ED arrests in Bengal expose corruption and power of patronage
Over the last one year, several senior Trinamool leaders, including former education minister Partha Chatterjee and Palashipara MLA Manik Bhatatcharya, have been arrested for their alleged roles in the same recruitment scam.
All these arrests have bolstered state opposition parties such as the BJP, CPM and Congress, who have sharpened their attacks on the state’s ruling party. Besides protests by job seekers in Kolkata, which have crossed 700 days, and the hunger strike by government employees over dearness allowance (DA) have added to the embarrassment of the state government.The ED has unearthed a “cycle of corruption from top down” in the teachers recruitment scam, starting with former education minister Chatterjee, his close aide Arpita Chatterjee, MLA Manik Bhattacharya to district-level leaders and agents, people in the know told ET.
Sources quoting ED officials said the expelled district-level leaders were instrumental in fixing bribe rates with job aspirants. A list of 300 plus job applicants has been found in the house of Santanu Bandopadhyay, a former Zilla Parishad member, during a search by the central agency. A copy of the list was also seized from arrested MLA Bhattacharya’s residence, sources said. Bhattacharya was also a former state primary education board chairman.
Finding backlash, Trinamool Congress expelled Kuntal Ghosh and Santanu Bandopadhyay from the party on Tuesday and Santanu Bandopadhyay was suspended from government job.ED has reportedly freezed at least 35 bank accounts of Santanu Bandopadhyay and Kuntal Ghosh, including Ghosh’s 11 accounts today. The agency has traced huge transactions in these bank accounts, sources in the know said.
Bandopadhyay allegedly fixed the rates for jobs as was revealed by Tapas Mondal, who was president of the association of West Bengal’s 625 private bachelor of education (BEd) and diploma in elementary education (DELEd) colleges and institutions.
Before his arrest, Mondal said that Bandopadhyay “reportedly” took ‘3-4 lakh for every candidate, sources said. Bandopadhyay was arrested by ED after seven hours of questioning last Friday, sources informed. He is the second Trinamool leader from Hooghly district to be arrested in the teachers recruitment scam. On January 21, ED had arrested Kuntal Ghosh in the same case.
“The ecosystem of corruption in Hooghly has been broken by the central agency. The ecosystem in other districts should also be broken and that is the task of the ED, ” political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty said. “In democracy, Mamata Banerjee cannot refuse responsibility for the corruption in the state.”
Trinamool says it does not tolerate corruption. “We have zero tolerance against corruption,” Trinamool spokesperson Debanshu Bhattacharya had said, adding “ED’s probe should come to a proper conclusion”.
On Monday, while being produced in court Bandopadhyay said, “Kuntal is the main mastermind of the case. He is sending his money to other states through his agents. He is intimidating the agents and trying to transfer the money. Kuntal has taken several hundred crores through several hundred agents. I am not involved in any case and my properties are legal and it will be proved soon”.
The ED has seized two mobile phones from Bandopadhyay, which the agency reportedly described as “gold mines”.
High Court ORDER
The Calcutta High Court has meanwhile directed the WBSSC to cancel the recruitment of 785 people serving on Group-C posts in state schools. These people were among 2,037 recruited in the Group-C category.
Among those whose recruitment has been cancelled is Khokon Mahato, the younger brother of state minister Srikanta Mahato. Khokon was posted in a school in Junglemahal region’s Jhargram as Group-C staff.
Khokon, however, denied any wrongdoing. “I qualified TET in 2014. Had I got the job on the basis of my elder brother’s influence, I would have got it much earlier.”
Names of several Bengali film industry actors and actresses have cropped up following Kuntal Ghosh’s arrest. Actor Bonny Sengupta’s name came up after the ED questioned Ghosh on the basis of a number of “monetary transfers” made by Ghosh, people in the know told ET. Ghosh had reportedly transferred ’35-40 lakh to the account of Sengupta. On Friday, Sengupta returned the money to Kuntal. “I was roped in by Ghosh for a film. As it did not work out, I did at least 20 events for Ghosh and he paid me ’30-45 lakh. Ghosh sent the money to my bank account to help me buy a car,” Sengupta told journalists.
Sengupta had joined BJP ahead of the assembly elections in 2021 but quit the party soon after the poll.
ED has also summoned Soma Chakraborty, owner of a nail art parlour who received money from Ghosh.
As part of Rahul Gandhi’s trials, Kanhaiya may get bigger role in Congress
Kumar, a former JNU students union leader, joined the Congress in 2021 by reaching out to Rahul Gandhi. While many Congress leaders of his home state Bihar were known to have resisted any active role being given to him.
With attempts to revive the Delhi PCC coming to naught, a section of Congress leadership is now known to be arguing that Kumar can be the “panacea” for Delhi Congress even as they cite how another “experiment”, of bringing Dikshit “from UP to Delhi Congress leadership” had succeeded. Similarly, IYC leadership is also being cited as a potential slot for Kumar, 36, by arguing that Srinivas BV, 42, will be soon completing four years in IYC leadership.
But many among the Delhi Congress and IYC brass are not enthused about the move. “Kumar is far too new in the Congress to be considered to head a PCC. And those arguing Sheila (Dikshit) ji too was an outsider in Delhi Congress are being dishonest because she had been a Congress leader right from the beginning,” said a Delhi Congress functionary, who did not wish to be identified. The mood is similar in IYC, especially as most IYC leaders have been fighting against the Leftists and saffron outfits.
UP BJP lines up plans to woo OBCs amid SP’s caste play
The head of the morcha, Narendra Kashyap, said following the training of workers till March 30 to create awareness among them regarding achievements of the central government and ideology of the BJP, a statewide ‘Gaon Chalo, Ghar Chalo’ campaign will be kicked off wherein the workers will fan out in 15,000 villages of the 80 Lok Sabha seats and intimate people of the community about the government and party” achievements in furthering their welfare.
“Through this campaign we will also expose the Samajwadi Party’s demands about caste census and tell people that they forgot about it when they were in power themselves and remain focused then on benefitting their own family,” said Kashyap, who is also the state minister for backward classes welfare.
Meghalaya: Voice of the People’s Party stages walkout in protest of Governor’s Hindi speech
VPP legislator from Nongkrem, Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit said that Meghalaya is not a Hindi speaking state and Hindi cannot be imposed by the Government of India on the people of the State. “This is against the sentiment of the people of the state.”
Chief Minister, Conrad K Sangma however said that such behaviour is not accepted from an elected MLA and written English speech is already circulated in the house.Assembly Speaker, Thomas A Sangma said that he would allow the Governor to address the House in Hindi as written speech in English was circulated among all the members.
Health Minister, Ampareen Lyngdoh said, “It is important to consistently pursue with the Government of India that the indigenous people of the state are a non-Hindi speaking community. It is important to understand the inability of Meghalaya to speak and communicate in Hindi”.
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