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AMPHAN: The disaster which now forces India to question TMC

Back in December 2020, the Calcutta High Court had directed the Comptroller and Audit General (CAG) for audit of distribution of relief materials after the super cyclonic storm Amphan wreaked havoc in the affected areas of West Bengal.

Amphan, the cyclonic storm which formed on the 16th of May 2020 and continued to unleash its wrath on the eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha till May 21, has been a major talking point since the month of May 2020 itself. As the recent development regarding the same comes to the fore, it now forces India to question the Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress (TMC).

After the Calcutta High Court ordered the CAG to audit the distribution of relief materials to the people of West Bengal who suffered the loss of property or a kin member in December 2020, the CAG has now written to the Chief Secretary of Bengal. The letter has categorically claimed that the state authorities have not been cooperating with the audit teams and have refused to share any information related to the audit of the relief materials and rehabilitation expenditure.

Back in May when the cyclone had originated, Mamata and her government were proved to be ill- prepared and had to face the backlash of the people for the same. The weather department, taking swift action, had informed the West Bengal government about the progress of Amphan over the Bay of Bengal, and had issued the alerts with reliable forecasts since May 16th itself. The National Disaster Response Force units were already on the ground.

This brings out the fact that the central agencies were providing all the support in terms of information and resources. Nonetheless, millions of people in Bengal were adversely affected. In the aftermath of the disaster, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to announce the allocation of relief funds of 1,000 crore to the people in need: and Rs 2 lakh each for the families of the deceased and Rs 50, 000 for the injured.

Later, on 9th February 2021, Dilip Ghosh, BJP West Bengal Chief had leveled charges of ‘looting’ the 1,000-crore assistance which was sanctioned by the central government against the Mamata government. Ghosh said, “Rs1,000 crore financial assistance that was provided by the union government for the people affected by cyclone Amphan last year has not reached the needy yet. Her party members looted people’s money.”

He also talked about the instance when the center called for an audit by the CAG to investigate the matter, Mamata Banerjee moved the High Court to oppose and block the investigation.

During this time, in the poll- bound state of West Bengal, such a letter by the CAG to the Mamata government can be of grave peril for the TMC and its supreme leader. With charges of siphoning money off and being a ‘tolabaaz’ party by the BJP, the allegations by the CAG will undoubtedly become the albatross around Mamata’s neck.

Sources have said that no information has been shared with the audit teams and the original time frame which was provided by the Calcutta High Court is almost over. And still, the CAG has not been able to start the full- fledged audit.

In the letter concerned, the CAG has also stated that for the last three months its principal accountant general has been asking the state authorities for information to complete the audit, but the details required have not been provided.

Earlier too, right after the PM had announced the relief funds of 1, 000 crore, Mamata Banerjee lied to the press saying that the PM had only assured of financial assistance and there was no ‘clarity’ as to whether it would be advanced assistance or a package of some sort.

She claimed of this lack of clarity even though the PM categorically stated that the centre will be providing an ‘advance assistance’ of Rs 1, 000 crore for West Bengal to deal with the devastation caused by the disaster.

Already, the state of West Bengal is witnessing a heated political rivalry between TMC and the BJP. Both the parties continue to accuse each other of wrongdoings and are fighting this political battle with the utmost of determination and an equally fiery attitude. One day, Mamata Banerjee calls the BJP President JP Nadda ‘Nadda Chadda Fadda Badda’ and mocks the BJP leaders saying that they make a lot of noise- hamba hamba, ramba ramba, kamba kamba, dumba dumba, bamba bamba, some other day.

On the other hand, the BJP calls TMC a ‘tolabaaz’ or extortionist party and alleges that the TMC members are involved in incessant scams, looting the people of West Bengal.

While the state is all set to see the first phase out of the announced eight on the 27th March, the West Bengal Chief Minister in her latest press conference brazenly accused the Election Commission of being hand in glove with the ruling party and expressed her doubts of the dates being decided by the BJP itself.

When the TMC and Mamata are both busy campaigning and is leaving no stone unturned to win the upcoming polls, the questions raised by the CAG can turn the tide completely in favour of the BJP as this alleged ‘loot’ of money will prove to be a huge chink in the TMC armor.

Sonakshi Datta

Intern, Goa Chronicle

#Amphan, #Mamata Banerjee, #Comptroller and Audit General, #TMC, #BJP, #Dilip Ghosh, #Narendra Modi, #Bengal Elections

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