'Lakhs of crores of rupees donated to PM-CARES, where is that money?'
Kolkata: Campaigning for the upcoming bypoll in Bhabanipur, Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee — who is contesting from the constituency — on Friday said her party would not allow BJP to continue its Taliban-style rule at the Centre and continue to stifle the freedom of speech and expression of people belonging to different walks of life.
Addressing an election meeting in ward 70, Banerjee said: "India has become a country where people cannot speak their heart out due to fear. Every time you criticise the Centre, you are branded as anti-national. Sometimes, I feel where we are going! We want India to be a place where people can express their views freely without any fear."
Criticising the Centre over its assertion that PM-CARES was not a government fund, Banerjee stated that complete transparency should be maintained in the transactions made with the money collected by the trust.
"The PM-CARES FUND bears our national emblem, but the Central government has insisted that it is not a government fund, leaving us all confused," she said, tongue in cheek.
"The Chief Minister Relief Fund is regularly audited. PM CARES FUND was formed for COVID-19, but yesterday they (Centre) told the court that it is not a government fund. Government employees have donated money there, funds through CSR have been donated there, lakhs of crores of rupees have been donated. So where is that money?" she fumed.
The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that the PM CARES Fund is not a government fund as donations to it do not go to the Consolidated Fund of India, and no third party information can be parted with irrespective of its status under the Constitution and the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Banerjee, during her campaign in bypoll-bound Bhabanipur constituency, also hit out at the BJP-led Union government over the Pegagus snooping scandal, claiming that the country's Opposition leaders were being spied on.
"It has been proven that the Union government snoops on Opposition leaders; our phones are tapped. The Centre bought this software from Israel to snoop on us. No one can speak out against them. If you speak out, efforts will be made to intimidate you by using (central) agencies," she claimed.
The TMC boss further slammed the state unit of the saffron party for carrying out a demonstration near her residence on Thursday with the body of a BJP worker.
She maintained that her fight against the "demonic BJP" would continue till it is ousted from power, and after winning the Bhabanipur bypoll, the party would take its battle to other states.
Lambasting the BJP for criticising the law and order situation in Bengal and the subsequent deployment of the National Human Rights Commission, she said: "Where is the NHRC in Assam, where people have been killed in police firing? The law and order situation in Delhi has turned worse as criminals are killed inside the courtroom by members of the rival gang. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the law and order situation is bad. In Bengal, where women can move around without fear even after sunset, NHRC is deployed."
She asked the women present at the meeting whether they have to confine themselves at home after sunset and they replied with an emphatic 'no.'
Banerjee, who is contesting the September 30 bypoll from the Bhabanipur seat to retain her Chief Minister's chair, claimed that destiny had this plan in store for her.
"People want me to be a representative from this seat and continue as the state's Chief Minister," said the TMC chief.
A resident of Bhabanipur, Banerjee had won the seat twice in 2011 and 2016 but shifted to Nandigram, where the anti-farmland acquisition movement against the Left Front government had transformed her into a major political force in the state.