The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in West Bengal has given more than Rs 1,300 crore to various clubs across the state, while, on the other hand, the government has failed to spend any money to generate employment in the state. In 2012, one year after coming to power, Mamata Banerjee gave an amount of Rs 2,00,000 to 26,000 clubs across the state. Since then, these clubs have received grants worth Rs 1,00,000 every three years.
On Friday, March 13, a month ahead of the municipal corporation elections in the state, the government organised a huge sports award ceremony, where the clubs were also handed grants for the years 2019-2021. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday addressed thousands of people inside Kolkata’s largest indoor stadium, a day after the Centre issued advisories to states to ensure no public gathering takes place to check the spread of coronavirus.
Banerjee came to the Netaji Indoor Stadium with a copy of the Centre’s advisory and read it out. “The Union government has asked to ensure that no public gathering, including for sporting events, takes place. There are restrictions on organising events. We have gathered despite that because such days do not come regularly,” she said after that.
Apart from the triennial grants to the clubs, the government also provides a sum of money to 28,000 clubs for organising Durga Puja every year. In 2018, the state government gave Rs 10,000 to 28,000 clubs before the festival. In 2019, this amount saw an increase of 150%. The clubs received an amount of Rs 25,000 each before Durga Puja. This year, too, Banerjee said at the event, the amount will reach the clubs through the state police.
While on the one hand, the state government is spending the taxpayers’ money on the clubs, it does not seem to have enough money to help the farmers across the state or to invest in industrialisation in the state. The unemployed youths from the state have been urging Banerjee for years to fulfil her promise of industrialisation. Since the TMC government came to power, hundreds of factories have closed down during the years and thousands of people have lost their jobs.
Recently, in late January, the West Bengal government removed Rs 1,400 crore from the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund and transferred it to the treasury. The move was highly criticised by workers’ unions in a meeting of the Workers’ Welfare Board. The board or the union did not receive any intimation before the state government removed this money from the State Bank of India and transferred it to its coffers.
The farmers in the state are not in a better situation either. In January, it was found that the West Bengal government’s Agriculture Department had managed to procure only 22% of the rice they had promised to procure from the cultivators across the state. The farmers in the state have been refusing to sell their produce to the government because of various flaws in the process of procurement. The minimum support price (MSP) was fixed by the central government at Rs 1,815 per quintal. The West Bengal government is providing the farmers a bonus of Rs 20 per quintal. However, the Kerala government, on the other hand, is giving farmers a bonus of Rs 865 per quintal.
CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty criticised the state governments move of spending so much money on the clubs while it continues to turn a blind eye to the more pressing issues. Talking to the media on Friday, he said, “Whose money is being distributed to the clubs? On what bases is the government choosing these clubs? The party in power is trying to create TMC cadres by handing over the taxpayer’s money to these clubs.”