Same time of the year, one year ago, Mamata Banarjee demolished the impregnable and seemingly shatterproof red-citadel of Communists in West Bengal. She conquered the State Assembly Elections with comfortable majority and the media nationwide was in Didi’s awe and was gung-ho about how she was a self-made leader and how she would be a harbinger of change and development. The turbulent one year has passed like whirlwind and she has been in news for all the wrong reasons-coercing the Union Railway minister to follow her diktats and ultimately making him resign when he refused to kowtow, refusing to be a part of Indian delegation to Bangladesh and hence jeopardizing the otherwise cordial mutual relations to mark her protest on the Teesta water sharing dispute, arresting and incarcerating a Jadhavpur University professor for drawing and circulating cartoons which took a dig at loopholes in her administration in the name of it being offensive and anti-woman. Didi has created for herself an image of a dictator and tyrant who curbs right to freedom and has her way by hook or crook.
But, the media as usual has gone with the wind and has never tried to bring to the fore the flip-side of the Mamta Banarjee’s administration. Inside the steely cyst and tyrant mask lies a benevolent, liberal administrator who is toiling hard to undo the harm (read: de-industrialization) done by the ages of Communist rule. She just has indifferent methods to approach the goals and seems nonchalant. Some of the evidences of her praiseworthy work are following:
Resuming negotiations with Maoists: The worst Naxal-hit districts of Medinipur and Jangalmahal in western part of West Bengal has seen spurt of governmental activity after Didi took the reins. She has created and expedited the working of Paschimanchal Unnayan Parishad for focusing on development of these districts. Her government has announced a spree of developmental projects for these regions and indulged in talks with the Maoist leaders to discuss their concerns. There has been an increase in such leaders surrendering to the government and returning to the mainline. Situations are in better control now as compared to 4-5 years ago when even Union ministers where not safe on these turfs. But, now some semblance of peace has return and Didi with her entourage now frequents these rugged terrains in search for sustainable solutions. She has also launched reasonable compensation and rehabilitation packages for victims of Maoist violence. Providing cheap staple food and minority scholarship are also in fray for these regions.
Creation of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration: Unlike the Communist government, Didi was not turning deaf-ears to the concerns of hill people and was instrumental in creation of GTA. This development has almost solved the issue except for the fact that people in Terai-Dooar region don’t want to be a part of this. Still, CM has to be commended for being anchor-point for tripartite discussions between Centre, Gorkhaland Janmukti Morcha and State. She has also been meeting-up with tea-estate workers and rooting for their problems. Talks are also on for the deployment of CRPF from the hills.
Impetus to industrialization: Didi, aided by her versatile Finance minister Partha Chatterjee, has been instrumental in exhorting and mobilizing industries and investors to her state by formulating liberal contracts, providing easy access to land and tantalizing them with the prop of untapped market. The emphasis has been equally distributed between foreign giants, domestic tycoons as well as indigenous cottage industries.
Some of the highlights are aforementioned: allocation of 300 Acres of land in Shibtala Math, Bolpur to WBIDC and ITC for proposed industrial development; inauguration of International Financial Hub in New Town, Rajarhat; Zari Hub at Sankrai in Howrah district and goldsmith hub at Ankurhati near Domjur; announcement of 16 major industrial proposals; submission of 128 Detailed Project Reports for starting new industries to the government. Amidst all this industrialization, Didi hasn’t forgotten what she claims is her raison detre — upliftment of downtrodden. The government is mulling amending the West Bengal Co-Operative Societies Act, 2006 to ensure that cooperative banks were not empowered to attach the property of any farmer failing to repay loans.
Restoring the superiority of Bengali intellect: Bengalis, besides other things, are famous for their superior intellect. Bengal was a perennial source of intellectuals in all the disciplines of education. But, the foundation of primary education had taken a beating and higher education was in tatters during long Communist rule. Didi has taken a lot of steps to restore the standards of education. Unveiling of hospital-cum-college in Bankura, upgradation of 999 secondary-schools to high-schools, appointment of 46000 primary school-teachers, riddance of 13 universities from political interference through a Cabinet ordinance and disbursement of Rs. 10 crores for education of poor girls are some of the noteworthy efforts to revitalize the once esteemed education-system of the state.
Improvement of Public health: Public health has been one of the thrust areas where Didi has diverted a lot of her attention. She has been on an investigative-visit-spree, sometimes incognito, to check upon the facilities and slackness of doctors. Many a times, lax doctors have been fired on the spot. A project proposal with an expenditure of more than Rs. 2000 crore designed to create tertiary care infrastructure in districts and sub-divisions has been passed. Rs.1,984 Cr has been allocated for Health department by state government. Mulling of 500-bed cancer hospital in Rajarhat and training of rural women to meet the shortage of 50,000 nurses is another commendable initiative.
Mamata Banerjee, in addition to all this, has been very keen on promoting Bengali art and culture and has been a proponent of Bengali brand. This is this love for Bengal which sometimes comes in conflict with national interest, wherein it gives the vital support to Central government. She resorts to flamboyance and brinkmanship to achieve her goals. This earns her a title of coercer and a spoilsport but why should that put a veneer over all the good she has done for her state. Criticism should analysis both flips of the coin.