujjwala scheme. Rs 10,000-25,000 per beneficiary for Rs 1.20-1.35 lakh in assistance to build houses under Banglar Bari (Prime Minister Awas Yojana). Rs 900-2,000 per beneficiary for Rs 12,000 to construct a toilet under Nirmal Bangla (Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin). In MGNREGS scheme, Rs 20-40 per day was charged from a job card holder under the rural employment guarantee scheme. The money is totalled and collected by the supervisor once it is received in the beneficiary’s account.
How does it work?
A Trinamool leader, who is also a work supervisor, told the Indian Express, “It works two ways. For those who have job cards and do the actual work, the amount to be paid to the supervisor ranges from Rs 20-40 per day of the Rs 190 that reaches the beneficiary’s bank account. For those who have job cards but are engaged in other professions, or are migrant workers, their names are included in the master roll. On paper, it is shown that they work every day. When they receive the payments, the supervisor takes 60 per cent. I am sure you know there is a chain system, and the party and the panchayat get their cuts, too.”
In Hooghly, a farmer claims to have paid a local TMC leader RS 7,000 to construct a house under the Banglar Bari scheme. “The leader helped me do all the paperwork. But I had to pay him Rs 5,000 and Rs 2,000 from my first and third installments. I want my money back,” Harekrishna Roy told the leading daily.
Another farmer from Chhatra, Tapas Mal, explained how TMC leaders persuade locals to sign up for government schemes. “For the housing scheme, they help people open bank accounts. Once the accounts are functional, they take four cheques with no amount mentioned from each beneficiary. When the beneficiaries receive their installments, the leaders deposit the cheques, one after the other. Any amount between Rs 10,000 and Rs 25,000 is taken from each beneficiary. In my case, after the first installment of Rs 45,000 arrived, Rs 5,000 was taken. If we don’t agree, we are told that the next installment won’t come,” Mal told the Indian Express.