TMC puts a political spin on the fight between the central state and the MGNREGA fund

The state’s ruling party took to the streets on Sunday and Monday against the non-release of pending payroll dues under the Center’s flagship 100-day job program

MGNREGA involves the employment of people for local public works such as road building, well digging and reforestation. Photo: PTI

The ongoing struggle between the West Bengal government and the Center over fund allocations has provided the Trinamool Congress (TMC) with an opportunity to put pressure on the BJP ahead of the panchayat elections.

The state’s ruling party took to the streets on Sunday and Monday against the non-release of pending payroll dues under the Centre’s flagship 100-day employment program, MGNREGA.

Protest programs were staged in every bloc against the state as the Trinamool Congress moved to turn the fight into a political issue, highlighting how the Center would neglect the state.

The party ensured the participation of several holders of MGNREGA labor cards in the demonstration, clearly with the aim of politically profiting from the delay in the payment of wages.

The move comes at a time when the state government is facing allegations of embezzlement of funds intended for the rural employment guarantee scheme.

Read also : Center sets MGNREGA salaries; Mamata will provide labor under the government of Bengal

Following complaints of irregularities, as previously reported by The Federalthe Ministry of Rural Development earlier this year sent task forces for field visits and investigation into the implementation of MGNREGA programs in the state.

The teams had uncovered some anomalies and asked the state government to file a report on the actions taken at the Center.

The state government has yet to respond to the Centre’s directive, BJP National Vice President Dilip Ghosh said.

“TMC leaders and District Administrations have mastered the art of funneling MGNREGA funds into their bottomless pockets. This is why there is so much shouting about the (non-release) of MGNREGA funds,” said another BJP leader, Suvendu Adhikari.

The state government, however, says it has taken action whenever irregularities have been detected. In addition, he stresses, irregularities cannot be used as a pretext to delay the payment of wages.

Since December last year, the Center has not disbursed any funds to the state under the scheme, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.

Cumulative state contributions amount to approximately ₹6,500 crore to ₹3,000 crore as wages and ₹3,500 crore as material cost.

While repeated requests – including a letter from the Chief Minister to the Prime Minister – to the Center to clear dues went unanswered, the TMC dived into action to try to ensure it did not does not have to bear the weight of blocking projects.

Attending the protests shouting slogans against the BJP-led central government, TMC leaders said the aim behind the agitation was to expose the Centre’s “unmotherly” attitude towards Bengal.

“The Center unfairly withheld legitimate state dues. Despite several letters (requesting the release of funds), the money has not been released,” said West Bengal Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim.

Panchayat elections in the state are scheduled for early next year. The blocking of the MGNREGA program should have its impact in the polls.

The BJP started to make its presence felt in the electoral politics of Bengal from the 2018 panchayat elections.

Read also : No state provided 100 days of work under MGNREGA in FY22: government data

Through protest rallies, the TMC is trying to impress upon rural voters that it is the BJP that should be blamed for the mess.

Apart from the state, the TMC is also planning to organize a protest program against the non-payment of dues at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

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