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Innocent Admission

Mamata Banerjee and the politics of Commissions

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Kolkata, July 28, 2021- Before going to Delhi on Monday Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced the setting up of a commission to inquire into phone hacking of various influential persons of the state. This is the 17th commission set up by Mamata Banerjee in her 10 years of reign as the Chief Minister of which only four commissions have submitted but none has been made public or tabled in the Assembly so far.

The Chief Minister announced the two-member enquiry commission consisting of Justice M.B. Lokur retired judge Supreme Court of India and Justice Jyotirmoy Bhattacharyay, retired Chief Justice, High Court — that will look into the ‘widely reported’ issues of illegal hacking and monitoring of mobile phones of various persons in the state. The formation of the two-member commission was approved at the special cabinet on Monday afternoon.

But this is not the first time that she has formed a judicial commission. Acting on pre-poll promises, Mamata Banerjee constituted eight commissions soon after assuming power, including several high-profile cases coughing up nearly Rs 40 crores from the government exchequer yielding absolutely no result so far.

Among the three reports that have been submitted so far two are minor cases of suicide that happened during the Left regime — one of a block development officer in 2008 and the another of a CPI-M MLA in 2011. The third one was on the fire that happened in the AMRI hospital during her regime that claimed 92 lives. All three reports are congruent with the earlier findings of the police.

The Mamata Banerjee government announced several other commissions of which reports of many have been submitted but they have not been tabled in the Assembly for a strange reason.

The most important of the commissions was the Shaymal Sen commission that was set up by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in 2013 a few days after the Saradha ponzi scam broke. The commission was set to identify the key persons responsible for the Saradha scam and return money to the depositors but that was wound up in 2014 without achieving either of the objectives. The Shyamal Kumar Sen commission on the ponzi scam submitted its report in 2014 but it was not tabled in the Assembly.

Sources in the commission told IANS that till now 3,93,982 depositors were given Rs 287 crore by the state government through the commission. But Rs 102 crore was not withdrawn and the cheques were returned to the commission. So, in effect, the payout was only Rs 185 crore. Only those depositors who put in Rs 10,000 or less in Saradha were given cheques. The commission got more than 17 lakh applications for return of money. So barely 23 per cent of the applicants were given out cheques.

“On the floor of the Assembly, we have repeatedly asked for a status report on the commission and the expenses incurred but the government provided us with no information. We cannot understand why the commission was set up and public money was wasted,” said Congress leader Abdul Mannan and the former Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly.

There were several other commissions set up by the Trinamool Congress government that included Congress leaders and policemen who were accused in the Cossipore-Baranagar massacre of Naxalite activists and sympathisers in Kolkata in 1971, when the state was under President’s Rule.

In addition to this commissions were set up to inquire into the killings of three members of Congress-supporter Sain family in Burdwan district in 1970 allegedly by the CPM supporters, the killing of 16 Ananda Marg missionaries on Bijon Setu in Kolkata in 1982 when Jyoti Basu was the chief minister, the death of 13 Youth Congress supporters in police firing on a Mamata Banerjee-led rally in Kolkata on July 21 in 1993 by the Left Front government and the accident in Midnapore in 1999 in which 23 tribals were run over by a truck. In all these cases the Left Front was held responsible.

Four of these reports are lying with the government. The Sushanta Kumar Chatterjee commission on July 21 firing submitted its report in 2014, and the chief minister announced at a public meeting in July 2017 that her government will accept its recommendations but nothing has been done so far.

The N.N. Bhattacharjee commission’s report on the incident of tribal death was submitted earlier this 2014. According to the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, reports are to be placed in the Assembly, along with the government’s action-taken report, within six months of the commission submitting the report to the government but nothing has been done so far.

The Arunabha Basu commission, inquiring into the killing of Sain family members, and the Amitabha Lala commission inquiring into the Bijon Setu massacre, started work in 2012 and 2013, respectively but so far their probe is not complete. The government has so far spent nearly Rs 5 core for the Basu Commission and Rs 4 crore for Lala Commission.

“The Shyamal Sen commission that was formed to give back money to the depositors was not given an extension because the Trinamool Congress leaders were involved in the case. Surprisingly enough in the other cases like that on Sain family and Bijon Setu incidents are granted repeated extensions makes the government’s political agenda crystal clear and now there is another commission and that is only to meet her political ends. She is wasting money for her political agenda,” a senior CPM leader said.

“She has formed a lot of commissions before also. Nothing has happened. She is wasting public money for political games,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh alleged.  (Agency)

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