In conversation with

Gautam Deb
Hon'ble Minister of North Bengal Development

The Members of Trinamool Web Team had an hour long discussion with North Bengal Development Minister, Mr Gautam Deb. The Minister, in spite of his busy schedule, spared ample time for the Team and chalked out the developmental processes taking place, specifically in North Bengal in the last 240 days of the Ma, Mati, Manush Government. The Minister disclosed that the Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee will inaugurate the North Bengal Festival on February 10.

240 Days in Government, 240 days working side-by-side Didi. Please share your experience.

The North Bengal Development Ministry is a new department around 4 months old. It needed permissions and clearances to form this Ministry. However, in spite of the short time, we have been trying to do something positive, and, what has been possible, was only because of Ms. Mamata Banerjee, who stayed beside us as a guide and philosopher. She has given us the strength to work and has shown us the right path. She has expressed concern for us, as we have been working for 16-17 hours a day.

To be frank, she is more of a guardian to us.

To talk about Darjeeling, we have seen an ocean of change in a past few months. How your department did manage it?

If you go through the general situations, there is a go-slow initiative taken by any political party after winning an election. We differ.

We had a priority list before the 2011 election. We knew about the different problems in the state, problems regarding health, water, transport and many others. Moreover, there was the necessity of bringing peace back. Ms. Mamata Banerjee has shown humanity, and care besides being a strict administrator.

We started to work on North Bengal around 2 and ½ years back as instructed by Ms Mamata Banerjee. She met with the people of North Bengal in a homely manner, just like a Didi.

While visiting North Bengal during a programme organized by the Railways, she met members of 29 organizations based in North Bengal, talked to them and understood their problems.

Since we knew the problems faced by the Hill people, it had been easy to prioritize and work on them.

The Tea and Tourism Festival was a huge success…

We had the Gorkha Football Tournament, the Tea Festival and now Agro-Horticultural Festival at Gulbazar, Bijanbari. We are going to have the North Bengal Festival in February…

Do tell us about the North Bengal Festival…

Uttar Banga ke ek sutre bandha – This is the gist. There will be cultural exchange. My thanks to filmmakers like Goutam Ghosh Anjan Dutta for promoting North Bengal through their films. Benuda (Sabyasachi Chakraborty) highlighted the wildlife of North Bengal. The Festival will be held from February 10th. It will be inaugurated by the Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee at Kanchanjangha Stadium. The focus districts this year are Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling. The first day will feature simultaneous programmes at 19 places including Siliguri, Lataguri and Jalpaiguri.

The festival is a combination of sports and cultural events. While stalwarts like Ustad Rashid Khan, Bikram Ghosh and Tanmoy Bose will showcase their performances, there will be performances by Bhumi, the Bangla Band and theaters by noted groups like Pancham Vaidik, Nandikar and others.

There will be Volleyball Tournaments and on 12 February, there will be the Siliguri Marathon, with at total prize money of 2.42 Lakhs.

To add, the Chief Minister will not lay foundation stones in the upcoming visits, but, launch around 12 projects like Jalpaiguri Circuit Bench, CM Secretariat near Siliguri, a Sports Complex in Jalpaiguri, a Panchayet Residential Training Center at Rajgaunge and a Regional Disaster Management Center in the Nakshalbari block.

Tell us a bit about the work done in North Bengal in the last 240 days.

North Bengal had been a No-Industry Zone except Tea and tourism. What Ms. Mamata Banerjee did at earlier was to improve the transportation system, through Railways. Innumerable trains have been started to do this. We are now trying to improve the road connectivity. The Chief Minister has already written to the Prime Minister to repair the NH 55, NH 31 and NH 34.

We are constructing a parallel bridge to the Sebak Bridge. Roads are being lightened up and road indicators being installed.

A corporation is being formed in Siliguri. The cabinet will be approached to form a separate Police Commissionerate for Siliguri to improve law and order.

Projects at Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar are also on the list…

Of course. Jalpaiguri is getting a Circuit Bench and a Sports Complex. A 2nd campus of the North Bengal University is being formed Tourism projects are being set up at Mukti and Jaldhaka. A number of roads are being constructed for better communication. Chilapata is being made in to a Model Village.

In Cooch Behar, the Dinhata-Sitai Bridge is being constructed. Tourist spots like Sagar Dighi and Rasik Bil are being renovated. Other spots like Rajabhatkhaowa and Chalsar are also being geared up.

In the health sector, besides upgrading the existing, newer options are coming up in PPP mode. One such is a hospital in Siliguri in association with the Mission Hospitals. At Kaowakhali, another project may come up in association with Apollo.

Cooch Behar Govt. Hospital is to have a 2nd campus. A mental Hospital is being set up at Toophangaunge.

Jalapaiguri Hospital did not have proper ambulance service. We are building it.

We are also constructing Bus Stands in North Dinajpur and Maldah.

An Agricultural College and Theater Research Center is being built up at Balurghat.

Around 84 projects are being worked up on for North Bengal besides those initiated by the other departments of the State Govt.

To add up, this is just the beginning and we can expect more to come…

There is more in store. The Chief Minister will announce what else is there on her visit to North Bengal on the 12th of February.

Gautam Deb