June 25, 2019 8:50:41 pm
Tightening the noose around corrupt officials, the West Bengal government is now considering charging elected public representatives and government functionaries who accept “cut money” from beneficiaries of welfare schemes under a tough law that provides for life imprisonment in case of conviction, sources in the Chief Minister’s office said on Monday.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, officials said the “errant” officials will be charged under section 409 of the Indian Penal Code which relates to criminal breach of trust by a public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent.
A person convicted under the law is liable to be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, besides fine.
The decision was taken by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the sources added.
The Bengal government’s move comes at a time when several leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress are mobbed by people, demanding “refund” of the cut money taken by them to ensure the benefits of the government schemes reach the concerned beneficiaries.
Last week, the Chief Minister had ordered her party councillors to return the “cut money” or commission they had taken from the beneficiaries.
“I do not want to keep thieves in my party. If I take action, they will join some other party. Some leaders are claiming 25 per cent commission for providing housing grants to the poor. This should stop immediately. Return the money if you have taken it,” she said.
The chief minister, whose unusual directive is being seen by many as one that could impact her party’s prospects in the civic polls next year and the assembly elections in 2021, is learnt to have told police to encourage those aggrieved to lodge formal complaints against “errant” leaders and public servants and to not harass the common people.
“Once the complaints are lodged, the civil administration can inquire as these are mainly related to schemes run by panchayats or civic bodies. In case of any anomaly, the police will lodge formal complaints and initiate action against the accused,” ADG (law and order) Gyanwant Singh said.
Superintendents of Police of all districts have been asked to comply with the instructions the moment they receive a formal complaint.
The state government had earlier launched a grievance cell and a toll-free number along with an email address for receiving complainants about public representatives extorting “cut money” from people.
Nachiketa Chakraborty, a well known Bengali singer-songwriter considered close to Banerjee, has also penned a song denouncing corruption in public life. The song has gone viral on social media.
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