Siliguri, Aug. 22: North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb today announced a slew of education projects in the Terai, with an eye on the polls to the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad scheduled next year.
“We have decided to open a Hindi college at Hatighisa near Naxalbari, an industrial training institute in Kharibari block and a degree college at Ghoshpukur in Phansidewa block,” the minister told journalists here this afternoon.
“Also, arts streams will be introduced at the APC College at Himanchal Bihar in Matigara block,” he added.
The projects will come up in the rural areas of Siliguri subdivision, where elections to the seven seats of the Mahakuma Parishad, four panchayat samitis and 28 panchayats are scheduled for in July-August next year.
Sources said the projects were aimed at improving the electoral prospects of the Trinamul in the blocks of Matigara, Naxalbari, Khoribari and Phansidewa which make up the Mahakuma Parishad area.
“It is a long-drawn strategy of Trinamul to take up infrastructure schemes about a year ahead of the polls. Trinamul is pulling out all the stops to make inroads into the Terai where the party is third in terms of strength. The two MLAs from rural areas of Siliguri — Sankar Malakar from Matigara-Naxalbari constituency and Sunil Tirkey from Phansidewa. — belong to the Congress, while the CPM commands majority in the Mahakuma Parishad,” said an observer.
He noted that 15 panchayats in the Mahakuma Parishad area were ruled by the CPM and the rest by the Congress. The Congress and CPM run two panchayat samitis each.
“Mamata Banerjee knows well that it will be a tough task for Trinamul to defeat the Congress and the CPM. That is why Deb has initiated a number of projects in the Mahakuma Parishad area under his department or the SJDA. The chief minister had sought to win people’s hearts in the Darjeeling hills and the Terai in similar way by announcing a number of development projects for the region,” said the observer.
The announcement of a Hindi college can be construed as the government’s bid to appease the tribal people and the Gorkhas, who form major portion of the electorate in the Terai and speak the language.
The minister also elaborated on the progress of the work on the regional disaster management centre of north Bengal, slated to be inaugurated at Hatighisa ahead of Durga Puja.
“The disaster management centre will function for all the six north Bengal districts. The construction of buildings is almost complete on a three-acre plot and we expect it to be opened ahead of Puja. My department had paid Rs 3 crore for the project and the additional expenditure has been borne by the state disaster management department,” he said.
“The centre will be the first-of-its-kind in the region and will have all equipment like ladders and boats needed to tackle natural calamities and other forms of disasters.”
The total cost of the project is estimated to be around Rs 6 crore. Hatighisa is 20km from here.
He said the fourth bridge over the Mahananda in Siliguri would be opened before the festive season. The bridge will link Siliguri to Matigara block.