Two employees of South Dum Dum Municipality have siphoned off lakhs of rupees from the funds earmarked for the Midday Meal and National Old Age Pension Scheme but instead of taking action and lodging an FIR against them, the board has pardoned them on humanitarian grounds.
Mr Nupur Kanti Chowdhury and Mr Mithu Das have been charged with siphoning off Rs 7,17, 987 and Rs 6,79,000, respectively, from the total fund of Rs 77,25,235 that was meant to be disbursed under the Mid-day meal and National Old Age Pension Scheme in 2008 when the municipal board belonged to the Left Front.
A four-member committee was formed by the previous board to investigate the matter and on 22 July, 2008 the duo, during a hearing conducted by the committee, said they were unable to account for the money and the money that has been lost should be deducted from their salaries and their jobs spared. The committee had instructed Mr Chowdhury to return the amount immediately and Mr Das was given 14 days to update the municipality accounts register.
A copy of the minutes of the CIC meeting held on 5 May, 2010, reads that Mr Chowdhury and Mr Das returned Rs 4,17,987 and Rs 2,71,600, respectively, to the municipality and that the rest of the amount would be deducted from their salaries. It was also noticed that Mr Chowdhury had only 21 months of service left and forfeiting the amount by deducting his salary was not possible. Mr Chowdhury said the amount could be deduced from his gratuity and provident fund. It was also observed that Mr Das was not a permanent staff of the municipality.
The duo was summoned again to a meeting after the Trinamul Congress formed the board in June 2010. Even after several councillors said that what Mr Das and Mr Chowdhury did is a criminal offence and in other offices the guilty are suspended from duty and FIR is lodged against them, they were pardoned.
Mrs Anjana Rakhit, chairman of the South Dum Dum Municipality, said: “They were encouraged to steal the money. The misappropriation took place when the board belonged to the CPI-M. They have a family to look after and so we did not suspend them. The money is being deduced from their salary in instalments.” She also said that both Mr Chowdhury and Mr Das are “good at their jobs” and the municipality cannot afford to lose them.