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TMC Members With Concrete Houses Potential PMAY-G Beneficiaries

An Indian Express investigation survey reveals that several potential beneficiaries in Purba Bardhaman and North 24 Parganas don’t fulfil PMAY-G criteria.
WB Housing

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: District Portal

Several Trinamool Congress (TMC) members in West Bengal with permanent houses are potential beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G) without qualifying for criteria like poverty, destitution and a makeshift or dilapidated house, an investigation by The Indian Express has revealed.

From the deputy pradhan of a TMC panchayat to a party core committee member and a local TMC worker panchayat in

Purba Bardhaman, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas, respectively, all have permanent houses but are eligible for PMAY-G.

Though funds haven’t been disbursed, these people could have become actual beneficiaries had locals not protested, part one of the investigation revealed.

After investigating beneficiary lists, visiting sites and interviewing applicants and local officials, The Indian Express found flaws in the block level, the first tier of the process.

In Purba Bardhaman, for example, TMC-ruled panchayat deputy pradhan Jahangir Sekh owns a three-floor house with a CCTV camera and the under-construction house next door in Keshabpur village, under Shakhari Gram Panchayat, in Khandoghosh block. The names of wife Sima, brothers Alamgir and Ajamgir and his late father Sekh Mahasen are on the list of potential beneficiaries.

Jahangir was not present when The Indian Express visited his house and he did not respond to calls or messages either. TMC block president Aparthib Islam said, “The people here are angry over the names of Jahangir and his family members being included in the list when he has two palatial houses. But when the survey (to identify potential beneficiaries) was held, Jahangir had a mud house. After winning the panchayat polls in 2018, he started a rice business and earned well.”

Khandoghosh block development officer (BDO) Satyajit Kumar said that the BDOs had “no control of the 2018 survey, which was conducted through a mobile app by panchayat officials”. He claimed that the names of Jahangir and his family were “removed from the list before any protest”.

About 40 km away, in Surekalna, Jamalpur block, a two-floor house with an AC belongs to Nitai Kundu, the TMC president of Jamalpur 2 Anchal. His name is on the list as well. However, Kundu alleged that it’s a conspiracy. “A section of leaders in my party trying to malign me put my name on the list. I have told the BDO that I do not want a PMAY house.”

Jamalpur BDO Shubhankar Majumder claimed that he wasn’t posted in Jamalpur when the survey was conducted. “I was not in this block then. The list was created by taking a picture of the house through the app. Out of 21,000 names on the list from this block, we have already omitted 6,500.”

Majumder’s assurance offers little hope for Sabina Bibi, whose tin house is right across Kundu’s house. “I first applied for the scheme three years ago but nothing happened. I applied again a few months ago. My name is not yet on the list,” she said.

It is hell for us, including my four children, during the rainy season. Now, look at the concrete house of our neta. Are we not deserving enough to get a house under this scheme?” a frustrated Sabina asked.

About 27 km away, in Haripur village, the name of Ratna Mahanta, who heads the TMC-run Raina 1 Panchayat Samiti, figures on the list. Her mother-in-law Malati Mahanta claimed that the family owned a mud house some years ago. “Now, we have a concrete house. But somehow, by mistake, the name of my daughter-in-law came up on the list,” she said.

Ratna still claims to have the mud house. “The concrete house was made recently after my party colleagues helped me with some money. I have already asked officials to remove my name from the list.”

In North 24 Parganas, in Purba Rudrapur village, Habra, the PMAY-G list has the name of Kabirul Haq, a TMC core committee member. He owns a tiled house with an attached work area for readymade garments with around 12 workers.

Haq was not available for comment. His wife Parvin claimed that his name is on the list because “we used to have a mud house some years ago. We built this house and workshop three years ago”.

At nearby Kashipur village, Pabitra Biswas too is on the list although he stays in a concrete home with his “relative” and local TMC leader and teacher Sabita Biswas. “This is my relative’s house, not mine. The cow shed is where we live. We deserve a house under PMAY,” his wife Madhuri said. “My uncle’s son is on the list. He is poor,” Sabita said over the phone.

Habra-1 block BDO Jayanta Dey did not provide details of Biswas’s case but said that Haq had applied last month “to remove his name from the list”, which has been done. “The main point is no one who owns a permanent house should get a house under the scheme. We are trying to ensure that,” he said.

Apurba Chatterjee, a CPI(M) district secretariat member from Purba Bardhaman, said that since key approvals are “done at the district level, it’s easy for local staff in collusion with homeowners to use funds to build extensions under the PMAY-G”.

The process of identifying potential beneficiaries is at the heart of the latest tussle between the Mamata Banerjee government and the BJP-ruled Centre. After pausing the scheme in the state for more than eight months in 2022, the Centre finally allocated Rs 8,200 crore for 11,36,488 PMAY-G houses with a stern reminder in November to follow the implementation.

The TMC has alleged that it is being unfairly targeted by the Centre and that the father of BJP leader and Central minister Nishit Pramanik is a potential beneficiary in Cooch Behar district. Pramanik, however, alleged that name was added as part of a political “conspiracy”.

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