A village police guard tries to touch Mamata’s feet at Nagrakata. (Sanjoy Ghosh)
Nagrakata, Dec. 28: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today handed out pattas to tribal tea workers in the Dooars and then got one village police recruit all nervous when she asked him to speak on stage.
“We have identified 500 acres lying with the government outside the tea gardens. We have thought of giving three cottahs each to the families working in the tea gardens. Around 8,000 families would be given pattas in the next three-four months,” Mamata told the crowd of nearly 5,000, mostly tribals.
“There are many schemes. We will try to provide them with loans for building houses in phases,” Mamata said. “As an MP, I had fought for tea garden workers to get them panchayat rights, otherwise it would not have happened,” she said.
The rally was at the European Club grounds that is about 80km from Siliguri where Mamata called five youths recruited as village policemen on stage and then prodded them to speak.
She asked them when they had joined work. “Come one by one and tell the people from which month you got your appointment,” she told the five. “Tell them, tell them,” she said again.
One of the youths fumbled. “I am feeling nervous, Madam,” he mumbled before saying he had joined on December 8.
Mamata often broke into Hindi to connect with the mainly tribal audience, and did not refer to the Adivasi Vikas Parishad that is fighting for the tribals’ cause in the Dooars and Terai.
Adivasi leader John Barla, who now leads the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha unit in the Dooars, was present at the rally. Barla’s party is mulling an alliance with Trinamul in the panchayat polls, which is just months away.
No leader of the Adivasi Vikas Parishad was present. “We are asking for rights in the land where the tribals live in the tea gardens. This is just a small step,” said Rajesh Lakra, a Parishad leader.
Mamata also announced her government’s decision to set up a 50-bed hostel for girls of Nagrakata Girls’ High School. She also announced a Hindi college to be set up at Binnaguri and Banarhat.
The chief minister also harped on her plans to create tourism centres in Dooars that would help generate employment for local .
“Our government has earmarked Rs 72 crore for the development of tourism in Jalpaiguri. If the government puts in Rs 72 crore, then the private sector will pump in Rs 7,200 crore. When more tourists start coming hotels, shops would be set up and business volume will increase, providing employment for the locals,” she said.