Deb gives out free potatoes in Bijanbari on Wednesday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Bijanbari, Oct. 2: North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb today distributed free rice, flour and potatoes to hill residents in Bijanbari in a bid to woo local people.
About 300 people gathered today at Bijanbari, about 35km from Darjeeling town, to take the free grain while Deb criticised the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
Several hill businessmen were arrested last month on the suspicion that they had helped the Morcha by diverting PDS grains to the party, which distributed the supply in the hill towns on strike days.
Deb said the distribution of free food grain was a sign of the Trinamul’s commitment to stand by the people in the hills. “This is the commitment of our party to stand by the poor people. We are not a rich party but our party is rich in its heart,” the minister said.
During the hill strike, the government had tried to distribute food grain, but there were few takers then.
But today, as Trinamul leaders were making speeches inside the Bijanbari community hall, there was a constant trickle of people to the place where the food grain was stocked.
Rupmaya Subba, a villager of Lower Samanden busty in Darjeeling, said: “Even during the bandh, we had heard that rations were being distributed at the BDO’s office. We were, however, told then that we should not accept the rations. However, this time no one has told us not to collect rations.”
Before the distribution of food grain, Deb lambasted the Morcha.
“We are aware of the atmosphere in the hills, and despite this you have come. We will always stand by you. I have just inspected the Bijanbari bridge and it has not been constructed properly. I will immediately call up the PWD minister and the chief engineer on the poor quality of construction,” Deb said.
He added: “I know the son-in-law of a GTA executive member has constructed this bridge but we will not spare anyone. Even Bimal Gurung is not above the law of the land.”
Deb said he had been to places where Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri had not visited in the hills.
“I trekked for one hour and forty-five minutes in Sitong to reach places where Roshan Giri, the GTA member of the area, has not visited. Our chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, has come to the hills 18 times and no other previous chief minister had visited the hills so many times,” Deb said.
The Trinamul leader also said the party would take to the streets to protests the Centre’s role in calling a tripartite meeting without consulting the state government.
A bus service between Bijanbari and Siliguri was also flagged off today by the minister. A Trinamul leader also announced that GTA workers would be joining the party in Kurseong on October 6.
GTA member arrest
GTA member Arun Sinji, who is the Sabha representative for the Soureni seat, was arrested on Wednesday.
The cases against him, of alleged arson and a clash with GNLF supporters, are old.