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Buddha weeps silently as recession comes home

Buddha weeps silently as recession comes home

Author: Aloke Banerjee
Publication: The Times of India
Date: December 24, 2001

Introduction: West Bengal CM's wife not paid salary for the last months

The economic slowdown that has been devastating millions of homes in West Bengal for the last couple of years has now invaded the home of none other than the chief minister of the state, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

The chief minister's wife, Meera Bhattacharjee, who works as an executive manager in a reputed private firm here, has not been paid her salary for the last two months. For Mr Bhattacharjee, who donates most of the salary he draws as chief minister to the party fund, it is becoming increasingly difficult to balance the family budget.

The CM's wife, who has been working with the same firm for over two decades, drew her last pay-slip in October. The private limited company had a roaring business in the United States as also in west Asia, but has since been forced by the ongoing global economic recession to stop paying salaries to its employees.

An introvert by nature, Mr Bhattacharjee, however, is yet to inform his party - the CPM - about his financial problems. Neither is he willing to bail out the household management by seeking a cushier - and more paying - job for his wife as others in his position would have done. He is apparently one of those 'silent sufferers'.

As chief minister, Mr Bhattacharjee is entitled to a monthly salary of approximately Rs 8,000 a month. But at the time of taking the oath of office, he had instructed the government to remit his salary directly to the CPM's account at the State Bank of India. His entire earning goes into the party coffers. The CPM, in turn, gives him a monthly "wage" of Rs 2,500.

In the CPM, it has always been the rule that all elected representatives, including MLAs and MPs, donate their salaries to the party fund. It is the party which pays them monthly wages. For senior party leaders like Mr Bhattacharjee, state secretary Anil Biswas and politburo member Biman Bose, the monthly remuneration is Rs 2,500. For others, it is Rs 2,000. Former chief minister Jyoti Basu reportedly gets a little more than the others.

Fortunately for Mr Bhattacharjee, the rent of his two-room flat at Palm Avenue, the residential telephone bill and his travel expenses are all paid by the government. But in spite of the police urging him to accept additional security for himself and his family, he has consistently refused government cars for his wife, their only college-going daughter and his mother.

Meera Bhattacharjee goes to her office, along with three office colleagues, in a company vehicle sources in the firm the chief minister's wife works for sail on Saturday that the management was still uncertain about when they would be able to pay Ms Bhattacharjee and other employees their salaries.

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