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Title of brave in tribal pocket

Women in Malbazar wash Mamata Banerjee’s feet on Wednesday. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

Malbazar (Jalpaiguri), Feb. 12: Mamata Banerjee today made a slew of promises before a largely tribal audience in Jalpaiguri’s Malbazar who turned up to witness the chief minister being conferred the honorific “Singi Dai Veerangana”.

Mamata made several announcements, key among which were drinking water projects in Madarihat, Meteli, Kalchini, Birpara and Malbazar. All are in Jalpaiguri district.

The chief minister also said that ST certificates would be issued to tribals within one month of the request.

Hindi would be included in the under-graduate level in North Bengal University, which would have a second campus in Raiganj. Mamata also said that all SC/ST vacancies in government jobs would be filled in two years.

“You don’t have to worry about anything… Pehle 35 saal mein sirf laddoo mila hai… Aur abhi unnayan hi unnayan ho raha hai (In the last 35 years, you got only laddoos… Now there is development all around),” Mamata told a capacity crowd at the army grounds in Malbazar.

The chief minister’s assurance on development came following a litany of complaints that Birsa Tirkey, the state president of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, made on the dais while welcoming the chief minister.

“We want sushasan (good governance). There are delays in getting tribal certificates, we are treated as bonded labourers…. Madam chief minister you may not believe it… Please announce this as a scheduled area. The legalities can be looked into later,” Tirkey said as the chief minister looked on.

“Give us an officer who will not look at this as a job but work towards our upliftment,” said Tirkey. He also complained that when tribals went to police to lodge complaints of land-grabbing, the officers did not record them.

“I have heard Birsa Tirkey ji’s speech. There is no problem. Certificates will be provided in a month’s time…. Land-grab cases are being looked into. If there is any incident, inform the district magistrate and the administration will take steps,” Mamata said.

In Alipurduar, tribals make up more than 60 per cent of the population and in Jalpaiguri, around 25 to 30 per cent of voters are tribals, making their support crucial for any party.