Trinamul Congress tries to undo Amphan relief damage
Trinamul Congress leaders in Amphan-affected districts have embarked on a door-to-door campaign to undo the damage caused to the party’s image after several leaders of the ruling party were held responsible for anomalies in the distribution of government compensation for the victims of the cyclone.
Sources in the party said the reach-out programme, described by a senior leader as “unprecedented”, was initiated after Mamata Banerjee herself had taken stock of the protests against the anomalies.
“A lot of damage has been caused... The only way we can undo the damage is by reaching out to people and we are trying to do that,” said a senior Trinamul leader in South 24-Parganas.
According to the plan, the leaders are mapping three types of villagers for the reach-out exercise. “Those who are eligible but did not receive compensation, then those who were ineligible but were provided with the government aid... And the third lot are the people, who were not eligible but lodged complaints about malpractices in the compensation distribution,” said a source.
All panchayat members of Trinamul and local party leaders were asked to reach out to the people at every village in the Amphan-affected districts from Monday.
“We are showing the villagers deprived of the compensation records of past government benefits that they had received and assuring them that they will not be denied the aid this time either,” said Samir Kumar Jana, the Trinamul MLA of Pathar Pratima in South 24-Parganas.
The MLA has said 35 people who are either panchayat functionaries or their relatives had received the Amphan compensation in his area but returned the money later.
Trinamul insiders said the Opposition parties, mainly the CPM and the BJP, were provoking people who had already got houses built under government schemes to join the protests.
“According to the norms, those who received housing scheme benefits are not entitled to the compensation. But those people are misled by
the Opposition and are participating in the protests against us. So, it is our duty to make them understand the government plan,” said a Trinamul leader.
Kanti Ganguly, the former CPM Minister and a leader in the Sunderbans, however, said: “The attempt of Trinamul is useless. If a glass is broken, then it can’t be joined as it was and this is the situation of Trinamul here.”
In East Midnapore, North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas — three districts worst affected by Amphan — at least 30,000 complaints have been lodged regarding the malpractices. At some places, panchayat members were beaten up, local Trinamul offices ransacked and few leaders were forced to squat in public.
“There was an attempt to distribute compensation in a hurry, which resulted in some mistakes. Our leaders at village levels are going to the households to assure them that no one would be denied the aid,” state food and supply minister Jyotipriya Mallik said.
Convincing people, however, is going to be easier said than done, admitted Trinamul insiders.
On Sunday, Asiwni Patra, a Trinamul member of Sonachura gram panchayat in Nandigram, along with local party president Radhakanta Mondal, went to meet people at their doorsteps but the attempt boomeranged as a group villagers agitated citing corruption even by the panchayat members.
Patra blamed the BJP for the protest, but some sources in the ruling party said the situation was spinning out of control. “These three districts have been our bastions... We have to intensify our efforts to control the damage, otherwise, it will be too late,” said a Trinamul leader.
Additional reporting by Anshuman Phadikar