Mamata to hills: Give peace, take prosperity

Rs 100-crore promise

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee speaks at the Hill Business Summit in Darjeeling on Tuesday

Darjeeling: Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday announced that the state government would pump in Rs 100 crore to promote industry in Darjeeling, appealing "for peace" and promising "prosperity" in return.

Inaugurating the Hill Business Summit at Chowrasta in Darjeeling, Mamata said: "For promotion of industries and skill development, the state government will earmark Rs 100 crore for the hills."

The chief minister said the primary focus should be on maintaining peace. "If there is peace in Darjeeling, I am confident that investments will follow.... This is our assurance, give us peace and we will give prosperity."

The meeting, organised by the state government in collaboration with the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), is being seen as a development initiative in the hills after a year marked by strife.

The GTA has pinned hopes on the meeting to improve the economy of the hills, which got a shock as the months of unrest left its mainstays - tea and tourism - in tatters.

Binay Tamang, the GTA chairman, had been focusing on the meeting, which was earlier planned in February but deferred. The fact that the meeting has finally taken place and industrialists have arrived in hordes is being seen as signs that the hills are slowly recovering after last year's violence.

Industrialists attending the meet also stressed the need for peace. Rudra Chatterjee, managing director of Luxmi Group which took over the Makaibari tea garden in Kurseong and is developing a hospitality project in the garden, said: "Without peace, there can be no development. There are opportunities in Darjeeling but for that we need peace."

Tamang and Mann Ghisingh, the president of the Gorkha National Liberation Front and the chairman of Hill Area Development Committee, promised to ensure peace and stability. "I, along with the people of Darjeeling, would like to give our commitment that Darjeeling and Kalimpong would be strike-free zones," said Tamang.

Chandrajit Banerjee, CII director-general, promised to set up a skill development centre in collaboration with the GTA, a food processing and agriculture centre and a water institute in Darjeeling.

Mamata assured full support from the government. "Two IT parks will be set up in Darjeeling and Kalimpong," she said.


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