Calcutta, Jan. 3: Mamata Banerjee today broke a recent vow and requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to “give more to Bengal” while delivering her address at the inauguration of the centenary session of the Indian Science Congress.
“Please give more to Bengal. If Bengal is developed, then India is developed. Please look at Bengal,” the chief minister said, sharing the dais with Singh for the first time since Trinamul snapped ties with UPA-II in September.
The chief minister has said several times that she shares a personal rapport with Singh. But she has also said in recent months that she is upset with the Centre for rejecting her request for a three-year moratorium on repayment of past debts and interest on it.
At a meeting in Cooch Behar a week ago, Mamata vowed that she would never “beg” for funds from the Centre. “I will not beg for funds from the Centre any more,” the chief minister had said at a rally, drawing cheers from the audience.
Today, Mamata did not specify what she meant by “more to Bengal”, but it was apparent that she was seeking central assistance to boost science and technology research in Bengal.
Bengal has several prominent centrally funded science and technology research institutes such as the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Indian Statistical Institute, SN Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Bose Institute and the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics.
“The state government never provided any financial support to these institutes. It is good that she has realised that the state can benefit only if these centres excel…. It is heartening to note that she is asking the Centre to be generous with us,” a city-based researcher said.
Mamata was seated next to Singh but it was 25 minutes after the programme started that the two were seen talking to each other. Mamata made the first move, during the speech of HRD minister Jaipal Reddy. She turned towards the Prime Minister, leaned towards him and spoke for some time.
Mamata’s speech at the event was different from her usual addresses. Probably for the first time in the recent past, she spoke about the importance of science and technology and steered clear of her pet topic — art and the cultural heritage of Bengal.
During the visit of then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton last year, Mamata had spoken to her only about the cultural heritage of Bengal, leaving several academics wondering why she did not mention the eminent scientists from Bengal.
Today, Mamata rolled out a long list of scientists from Bengal and stressed the need for scientific research for the development of the state.
She also requested for more funds to increase scholarships for research work. She said it was not possible for scientists to concentrate on research work if they were tense. “People doing research should not worry about how to run a family. They should not be under any tension,” she said. Scientists and researchers in the audience applauded.