|Asok Bhattacharya (top);
TT, Siliguri, July 18: Siliguri mayor Asok Bhattacharya has written to municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim alleging that the state government had inexplicably failed to release funds to the Siliguri Municipal Corporation.
Minister Hakim has denied the allegations and said Bhattacharya should resign if he cannot run the municipality.
In his four-page letter to the minister, Bhattacharya has said: “Several civic bodies across Bengal were allocated funds by the state government in over 10 schemes, which are either state or central schemes. It is disappointing that SMC has been kept out of the purview of these projects in the past fiscal and also in the current fiscal.”
He wrote: “We are not asking for additional funds but for funds to which any civic body of the state is entitled. I have time and again raised these issues before you and our MMICs have visited your department and have met officials of different ranks. But till date, there is no hint of any positive decision made by your department in this regard.”
Asok, who assumed the mayor’s office about a year back after the Left was voted back to power in the civic body, had earlier too mentioned the fund constraints of the SMC, alleging that the state was not allocating funds to the civic body.
“The municipal affairs minister had assured that Rs 38 crore would be paid to the SMC for infrastructure development of the town. However, funds have not reached to us so far. Also, there are central projects, like Housing for All, for which the state has not sent any proposal for Siliguri to the Centre. The town has been also deprived of funds for a drinking water supply scheme. I have referred to all these issues in the letter,” he said.
Earlier, the mayor of Siliguri had also sent a letter to chief minister Mamata Banerjee on this matter.
“It is unfortunate for us that the state is not cooperating with a civic board which has been formed by representatives who were elected by the residents of Siliguri. Civic bodies are local governments and cannot run without the support of the state, like the state cannot run without financial assistance of the Centre,” the mayor said.
“If the chief minister can ask for funds from the Centre, we find nothing wrong in making the same demand before the state.”
Sources in the SMC said that the civic body had asked for around Rs 85 crore from the state under different heads.
“But there are certain issues. Like the Rs 38 crore which was mentioned in the letter was never finalised by the state. As far as funds under some other heads are concerned, we believe those would be paid to the civic body in due course,” an SMC source said.
Minister Firhad Hakim said: “There is a famous Bengali saying ‘ nachte na janle uthon beka(he who can’t dance says the floor is crooked)’. This fits best for Asokbabu. I had earlier also said in the Assembly while replying to his query that during my tenure I have released much more funds for Siliguri Corporation compared to his tenure as a minister. It is a different thing that he is unable to run the civic body. He should surrender and resign.”
Trinamul councillors at the civic body, however, have rubbished the allegations.
“The state has been consistently providing funds to the SMC under different heads. What the mayor is trying to say is not true. There is no bias on the part of the state and all funds, to which any civic body is entitled to, are being allotted and sanctioned,” Nantu Paul, the leader of opposition in the SMC, said.
“The mayor is simply doing politics and sending such letters to conceal the board’s failure in providing even the bare minimum civic services to the residents. No development work has been taken up by the board which is in power for over one year,” he said.