Diamond Harbour, Oct. 4: Mamata Banerjee today criticised the Centre for slashing the subsidy on LPG cylinders, saying the responsibility would lie with Delhi if the school midday meal scheme was discontinued.
She urged people gathered at a government programme in Diamond Harbour to join her protest “in thousands”, apparently mobilising support in the run-up to the panchayat polls next year.
“What does this government think? It will get away with all these anti-people decisions? A big hike in cooking gas price will burn a hole in the common man’s pockets. The central government believes in overburdening the poor. I urge all of you to join our protest,’’ the chief minister said.
The crowd gathered at the Sarisha High School grounds braved torrential rain to listen to Mamata and clapped when she thundered against the Centre.
Referring to the meal scheme, she said: “Doesn’t the government there (Delhi) know that midday meals are prepared using LPG cylinders? But cylinders will have to be bought for a huge price. That’s unimaginable. I will hold them responsible if the midday meal scheme is discontinued.’’
Self-help groups in over 50 schools in neighbouring North 24-Parganas have stopped preparing midday meals since Monday after LPG dealers refused to give them cylinders at subsidised rates.
A central notification has created a non-subsidised category for hospitals and school midday meals. In the new category, schools and hospitals will have to pay around Rs 1,100 for a cylinder, against the Rs 401 they have been paying till now.
Apparently with an eye on the panchayat polls, Mamata announced a slew of development projects and said she was “concerned” about minority welfare.
Earlier in the day, the chief minister held a meeting with the South 24-Parganas administration and asked the district magistrate to ensure that tourism in the Sunderbans was given importance and the transport system “taken care of”.
Several of the Basirhat schools where midday meals have been stopped since Monday asked self-help groups today to switch to alternative fuel such as kerosene, firewood and coal.