|Darjeeling municipal chairman Amar Singh Rai delivers rice to beneficiaries on Thursday. Picture by Suman Tamang|
Darjeeling, Oct. 31: A rice distribution event for the poor became a venue of political tussle today when Morcha civic councillors objected to the presence of a Trinamul-nominated GTA Sabha member.
The event was organised by the state food and supplies department and the Darjeeling municipality, which is dominated by the Morcha, and saw in Milan Dukpa’s presence a Trinamul tactic to interfere in government events.
The row has happened when Trinamul is trying to fill a political void as the Morcha has no tough opposition in the region. The party launched its GTA employees’ union recently and some Morcha members have switched to the state’s ruling party in some hill pockets.
None of this has gone down well with the Morcha. The hill party-dominated GTA has made peace with the state government for now but today’s row reflects the tension in the Morcha because of Trinamul’s forays.
Dukpa, who left the municipality building after Morcha councillors protested today, said he had been invited by the district controller of food and supplies department.
A Morcha councillor alleged that Trinamul was trying to politicise a government programme. “Such politicisation of government programmes is not acceptable to us. Not only Dukpa, but his supporters also came to the event. They said they would send us to jail.”
Dukpa said he had no intention of politicising the event.
The distribution is an annual event organised to commemorate World Food Day that is on October 16.
The event wasn’t held on October 16 this year as it was the day of Id.
Dukpa walked into the distribution ceremony soon after municipal chairman Amar Singh Rai inaugurated the event and left.
“I, along with vice-chairman (Suk Bahadur Biswakarma), distributed rice to a few beneficiaries and then, we left for a meeting. In the middle of the meeting, we were informed that Milan Dukpa had come to the event without informing the municipality and started distributing rice,” Rai said. “We went to the conference hall of the municipality and stopped the distribution. We protest this unwanted interference by Trinamul,” he said.
Dukpa said: “I had yesterday gone down to Siliguri to meet the district controller of the food and supplies department to raise certain issues regarding distribution of kerosene in the hills. It was then that the controller invited me to the programme.
B.N. Sarkar, the district food controller, denied inviting Dukpa to the event.
Dukpa said: “When I reached the municipality, the officials asked me to distribute rice. I distributed rice to about 12-13 beneficiaries after which councillors protested my presence.”