August 29, 2014
Breaking News: The Mamata Banerjee interview
Q. Whatwould you list as the three major achievements of the Government?
Didi: We have had to build everything fromscratch. To rebuild Bengal and bring back the golden days, we have had to workvery hard. For good governance, we need short term, mid-term and long term planningto run a State. The Left had none. Bengal is facing financial crisis because ofthe Left. They did not follow fiscal discipline. We have implemented the FRBMsystem. A major share of our revenue has been spent on paying debt instalments,the Centre has not paid us almost Rs 1 lakh crore. If we had the money, wecould have done more developmental work for the people.
You know that the Centre takes revenues andtaxes from States. If they did not do so, we would have had more money in the treasury to work for the people. We kept increasing our revenue from 2011. Ourrevenue is now Rs 39,600 crore. But each year, even the instalment of debtrepayment has increased.
DVC has invested for a 500 MW power plant inRaghunathpur. SAIL is setting up world’s second largest industry at Durgapur. Theyhave invested Rs 20,000 crore. NTPC has set up thermal power plants at Katwa. Wegave them land
When I was Railway Minister, I announced industriesfor Haldia which has been implemented. A total of 13 railway projects have beencompleted.
We have land at Panagarh industrial park,Vidyasagar industrial park, Goaltore industry hub – investments are pouring in.United Nations wants to set up a skill development centre in Kolkata. Korea isinterested in investing in Bengal.
The growth in bank credit flow in MSMEsector has been 105% in Bengal. In States like Gujarat it is only 35%. OurManifesto said we will set up 17 clusters. We have already set up over 100clusters. Bengal is No. 1 in 100 DaysWork Scheme.
Kanyashree is now a global model. Under the scheme, we have registered 16 lakh girls andtransferred funds to their accounts.
We are No. 1 in skill development. We havecheap labour. The youth in Bengal are talented.
Q.Big manufacturing industry is not interested in Bengal because of nonavailability of land…
Didi: This is false propaganda. We have allotted1,000 acres of land at Goaltore only a few days ago. We have created land bankand land map. We are against forceful acquisition of land. Private players canacquire land directly through negotiation. Even in Singapore, we havehighlighted that we are ready to allot land from land bank.
We are developing ITI is every block of theState. We are setting up Kisan Mandis. About 1 crore people in Bengal areunemployed. To generate employment, we have to formulate some policies. That iswhy we are focusing on skill development.
Earlier, there were hardly any ITIs inBengal. Now, every block will have one. We are asking private players to adoptITIs. Companies like Raymond’s are coming to Bengal to provide training andplacement for the youth. Samsung has signed a MoU with us to provide skilldevelopment for the youth.
Q. Butthe Govt is taking loans…
Didi: No. This is absolutely incorrect. We havesigned FRBM. We have limitations. The Left took loans for even small scalesavings schemes. Revenue growth is highest in our country. We have a laxman rekha which we cannot cross. FRBMis that line. We can take loans.
GDP is the best index of economic growth ofa country. I am citing facts, not peddling lies. Anyone can crosscheck. India’sGDP growth is 4.9%. Despite our financial burden, Bengal’s GSDP growth is7.71%. We have achieved this goal. Agriculture growth for India is 4.6% whilethat of Bengal is 5.28%. In industrial production, growth rate of India is0.7% while that of Bengal is 9.58%. Service sector growth for India is 5.9%while for Bengal it is 7.8%. Those who are criticising us, should feel proud forthe progress made by the State.
Those who want to pursue maliciouspropaganda, will keep doing so. Let them do that. We will only work for thedevelopment of Bengal.
Q.Firebrand Opposition leader or Administrative Head – which role are youenjoying the most?
Didi: I enjoy both the roles. For me ideals arethe most important. Our first priority is Maa, Mati, Manush. Trinamool Congressis for the people, of the people, by the people. We left the UPA when I was the Chief Minister.This chair I sit on is the chair of the people.
Those who should feel proud that the Stateis being branded globally, are criticising us. This is sad. What is the Centredoing? They are bringing FDI in Railways.
Q. ButMr Jaitley is saying you oppose FDI but went to Singapore for investment
Didi: Jaitley ji is showing us FDI, we areshowing him PPP. There should be a way out when you have to work for thepeople. We are against forceful acquisition, but we have the alternative of landbank. When I was Railway Minister, I followed austerity measures and saved Rs2,000 crore. But the BJP is selling offeverything. Why do they need FDI? We might partner with foreign companies fortechnology. But we cannot sell off the country. Hiking fares is not thesolution.
We stand by the common people. If we allow anti-peoplepolicies, what will the man on the street eat? How will daily labourerssurvive? There was an economic crisis in America and Europe. People were incrisis. If such an economic crisis happens again, who will save the people ofIndia?
Q.Do you have the same connect with the grassroots as the CM, like you did whenyou were in Opposition?
Didi: Of course. If I had no connection tograssroots, how could we have become No. 1 in 100 Days work? How could I haveimplemented Kanyashree?
We have conducted 73 block leveladministrative meetings in the last 3 years. This is unprecedented in theworld. I have visited Jangalmahal many times. I listen to the people. Let metell you an incident. I was in Singapore, but as soon as I got the news that abarrage at Kaljani river broke, flooding many villages, I immediately orderedmy team to take necessary action.
I am still a rebel. I do not run away. Iwas on hunger strike for 26 days… I do not believe in showing off power. I amstill Didi… some people may call meMadam, but that is just protocol… I still call Pranabda Dada, with hispermission.
Q. Yousay your Government is that of Maa, Mati,Manush. But the number of crimes against Maa(women) is on the rise.
Didi: I am against any rape or any act ofviolence. But if such things happen, we have to take measures to bring aboutsocial change. I want to ask those who are talking about rapes – do they reallywant a solution to rapes? No.
We have started 26 women’s police stations.We have set up 40 women’s courts. We have re-launched 88 fast-track courts.Some media houses report about a case that was solved in 3 months. They neverreport about cases in Balurghat or Malda that were solved in one a a half month.
And, so many politicians of differentparties have made so many inciting speeches. Why did nobody protest then?
In Bengal, the number of rapes has come down by12%. These statistics are determined by the population. We do not want rapes to bepoliticised. So many cases of riots are happening in other States. We aregiving shelter to refugees.
Q. Whatdo you have to say about the rise of communalism in Bengal?
Didi: BJP is trying to incite violence in Bengal.We will not allow it. We will not allow communal riots in Bengal. People of allfaiths live in Bengal. We cannot allow this fabric of unity to be broken. Inthe 1800s and 1990s, renaissance in India began from Bengal. Bengal has alwaysled the way. Even fair price medicine shops of Bengal are a national model now.
Before daydreaming about forming governmentin Bengal, they have to win some seats. Forget 294, let them first win 5 seats!Why did we win 34 seats? Because we are always with the people. We work for thepeople.
We believe in unity. Nana bhasha, nana mot, nana poridhan. Bibidher majhe dekho Milan mohan.We always believe in the motto of brotherhood.
Q.So you are worried about the rise of the BJP?
Didi: Not at all. Why should I be worried abouttheir rise? These days, some leaders who are no longer wanted in Left, arejoining the BJP. They have only one policy – divide and rule. They want toincite violence and win votes. We will not allow that. The great land of Bengalbelieves in the spirit of equality and unity.
Q. Agrand alliance was formed in Bihar to counter Modi. Is there a possibility ofsuch an alliance in Bengal?
Didi: No one is politically untouchable. Ifthe opportunity comes, we will consider it. The alliance must be pro-developmentand pro-people. The proposal must come to us. We will take up the proposal inour party meeting. I am a worker of Trinamool Congress. People are my assets.
I congratulate Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitishjiand Congress for their alliance. If they formed an alliance before the LokSabha polls, they would have won more seats.
Q. Some people say you are the best student ofthe Leftists…
Didi: I am always receptive to ideas. If there isa good policy, I will surely imbibe it. I have always said I am not against Leftistideology. I am against opportunist Leftists. So many of my party colleagues areLeftists. There is nothing wrong in that.
Q. Whatdo you have to say about the criticism of the Opposition?
Didi: Criticism is always welcome. But it shouldbe constructive. Our Opposition does not do that. They only peddle lies, engagein malicious propaganda. What did the Left do for 34 years? They have committedso many crimes. If you dig further, skeletons will tumble out of their closets.
In 1992, Kolkata was burning after the BabriMasjid demolition. I was out on the streets helping victims. I even rushed toWriters’ Buildings to offer help to the government. But we do not instigateriots or violence.
Q.What about the grassroots workers who are engaging in anti-social activities?
Didi: Those who are involved with dalali and anti-social activities do nothave the backing of the party. If people misuse our party’s name, we takeaction.
Our motto is that there should not be anyagitation by locking out industries. Our state in the earlier regime sufferedfrom unnecessary industrial strikes resulting in massive loss of productiveman-days. Not any more. I am happy to share with you that we have brought astoppage to bandh! We have had zero man days lost in the last fiscal.
Earlier, when I was the Railway Minister, ifthere was even one cockroach found on trains, it made headlines. Now whensomeone else is in power, even the deaths of hundreds do not make it to news.Those who engage in malicious propaganda during elections – people will givethem a fitting reply.
Q. TheSaradha scam has unravelled the Bengal political scenario…
Didi: The Saradha scam is CPM’s aamdani and BJP’s jamdani. When did the Saradha scam happen? When Left was in power.So many other chit fund scams happened during the Left Front rule – like Sanchayitaand Sanchita.
If some media house wants my time for aninterview, will I say no? Who clears new media houses? It is the Union Ministryof Information and Broadcasting. From Saradhakando to Lanka kando, it is theCPM which is responsible. They cannot counter us politically, so they arespreading lies.
We had our own MP arrested – we had theowner of Saradha arrested from Kashmir. We formed a Commission to return themoney to the people. True perpetrators must be arrested. But real culprits must notbe let off by the CBI. The SEBI, RBI must look into other chit funds.
After coming to power, we passed ananti-chit fund law. The Centre kept sitting on it. They suggested changes, wemade the amendments. Why have they still not cleared it?
We are fully cooperating with the CBI. We haveprovided all infrastructure. We want the real culprits of Saradha scam and otherchit funds to be arrested.
I appeal to people not to invest in chitfunds.
Q.Intellectuals are changing camps nowadays. Everyone seems to be in your camp.What do you have to say?
Didi: I do not think intellectuals have any camps.I believe in building relationships. Dwijenda, Sandhyadi… they were inoblivion. I only wanted them to come back to public domain again. From films totelevision, I want Bengal to prosper. We have developed Technicians’ Studio. Wehave started developing jatra. FromBollywood to Hollywood, everyone is coming to Bengal now. We have instituted somany awards – Banga Bibhushan, KhelRatna, Sangeet Samman, Jatra Awards – we are honouring the best in Bengal.When Subodh Sarkar was a Leftist, he was honoured. Now that he is supportingus, he has become a laughing stock for the Left? Why?
Q: TheOpposition says that your government is more busy organising utsav than working for development. Whatwould you say?
Didi: So we should stop utsavs? Why should we stop programmes if the Opposition does notlike it? Just because they do not like it, the clubs will not play sport? Therewill be no Sangeet Sammelan, Jatra Utsav?Will we not organise Science Fair, Krishi Mela?
People are the pillars of democracy. Howcan we leave them behind? We have to work with the people and for the people.
Q:You prefer the company of celebs… even Trinamool had star candidates for LokSabha polls?
Didi: If three people out of 42 are celebrities,why is there a problem? We have doctorate MPs, we have doctors. We have giventickets to SC/STs. 33% of our MPs are women. We have young people. There arejournalists. People have voted for them. Sandhya Roy is an MP now. I am a smallperson. How can people vote for my name? Everyone who won elections did so ontheir own merit.
Q.Last but not the least… what is your vision for Bengal?
Didi: My vision for Bengal is: Bangla abar jogotsobhay srestho ason lobe.We will make Bengal the best State in the world. Bengal’s lost glory will berestored. Bangla Ma will smile again.