Calcutta, March 12: The six north Bengal districts will get a major chunk of the development pie.
Minister for planning and development Nirupam Sen told the Assembly today that the government intended to give top priority to the development of the Group of Six — Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Malda and the two Dinajpurs.
During question hour, the minister said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee would inaugurate a cluster of 12 factories, including the first-ever jute mill in north Bengal and a nylon mosquito net producing plant in Cooch Behar on March 15. He added that the mosquito net factory would be the first of its kind in the state.
The minister said the government’s main objective was to bring the backward districts of north Bengal and Purulia, Bankura and the Sunderbans in south Bengal at par with other economically developed areas in the state.
“We have set up a development council for north Bengal which prepares schemes for each of the six districts separately. We admit that lack of development projects in north Bengal in the past has caused much harm to the people there. That is why we have now decided to put maximum thrust on developing the northern region in the plan,” Sen said.
The minister said lack of development was not the sole reason for the birth of the secessionist movement in north Bengal. “We can effectively tackle the problem by generating employment since a number of youths, who have joined the extremist outfits, happen to be unemployed,” he asserted.
The minister claimed that the government had pumped in Rs 22 crore for infrastructure development in north Bengal, despite its current financial crunch. “More investments are coming,” he added.
“There has been a welcome change in the attitude of the investors. We have received proposals worth Rs 200 crore from prospective investors who are interested in setting up shop in the agro-sector. The government alone cannot develop the area without support from private investors,” he said.
Admitting that Scheduled Castes and Tribes in north Bengal have been the worst sufferers of the neglect, Sen said special schemes were being drafted for their economic welfare. The Centre, he informed, had agreed to fund a number of special development schemes for areas in north Bengal that share borders with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
“The Border Areas Development Project has already been set up with Central assistance to implement the schemes in these sensitive areas. We believe economic prosperity in the frontier villages can put an end to smuggling and other criminal activities along the international border,” Sen said.