Documents reveal that only days after the water tank collapse, the same company which constructed it received a contract of 12 crore rupees for two projects.
– Suman Bhattacharyya
On 22 January 2020, an overhead water tank collapsed in Sarenga village of Bankura district in West Bengal. The tank had been built only four years ago and was meant to supply water to Sarenga and fifteen other neighbouring villages in Bankura.
Only four years after it started operating, visuals show the stem of the water tower suddenly disintegrating followed by a collapse of the dome. The video went viral for some time pointing at the level of corruption and fraudulence currently prevalent in West Bengal. Evidently poor construction and negligence had led to the collapse. In this context, Mamata Banerjee herself said she was aware of the malpractices prevalent in the Public Health and Engineering Department in West Bengal. She had also assured the people that she was all set to destroy the elements of nepotism and corruption in the department. It was only last Wednesday that she expressed great disgust over the incident at the administrative meeting in Bankura. She had said that a FIR would be launched against the contractor and, if necessary, the Government would confiscate his property to make up for the loss.
The ghastly collapse has again exposed the the villagers of Bankura to the risk of drinking arsenic-contaminated water. Strangely, the documents at the Public Health and Engineering Department reveal that only thirteen days after the tragedy, on 04 February 2020, the same company has received a contract of twelve crore rupees for two projects.
The recommendation comes from the Departmental Tender Committee (DTC) of the Public Health and Engineering Department itself! The Chief Engineer (Headquarters) of PHE and Chairman of the Departmental Tender Committee, Animesh Bhattacharya, however, is all set to defend the black-listed company. “How can someone be condemned before the final report is submitted?” he questioned in turn. He even went to the ludicrous extent of justifying that an earthquake at Sarenga might have caused the disaster!
This incident again brings into light the role played by cut-money in the political and economic life of present West Bengal.
Cut-money culture in West Bengal under Mamata Banerjee impedes effective functioning of the administrative machinery, hampers development and puts lives of ordinary people at stake.
Prashant Kishore, who has been roped in by the Trinamool Congress as an election strategist, had advised the Trinamool Supremo to control the corruption in the Party. Mamata Banerjee had also directed to return the cut-money received by people in her party. Following her public announcement in favour of ‘honesty’, there were several agitations by aggrieved people across the state. The movements against CAA and NRC in West Bengal since December have been successfully able to push the cut-money issue to the background.
Cut-money is the most pertinent issue in Bengal right now that impedes the effective functioning of the administrative machinery. It defines the main character of the state. It is worth mentioning that the repair of the Majerhat Bridge, that connects Kolkata with the South 24 Parganas, has also been stalled for months now. The main reason behind the pathetic state of the infrastructure and the maintenance of roads and bridges in the state is cut-money. A company receives the contract through this rampantly evil custom and makes enormous profit. The conditions of roads and bridges in West Bengal worsen each day putting the lives of ordinary people at stake.