September 19, 2018
Working hard to make Bengal the best: Mamata Banerjee in Frankfurt
What is the aim of this tour to Germany?
Bangla is our home. I always consider it my duty to give due consideration to the responsibilities people have given me. The immense work that has been done has brought about a lot of change. Invitations come from many countries now. But there is so much work to be done that I get few opportunities to travel. Only once a year do I get an opportunity. The primary aim of this visit is visit is industrialisation of Bangla. Under the Left Front, the State had taken several steps back. Industry went for a toss. There were crores of unemployed. Hence our work was not easy. But we have managed to turn the State around. We are already the best in the country in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME). Several countries have evinced interest in Bangla. Big companies are investing. Silicon Valley Hub is being set up in Rajarhat. Investors from several countries participate in our business summits. They also invite us, and hence I have to visit.
How will this trip turn out?
We hope it would be good. This is a trip to two neighbouring countries. Both Germany and Italy are very advanced. After Frankfurt we will go to Milan. At both the places we will be interacting with the business community. I am also scheduled to meet the governor of Milan. A high-level business delegation from Bangla has come with us. Many of them are working with companies from these countries. We all know that Germany is famous for manufacturing. So was Bangla once. We will welcome them to Bangla. We want to learn from their successes. Like them, we are also very good in small scale industry. Italy is well-known for its leather industry as well as other industries. We want their help too. All in all, we want Bangla to return to the days of industrial glory. My aim is to help the youth get jobs and enable them to live with their heads held high.
The Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS) has a big role to play in the industrialisation of Bangla. Will this tour increase its significance?
Of course. Nothing like the summit used to be held earlier. The BGBS has brought in Rs 9,000 crore worth of investments to Bangla. Many industries have come up. Lakhs of youth have got jobs. It is not for nothing that 35 to 40 countries participate in the BGBS. This time more countries will come.
You are working so much, taking so many initiatives, but despite these, the Opposition is saying that nothing much is happening, that this tour too will produce no result.
Let them say what they want. The Opposition n our State is always negative. They do not help out for any good cause; neither do they understand the minds of the people. However I have faith in the people. What they say is very important for me. My fight is for them. I have not become a Chief Minister for any kind of gain. That there has been a ‘poriborton’ (change) in every sphere of society is quite evident. That is why I need not give any reaction to what the Opposition is saying. My challenge is to get Bangla back to the number one position in industrialisation.
You talked about the people. How are you being able to do so much despite of the load of debts on your head?
We act as the security ring of the people. The Left Front Government has left debts worth thousands of crores of rupees. The Centre does not give us any money. In such a situation it was not easy to work to turn the State around, but we have done it. However, we have done what we have done without increasing the price of anything; rather, we are bearing the cost of implementing all social service schemes. We have taken alternative paths. About the increase in the prices of fuels, the Centre has no sense of the hardship it is causing. We though have decreased the prices by Re 1. Our government has created schemes for people for all stages of life. In which other State would you get rice at Rs 2 per kg or free medical treatment? We have finished distributing one crore bicycles to students. We equate girls with the goddess Lakshmi. Not just their studies, we are taking responsibility for their marriage too through the Rupashree Scheme. The fact is that from morning till night I think about the people. Those people who do not have the ability to fight their adversities, they know that this government works for them. Our government is a government for the people. Therefore it is the duty of our government to look after the security of the people, be it physical, social, economic or anything else.
What about the Centre?
The Central Government is a fully anti-people government. It does not do not do anything for the benefit of the common people. On the other hand, it spends crores on advertising. Naturally, all the people of the country are against the government at the Centre. The BJP will lose handsomely in the election.
Are you sure?
Of course. The next year’s election will be a referendum against the BJP. People have seen what the Central Government has done all these years. They know that if the BJP comes to power again, it will be the biggest disaster for the country. They have also realised that if the BJP returns to power, the country will not remain united.
Yes, a referendum. Everyone everywhere will vote against the BJP. They have brought so much distress to the common people that everyone is now against them. They are practising the politics of revenge against everyone opposing them. The people of the country are now united. A revolution is going to take place in India in 2019 – revolution through the ballot. The BJP will be defeated. Remember that my politics has always been for the sake of the people; hence I can understand what they want.
But would a coalition government be stable?
Of course it will be stable. The country will be gifted a stable and strong government because the government will be formed based on what the people decide. All parties will come together to work for the betterment of the country. The fight through ballot will be between the BJP and the common people. Hence who will become the prime minister will also be decided after we win the election.
Let me come to other issues. The Bagree Market fire, the Majerhat Bridge collapse – what measures are your government taking for preventing incidents like these?
We do not do politics with disasters. It is our obligation to help the people affected by disasters. However you must understand that these markets and bridges were not built during our time. Many of the constructions completed earlier were done without following rules. Even panchayats were given the responsibility to build bridges. However we do not do such things. Consider the Bagree Market fire. The building was stuffed with inflammable goods. Rules were not followed during construction. There was no space for fire engines to enter. If we try to take any measure against them, they immediately move court. The owners have even leased bathrooms. This should not have happened? Should earning money by any means whatsoever be the aim? The constructions happening now are taking place after proper permission by the Fire and Environment Departments. We are doing whatever is possible. The Majerhat Bridge will be constructed anew.
It is an undeniable fact that you have changed Kolkata. The city looks much better now. But look at the cleanliness of the riverbank you are walking on here. Why should such cleanliness not be there in Kolkata?
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, Frankfurt is home to seven lakh people whereas more number of people reside even in each one of the 141 wards of Kolkata. Possibly just ward 66 has a population of about one lakh. Secondly, the weather here is much better than ours. However, I want to put in the effort and in that I want the help of the youth and the students. Throwing waste and spitting anywhere and everywhere, and occupying land illegally has to be stopped. Whoever does them, strict action will be taken against them. Everyone come forward to create a movement for a cleaner Bangla. Everyone should make every effort to keep their city or town, their village and their locality clean. I am with everyone, at the forefront of this movement.
You think so much about others. Do you not have any wish for yourself?
I have never thought about myself and now too, I do not want to. I only want to see Bangla become number one in everything. I want to see my State lead the country like in earlier times. I am continuing my struggle with this dream in mind. I am always with the people.
This interview first appeared in Sangbad Pratidin on 18.09.2018