By Basudeb Pal
Maheswari Murmu, Minister for Development of Western Zone,
After 27 years of Left Front´s rule, one-third of the metropolitan citizens are living in more than 5,000 slums. This is a real fact, presently published in a corporation booklet. Subrata Mukherjee, Mayor of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, expressed his unpleasantness at this situation. He also disclosed his desire for upliftment of these slums. According to the Census report of 2001, the population of Kolkata was 45,80,544 and among them more than 15,05,000 persons live in slums. These people live through physical labour, by rickshaw-pulling, collecting paper and other articles from garbage. Even the sanitation system or other human facilities are poor.
Recently the Corporation has introduced a ´Nagarpally Unnayan´ programme to improve the lifestyle in the slums. The Corporation will give priority to sanitary latrines, drinking water, drainage system and lighting the lanes of the slums. Other than the Corporation´s fund, funds will be taken from Central Government´s various schemes like NSDP, BMS, SFC, Vambe, ILCS, etc. The Corporation has already spent Rs 10 crore and 15 lakhs on the Tenth Five-Year Plan. Some of the schemes have been implemented. State Economic Commission has also granted Rs one crore. The Corporation has started Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan and community toilet scheme. Nearly 794 toilets will be set up at a cost of
Rs three crores and seventeen lakhs, and 25 thousand and six hundred slum-dwellers will be benefited through this programme. 50 per cent of this fund would come from Central Government and the rest 50 per cent would be provided by the Corporation by taking a loan from HUDCO.
West Bengal starvation deaths
It is useless to say that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation is run by Trinamul Congress and the BJP alliance.
After the news of the death of five persons at Amlasole village, Midnapore west district, was largely circulated in all the leading daily newspapers of West Bengal, Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya confirmed the news before the mediapersons. The District Magistrate, Midnapore, who first visited the village Amlasole, reported that the villagers had died due to various diseases. He avoided very consciously to admit that those poor persons were destined to face such diseases due to lack of food and proper treatment as they were economically very poor and subsisted below the poverty level. The state government and party directed a CPI-M party leader and minister, Maheswar Murnin, to investigate the actual tragedy. On his way, the minister was obstructed by village women as they wanted to voice their grievances.
It has also come to light that the West Bengal government has failed to fulfill the Central Government´s policy?Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana (SGRY) for the year 2003-2004, including the policy of ´food for work´. The state government failed to collect the full quota of wheat and rice allowed under the project. Neither did it utilise the money sanctioned in the current year. Whatever was collected has not been distributed fully as the list of the people belonging to below the poverty level is yet to be prepared. So it may be said that the BPL families have been deprived of their basic needs due to the slow process of the concerned clerical activities.
The Central Government allotted Rs 402 crores and 35 lakhs, while the state government machinery spent only Rs 208 crores out of it. Rest of the money was deposited in the safe custody of various Zila Parishads. The SGRY scheme allotted 2 lakhs and 22 thousand metric tonnes of foodgrains, out of which 90 thousand metric tonnes lie stored in government godowns and was not utilised last year. Since last January 2004, the state government has withdrawn one lakh 93 thousand metric tonnes of rice and wheat and distributed only one lakh 55 thousand metric tonnes in 19 districts. This reveals that the West Bengal government has spent only half the portion of the quota.
According to a source of the Gram Panchayat, all the 19 districts had not crossed the pass mark in the current year. Darjeeling District Hill Council has not qualified for the SGRY programme for the second time. Due to failure of the scheme, South 24-Parganas and Maldha district collected a part of the total allotted money.
In the state, each Gram Panchayat spends Rs 4 lakh and 29 thousand on an average.
In west Midnapore district, each Panchayat spends Rs 2 lakh and 89 thousand on an average.
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