Suri: Amid protests over demand for return of cut money (commission), a local leader of the Trinamool Congress in Birbhum district Tuesday returned around Rs 2.25 lakh to over 100 beneficiaries of government schemes.

Trilochan Mukhopadhyay, a TMC booth president on the outskirts of district headquarter town Suri, returned the amount to 141 people. The party leader had taken commission for providing them jobs under the MGNREGA scheme.

"I have apologised to the people and returned their money. I promise I won't do it again," Mukhopadhyay said.

The development came two days after locals staged a protest outside his house demanding immediate return of "cut money" he had taken in the last few years.

A meeting of gram panchayat was called, and he was forced to return the money.

All 141 people received around Rs 1,600 each.

Locals claimed that around Rs 2.41 lakh was deposited in the accounts of the beneficiaries as wages for the construction of a drain and Mukhopadhyay collected nearly all of it by force.

TMC block president Nurul Islam said it is a good initiative to pay those beneficiaries who had worked only for three-four days.

"A section of media is trying to project it wrongly," he said.

BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said this is just the beginning.

"In the coming days, senior TMC ministers and leaders will also return cut money taken from the people," he said.

Protests and demonstrations have rocked various parts of the state the past week over demand for return of ‘cut money’ allegedly taken by elected representatives of the ruling TMC from beneficiaries of government schemes.

On Tuesday, sit-in demonstrations were held in North 24 Parganas and Birbhum districts over the same demand.

TMC leaders at the municipal and panchayat levels have also been facing public ire in other districts such as Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Burdwan, Malda, Purulia, Nadia, West Midnapore, Bankura and Kolkata.

Leader of opposition in state assembly Abdul Mannan and senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty had demanded that the state government immediately form an inquiry commission to look into the issue.

The protests followed chief minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee's recent warning to party leaders that those involved in taking cut money from government schemes and other corrupt practices would be put behind bars.

At a meeting with TMC councillors, Banerjee had said, "I do not want to keep thieves in my party. If I take action, they will join some other party. Some leaders are claiming 25% commission for providing housing grants to the poor. This should stop immediately. Return the money if any of you have taken it."

In the wake of the protests, the TMC leadership Sunday accused the media of misreporting the interactions between Banerjee and the party leaders and said "99.99%" of party functionaries were hard-working and committed to work for the benefit of the people.