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Threat finger at Trinamul colleague

Garbeta, June 9: A Trinamul panchayat pradhan allegedly hounded out of home last month by a party MLA and his aides has accused them of threatening him with dire consequences if he returned to his village in West Midnapore.

Kabirul Islam, the 37-year-old pradhan of Karsa gram panchayat, said Salboni MLA Srikanta Mahato had been threatening him ever since he objected to the rampant felling of trees and smuggling of timber, stones and gravel by the legislator’s loyalists a month ago.

MLA Mahato denied the charges against him, saying Islam had misappropriated funds and fled home after that.

Speaking from an undisclosed location, Islam said: “People of my own party are preventing me from working. Local party activists have resorted to felling of trees and smuggling. They are being backed by the MLA. When I objected, they started threatening me. I had to flee my home and the village.”

The panchayat pradhan, who joined Trinamul soon after the Assembly polls in 2011, added he had written to chief minister Mamata Banerjee and sought her intervention.

According to Islam, trouble with Mahato began after he and some other panchayat officials seized a truck carrying around 150 logs of timber, sal and eucalyptus on May 1.

“The trees had been felled by the MLA’s loyalists and were being carried in three trucks. I managed to seize one, the other two escaped,” Islam said.

Forest officials said the trees felled would cost around Rs 1 lakh.

The panchayat pradhan alleged: “The MLA’s aides started threatening me over the phone from May 1. They told me that seizing trucks was not my job and I should concentrate only on development work in my area.”

Islam recounted that sometime in the middle of last month, he got a call from one of Mahato’s loyalists asking him not to attend office in Garbeta. “The caller told me I would be murdered if I dared to go to the panchayat office.”

Islam said that when he went to his office on May 16 despite the threats, a police officer warned him that a group of Trinamul workers armed with sticks and rods was seen going towards the panchayat office. “I was terrified. I left the office immediately, went home and then fled the village,” Islam said.

The absence of the panchayat pradhan has affected administrative work in the area.

Sushobhan Mondal, the block development officer of Garbeta III, said: “All work in the panchayat office has come to a standstill. Cheques are to be signed and projects are waiting for a go-ahead.”

The BDO said he had written to district magistrate Ghulam Ali Ansari seeking his intervention.

Contacted, Mahato denied the charges. He alleged that the pradhan was corrupt and fled home after misappropriating funds. “The pradhan is with the CPM. He is involved in a number of irregularities. He fled home in shame,” the Salboni MLA said.

Mahato’s allegations could not be immediately verified.