The Trinamul Congress has decided to take over 2,000 job card-holders under the 100-day employment guarantee scheme to Delhi by a special train to participate in programmes the party plans to organise in the national capital next month to press for the Centre’s release of funds due to Bengal.
The transportation of job card holders to Delhi is the latest change in Trinamul’s plan for the protest programmes. Sources in Trinamul said there had been a number of difficulties in sticking to the original idea conceived by Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee as the venue of the protest is Delhi where the police administration reports to Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
A Trinamul leader said it had reserved a train from Howrah, which will ferry the MGNREGS workers from various Bengal districts to Delhi. The train with over 2,000 people will leave Howrah on September 30 and depart from Delhi on October 3.
Trinamul’s district leaders were recently asked to select at least 10 job card-holders, including women, from each of 341 blocks and appoint one person who would be their handler. Although Trinamul will send no more than 2,000 such people to Delhi, they will be shortlisted from the 3,410 people named by the district leadership.
Trinamul’s senior leaders, MPs, MLAs and zilla parishad functionaries are scheduled to take part in the Delhi programmes
“The top brass of the party want to make the Delhi protest a mega show and that is why the plan to take the beneficiaries of the rural job scheme as the participants was taken. The leaders in the districts have been asked to send as many women job card holders as possible,” said a Trinamul leader in Calcutta.
Trinamul claims Bengal has central dues amounting to over Rs 1.15 lakh crore, of which around Rs 7,000 crore is on account of the 100-day employment guarantee scheme.
The idea of the “Abar Delhi Cholo (Let’s go to Delhi again)” programme was first floated by Trinamul national general secretary Abhishek at a public meeting here on March 29 and publicly endorsed a day later by Mamata at the end of her 31-hour Red Road dharna against the alleged step-motherly treatment of the state by the BJP-led Centre.
In their speeches from the dais of the Martyrs’ Day event of Trinamul on July 21, the aunt-nephew duo announced plans for the programme, attended by lakhs from Bengal, to demand not only the release of funds due to Bengal that are frozen by the Centre but also the ousting of the Narendra Modi government.
On July 21, and then again on August 14, Mamata had said if the BJP tried keeping them from getting to Delhi, she would lead the protests from whichever point her people were stopped and ensure the voice of Bengal’s masses reached the ears of leaders in the national capital.
“But there have been many changes since. Delhi Police kept denying permission or sitting on applications for venues there, such as Rajghat, Ramlila Maidan and Jantar Mantar,” said a Trinamul source.
“It is actually a relief that we have climbed down from the original plan of taking lakhs of people to and from Bengal. It would have been a logistical nightmare for us. Even with the latest plan of 2,500-odd people in total, we are finding it difficult to arrange for their accommodation,” the source added.
After several changes, Trinamul officially announced last month that Mamata and Abhishek, along with 600-odd elected representatives, would visit Rajghat on Gandhi Jayanti and then meet Union rural development minister Giriraj Singh on October 3. It is still not clear what the exact role of the job card holders will be in Delhi
“The decision to take these 2,000 MGNREGA beneficiaries was confirmed only days ago,” said a Trinamul leader.
“We don’t know what will happen if the permissions are not granted. Without the necessary administrative clearances, we will not be able to properly execute plans for such a large programme. It is not a state we rule, and the police administration is under the BJP-ruled Centre,” he added.