Hamro party president Ajoy Edwards on Sunday alleged that a commission of seven per cent was being demanded from contractors executing water supply projects of Rs 1,500 crore under the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) in the Darjeeling hills.
The scheme is being undertaken by the state public health engineering (PHE) department through its Neora Valley water supply and maintenance division. But the payments are made after Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) engineers place certified bills before the division.
The GTA’s chief executive is Anit Thapa, the president of the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM).
“A seven per cent commission is being demanded from contractors working on this mission,” Edwards said without taking any names.
But the Hamro Party leader, who is in the Opposition at the GTA Sabha, dropped enough hints that who he was pointing fingers at.
“I have access to WhatsApp messages from Anit Thapaji asking a contractor in Mirik to disassociate himself from the (JJM) scheme in lieu of GTA contracts. He (Thapa) wanted to get a contractor from the plains for this project.”
Edwards was trying to imply that despite the payments being made by the PHE department, Thapa was influencing the projects.
According to a statement issued by Darjeeling MP Raju Bista, the Centre allocated Rs 1,070 crore for 284 Jal Jeevan Mission projects in the Darjeeling hill area and another Rs 518 crore for 146 projects in Kalimpong district.
These two regions are under the jurisdiction of the GTA.
Under JJM, the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency received Rs 2,450 crore for 714 projects, which include Rs 860 crore for 284 projects in North Dinajpur district, said Bista.
“If the seven per cent commission allegation is true, some people are making Rs 100 crore out of this project,” quipped a local resident.
Thapa, however, went for Edwards with all guns blazing.
“Edwards has not been able to keep his flock together, he is losing mass support and apart from drinking coffee and passing comments, he has nothing much to do. If he has proof of me demanding commission, he should make it public,” Thapa told The Telegraph.
Throwing a challenge to Edwards, Thapa said: “I challenge him to ensure a win of a single (panchayat) chief. Even his supporters in rural areas are leaving him.”
Two-tier panchayat elections are scheduled to be held in the Darjeeling hills soon after a gap of 22 years. The water project and land rights for tea garden workers are emerging as key themes of the polls.
“From next week, we will fan out in rural areas educating JMM beneficiaries about their rights.
“They should not provide their Aadhaar numbers unless the work is completed,” said Edwards