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Top Left leaders arrested in Kolkata after protest against ‘irregularities’ in PDS system

The Left leaders also accused the administration and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the alleged improper distribution of ration.

Written by Santanu Chowdhury | Kolkata | Updated: April 18, 2020 10:45:11 pm
Top Left leaders were on Saturday arrested by police for protesting against the PDS system in the state. (Source: CPIM West Bengal)

Top Left leaders, including CPI(M) state secretary Surya Kanta Mishra, Left Front chairman Biman Bose, Mohammad Salim, Sujan Chakraborty and others, were arrested by the police Saturday for staging a demonstration in the city against the lack of Covid-19 testing in the state and irregularities in the ration distribution system. They were taken to the city police headquarters in Lalbazar but later released.

The Left leaders were staging the demonstration at Red Road by maintaining social distancing. They wore masks and held placards denouncing the state government for not conducting enough Covid-19 tests. The leaders also accused the administration and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the alleged improper distribution of ration.

“Several poor households, who are the rightful beneficiaries, have been deprived of the free ration. We were on the streets to demand food for the poor people. The state government has deliberately created this mess. It has not conducted enough tests to find out the Covid-19 positive cases. The state government is suppressing facts on the entire situation. We were arrested today for staging the protest. We told the police that we will not apply for bail. The police have released us without asking us to sign any bond,” said CPI(M)’s legislative party leader Sujan Chakraborty.

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The West Bengal has so far reported 178 active positive COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths.

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury also condemned the arrest of Left leaders. “Why is the state govt in Bengal not giving all the resources people need to survive? There is no transparency in the testing. Or in the data. Our leaders have been taken into custody instead! Release them, immediately. This bullying will not work, people will not get silenced. TMC govt must release them. Now. #COVID19 has destroyed lives & livelihoods. State govt must respond to that instead of trying to bully us by arrests while strictly following guidelines & precautions. The police violated guidelines, in how they arrested!” Yechury said in multiple tweets.

Earlier, the BJP also accused the state government of not conducting Covid-19 tests at a rapid pace across the state. CM Mamata Banerjee, however, refuted the charges, claiming that her government’s response to the coronavirus crisis has been pro-active so far.

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Meanwhile, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar today criticised the state government over PDS scam and sought urgent details in this regard from the State Chief Secretary.

“In the past few days, there have been continuously disturbing inputs indicative of serious illegalities and irregularities in the distribution of free ration to the needy entitled to avail free ration from the Central Govt and ration available from the State Government. The Central Government has been making available free foodgrains under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojna so that the same can be made available to the needy persons in the State of West Bengal,” read a statement issued by Raj Bhawan.

“Copious reports have emanated in public domain that as regards distribution of free ration that is available under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana and ration from the State Govt by PDS is not functional as PDS has been virtually hijacked by political workers of the ruling party. There can be no dispute that taking over of PDS by political workers of a party is ex facie illegal and seriously actionable in law,” the statement added.

Recently the state government removed the food department secretary over allegations of irregularities in distribution of ration.

“The needy and poor entitled to free ration are sufferers and ruling party political class is being patronised. This is a gross failure of governance in the State. The recent transfer of the Secretary of the Food Department is also being viewed by many as a fallout. I would urge that strictest, stern action be taken against the officials who have failed to do their duty thereby aiding such hijacking of the PDS to the serious detriment of the interests of the poor,” the statement further said.

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