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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

With no councillor for the past six years, Howrah civic mess spills over poll discourse

Residents of Howrah have not seen elections to HMC since 2013 which TMC had swept, After Trinamool won civic body, it brought in Bally municipality within jurisdiction of HMC in 2015

Pranesh Sarkar Howrah Published 20.05.24, 06:11 AM
An ill-maintained road in Howrah

An ill-maintained road in Howrah File picture

Mithu Bose, 49, a resident of Ambika Ghosal Lane in Howrah had applied for Lakshmir Bhandar scheme five times since the scheme was introduced after the 2021 Assembly polls, but she is yet to get enrolled, unlike Bengal’s 1.2 crore women beneficiaries.

“I visited the Duare Sarkar camps whenever they were held in our areas. I was asked to apply afresh every time. I followed all instructions and submitted fresh applications every time I was asked to do so. But I am yet to get enlisted under the scheme. I feel
helpless,” said Mithu.

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Mithu’s helplessness is because she does not have a councillor for the past six years. “Had there been a councillor in Howrah Municipal Corporation, I could have requested him to take up my case,” said Mithu.

Dipali Das 23, a resident of Shibpur, was trying to get a certificate from an elected representative to claim for pension as the unmarried daughter of her father, a railway employee who died three months ago. But she is yet to get the certificate that would declare her unmarried as there has been no councillor in her area since 2018 as no election to Howrah Municipal Corporation was held since then.

“I tried to get a certificate from the MLA. I visited the office of the MLA three times, but I could not get it as I was told in the office of the MLA that the elected representative is very cautious about issuing certificates as central agencies have harassed several MPs and MLAs for issuing various kinds of certificates,” said Dipali.

Residents of Howrah have not seen elections to the HMC since 2013 which Trinamool had swept. After Trinamool won the civic body, it brought in Bally municipality within the jurisdiction of HMC in 2015.

When the term of the elected body ended in 2018, no election was held and a board of administrators was put in place to run the daily activities of the civic body.

Sources in Trinamool said that the polls were not held at thattime as there was severe infighting within the party in Howrah. In 2019, Trinamool faced the 2019 Lok Sabha polls where the BJP wrested an unprecedented 18 seats in Bengal.

“The ruling establishment did not take any chance in holding civic polls after the Lok Sabha election, apprehending a further setback in one of its strongest bastions in the state. In 2021, when the ruling party swept the Assembly polls, the state government started taking the initiative to hold polls in Howrah,” said a Trinamul leader.

But again, there were hurdles. The state government brought in a Bill to separate Bally from HMC following a demand from the residents of Bally. But the Bill was not signed by the then governor Jagdeep Dhankhar. He also sought several clarifications.

“Since the Bill was not cleared from Raj Bhavan till date, no election to the HMC could be held. A six-member board of administrators continues to run the civic body,” said a TMC leader in Howrah.

The absence of an elected board has visibly affected the civic amenities in Howrah, a city spread across 63.55sqkm on the western side of the Hooghly river. Dilapidated roads, piling garbage, unauthorised constructions and choked sewerage have made life miserable for nearly 15 lakh residents.

The problems of common people have become the main issue of the BJP and the CPM to counter Trinamool during the campaign of the Lok Sabha polls as Howrah would vote on May 20.

A Trinamool source said the party was confident about retaining the seat riding the welfare schemes of the Mamata Banerjee government.But the party has to overcome its internal differences in the area, he admitted.

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