The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha snub to hunger heartland bosses

Calcutta, Nov. 22: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today slammed the administration of Purulia, one of Bengal's poorest districts, for its failure to improve the quality of life in the impoverished villages.

At the launch of a scheme funded by the British department for international development (DFID) ' Strengthening Rural Decentralisation ' in the city, the chief minister singled out Purulia officials for what he said was the administration's abysmal failure.

The Telegraph had last week reported governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi's unhappiness over the large-scale migration of rural poor from Purulia in search of work, which again brought into focus the grinding poverty in the district.

'We have identified 4,612 villages as the poorest, the highest number of which is in Purulia. I am sorry to say that the district officials and panchayats have not reached all the villages'. The Purulia district magistrate should take the matter more seriously,' the chief minister said.

Bhattacharjee said the district administration had failed to implement schemes undertaken for the 996 villages of Purulia identified among the poorest. 'You have to reach the villages' with concrete schemes that are being implemented to overcome poverty'

The outburst can also be seen as a criticism of Surjya Kanta Mishra's rural development department and concern over the growing influence of CPI (Maoist) extremists in backward Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore.

Despite its claims of being pro-poor, Bhattacharjee's government came under the scanner when six people allegedly died of starvation in West Midnapore's Amlashol last year.

The state and Centre spend over Rs 1,700 crore a year for various rural development projects in Bengal through panchayats and the district administration.

'The chief minister wants these projects to be implemented properly, not just in Purulia, but across the state. Other districts should also take note of his observations' he means business and the work must be carried out well enough to alleviate poverty,' an official said.

After the inaugural programme, Bhattacharjee stepped down from the dais and went up to the Purulia zilla parishad chief, CPM leader Mithu Singh Sardar, in the audience. 'Why are you not being able to reach out' he asked.

As part of the seven-year decentralisation programme, grants worth '9 million would be provided to the panchayats. The allocation might be increased to '130 million depending on how well the money is utilised in the first two years.

Purulia, Birbhum, Murshidabad, Malda, North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur would be covered in the fist phase. Six other districts would be included in the next two. DFID and state officials would monitor work on the project.

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