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Hakim to skip inauguration

Suri, Dec. 13: Minister Firhad Hakim has cancelled a visit to Birbhum to inaugurate a municipal water supply project tomorrow apparently because some councillors have written to him saying the project was yet to be completed and accusing the chairman of funds misuse.

Hakim, the municipal affairs minister, said he had received the letter from the councillors, but added that he had prior engagements tomorrow.

“I had to cancel the programme because I have a lot of events to attend tomorrow. However, some councillors have informed me that the project is yet to be completed,” he said.

Sources close to Hakim said the minister wanted to avoid the programme because of the “controversy” surrounding it.

The letter by the eight councillors of the Suri municipality has brought to the fore “factional rivalry” between two Trinamul groups owing allegiance to Birbhum party chief Anubrata Mondal and Suri MLA Swapan Ghosh.

While municipality chairman Ujjwal Mukherjee is known to be close to Mondal, the eight councillors who wrote to Hakim belong to Ghosh’s camp.

The water-supply project for Suri town was started in 2007 under the central Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns. The Rs 14 crore project, which was to be completed by 2010, has got delayed.

The Trinamul government fixed 2013 as the deadline for completing the project.

Deepak Das, one of the eight councillors who wrote to Hakim, said: “We thought it was our duty to inform the minister that the project he was supposed to inaugurate was incomplete. We also told him that the chairman of our municipality had misappropriated and diverted funds meant for the project.”

Chairman Mukherjee refuted the allegations. “I know the project is incomplete. But there is nothing wrong in getting it inaugurated. In November, the minister had confirmed that he would inaugurate the scheme. If he does not come, we will request Chandranath Sinha, the minister from our district, to inaugurate it,” he said.

Fisheries minister and Bolpur MLA Chandranath Sinha said he was yet to take a decision.

A municipal engineer said only 4km of the 40km pipeline had been laid. “We are yet to receive around Rs 2 crore from the Centre. The pipes have been bought. It should take another six to seven months to complete the project. One of the two reservoirs (where pumped water will be stored before being piped to the city) is leaking and will have to be repaired,” he said.