Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee unleashed a slew of development measures in West Bengal’s Maoland, including 900 schools in Santhali language, the native language of the area, a slew of job oriented training opportunities, water supply schemes and employment of 10,000 local students in the police force.
“None would remain without food and work,” said the chief minister at a public meeting in the Maoist stronghold of Nayagram in West Mindapore on Tuesday. She is supposed to address another meeting in Jhargram 70 kms away.
However, she made it clear that the central paramilitary forces would not be withdrawn from the Maoist-dominated area. "If you stick to the path of peace, none would harass you," said the chief minister, in an obvious attempt to quell the discontent against the alleged excesses of the forces.
Mamata is on a 48-hour tour of West Midnapore and Bankura, two of the state’s Maoist-dominated districts.
The trip raised expectations of development to new heights as the chief minister had announced that her government is open to dialogue with the rebels, and mandated six civil society members to initiate the process.
Mamata’s list of announcements on Tuesday included vocational training centers, nursing training centers, ICDS programmes
“10,000 local students would get jobs in the police department. In addition, 1,800 Santahli students would get government jobs,” said the chief minister.
In her own style, Mamata kept asking the audience “What do you want?” and the crowd shouted back its demands.
As many as 235 madhyamik schools (10 level) would be turned into higher secondary schools (plus two level), three colleges would be set up in Salboni, Nayagram and Gopiballavpur (all in West Midnapore).
The goodies also included a stadium and a sports and culture training center at Nayagram.
“Rs 58 crore would be spent on developing facilities of the hospitals in the district. A sum of Rs 112 crore would be spent on drinking water projects,” said the chief minister.
Mamata announced that 75,000 locals would get old age pension, which entitled one to Rs 1,000 per month. The figure was 8,000 during the Left Front regime, she said.
“I would come here again after three months,” said Mamata.