The pandal in Burdwan last year
Burdwan, Jan. 6: Decorators in Burdwan have refused to construct the dais for Mamata Banerjee’s January 10 meeting, saying they were yet to be paid for the work they had done for a chief minister’s rally last year.
Sources said the agency hired this year by the public works department (PWD) for the dais and the pandal had approached decorators in Memari, 30km away. But they have pleaded helplessness citing lack of equipment and need for help from the decorators in Burdwan, they added.
Mamata will on Thursday address a rally in Burdwan police lines, where she is expected to distribute kisan credit cards, wheel chairs and bicycles. She had addressed a similar programme at the same venue on March 27 last year.
Tapas Adhikari, the secretary of the Burdwan sadar subdivision confederation of decorators, said district officials had paid them about 15 per cent of the bill last year. “We had given them a bill of a little over Rs 5.13 lakh. But we have received only Rs 75,000. Where is the money to buy equipment?” he added.
“We want the PWD to clear the dues first. The PWD places orders through an agency. But the agency, which had given us the contract last year, did not listen to us. Instead, they have engaged other decorators, who are trying to get the work done by some agencies in Memari,” Adhikari said.
Prasad Mondal, an employee of Shankar agency that had entrusted the decorators with the job last year, denied the allegations by Adhikari. He said the PWD had so far given them Rs 1.35 lakh, instead of Rs 75,000 as said by Adhikari, and his agency was ready to pay the decorators the remaining amount, but in instalments.
“But they refused to receive further payment after accepting Rs 75,000 in the first instalment. They are stuck to their demand that the remaining money be paid in lump sum,” Mondal said.
Asked about the cloud on the January 10 preparations, PWD executive engineer Bhajan Sarkar said: “I have asked for an explanation from the agency (Shankar) why the payments had not been made. We had cleared all the bills. We place orders through agencies. We don’t go directly to any individual.”
The other agency that has been contracted for the January 10 event, is not sure if they can build a dais and pandal that could accommodate thousands of people.
The agency’s employee, Swapan Karmakar, said they had failed to comprehend how heavy the job was. “Now we find that it is beyond our capacity. The demands are on the rise. For instance, they had placed an order of 2,000 chairs. Now they have asked for 4,000 chairs. We also did not know that the payment of last year’s event had not yet been made,” Karmakar said.