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Fetters on Jungle Mahal minister
Cannot move freely: Hansda

Jhargram, Sept. 27: Bengal’s paschimanchal unnayan minister Sukumar Hansda has said he cannot move “freely” in the area under his care because of “threats from the Maoists” a telling statement on the state of affairs in Jungle Mahal.

“It is important for me to visit the backward areas of Jungle Mahal to assess the nature of development to be carried out there. But I cannot move freely in the villages located in dense forests because of the threat from the Maoists. The fact is that they have recently killed two Trinamul functionaries,” Hansda told The Telegraph.

Sitting in his heavily guarded home in Jhargram town police bunkers lined with sand bags can be seen at the entrance Hansda said these areas have been suffering from lack of development for the past 34 years and he would like to visit these places for a “first-hand experience” of the problems faced by the tribals there. “But as of now, my hands are tied.”

Hansda has to keep his movement restricted to towns under his care to “minimise” any danger that he may face from the Maoists. Policemen with automatic rifles not only guard his home but also accompany him wherever he goes. He mainly moves around the towns of Binpur, Salboni, Midnapore and Jhargram.

This is in stark contrast to the situation a few months ago in the run-up to the Assembly polls, when Trinamul workers had a free run in the area. They campaigned everywhere in Jungle Mahal while the CPM confined itself to the heavily guarded urban pockets.

The Maoists had then announced that they would not allow CPM leaders to enter the area and campaign but would not hinder the movement of Trinamul workers. Trinamul had won seven of the 14 seats in Maoist strongholds, which the rebels claim was their “gift” to Mamata Banerjee.

However, within a month of coming to power, Trinamul started facing problems in Jungle Mahal. The rebels slammed Mamata for failing to keep her two pre-election promises of withdrawing central forces from Jungle Mahal and releasing all political prisoners.

Hansda, however, said his government was committed to improving the lot of the poor in the interior villages of Jungle Mahal.

“What is immediately required is adequate supply of drinking water and proper roads to the nearby health centres. These two are among the most pressing problems in the remote areas. If I want to draw up the final proposal for the development of the region, visiting the trouble-torn areas is very important. Without examining the conditions in these backward areas personally, I cannot draw up the development package,” the minister said. “But there is little I can do on this front immediately.”

Police officers in West Midnapore admitted that the Maoist threat has to be taken seriously and the minister’s security could not be compromised.

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