September 12, 2014
Sahara sponsored Indian cricket team. Will you blame cricketers for Sahara`s activities?: WB CM`s exclusive interview
Q. Threeyears have passed since you came to power. How has the transition fromOpposition to administration been?
Didi: We had to build everything from scratch. When we came to power, wehad a negative treasury. We have inherited a debt of Rs 2 lakh crore. We keptincreasing our revenue from 2011. Our revenue is now Rs 39,600 crore. But eachyear, even the installment of debt repayment has increased.
I am citing some facts and figures. Anyonecan crosscheck them. India's GDP growth is 4.9%. Despite our financial burden,Bengal's GSDP growth is 7.71%. We have achieved this goal. Agriculture growthfor India is 4.6% while that of Bengal is 5.28%. In industrial production,growth rate of India is 0.7% while that of Bengal is 9.58%. Service sectorgrowth for India is 5.9% while for Bengal it is 7.8%. Those who are criticisingus, should feel proud for the 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. Some people over-hype Gujarat, whereas they live inBengal. They cannot see the good happening here.
We have started Kanyashree scheme for women empowerment, Yuvashree scheme for the unemployed youth. We are honouring farmerswith Krishi Ratna awards. We have distributedrecord number of Kisan credit cards. We generated jobs for fishermen.
Bengal is now the model for India.Jangalmahal and the Hills were burning. Now peace prevails there. Politicalviolence has come down manifold. We have not forgotten Keshpur, Netai,Nandigram, Singur…
Q:What would you list as your major achievements in these three years?
Didi:Bengal is No. 1 in 100 Days Work Scheme. Kanyashree is now a global model. Underthe scheme, we have registered 16 lakh girls and transferred funds to theiraccounts. We are No. 1 in skill development. The youth in Bengal are talented.
There were only 38 colleges in Bengal till2011. We have set up 31 colleges in last 3 years. During Left Front rule, only1 university was formed. We set up 8 new universities in 3 years. We arestarting ITIs in every block and polytechnic colleges in every sub-division.
We are developing tourism. A wax museum iscoming up in Rajarhat. We will set up a Safari Park in North Bengal on thelines of Singapore. We have developed Gazaldoba. Several initiatives are beingtaken.
Q:You are the first CM who has taken the Secretariat to the grassroots. How areyou reaping the benefits?
We conduct administrative meetings on aregular basis. From CMO to BDO, everyone attends these meetings. We haveconducted 72 such meetings. We are a government of the people. People will notcome to us, we have to go to them.
We have formed an Administrative Calendarfor monitoring developmental projects. We have also passed the Right to ServiceAct. We are here to serve the people.
Q:You work at a very rapid pace. Sometimes your ministers cannot match your paceof work…
Didi: No, I do not think that is true. Somepeople work fast and some people are slow. Our priority is to take the surge ofdevelopment to all districts.
Q: Themetro projects in Kolkata are struck because of land issue. Centre says theState government is not cooperating
Didi: This is not true. The East-West metroproject was announced when I was not the Railway Minister. The routes decidedwere impractical. To build the metro on the same route, we have to evict a lotof people, which is not possible.
Q: Youhave been very proactive in wooing investors to the State. But there are hardlyany new big industries in the State…
Didi: This is absolutely wrong. When I was the Rail Minister, I allottedseveral big projects for Bengal. SAIL is setting up world's second largestindustry at Durgapur. They have invested Rs 20,000 crore. NTPC has set upthermal power plants at Katwa. We gave them land. DVC has invested for a 500 MWpower plant in Raghunathpur. NHPC will set up 4 hydel power projects in Bengal.Those who are saying Bengal has no big projects, are lying. Industry is growingin the State.
We have formed a land bank. We have land atPanagarh industrial park. There is land at Vidyasagar industrial park, Goaltoreindustry hub. Dalmia group has set up a world-class cement factory in theState.
We have also started model city project.Several cities like Siliguri, Bolpur will be included. We are developing thesea beaches; we are developing Jharkhali as a tourist destination. Coochbehargot a small runway. We have introduced helicopter facilities betweenCoochbehar, Durgapur and Kolkata. Changhi group has increased their stake atAndal airport.
Bengal is a model now. Fair pricediagnostic centres and fair price medicine shops are national models.
Q: BJPcompleted 100 days in power at the Centre. How do you rate the 100 days?
Didi: BJP came to power saying they willbring Achhe Din. But actually, rone waledin have arrived. They have brought FDI in Railways. I support PPP but notFDI in Railways. They have also hiked FDI in defence. The prices of fuel andother essential items are increasing. The Prime Minister is only spending onadvertisements and PR.
Q: Whatare your views on the Saradha scam and the Opposition's charges against you?
When did the Saradha scam happen? When Leftwas in power. So many other chit fund scams happened during the Left Front rule- like Sanchayini and Sanchaita. The Congress, BJP and the Left are trying toprotect the real culprits. Trinamool has not taken a penny from Saradha.
The Opposition raises this issue onlybefore elections. The people showered us with their blessings in Panchayat aswell as Lok Sabha elections. The Opposition's tactics did not work.
Who gave clearance to the media channels ofSaradha? The Central government did. It is not our responsibility if a few pujacommittees took Saradha's sponsorship. Congress and BJP were in power inCentre, why did they not take any action.
Some people, who indulge in politics ofdivision and communalism, are saying I cheated 17 lakh people. What audacity isthat? They do not know the real facts. 12 lakh people, not 17, were duped bySaradha. Moreover, after coming to power, we passed an anti-chit fund law. TheCentre kept sitting on it. They suggested changes, we made the amendments. Whyhave they still not cleared it?
We had the owner of Saradha arrested fromKashmir. We formed a Commission to return the money to the people. TheOpposition is raising the issue of chit funds only ahead of elections. We evengot our own MP arrested.
Indian cricket, football teams are sponsoredby scam-tainted Sahara, so can they be accused of taking illegally-earned moneyof Sahara?
The media is engaging in smear campaign.They are peddling lies and malicious propaganda. They are not showing anyfacts.
Q: Butyour party's image has taken a hit…
It is not a big issue. The media isengaging in cheap lies and malicious propaganda. They are showing the State inbad light. When I went to Singapore, people were surprised that the media issaying such bad things about our Government. They were impressed with ourgrowth.
Our biggest judge is the people. I amanswerable only to the people. They will decide Trinamool's future. I listen tothe voice of the people, not what media says.
Q:Several people joined your party after 2011. Some say the new entrants arebringing your party a bad name…
Didi: I do not think so. Those who believe in our ideology and want tobecome a part of Bengal's progress are welcome. Every family has some badelements. Does that mean entire family is bad? No. Even the media has some badelements. We have more good people than bad.
Q: Whatis your vision for future for your party?
I have come to power to serve the people.This chair is a seat of thrones for me, not a bed of roses. I am proud thatpeople of Bengal reposed their faith on me. I have come to this position afteryears of struggle.
We are working day in and day out for thepeople, but a section of the media is not highlighting that. Some people havethe crab mentality. They are trying to pull us back as we are taking Bengalforward. I appreciate criticism but not opposition for the sake of it.
BiswaBangla is my brand and I am working tirelessly forthe people. I feel pained at the attitude of a section of the people who loveto indulge in character-assassination.
Q: Do you getirritated for after all this hard work?
Didi: I like to work; I goto the people, so I am not tired by so much work. Government will go to people.If I don't go to the grassroots level, how would I understand what thesituation is? I am blamed for my modest background and modest education. Is itmy fault that I do not have English medium schooling?
Q: Does politicstire you?
Didi: We came to servepeople. Crores are being spent by others for campaigns. We are poor, so we aretalking about electoral reforms. I try to paint, write & sell them to runmy party. The money goes to Jago Bangla. As per the accusations of others,should I stop painting and writing? How will I sustain my family and myTrinamool party?
Q: Alot of complaints are emerging that your party workers are involved in syndicates…
Didi: I am against syndicates. But I do not believe all syndicates arebad. Are all promoters bad? Are all labourers bad? I do not think so. Thesyndicate raj started during Left era. They corrupted the system.
Q:The education sector in Bengal is passing through an alarming phase. What areyour views on that?
Didi: I have also been involved in student politics. Generations changeand practices evolve over time. I believe that we must not highlight one of twobad incidents and paint everyone as bad. I would tell my students not to engagein malpractices. Teacher-student relationship is very pure. That must bepreserved and the initiative must be taken from both sides.
Q:Walking is your addiction…
Didi: Laughs. I try to walk 10km every day. I do this to keep healthy. Even writing is my passion. I alsolike musical instruments. I have an ektara… I love to walk. I increasedtreadmill exercise because after elections I became very weak. We will also gofor trekking to Sandakphu. This keeps me fresh and healthy. We are goingthrough a phase of mental pollution, because of the malicious propaganda goingon in the State. Sometimes the brain needs respite.
Q:Those who have followed you over the years, say that your health hasdeteriorated…
Didi: I survive only on muri. Iam working hard for the people of Bengal. Even if my health deteriorates further,I will work even harder to take the State to new heights of glory.
Q: Thefestive season is approaching. What would be your message for the people ofBengal and India at large, for Durga Pujo?
Didi: I have only one message. Celebrate the Durga Puja festival withfull fervour, pray for peace. Worship the Goddess and stay healthy and fine.
Shiuliphooler subas niye sharat elo chole,
Kholamathe kaser phool hawar tale dole,
Ronginaalo charpashete matiye dilo mon,
Shuruholo Maa-er pujor sei subhokkhon.