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Ministers chalk out development plans

- Deb to focus on school, bridges & roads, Krishnendu to create new tourist spots

Siliguri, Feb. 18: North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb today said his department would focus on improving social infrastructure and connectivity in the rural and urban areas across the region in the 2014-15 fiscal.

Tourism minister Krishnendu Chowdhury said with the allocation of Rs 223 crore, which is almost double of last year’s figure, his department would create new destinations and infrastructure.

Yesterday, in the state budget finance minister Amit Mitra allocated a total of Rs 375 crore for Deb’s department, an increase of Rs 135 crore. For the 2013-14 fiscal, Rs 240 crore had been allotted to the department.

Deb, who spoke over phone from Calcutta, said the projects planned for this fiscal include seven colleges — in Dhupguri and Banarhat of Jalpaiguri, Ghoksadanga and Nishiganj in Cooch Behar, Kumarganj in South Dinajpur, Chopra in North Dinajpur and Malda’s Manikchak.

The department will build four bridges in North Dinajpur, one each over the Sui river at Paharipur and the Gamari river in Kachua in Itahar, the Kahalai in Hemtabad and the Siriani river in Goalpokhor. The work would be over by March next year, the minister said.

A 1.8km-long bridge would be built to connect Malda’s Bhutni island to Manikchak and another bridge would be constructed over the Kaljani near Cooch Behar, connecting Natabari to Dhalpal.

“We will also build an alternative road to Jalpaiguri along the Eastern Bypass skirting Siliguri. It would be complete by this year,” Deb said.

He said since the formation of the department in 2011, “we have taken up a series of development projects. A total of 361 projects taken up by the Uttarbanga Unnayan Parshad during the erstwhile Left Front government were left unfinished. We have completed 263 of them.”

“In 2014-15, we will follow the directives and mission of our chief minister to carry out simultaneous development of rural and urban areas. Social infrastructure will be created, from schools to tourist spots. Some projects would be taken up with other departments. We will also focus on improving connectivity by building new roads and improving existing ones,” Deb said.

Tourism minister Krishnendu lauded the chief minister’s assessment on the “potential of the tourism industry in north Bengal and other parts of the state”.

“In the coming fiscal, we would execute plans to develop new destinations to provide more options to tourists and raise infrastructure, which can help local people get jobs. The work of scouting for new destinations has begun. We have already opened Lamahata in Kalimpong, which is a popular destination now,” the minister added.