Siliguri, Dec. 23: The North Bengal Development Council will discuss utilisation of funds for infrastructure development and increase of its staff strength in its annual meeting scheduled tomorrow.
Council chairman and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is arriving at Jalpaiguri on a two-day visit tomorrow. He will attend the second general meeting of the body at the Circuit House.
“It is important to augment the infrastructure of the Council for effective and timely utilisation of funds allocated for its development of north Bengal districts,” said Debprasad Roy, the Congress MLA from Jalpaiguri and a member of the body. “At tomorrow’s meeting, we will highlight the lack of manpower in the engineering cell of the Council — the cell has an assistant engineer and an employee — leading to delay in executing the projects.”
According to him, the strategy to engage departments like public works, irrigation and the public health engineering to implement the Council’s projects is delaying the process. “We will suggest that the Council should assign some of its projects to the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority as most of the departments have workloads of their own,” Roy added.
Ashok Mondal, the Trinamul Congress MLA from Dinhata, said the Council should be self-sufficient in its activities. “Unless the Council has a full-fledged infrastructure, it will continue to limp since it is not possible to carry out development by banking on the existing departments, as the prime objective to establish the Council was to implement additional projects apart from the schemes executed by other departments,” he said.
The Forward Bloc, represented by food minister Paresh Adhikary in the Council, will demand immediate formation of a separate department for north Bengal and filling up the post of vice-chairman. The post has been lying vacant since the death of veteran leader and former agriculture minister Kamal Guha.
“We want a minister from north Bengal to be the vice-chairman as we don’t think putting on all responsibilities on the chief minister alone is rational,” said Govinda Roy, the Jalpaiguri district secretary of the Bloc. “Recruiting more staff for the Council for speedy development work is badly needed.”
Administrative sources said more than 500 schemes, taken up by the Council in north Bengal, are awaiting completion. These include projects on health, minor irrigation, river embankment, roads, culverts, bridges and education.
“In the current financial year, the total allocation was Rs 45 crore of which we will disburse Rs 53 lakh as scholarships to poor but brilliant students of the region by January 15,” said B.L. Meena, the member-secretary of the Council and the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri, today. “The rest has been allocated for different projects submitted by the districts.”
Tomorrow’s meeting will review the progress of different schemes, Meena added.