Mamata's call to stop 'cut money' is far from unthinking

Much good would result if her proactive stance against the practice is taken as a green signal in a serious cleaning-up project

  • Published 24.06.19, 9:44 AM
  • Updated 24.06.19, 9:44 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Mamata Banerjee Telegraph file picture

The route to a clean-up may be messy. Mamata Banerjee’s call to her party to stop taking ‘cut money’ — for government services — was far from unthinking. One of the complaints against the Trinamul Congress, which has just lost quite a number of its Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal to the Bharatiya Janata Party, was that its functionaries demanded cut money. As leader of the party, Ms Banerjee was making public her desire to remove corruption and, as chief minister of the state, she was directing the government to be strict in the matter. Many feel that such damage control is too little too late, but that is not the main problem. The chief minister has also said that those who have taken cut money should return it. Together, these two orders are causing confusion at different levels. The TMC member of parliament, Satabdi Roy, while expressing her unstinting admiration for her leader, has pointed out that returning the illegally acquired money will not be easy, since the official or local leader taking cut money shares it with others who remain unseen. Although this underlines a slightly odd practical problem, it also suggests certain flaws in the assumption that cut money can be returned. The first one is obvious: to return money would be to admit guilt. The second may be less articulated, but that does not mean it is not on people’s minds: local functionaries in villages and small towns, or councillors, or even legislators here and there may be penalized once corruption is proved against them, but there may be others, the proverbial ‘big fish’, making similar gains. Will they be penalized too?

Much good would result if Ms Banerjee’s declared war against corruption in her own party and her proactive stance against the practice of cut money are taken as green signals in a serious cleaning-up project. Even partial success in the mission would be a step forward. If the announcements serve as a warning to greedy party functionaries for the future, that would be welcome too. The demand for return may add to the perception of the chief minister’s earnestness but, at the moment, it is leaving the ground open to disruption. Local TMC leaders, such as heads or members of panchayats, are being besieged by people demanding their money back. This is a chance that the BJP, an eager Opposition, is loath to miss. It is up to the administration now to deal with the confusion wisely and firmly.

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