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Decentralise stress in CM missive
Tourism, panchayat on Uttarkanya list

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee hoists the Tricolour outside Uttarkanya, the mini-secretariat for north Bengal that was opened on Monday on the outskirts of Siliguri. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Siliguri, Jan. 20: Mamata Banerjee today opened north Bengal’s mini-secretariat, Uttarkanya, on the outskirts of Siliguri, stressing the need for decentralising the administration to bring it closer to people.

“It would take time for files to reach Calcutta from here and then wait till those were cleared…. From now, the officials will not have to wait for Calcutta,” Mamata said after inaugurating the building in the presence of ministers, parliamentary secretaries, MLAs, GTA Sabha members and other public representatives from the six north Bengal districts.

The mini-secretariat at Kamrangaguri, 6km from Siliguri town, cost the state exchequer Rs 60 crore.

“In these 32 months, we have achieved what could not be done in 66 years…. A government runs on the manifesto prepared by a political party before it comes to power. It is our duty to fulfil our commitments,” the chief minister said.

The 80,000sqft office space would house around 20 government departments but the chief minister also reminded that making a new building was not enough to fulfil people’s aspirations.

“We need more officers…. There is a shortage of officials. Some appointments have been made but we need more people,” she said after completing a tour of the building.

A girl who performed for the Uttarkanya opening ceremony. (Pradip Sanyal)

She added it would take around a month for work to start at the mini-secretariat in full swing.

Apart from the chief minister’s office, Uttarkanya will house branches of the departments of commerce and industry, agriculture, north Bengal development, hill affairs, school education, and health, among others. Mamata said later that there were also plans to start branches of the tourism, irrigation and panchayat departments.

Trinamul has succeeded in making inroads into north Bengal in successive elections. Like in south Bengal, in the north the party has benefited from the exodus of Congress workers to the ruling party.

The chief minister is on a five-day trip to north Bengal, which started with today’s inauguration of the mini-secretariat and the Uttar Banga Utsav that began later in the day at Kanchenjungha Stadium here.

The chief minister had promised a separate secretariat for the north Bengal districts, a longstanding demand of residents, in her poll manifesto. Construction on the 16-acre plot started in November 2012 and was completed in 13 months.

The chief minister went around the secretariat and assigned rooms to chief secretary Sanjay Mitra and director-general of police G.M.P. Reddy.

The chief minister had a word of caution for the Opposition and the militant outfit, Kamtapur Liberation Organisation, which has renewed its activities in the area.

“For 34 years, they had no idea what to do…. This new building has come up and they can come to submit deputations but it does not mean they can resort to hooliganism and destroy property,” she said.

The chief minister also handed over compensation of Rs 2 lakh each and promised jobs to the families of six killed in the Jalpaiguri blast, allegedly triggered by the KLO.

At the Uttar Banga Utsav later in the day, Mamata gave away the Banga Ratna award to six persons from north Bengal.

The recipients were Dhaneswar Roy, a singer from Jalpaiguri, Md. Jahiruddin Mian, a folk singer from Cooch Behar, Krishna Singh Moktan, a former IPS and a social worker from Darjeeling, Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, a music researcher from South Dinajpur, Satyaranjan Das, a writer from North Dinajpur, and Pradyut Ghosh, an educationist from Malda.

Over 500 meritorious students from financially weak homes were given Rs 10,000 each. Mamata also gave away Rs 25,000 each to 48 clubs which had received Rs 50,000 last year and had furnished their utilisation certificates.

Pritam Chhetri, a youth from Banarhat in the Dooars, was given a special prize for inventing a safety valve for LPG gas cylinders.