PM speaks of taking along everybody, but targets opposition-ruled states: Mamata

CM says her party members are being targeted by central agencies

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee | PTI West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee | PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday targeted the BJP-ruled Centre and said while Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks of taking along everybody, he "attacks" opposition-ruled states, and added that for good measure, her party members are being targeted by central agencies "without reason".

She said the Jadavpur University student's death after ragging and sexual harassment has opened "our eyes" and the state government had launched an anti-ragging helpline to counter the menace.

Banerjee, who was speaking during a meeting with Durga Puja organisers, also announced an increase in grant-in-aid that the state government gives to Puja committees to Rs 70,000.

"Our people are being targeted by central agencies without reason. (Raids) continued throughout Monday night. They did not inform anyone. The boy (TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee) returned only a day before yesterday from abroad and suddenly they (ED) started the raids at four to five places," she said.

"I feel bad that they (central agencies) are raiding without informing people. But the rule is that you need a warrant or the residents of a house have to be told why they (probe agency officers) were there. There are people who do not understand English.

"You are entering houses by breaking the locks. You are also not keeping any witnesses. Hypothetically speaking, tomorrow they can come to my place. There is political vendetta going on in Bengal," she said.

The Bengal CM went on to rubbish media reports that central probe agencies conducted a raid at her residence on Harish Chatterjee Street here.

"They (ED) did not go to Harish Chatterjee Street. Some media wrote it just to flare up the issue. They (central agencies) can go anywhere they feel like. To Kalighat (mandir), Dakshineshwar (Mandir) or Nakhoda Masjid. That's their matter," Banerjee said.

She went on to allege that the central agencies, in the name of conducting an investigation, were interfering in people's personal lives.

"We are citizens of an independent country. The PM speaks of taking along everybody, but targets opposition-ruled states. Even the smallest of incidents like an ant bite is being probed by the ED and CBI," Banerjee said.

The ED on Monday had raided a number of locations in and around Kolkata in connection with the school jobs scam. Several of Banerjee's party members are already in ED or CBI custody in various cases of alleged corruption.

"The Jadavpur incident has opened our eyes. We are starting a toll-free anti-ragging helpline number at Kolkata Police headquarters in Lalbazar to counter ragging, Banerjee said at the programme.

The toll-free number 1800-345-5678 was made active on Tuesday and would address ragging complaints in all educational institutions across the state, she said.

"Do not be scared, your identity and phone number will not be disclosed," Banerjee added.

A first-year undergraduate student of Jadavpur University died after falling from a second-floor balcony of a hostel earlier this month. Altogether 13 current and former students of the varsity have been arrested in this connection.

On grants to Durga Puja committees and clubs, Banerjee said it is given because they promote the state's development schemes.

"Why the clubs get the money? They get it because they promote the state's development schemes. Our intention is not to buy them," she said.

"I had started with a grant of Rs 25,000. Then during the Covid pandemic that lasted for two years, we increased it to Rs 50,000 and then to Rs 60,000. This year we are increasing it to Rs 70,000. But remember that our government has no money," she said.

Banerjee announced that puja committees would have to pay only one-fourth of the power bills and no other taxes for hosting the Pujas.

"I have spoken to the CESC and the West Bengal State Electricity Board. You do not have to pay 2/3rd of the electricity bills. And there is no tax on anything else. You do not have to pay taxes on advertisements," she said.

"This year, we will hold the Durga Puja carnival on October 27. We will host it in a big way," she said. 

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