March 23, 2017
RSS targeting Bengal out of frustration: Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee speaks on various issues concerning Bengal and the nation, from the rising religious intolerance to the verdict in the recently-concluded Assembly elections. She speaks on the new Health Bill as well as the Narada issue. From demonetisation to electoral reforms, here are some excerpts from her interview:
On misconceptions about the new Health Bill among doctors
Over eight crore people avail health care facilities in Government hospitals in Bengal. Not all doctors are unhappy with the Health Bill. Action will be taken for medical negligence. Honest, hard-working doctors have nothing to worry. We will surely take action for genuine grievances. Not all doctors commit medical negligence.
Health, education are services. Ninety-nine per cent of the doctors are honest. I salute the hard-working doctors who toil day in, day out. The Health Bill is about clinical establishments. There are laws for Government hospitals. Private hospitals were not accountable earlier; now they have to be.
I am not against private hospitals. But we must act when hospitals force patients to submit their fixed deposit (FD) papers for treatment. Healthcare must be provided for accident cases and emergency cases. Please do not politicise healthcare.
We have also brought a Bill against vandalism. People may have grievances but they cannot take the law into their own hands. Patients needed a forum for the redressal of their grievances. Hence the Medical Commission has been formed.
Significantly, false complaints are also punishable. They are also a crime. The Health Bill has not been brought all of a sudden. I have pursued the issue of medical negligence for years.
On healthcare facilities in Bengal
We have made healthcare free in Bengal. We have set up 307 new SNSUs. There were 6 SNCUs till 2011. We have set up 76 new ones. Fifteen medical colleges have been set up. Seven medical districts have been set up. We have recruited 10,000 doctors, nurses and pathologists. We have increased the number of beds by 27,000.
Institutional delivery was 65% in 2011 in Bengal; we have increased it to 92% in five years. Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) was 32 out of 1000 till 2011; we have reduced it to 26. We send vehicles called ‘Matri Jaan’ to ferry pregnant women to hospitals. We have started fair price medicine shops and fair price diagnostic centres, giving concessions from 40 per cent to 70 per cent. Kidney dialysis is performed at Rs 500-1000 at fair price diagnostic centres.
On awareness about road safety in Bengal
We have initiated the ‘Safe Drive Save Life’ campaign to increase awareness about road safety. Even my car has narrowly escaped accidents on several occasions. People must show responsible behaviour while driving. We have asked the police to take strong action against bike racing. I would urge even media houses to raise awareness about public services.
On politics in educational campuses
Campus violence is restricted only to a few colleges. But students have democratic rights too. The St Xavier’s model of campus politics is a good one. I will discuss this with the Education Minister.
On the Srijato case
Srijato wrote a poem. It is his democratic right. I have asked the police to submit a report to me. A particular party, engaged in saffronisation, is giving threats to Srijato on social media. It is unfortunate. One political party thinks that just because they rule at the Centre, they own everything. They are inciting violence through photos and videos on social media. We are monitoring everything. The RSS is targeting Bengal out of frustration.
How was black money seized by the Election Commission in Uttar Pradesh when it was claimed that demonetisation has stopped the flow of black money? How did crores of black money in the form of new notes surface? Demonetisation has affected agriculture. The unorganised sector has been severely hit.
On tampering of electronic voting machines (EVM)
Even an MP of the BJP had raised questions about EVMs. Opposition parties can still go to court regarding tampering of EVM. Daal mein kuchh kalaa hain – this is my personal opinion on the verdict in UP. The BJP is scared of Bengal in the run-up to the 2019 elections. I am their identified, targeted enemy.
The Centre is taking a away major share of the State Government’s revenues. They are not sending us funds, yet the BJP is claiming that it will change Bengal.
I have met the current Prime Minister several times in Delhi. We have extended our cooperation, but what did we get in return? The Centre is bypassing the State Government. It is violating the federal structure. It is interfering in State matters.
Jayalalithaa was vocal about federal structure. Others do not raise their voices. As long as I am alive, my voice would not be muzzled. I will fight for the people.
We are constructive in our approach. We do not engage in opposing for the sake of it. For example, we supported the GST. We will not compromise on matters of public importance.
On the BJP
The BJP’s target is to incite riots and violence in Bengal. I am not bound to give replies to these hooligans. I will not surrender before them. I will fight the battle for my people. If they target Bengal, we will target India. We will contest elections from other States too. Two years is a long time. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee came to power in 2006 with 235 seats. However, within two years, his party started losing ground. The BJP must take care of Madhya Pradesh first and target Bengal later.
On the Dhulagarh incident
An incident happened in Dhulagarh. We took action. 66 people were arrested. We have removed the police officials. But they spread misinformation on social media. The BJP has bought most media houses. It spends crores on social media. It targets people with credibility.
On regional parties in politics
It is too early to write-off regional parties. There is enough time for the Lok Sabha polls. The lines between politics and religion have blurred.
On the next President
It is too early to speculate on the name of the next President. We will think of our stand once names are proposed.
On unity among Opposition parties
Opposition votes should not be divided. If Mayawati ji and Akhilesh come together, their vote share will surpass that of BJP. The CPI(M) and the Congress came together in Bengal but they could not succeed. They are a lost cause!
On the Narada case
The Narada case is sub-judice. I will not comment on it. Investigation will bring out the truth. The Narada issue is a case of political conspiracy. The Narada footage was first shown publicly from the BJP’s office. Giving an MP ticket to KD Singh was my blunder. The conspiracy angle of the Narada sting operation must be investigated. Why were tapes recorded in 2014 published only in 2016?
On electoral reforms
We want electoral reforms. I wrote a book named Janatar Darbare in 1995. We want State-funded elections. We have filed income tax returns. We have submitted audit reports to the Election Commission. Several parties have income from unknown sources: the highest for Congress, followed by the BJP and the CPI(M).
On chit funds
Who brought Saradha to Bengal? During whose tenure did Rose Valley began its operations? Who was in power when the Sanchita chit fund scam happened? It is the CPI(M)!
On political vindictiveness
Our slogan was ‘Bodla noy bodol chai’ (Change not revenge). We never went after political rivals after coming to power. Biman Bose has Rs 16 crore in his bank account, without a PAN Card, but no case was lodged against him. Only the Trinamool is being targeted.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay is in jail because he was vocal against demonetisation in Parliament. The Centre is using all the agencies at its disposal to intimidate political opponents. How did the BJP State President say what verdict the Court will give a month in advance?
After we walked out of UPA-II in 2012, the Congress targeted us. Now the BJP is targeting us.
On the Teesta Treaty
I will safeguard the interests of the people of my State. My relations with Sheikh Hasina ji are cordial. I have read in newspapers that the Teesta Treaty will be signed on May 25; but I have not received any official communication. The Centre does not deem it necessary to take States on board!
On Trinamool Congress after Mamata Banerjee
Trinamool Congress is a collective team. Everyone works together in the party. We are nurturing the younger generation. We have experienced leaders too. We have four generations of leaders in the Trinamool Congress. There is no reason to believe that Trinamool will disintegrate after me!
Trinamool will be number one; who comes second or third is not my concern. Our fight is ideological. We do not fight using money power.
On the BJP’s involvement in child trafficking
Investigation is on. We do not believe in political vindictiveness.
On fees in private educational institutes
It is my appeal to private institutes to not to charge huge sums of money in the name of fees and donation.
Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri: What is the State Government thinking on improving the quality of education in Bengal?
Mamata Banerjee: We have an experts’ commission that gives us inputs. We have new policies. We will not interfere in the autonomy of institutions.
Rudraprasad Sengupta: We have seen in recent times that intolerance is on the rise. What can be done to check it?
Mamata Banerjee: Religious intolerance is surely on the rise. The BJP and the CPI(M) set up road blockades yesterday, when the Higher Secondary Board exams are on!
I appeal to the civil society to hit the streets against hooliganism and intolerance. Bengal is a land of peace and unity. Who is anyone to decide what I will eat, watch or read?
Dipankar De: What are your plans on industrialisation?
Mamata Banerjee: Bengal is number one in skill development. Forty per cent (Rs 2.45 lakh crore) of the proposals received at the Bengal Global Business Summit are being implemented. We are creating infrastructure for industry. We are No. 1 in MSME sector. We have initiated e-governances procedures. We are focussing on handloom sector as well.
Paran Bandyopadhyay: How do you maintain your peace of mind?
Mamata Banerjee: The love of people is my inspiration.
On the future plans for Bengal
The Central Government is copying most of the schemes started by the Trinamool COngress Government in Bengal. The Health Bill is an example.
Our slogan is ‘Egiye Bangla’ (Bengal Leads) and ‘Bangla Hobe Biswa Sera’ (Bengal will be the best in the world).
We are giving saplings to the families of newborns. We provide money under Kanyashree and Shikshashree Schemes, bicycles under Sabuj Sathi Scheme, and food at subsidised rates under Khadya Sathi Scheme. We have instituted a merit scholarship named after Swami Vivekananda. We have started training centres for the examinations for IAS and IPS, and WBCS.
On the malicious propaganda by the BJP
The BJP is carrying out a malicious propaganda about minority appeasement. Don’t Hindu girls get Kanyashree as well? Don’t Hindus get bicycles under Sabuj Sathi?
Minority does not mean ONLY Muslims; We have schemes for the economically weaker sections (EWS) among Hindus too. I participate in all festivals of all religions – be it Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Eid, Christmas, Guru Purab or any other festival.
We do not need lectures from the BJP on Hinduism. I organise Kali Puja at my home every year. They paint all Muslims as ISI agents but are themselves engaging religious extremism.
Killing chicken, goat or other animals is okay but eating beef is not? Who are they to decide who will eat what?
The great saint, Ramakrishna Paramhansa Deb had said, “Joto moth, toto poth”.
“33 koti mora, nohi kobhu kheen … Hote pari deen, nohi mora heen” (We are thirty-three crore people, we will never be meek/ We might be poor, but we will never be weak)
The Bhangar issue is not one about farmland acquisition. A few people with vested interests are fanning the unrest. Not just the villagers in Bhangar, but several districts would benefit if they get electricity.
Load-shedding was a curse before 2011. Now power cuts are a thing of the past. We have commissioned a new unit at Sagardighi.
Bengal is a power-surplus State now.
On her personal life
I keep my mother’s photo on my “thakur-er ashon” (place of worship). The first thing I see every day after waking up is her photo.
In public life, working for the people is the biggest responsibility.
Mamata Banerjee’s greetings to the people
My advance greetings to all – “Shubho Nobo Borsho. Stay happy, stay united”.
Unity is our inspiration. Bengal will show the way to the rest of India. Bengal will be the best in the world.