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Bengal: Protests Over ‘Suicide’ by ICDS Worker Who Was Evaluating Awas Yojana Recipients

Villagers said Reba Biswas was facing threats from local TMC bigwigs of dire consequences if she exposed the names of recipients who already own houses./

Representational use only.

Kolkata: In a case of alleged “institutional murder”, an ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) worker in Swarupnagar of  North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal was  found hanging from a tree adjacent to her home. The ICDS worker, Reba Biswas, was allegedly being harassed while performing her job to evaluate Awas Yojana beneficiaries in her village.

According to some villagers, Biswas was facing threats from local ruling party (Trinamool Congress or TMC) bigwigs of dire consequences if during the work she exposed the names of Awas Yojana fund recipients who already have two- or three-storeyed houses in their name.

Biswas was reportedly undergoing depression after getting threatening calls, one of which even went to extent of threatening to throw her before a running bus if she did not comply with the list of Awas Yojana recipients and certify that all  those who have got funds for houses under the scheme were “bonafide” beneficiaries, said local sources.

Meanwhile, Biswas’s family has lodged a first information report (FIR) against the culprits. The Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) in West Bengal, which has a union amongst scheme workers, has also called fora detailed probe into the death of the ICDS worker and exemplary punishment for the culprits .

Condemning the incident, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) , in a press release, demanded  that before starting the survey on the Awas Yojana, the safety of the surveyors should have been ensured by the authorities, as the “poor ICDS workers  are  being threatened, heckled and abused” throughout the state  for performing their assigned duty .

AIDWA accused a section of the administration of “colluding with ruling TMC hooligans threatening ICDS workers everywhere.” It said incidents that drove Reba Biswas to allegedly die by suicide should be thoroughly probed and action should be taken against the culprits.

The alleged suicided has caused huge uproar amongst ICDS workers across the state with a spontaneous protest being held before the Swarupnagar Block Development Officer’s off office on Tuesday. It may be recalled that the ICDS workers’ union has time and again demanded that they be relieved  of this  job , i.e , evaluating Awas Yojana recipients .

As the local elected panchayat members are the ones instrumental in giving out Awas Yojana funds, the fiercest resistance everywhere has come in from them, as in most cases, these are run by the ruling party which has been accused of corruption in giving out drawing the list of recipients

Talking to reporters, Priya Biswas, an ICDS worker and sister of the deceased, expressed fear of her life also as she, too, had faced a similar situation.

Addressing the media, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Hamaluddin Ahmad highlighted the alleged role played by a local TMC panchayat member Sahebuddin Gazi in threatening the deceased ICDS worker. “On Sunday night, the accused  TMC leader took local hooligans along with him and went to the house of Reba Biswas and threatened her to write in her report that all the recipients of the  Awas schemes are bonafide recipients,” he alleged.

There have been reports of such incidents of harassment of the ICDS workers in the same district.

The CITU, in a press release, accused the state government of paying extremely meagre  wages to ICDS workers that forced them to do such extra work which often proves hazardous.

The deceased ICDS worker had mentioned in her report about malpractices by the local panchayat in allotting of homes and funds under the Awas Yojana scheme, the trade union said, alleging that as a result , TMC workers threated to kill her following  which an already depressed Biswas died by suicide.

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