A Trinamool Congress leader on Tuesday returned Rs 2.27 lakh to villagers in Birbhum district of West Bengal that he had collected as “cut money” or bribe charged for government schemes, The Times of India reported.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had warned party leaders last week that anyone caught taking a bribe would be arrested. She had also asked leaders to return any “cut money” they had taken from the people of their area.
Trilochan Mukherjee, a Trinamool Congress booth president of Chatra village in Suri Block 2, returned Rs 1,617 each to 141 villagers. According to PTI, Mukherjee had taken the money in exchange for jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, but The Hindu reported that he had collected the money to dig a canal.
“I have apologised to the people and returned the money,” PTI quoted Mukherjee as saying. “I promise I won’t do it again.”
Locals had staged a demonstration outside Mukherjee’s house two days earlier, demanding that he return the “cut money”. A meeting of the gram panchayat was called and Mukherjee was forced to return the money.
Subodh Bagdi, a villager, said Mukherjee had denied them payments for work. “He withdrew from the bank an entire amount of Rs 2.4 lakh the government had sent to our village for drainage repair,” Bagdi said, according to The Times of India. “Now, he has succumbed to pressure when all of us gave him an ultimatum over payment of wages.”
Bharatiya Janata Party state president Dilip Ghosh said this was just the beginning. “In the coming days, senior TMC ministers and leaders will also return cut money taken from the people,” PTI quoted him.