By Sirshendu Panth, IANS,
Kolkata : A 14-day river cruise on the Ganges, extension of the Kolkata metro rail, several new trains, more rural jobs – a large central bounty will come the way of West Bengal if the union ministers of the Trinamool Congress have their way.
Trinamool chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee along with her party’s six union ministers of state, all of whom hail from West Bengal, intend to chalk out and implement development plans fast with an eye on the 2011 assembly polls.
Minister of State for Tourism Sultan Ahmed told IANS: “The state has a lot of untapped tourism potential. I think the state occupies a very important place in the eastern region tourist circuit.”
He said his ministry was planning to extend the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway toy train, now running between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, up to Gangtok in Sikkim.
“Tourists visiting Sikkim can then take a joyride on the toy train, which has world heritage status, up to Darjeeling. There can be another toy train line between Darjeeling and Mirik.”
Ahmed also spoke of a 14-day river cruise on the Ganges from Kolkata to Varanasi, touching several Buddhist religious sites, including Bodh Gaya in Bihar.
“We will also monitor state government projects which are pending. I will sit with the state government,” he said.
The Trinamool, after all, put up a stiff fight against West Bengal’s ruling Left Front and its main constituent Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M). It tasted success with its strident agitation against farmland acquisition for industry.
And now it wants to expose what it calls were irregularities committed by the Left Front government in implementing central schemes and its alleged incompetence during an uninterrupted 32-year stint in power. Its other agenda is to usher in development.
To kickstart these plans, Banerjee is launching the Kandari Express running between the sea tourist resort of Digha in East Midnapore district and the city’s gateway Howrah station.
Two pairs of trains will run on the route daily and supporters of the ‘Didi of Kalighat’ – as she is popularly called – term it a big step in fulfilling her pre-poll promise of turning Digha into Goa.
Banerjee has herself promised to modernise a large number of stations, including Howrah, and speed up completion of the extended run of the north-south metro train from Tollygunge up to Garia.
She is likely to announce several new trains, the laying of new lines, the doubling of railway tracks, and allocate money in her July 1 budget for fast completion of several long-pending projects.
Minister of State for Urban Development Sougata Roy said his priority would be to ensure the proposed east-west metro rail work in the city is put on fast track.
Minister of State for Rural Development Sisir Adhikari said he would look into why the state “performed so dismally” in implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which had become an issue in the Lok Sabha polls after Congress general secretary and MP Rahul Gandhi cited statistics on this front.
“I will see where the fault lies and force the government to plug the loopholes. We will demand the accounting of every paisa sent by the centre in my ministry over the last 10 years,” said Adhikari, who won the Contai Lok Sabha seat from East Midnapore district.
“We can have houses under the Indira Awaas Yojana. People can be given 100 days’ work under the NREGA. We can take up projects for rainwater harvesting.
“In West Bengal, health services are in a shambles. Four percent of the NREGA funds are supposed to be spent in building up health infrastructure,” he said.
Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Dinesh Trivedi is laying stress on setting up another AIIMS-like hospital in Raiganj.
“Besides, we will try to find out the causes for the dismal situation in the sector in the state. And we will then spruce up the facilities in sub-centres, primary health centres and other rural hospitals”.
(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at [email protected])