Kolkata Corporation misappropriating funds allocated for slum development, says the newly elected MoS

New Minister of State for Urban Development, Deepa Dasmunsi, on Monday turned up the heat on West Bengal by announcing a probe into the State’s spending under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Ms. Dasmunsi said there were indications that the funds allocated for slum development and for running buses under the JNNURM were “misappropriated”.

“JNNURM funds will be investigated; it is one of the several priorities. There is ‘loot’ in the Kolkata Corporation and slum development money has been misused. We want to investigate how and under what heads the JNNURM money was spent,” the Minister said.

The Kolkata Corporation is controlled by the Trinamool Congress.

Ms. Dasmunsi said: “Buses under the JNNURM have been idling away in shelters; some of the owners have begun selling off the buses. Drivers of these buses are uncertain of their future as their employment is on contractual basis.”

Buses under the JNNURM scheme are run on a public-private partnership basis in the State.

Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee’s ‘Nij Griha Nij Bhumi’ land allotment scheme too came in for criticism. “We have to find out how that scheme is being funded, because the State government has not done anything under the Rajiv Awas Yojana [RAY] that provides housing for slum dwellers. We want to find out if the State-run schemes are being funded from the monies that have been diverted from the Centre-sponsored schemes,” Ms. Dasmusi said.

The RAY provides affordable housing for slum dwellers under the JNNURM.

The Minister alleged the State government had failed to provide the 100-day job guarantee under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

Ms. Dasmunsi, a first-time MP and now MoS, minced no words when it came to describing the Trinamool rule and Ms. Bannerjee. “I am not personally against Mamata. But, in Bengal today there are several issues that are crying [out for attention] — safety of women, the condition of farmers and the common man. It is ironic that a Chief Minister who talks of ma, mati and manush is doing the opposite and is showing no responsibility towards the common man,” she said.

As to whether her criticism of the Trinamool and its supremo have been instrumental in fetching her a ministerial position, Ms. Dasmunsi said: “I am known to be a critic even within my party. I am a hardcore Congress worker and known to express my criticism even within the party. Here [in West Bengal] I am against the policies. For instance, I have been fighting for the setting up of an AIIMS-like institution in my constituency in Raiganj, because the health infrastructure is poor, but the Chief Minister has not allocated land and wants it elsewhere.”

Ms. Dasmunsi said her elevation as MoS and that of two other party colleagues from West Bengal was a “fitting reply” to the Trinamool. “For the past few years, leaders and party workers in West Bengal had been suffocating. This [induction as ministers] will allow them to breathe and also help strengthen the party at the State level. Our elevation is a clear message to the Trinamool, who have withdrawn support and have been humiliating the United Progressive Alliance II,” she said.