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North growth hint in meet

- Cabinet to meet at Uttarkanya today

Feb. 10: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will hold a cabinet meeting at Uttarkanya in Siliguri tomorrow as she paves the way for accelerating the pace of development in six north Bengal districts ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

Uttarkanya, the mini secretariat for north Bengal, will be holding the first-ever cabinet meeting that will be attended by around 30 ministers.

“The chief minister has always reiterated her commitment for the development of north Bengal, which the previous Left Front government had neglected,” said Partha Chatterjee, state parliamentary affairs and IT minister.

Inaugurating the mini secretariat last month, Mamata had said Uttarkanya was being set up for decentralisation of power.

“Mamatadi has always insisted on speed while implementing projects. The secretariat in north Bengal was opened to cater for the needs of the people of the region. The officials don’t have to wait for the nod to come from Calcutta and can swiftly implement decisions,” said a minister.

According to sources, at the cabinet meeting, the chief minister will lay stress on projects related to infrastructure, basic amenities like drinking water and sanitation and schemes and doles for tea garden workers. “She will also take stock of the development projects that she had announced for the Darjeeling hills, the Dooars and the Terai,” said a source.

North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb said in Siliguri today that the cabinet meeting would commence at 2.30pm.

Governor M.K. Narayanan in his address on the first day of the Budget session in the Assembly today referred to Uttarkanya. “The North Bengal branch state secretariat christened Uttar Kanya… was completed in a record time of less than one year. A full meeting of the Cabinet will be held there tomorrow,” he said.

Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra asked why the ministers would skip the obituary session to be held in the Assembly tomorrow. “There are certain formalities in the House. The obituary references would be made in the Assembly tomorrow. We have heard the cabinet meeting will be held in Siliguri tomorrow. We don’t know whether any of the ministers will be present (in Assembly) or not.”

A government source said the chief minister would lay the foundation stone for an anti-erosion and embankment project on a river in Mainaguri on Wednesday which will cost around Rs 17 crore.

According to the sources, several other projects will also be flagged off during Mamata’s visit to north Bengal. She will leave for Calcutta on Thursday.

Trinamul sources said Mamata was giving special focus on North Bengal as she has set her eyes on opening the party’s Lok Sabha account in the region which has always been with either the Congress or the Left Front. In last year’s panchayat polls, Trinamul grabbed the zilla parishads in Cooch Behar and South Dinajpur, apart from making steady inroads into the other districts.

Trinamul is yet to open its Lok Sabha account in north Bengal. Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Mamata’s plan is to decimate the Opposition in their remaining citadels in the state.

“Mamatadi is banking on the development plank to send the message to the electorate. She has single-handedly managed to keep the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha under control. People of north Bengal know she means business,” said a Trinamul leader.

Mamata is going to Jalpaiguri at a time the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation has resumed its operations. According to sources, the chief minister would try to address the issue during her public rally at Jalpaiguri’s Nagrakata on Wednesday.

The sources said Mamata had already instructed the ministers and bureaucrats to divide time between the offices in Calcutta and Uttarkanya.

A source said 60 members of the 12th battalion of the state armed police were guarding the mini secretariat.

A camp office of Siliguri metropolitan police will also function from Uttarkanya.