Father Felix Raj, principal of St. Xavier's College, chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Archbishop Thomas D'Souza at the St. Xavier's College Christmas meet. (Pradip Sanyal)
Dec. 23: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee once again played Santa Claus to St. Xavier's College, promising an annual funding of Rs 7 crore to the just-born St. Xavier's University at the college's annual Christmas meet this evening.
"Our congratulations to the institution and Father Felix Raj for the new university. The foundation stone has already been laid and a lot of money has been spent to get it going. It is a very big project. I was asking Felix Raj how much is spent on salaries of the teaching and non-teaching staff," Mamata said.
She then announced with a magician-like flourish: "I can give you a little something. On behalf of our government, we would like to announce that we will give Rs 7 crore annually for the pay package."
A regular guest at the Christmas meet hosted by the St. Xavier's College Calcutta Alumni Association, Mamata had donned Santa's hat a few years ago when she handed over a formal letter allocating 16.4 acres in Rajarhat for St. Xavier's University during the 2012 Christmas meet.
Principal Father Felix Raj thanked the chief minister and the state government. "This sanction is a test, a challenge to all of us.... We consider this gesture a Christmas gift to St. Xavier's and we pledge to honour it and raise it to the greater glory of god and to the welfare of our state of Bengal," he said.
Mamata's Christmas benevolence extended to the Jesuit Province of Calcutta as well as she allotted four acres of land in the Kalyanpur block of Asansol, for St. Xavier's College, Asansol, which functions out of St. Joseph's Higher Secondary School at present. "A four-acre plot is available adjacent to Asansol college, the housing department has assured me. You can contact (mayor) Sovan Chatterjee after this," said Mamata, who got her own Christmas gift from St. Xavier's - a dokra statue of Mother Mary, made in Ausgram, Burdwan.
As she cut a Christmas cake and listened to hymns, Mamata also drew attention to the ills of demonetisation."People are suffering in each sector.... So many people come to fairs at this time, so many people who earn money selling cakes. They don't have money. With them I have lost my smile too."