West Bengal CM Offers Rs 28 Crore As A “Gift” To 28,000 Durga Puja Committees
Speaking at a coordination meeting at Kolkata’s Netaji Indoor Stadium on September 10, attended by the organisers of Durga Puja and the police, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee offered gifts in the form of a waiver of licence fees and an amount of Rs 10,000 for each of the 28,000 odd Durga Puja committees across the state. Banerjee’s largesse comes at a time when the state is reeling under a debt-burden.
“Gift” for Puja Committees in Bengal
According to the Economic Times, there are around 3,000 puja organisers in Kolkata and about 25,000 across the state. CM said that the government would spend Rs 28 crore as financial assistance to the Puja committees. Reportedly, she also described it as a “gift” and a move aimed at “community development”. The cost is to be borne by different departments of the government such as consumer affair and tourism.
“Pujo is our pride. On the banks of the river Thames, there had been an exhibition on our Pujo. The volunteers work relentlessly and handle all the situations. Pujo is now Biswa Mela,” she said.
Reportedly, she also asked the Puja committees members to resist advances made by certain people who have an intention buying Puja committees by giving huge sums of money, reported the daily. Among other gifts, Puja committees will be exempted from paying any fee or taxes to various public departments.
What does the opposition have to say?
However, members of the opposition in the state have viewed this as a move wherein, the government is trying to appease members of the Hindu community ahead of next year’s general elections. According to LiveMint, Dilip Ghosh, state president of the BJP said that Banerjee is trying to make it up to the Hindu voters for last year’s spat over the issue of Durga idol immersion, where the government imposed restrictions since the event coincided with Muharram celebrations.
CPM leader Rabin Deb, reportedly described the move as “competitive communalism”. She also alleged that TMC is playing the same game as BJP and questioned the basis of the state government making such grants.
According to DNA, the move has been criticized by financial experts since the state has a total debt burden of Rs 3.64 lakh crore. It is projected to go up to Rs 3.94 lakh crore during the current fiscal. Reportedly, the state government has been pressing the issue of a waiver of the debt in the Centre for some time now. Puja committees in Bengal often dish out large sums of money for the purposes of Durga Puja. In such a situation, a state government investing such a large sum of money on festivities is highly deplorable.