As many in India struggle daily to own their ‘dream house’ someday, in south Kolkata’s Tollygunge there’s an entire flat-turned-kennel for several dogs of expensive breeds. These are the pets of arrested former Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee and his “close aide” Arpita Mukherjee, an actor and film producer.
The flat on the 18th floor of a premium housing complex overlooking a golf course has become the talk of the town after it was revealed that Mukherjee, who lived in another flat on the first floor, went to the upper-floor kennel every day to meet the dogs and take them for a walk.
The curious Bengal residents have been wondering about the other facilities that may be available for the nearly seven canines in the “flat with air conditioners”.
Some are even wondering about the condition of the dogs since Chatterjee and Mukherjee were arrested by ED a week ago for a cash haul of over Rs 21 crore in the latter’s flat. “We have seen their maids go inside and provide food to the dogs. But how long can they do this?” asked a neighbor.
An NGO, Voice For the Voiceless, that works with animals claimed they had approached the ED to hand over the dogs. “They assured us they will get in touch, but nothing has been done so far,” its president Abhijit Mukherjee was quoted by a leading national daily.
Kunal Sarkar, a prominent doctor in the city, who is also worried for the dogs, said in a social media post, “Investigation related to unaccounted wealth is a must but the central and state government should also decide the fate of the voiceless and arrange for their caretaking. They did no mistake.”
A resident of Tower 3 at Diamond City South was quoted by the national daily as saying, “We were once told the dogs were Partha Chatterjee’s pets. Whatever it was, Mukherjee loved the dogs and took them out daily for a walk. We do not know if she owned all of them.”
The report further quoted Mukherjee’s chauffeur Pranab Bhattacharya as saying that “madam” owned three flats at the complex, of which the one on the 18th floor was for the dogs. Former minister Chatterjee had more pet dogs at another flat in another housing complex near his Naktala home.
The pets used to be brought often in a car to his residence. But these dogs were shifted to an unknown location within hours of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay referring to his “flat for dogs in Naktala” while hearing one of the cases in the Bengal school jobs scam, the report stated.
Both Chatterjee, who has been stripped of his ministerial and party duties, and Mukherjee, from whose two flats ED has seized Rs 50 crore in cash besides jewelery and foreign currency, will be in the custody of the central agency until August 3.
The duo was arrested on July 23 for their alleged involvement in the school jobs scam, where genuine candidates were allegedly sidestepped with names that did not appear on the merit list.
The Enforcement Directorate is probing the money laundering aspect of the scam. The agency has already begun the process of freezing at least three bank accounts of the duo. “The process of freezing Mukherjee’s three bank accounts has started. A total of around Rs 2 crore has been found in these accounts. We suspect these accounts were used to carry out several transactions and further probe is underway,” a senior ED official had said.