A PIL submitted in the Calcutta High Court has claimed that, according to a CAG report, the West Bengal government did not submit UCs (utilisation certificates) with regard to Rs 2,29,099 crore. Referring this as a “deep-rooted maladministration and misappropriation and siphoning off of funds”, the petitioners demanded a CBI probe into the matter.
After allowing the public interest litigation, the Calcutta High Court directed that the state finance secretary and Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India be made a party in the case. The next hearing will be on January 30.
The TMC government in the state declined to comment, saying that the matter is sub judice.
The PIL was filed by the BJP’s state general secretary Jagannath Chattopadhyay and two others. According to them, “a thorough inquiry is required to be undertaken to unearth the maladministration and misappropriation of funds in West Bengal to the tune of Rs 2,29,099 crore that is unaccounted for, clearly indicates a massive conspiracy by the state administration to siphon off and misappropriate taxpayers’ money.”
The plea said, “Whether the investigation into the fraud and misappropriation of public funds being committed in West Bengal ought to be investigated by a central investigative agency such as the Central Bureau of Investigation since the allegations are against state government officials and any investigation by the state police runs the risk of the being influenced and not being impartial.”
It also claimed, “…In case the investigation is done by the state police, due to the influence that may be used upon the investigating team, it may even result in the destruction of vital evidence which may be essential to bring the culprits to book. Whether various levels of the state administration is ad-idem with the perpetrators and beneficiaries of this scam and hence an investigation by the state police shall result in only an empty formality and rather allow the perpetrators to plug the loopholes in their fraudulent scheme and thereby go scot-free.”
According to the PIL, “from the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India it can be seen that UCs to the tune of Rs 2,29,099 crore are yet to be received from various departments of the government of West Bengal with the biggest defaulters being the Departments of Urban Development and Municipal Affairs, School Education, Panchayat and Rural Development with each such department failing to submit UCs to the extent of Rs.30,693 crore, Rs.36,850 crore and Rs.81,839 crore respectively.”
It added, “it is not surprising that the biggest defaulters in so far as non-submission of UCs are concerned are the department of panchayat and rural development and school education, since massive scams have already been unearthed in the implementation of the NREGA scheme in West Bengal and teachers recruitment, in respect of which CBI investigations are ongoing, and both such things are under the auspices of the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat and the department of education of the West Bengal government.”
State Finance Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya declined to comment on the matter on Wednesday. She said, “I do not comment on subjudice matter. What we have as our answer, we will place it before the court.”
A senior officer of the finance department said, “It is not that UCs pending are an unusual case. All states have UCs pending. But the unusual thing is in some departments, no UC was given in the past ten years. This may be a big issue in the
CPI (M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “This [TMC] government siphoned off money meant for projects. It is afraid of investigation. This [PIL] is a pertinent appeal.”