Mamata rules out division of Bengal, announces projects

Mamata rules out division of Bengal, announces projects

"As long as I live, I will help Darjeeling and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) but I will not allow Darjeeling to separate from West Bengal," the chief minister said inaugurating a tourism festival at the Mall here.

"Darjeeling's economy is greatly dependent on tourism and a master plan for tourism development is under preparation which will come off shortly," she said flanked by top Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders, including its president Bimal Gurung.

Pointing out that the Centre gave a special grant to North-Eastern states, she said Darjeeling should also be considered for such a facility.

Pointing out that she had visited the hills thrice in the last four months, the last being for signing of the tripartite agreement for the GTA, Banerjee said the Centre, her government and GJM would work together for the development of Darjeeling hills.

Referring to the GTA agreement signed in July paving the way for formation of a regional autonomous administrative authority for Darjeeling with more financial and executive powers, she said "GTA is designed for peace and development in the hills."

She accused the previous Left Front government of ignoring the development of the hills in the last 30 years.

Referring to the recent earthquake that caused severe damage to roads and buildings in Darjeeling hills, the chief minister said she had written to the Centre for assistance of Rs 495 crore as disaster management fund to cope with the situation.

"I will write for an additional Rs 500 crore," Banerjee said.

Banerjee said "Darjeeling is my darling. If I am with you, why won't you be with me?
"My whole heart is for the hills," Banerjee said in Nepalese.

"If Kashmir is the heaven of India, Darjeeling is the heaven of Bengal," she said amidst cheers.

"Just having the heart and love does not help, work has to be done for those you love for their betterment," Banerjee said.

"Darjeeling will be a healthy and wealthy baby --  and jobs will be provided so that people don't have to go outside and this will help realise my dream of turning it into Switzerland," she said while adding that an eco-tourism policy for the hills was ready.

Pointing out that peace prevailed in Darjeeling, the chief minister said that as a result a lot of people were arriving in the hills to boost its economy, which was based on tourism and the tea industry.

Banerjee, who was accompanied by Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi and Union Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy, announced a list of projects for the development of the hills.
She inaugurated Salamandar Tourist Lodge and a market complex at Jorpokhri, block primary health centres at Rambhi and Mirik, and a multi-level car park at Lebong Road through remote control at the Mall.

Banerjee, who held the railway portfolio before becoming chief minister, also inaugurated through remote control a modernised printing press at Kurseong, a basic training centre at Kurseong, a filter manufacturing plant for diesel locos at Tindaria Workshop, among others for the Indian Railways.

The chief minister announced Rs 20 crore for development of road and drinking water facilities, Rs 10 crore for beautification of a mall, Rs three crore for developing the Lebong stadium and Rs 10 lakh for sports promotion in Darjeeling.

She said 17 new primary schools, 30 upper primary schools and 55 schools would be upgraded and all secondary and higher secondary schools would be provided with computers.

Electricity and drinking water would reach all schools in the next two years, she said, adding that two model schools would be set up at Kalimpong and Sokhiapokhri.

Maintaining that her government would stress on eco-tourism projects, the chief minister said the Planters' Club, Gymkhana Club and the old church in Darjeeling would be renovated.

A Nepali academy would be set up in memory of poet Bhanu Bhakt and an international research centre on Rabindranath Tagore at Mangpo, she said.

Banerjee said an Orange festival and a Tea festival would be held in Darjeeling by December-end.

Four ropeway projects would come up in the hills shortly to promote tourism.

She said Rs 10 crore had been granted for providing car parking facilities in Darjeeling.

For the Grahams School, which was badly damaged in the recent earthquake, at Kalimpong, she announced Rs 50 lakh grant and a similar amount for the girls school there.

Banerjee said state government would recruit Darjeeling youth and ex-servicemen in the police force in line with the government's announced policy in Maoist-hit Jangalmahal.
Earlier, Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi said that peace and happiness had returned to the hills due to the initiative of the chief minister.

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