TMC ‘Diverts’ Construction Worker Welfare Fund to Help Odisha Train Crash Victims
Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during a ceremony organised to give financial aid and appointment letters of state government jobs to family members of the victims of Balasore train accident on Wednesday, May 7, 2023. (PTI Photo)
Kolkata: The West Bengal (WB) government has allegedly diverted funds from the Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund's (CWWF) West Bengal unit to help Balasore train crash victims and their families from the state.
According to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government, 103 dead passengers were from West Bengal and about 206 passengers are being treated in different state hospitals.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee gave cheques of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the dead, Rs 1 lakh to the seriously injured and Rs 50,000 to the other wounded at Netaji Indoor Stadium on Wednesday.
The state government will also provide Rs 10,000 to passengers who witnessed the accident and a monthly Rs 2,000 for the next three months for the families to get over the ordeal.
With a corpus of more than Rs 3,712 crore, the CWWF looks after the education of children of the 31,97,000 registered construction workers, provides one-time financial assistance to the families of dead and injured workers and maternity benefits to female workers.
However, the Construction Workers Federation of India's (CWFI) West Bengal chapter's president, Debanjan Chakraborty, has alleged diversion of funds and has threatened to go to court. “The West Bengal government cannot expend funds meant for construction on something else,” he told Newsclick.
Suvendu Adhikari, opposition laeader in the Assembly, also alleged that Banerjee “is snatching the funds meant for the welfare of the building and other construction workers to act as a philanthropist on stage for photo op”.
“She did the same in Bogtui as well, where she used the Mid-day Meal funds to compensate the victims of the Birbhum massacre, where women and children were burnt alive by her party men,” he tweeted.
Adhikari said the state government should provide relief to the victims from the WB State Emergency Relief Fund and the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. “Why are they time and again unethically diverting the funds meant for others?” he asked.
The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) general secretary and spokesperson Kunal Ghosh shot back tweeting that the “state government’s sole priority at this moment is to help the Coromandel Express accident victims. Given the urgency of the issue at hand, funds have to be provided instantly”.
The state government “has already clarified that the Finance Department will settle the Construction Workers’ Welfare Board’s funds in due time. First, @BJP4Bengal leaders request the Centre to halt Bengal’s MGNREGS funds. Now, Mr. Adhikari is trying to politicise the deaths of hundreds by questioning the financial assistance provided to their families,” he added.
According to a political commentator, the accident demonstrates the “state’s poor economic condition. With the freeze on MGNREGS funds, the poor are migrating to other states en masse for livelihood”.
Mass migration of workers has been reported in districts like South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas, Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur. More than 10 million workers from the state are employed as daily wagers in other states.
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