The 2001 Bollywood flick ‘Nayak’ showed how a common man becomes the Chief Minister of a state and almost cleanses the entire corrupt machinery of the state in just 1 day. The movie was quite impractical but enjoyable nonetheless. There is an underlying theme in the movie that corruption is a sole virtue of ‘Proper’ politicians, the “good ones” and common people are incorruptible by default because their bank balances are low and they practice austerity. No this is not a prelude to another article about Kejriwal. This is about Manik Sarkar, the chief minister of Tripura, often hailed as the poorest and the most honest CM in the country.
Manik Sarkar was the original honest CM in the country, before Kejriwal encroached the pious space. Manik Sarkar’s honesty has always been estimated by the worth of the assets that he holds. According to a recent report published by NDTV where they hailed and praised him as the poorest Chief Minister, Mr. Manik Sarkar has never filed any income tax return (suggesting his income is too low), does not have any private car, home, or any other assets. The election affidavit submitted by him states that he had only Rs. 1,520 in his wallet and about Rs. 2,410 in his bank account. Mr. Sarkar shares 0.0118 acres of land in Krishnanagar with his sister. Manik Sarkar does not have any cellphone and does not use any email id. Mr Manik Sarkar’s wife, Panchali Bhattacharjee, a retired central government officer, had Rs. 20,140 in cash and Rs. 12,15,714 in her bank accounts and fixed deposits. She inherited an immovable asset (a building) worth Rs. 21 lakhs and 20 grams of gold jewellery valued at Rs. 60,000.
Being poor is not a parameter to measure one’s honesty. Similarly, being poor even after being in power, is not sufficient enough to measure one’s honesty, especially in the Indian political environment. In a vast country like India, there are numerous ways corruption has spread its tentacles. For an example, I personally know a so-called honest Ticket Inspector in Indian Railways who never took a single paisa as bribe from passengers travelling without ticket. However, the same person has let people traveling without ticket go, if he knew them personally or had cordial relationships with. This is another form of corruption where the government’s revenue gets directly affected. Similarly, a teacher who gives pass marks to a failing student without any monetary bribe is also doing a disservice to the post he holds. Similarly, a CM who remains silent on his party members’ unethical and immoral activities cannot be called incorruptible at all.
Recently, the Communist Government of Tripura came up with an 8-page long clarification (i.e. excuses) regarding the accusations of scams that have happened under Manik Sarkar’s nose. The clarification states that the Govt. of Tripura has some 1.61 lakh employees among which only a handful engaged in some wrongdoings. They, then, termed the cases of corruption as isolated instances. However, the government fails to explain how the wrong doings of a handful corrupt individuals led to 10 massive scams?
The CM, though himself poor and honest, could do nothing to stop these 10 huge scams among which the following four scams were noteworthy: –
Rose Valley Chit Fund Scam: We all know the great Chit Fund Scam in West Bengal, which left many investors devastated, some even committing suicide. Some ministers from the ruling TMC party were also involved in the scam. The same Rose Valley Chitfund Scam shook the state of Tripura too. It is believed that the Rose Valley Hotel and Entertainment Ltd has looted an amount of Rs. 5000 crores from Tripura itself.
Chief Minister Manik Sarkar inaugurated the Rose Valley Park, set up by the Kolkata-based chit fund company – Rose Valley. Manik Sarkar also attended many functions launched by the chit fund company. According to a report by Times Of India published in June 2017, Sarkar even took decision to remove the chief of Special Investigation Team (SIT), which was constituted by the High Court in 2015 to investigate the Chit Fund Scam. Moreover, Tripura’s Social Welfare Minister Bijita Nath had been under CBI’s radar for involvement in Rose Valley Scam.
Trinamool Congress MLA Sudip Roy Barman accused Sarkar of abetting the cheating of 14 lakh middle-class and poor depositors in the state by promoting illegal organizations. “Chief minister Sarkar promoted Rose Valley in Tripura knowingly and also gave licenses to several NBFCs for their illegal business till June 2015 even after referring 37 cases to CBI”.
Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna. After Dipa Karmakar’s brilliant performance in Olympics, she was gifted a BMW by the Hyderabad District Badminton Association. She returned the car back to the authorities because the roads near her house were in very bad condition and hence, not suitable for a BMW. This came as a severe embarrassment to the Tripura CPIM government and the government promised to give priority to the road development in the locality of the athlete. However, the Tripura State Government has been reluctant in road development and this is evident from the misappropriation of funds allocated under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna. One such case is evident from the below video where a BJP leader is exposing the state government’s lie about building roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna. The incident happened in Golaghati constituency.
The state administration had put up a board in 2013 claiming that it had completed the construction of 1.8 km road in 20-05-2015, which started on 20-11-2013. The price stated is Rs 1 crore, 58 lakhs and 86 thousand. The video shows the actual road, which is nothing but a muddy path. This is the way the PMGSY funds are being amassed by the corrupt officials and ministers of the state. In order to show themselves clean, the Tripura government instead put blame on the Central agencies for slow and poor quality of work and demanded CBI enquiry.
MNREGA Scams: In 2015, the district court sent a technical assistant of state Rural Development department to three days judicial custody allegedly for siphoning Rs 6.47 lakh MGNREGA fund in Satchand block of Sabroom. When the technical assistant was arrested, he threatened to reveal other corrupt activities of Rs. 2.5 crore embezzlement under the Block Development administration. During the period of 2012-15, massive financial corruption in MGNREGA fund took place in 27 rural development blocks. Congress had alleged that massive corruption in MGNREGA fund of Rs 14.39 crore in Rupaicherri RD Block (Gomuti district) and Rs 76.79 crore in Pacherthal RD Block (Unokoti district) were revealed in special audit in last two years, but no action was taken. 10 people, including a senior Tripura Civil Service (TCS) officer and the BDO Bimal Chakraborty- younger brother of CPI-M youth wing Leader, were arrested on charges of corruption of Rs 50 crore of MGNREGA fund in Bishalgarh in West Tripura. It is believed that Bimal Chakraborty is a close aide to Manik Sarkar.
National Health Commission Scam:
Nearly Rs. 30 crores meant for National Health Mission was misappropriated in past eight years. The CMO admitted that no adjustment of Rs. 24 crores were mentioned in the report due to unspecific reasons. The Congress delegation led by Birajit Sinha gheraoed the Chief Medical Officer’s office in Kailasahar Sub Division and later on, lodged FIR against four persons including Dr. Dewan with Kailasahar Police Station. One Accounts Manager – Nirmal Chandra Das was suspended and Media Expert – Abhijit Bhowmik was also showcaused for his connection to the scam
Violence in the state:
Apart from financial scams, there are other issues due to which Manik Sarkar can’t be termed an honest CM. The misrule of the CPIM government in Tripura is tainted with bloodstains and murders of innocent people, which is never protested by the so-called honest and incorruptible CM of Tripura. In 1983, Congress MLA from Charilam, Mr. Parimal Saha and his cousin Jitendra Saha were brutally murdered by the CPM cadres. The trial, which started in 1986, took almost 3 decades to progress even when High Court ordered immediate trial and conclusion. The court later awarded life sentence to 12 accused. In 2011 the people of Tripura witnessed the onslaught on innocent people, hardworking students and reporting journalists at the hands of men in uniform whom the state machinery controlled. The only guilt of the victims- peaceful protest against the ongoing corruption in medical colleges. The crackdown resulted in the death of 25-year old Papai Saha. Earlier, to show themselves clean, the Tripura government welcomed the idea of CBI investigation into the murder, but later opposed the investigation by citing technical issues. In 1998, members of National Liberation Front of Tripura assassinated the then Health and Urban Minister Mr. Bimal Sinha. Opposition accused the then CM of Tripura Mr. Manik Sarkar of removing Bimal Sinha from his path due to intra-party rivalry. The so-called honest CM did not accept the demand of CBI investigation in this murder.
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2.) The house of BJP district General Secretary Ariful Islam was allegedly vandalized by the CPM workers
3.) Recently, 25 Muslim families alleged that they were denied entry to local mosque after they left the CPM and joined the BJP.
4.) In December 2017, CPM goons brutally murdered a BJP worker named Sunil Deb. The death toll of BJP leaders reached five in December.
5.) Recently, a 45-year old lady and a BJP leader herself, was assaulted and raped by CPM cadre at a remote village of Khowai district.
6.) In February 2018, BJP booth president Madhu Deb from Ramnagar Assembly Constituency was found hanging from a tree. Till now, 12 BJP leaders have been murdered in the state.
7.) Some days ago, according to the local daily Tripura Times, BJP worker Nanigopal Dey was assaulted by anti-social elements allegedly backed by the CPM in Sipahijala district of Tripura.
If the CM of a state silently lets his party members amass public money through scams or lets his party members carry out political violence and murders in the state, he is anything but honest. Dear Mr. Manik Sarkar, you are NOT honest!