100 days of Mamata's hits and misses
Mamata’s first big measure began just after the moment she was sworn in. True to her image of a people’s chief minister, Mamata walked down the less-than-a-km distance between Raj Bhawankolkata Updated: Aug 26, 2011 19:07 IST
May 20: Mamata’s first big measure began just after the moment she was sworn in. True to her image of a people’s chief minister, Mamata walked down the less-than-a-km distance between Raj Bhawan, where she took the oath, to the state secretariat in Writer’s Buildings. Not ready to lose a minute, she presided over a cabinet meeting on the very first day that went on almost till midnight, triggering exhaustion and fatigue in the frail Amit Mitra, who had to be rushed to a hospital on the way back home.
May 24: Mamata pays a surprise visit to Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial hospital, better known as SSKM. The visit took the authorities by surprise who were completely unprepared for the visit that was kept secret by the chief minister. She was enraged to see the chaos in the premier state-run hospital and even suspended the head of Bangur Institute of Neurology, a wing of the hospital. The surprise visit to hospitals became Mamata’s hallmark in the subsequent days.
June 10: Following the directive of Mamata Banerjee, education minister Bratya Basu constituted a 10-member committee to suggest ways to overhaul higher education. The committee would suggest methods to improve the functioning of colleges and universities apart from changes in legislations governing higher educational institutions. The governor M K Narayanana, who is the chancellor of state universities, has frozen all appointment related activities in universities. The higher education department aims floating a process where vice chancellors could be impeached. On July 17 the school education department formed a 19-member committee to revamp primary, secondary and higher secondary syllabi.
June 14: Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Bill passed in the Assembly. This was Mamata Banerjee’s most dramatic move in the first 100 days. Returning about 400 acres of the 997.17-acre plot to the unwilling farmers was the first resolution in the first cabinet meeting and she took the first step towards fulfilling it by vesting the land leased to Tata Motors through this Bill. Eventually, however, the return of the land got stuck due to litigation. Hearing is currently on in Calcutta high court.
June 29: Mamata Banerjee set up a eight-member mentor group to help Presidency University grow into a world-class institution. While Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen was named the chief mentor, Harvard historian Sugata Bose became its chairperson. The mentor group was asked to make short, medium and long-term recommendations. The first report of recommendation and reviews of implementation was submitted on August 25. The next reports will be submitted in January 2012, August 2012, January 2013 and June 2013. Apart from making recommendations the government has asked the mentor group to monitor its implementation process for the next two years.
July 7: Mamata mandated a group of six civil society members to start and initiate dialogue with the Maoists, thereby becoming the second chief minister after Y S Rajshekhar Reddy of Andhra Pradesh to bring the rebels to the dialogue table. Even when she was the opposition leader, Mamata insisted on a soft line vis-à-vis the Maoists. In her famous Lalgarh rally on August 9, 2010, she condemned the killing of CPI(Maoist) spokesperson Azad. On July 20, 2011 chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced 52 political prisoners would be released in the state in the first phase.
July 18: Government signs treaty with GJM forming Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. This was a big bang achievement for the government, and a personal milestone for Mamata, who was seen solving the vexed Hill problem within two months, which the Left Front was battling for years. The treaty grants a great degree of autonomy to the people of the Hills, handing over 59 departments such as PWD and education. The agreement also provides for a survey of Terai and Dooars to examine whether they can come under GTA. The treaty also leaves the option for GJM to raise the demand for Gorkhaland.
August 6: Bengal got central financial help of Rs 21,614 crore. After much wrangling Mamata could extract some funds from the Centre, but the sum failed to amuse her. Of the amount, Rs 9,240 crore was grant-in-aid and the rest of the money was project specific. Bengal is burdened with a debt much in excess of Rs 2.03 lakh crore (2,030 billion) and earns such a small tax revenue that it needs to borrow in order to service its debt after paying salary and pension. Mamata has described the help as “not enough” and would knock at the Centre’s door in a few months.
August 11: Sushanta Ghosh, former Left Front minister and CPI(M) MLA from Garbeta in West Midnapore, taken into custody by the CID. Ghosh stands accused in the murder of seven Trinamool Congress supporters who were killed on September 22, 2002 in Keshpur of West Midnapore. On June 4, five skeletons were dug out from a spot behind Ghosh’s ancestral house in Garbeta. Subsequent forensic tests confirmed that two of the skeletons were indeed that of two of those killed in Keshpur. This week former CPI(M) MP Lakshman Seth was also named in an FIR when another skeleton was discovered from a school near Nandigram.
August 19: Name changed from West Bengal to Paschimbanga. Mamata pushed through the change of name in an all-party meeting. Several alternatives Bangabhumi, Banga, Bangla, Banga Pradesh were also discussed but only Paschimbanga earned political consensus. The chief minister’s personal choice was Bangabhumi, but she did not push for it. In 1999, during the Left Front regime MLAs of different parties got together unsuccessfully to change the name to Bangla. The current move also has to move several steps before it is officially recognised.