Why Bengal Will Not Receive Central Funds For Building Houses For Rural Poor

Why Bengal Will Not Receive Central Funds For Building Houses For Rural Poor

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Wednesday, May 24, 2023 05:58 PM IST
Why Bengal Will Not Receive Central Funds For Building Houses For Rural PoorA house constructed with PMAY-G funds
  • Deserving poor families in the state were kept out of the list of beneficiaries while Trinamool functionaries included their own names and those of their family members in the lists.

The Union Government is most unlikely to resume disbursal of funds for implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana--Gramin (PMAY-G) in Bengal. 

That’s because the Bengal government has failed to act against those responsible for glaring and serious anomalies and lapses in implementation of the Centrally-funded housing scheme for the poor in Bengal. 

Deserving poor families were kept out of the list of beneficiaries while Trinamool functionaries included their own names and those of their family members in the lists. 

There were also allegations of central funds allocated for this scheme being syphoned off by Trinamool functionaries in collusion with state government officers. 

The Union Government had also taken exception to the Bengal government’s attempts to pass off the scheme as ‘Bangla Awas Yojana’ with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s face on the logo.

The Union Government had asked the Bengal government to ensure that the correct logo of PMAY-G is displayed on the houses of the beneficiaries. 

Widespread public protests against Trinamool functionaries cornering the benefits of the Central government scheme meant for the poor had rocked Bengal last year and had tarnished the image of the party and its chairperson Mamata Banerjee. 

Reports also appeared in many newspapers and TV channels of well-to-do Trinamool functionaries and their relatives availing the benefits of the housing scheme while the poor had been left out. 

After receiving complaints from BJP MPs and MLAs as well as many others in Bengal last year, the Union Rural Development Ministry had deputed two central teams to carry out checks on the implementation of PMAY-G in Purba Medinipur and Malda districts. 

National-Level Monitoring (NLM) teams were also deputed to visit ten districts--Purba Medinipur, Paschim Medinipur, Purba Bardhaman, Malda, South 24 Parganas, Alipurduar, Nadia, Murshidabad, Kalimpong and Darjeeling--to probe complaints received from various sources on the implementation of PMAY-G in Bengal. 

The findings of the Central teams and the NLM teams were shared with the Bengal government through a letter written by the Secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development, Shailesh Kumar Singh, to Bengal chief secretary Hari Krishna Dwivedi on 27 February this year. 

Singh, in the letter to the Bengal chief secretary, said that the allegations about anomalies in the implementation of PMAY-G “were found to be true/ partially true in seven of the ten districts visited by the NLM teams”. 

“The teams have observed that there are lapses in implementation of PMAY-G in the state of West Bengal and ineligible households have been included in the list and eligible households have been deleted due to wrong entries. Further, it is observed that the logo of the PMAY-G is not displayed properly on the houses constructed under PMAY-G despite the commitment made by the state government,” Singh’s letter stated. 

The Union Rural Development Secretary, while recommending “corrective action”, expressly asked the Bengal government to “lodge FIRs against persons responsible for fraudulent acts”, take action against “erring block development officers (BDOs) and other supervisors”. 

The Union Rural Development Ministry secretary also directed that show cause notices be served on senior district and other officials who fail to take action or delay action against the BDOs and other erring officials.

The Bengal government was also asked to “publicise widely” the action taken against persons and officials. 

Singh’s letter to the Bengal chief secretary ended with: “I would like to request you to intervene personally in the matter and direct the officials concerned to take necessary action and submit the Action Taken Report (ATR) to the Ministry at the earliest and latest by 10 March, 2023”.

The Bengal government replied to Singh’s letter on 6 March. However, the state government’s response was found to be “unsatisfactory”. 

Union Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh, in a letter to Bengal leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikary on 17 May 2023, said that since the state’s response was unsatisfactory, the Union Ministry had again deputed ten central teams comprising senior officers of the Ministry to visit ten districts of the state. 

These teams conducted sample checks of the ATRs (action taken reports) and are preparing their reports now. 

According to sources in the know, the central teams have found the ATRs submitted by the state government to be mostly false and failing to meet the directives of the Union Ministry.

“While the anomalies in the lists of beneficiaries have been largely rectified and names of deserving people have been included, no action has been taken against those who committed the anomalies in the first place,” a senior Union Government official who was privy to the findings of the central teams told Swarajya

FIRs have not been lodged against those who cornered the benefits of PMAY-G fraudulently, nor has any action been taken against errant officers of the state government who allowed the fraud to take place. 

“If action is to be taken against those who committed fraud and cornered the benefits of the PMAY-G, hundreds of Trinamool functionaries will be behind bars. Mamata Banerjee cannot afford to do that. She also cannot afford to take action against errant state officials,” Suvendu Adhikary told Swarajya

This means that Bengal will not receive any funds for PMAY-G. 

The Union Rural Development Ministry is very firm on its stand that till those who committed fraud are arrested and action taken against state officials who were complicit in the fraud, fresh funds for implementing PMAY-G will not be disbursed.

And since there is no way that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee can take action against her erring party functionaries and state officials, the rural poor in Bengal will continue to remain deprived of funds to build their houses. 

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