ED Arrests West Bengal Minister in Ration Scam Case
In a significant development in West Bengal, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested Jyotipriyo Mallick, a state minister, in connection with a ration scam investigation. The arrest followed a prolonged raid at two of his opulent residences in Salt Lake and extensive questioning by the central agency, lasting over 20 hours.
During the operation, the ED also confiscated Mallick’s mobile phone and froze his and his family members’ bank accounts. Jyotipriyo Mallick, who serves as the state’s forest minister, becomes the third Trinamul Congress MLA and the second state minister to come under the scrutiny of the ED over the past year.
The allegations against him revolve around money laundering in collaboration with his close associate, Bakibur Rahman. This money laundering activity pertains to the distribution of substandard and insufficient quantities of wheat during Mallick’s tenure as the state food and supplies minister, a position he held from 2011. Rahman, who operated a syndicate of ration dealers and distributors, was recently arrested by the ED and remains in their custody.
The revelations provided by Rahman led the ED to focus its investigation on Jyotipriyo Mallick. However, during the lengthy raid, Mallick reportedly evaded many questions, according to sources. He was eventually arrested around 2:30 am.
In response to his arrest, Mallick asserted that he had fallen victim to a grand conspiracy, alleging that the BJP had orchestrated his downfall. He specifically pointed fingers at Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the opposition, accusing him of involvement.
Later in the day, a judge presiding over the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court at the Bankshall Court remanded Jyotipriyo Mallick, a three-time TMC MLA, into ED custody until November 6. The court also directed the ED to arrange for his treatment under a medical board in Command Hospital if any medical issues arose. In an unfortunate turn of events, Mallick fainted in the courtroom and had to be rushed to a private hospital in an ambulance.
The arrest of Mallick and the subsequent developments sparked political tensions. Shashi Panja, the state finance minister, protested against Mallick’s arrest, suggesting that this action signaled the end of the BJP’s influence in West Bengal. She questioned why central agencies were not taking similar action against a key figure like Suvendu Adhikari, who was also implicated in a scam.
In response, Suvendu Adhikari focused his criticism on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. He called for the ED to investigate Mamata Banerjee’s role in what he referred to as the “WB Ration Distribution Scam.” Adhikari alleged that the Chief Minister deliberately avoided appointing Jyotipriyo Mallick as the Minister in Charge of the Food & Supplies Department in 2021 to shield him from the scrutiny of central investigation agencies. He claimed that Mallick had engaged in massive corruption during his ten-year tenure as the Food & Supplies Minister from 2011 to 2021, but Mamata Banerjee allowed him to continue raising funds illegally and distributing the proceeds to favored individuals.
The arrest of a state minister and the ensuing political clashes have put West Bengal in the national spotlight, underscoring the ongoing challenges and controversies in the state’s political landscape.