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Small (London and Goa) is beautiful CM cites cash and land hurdles

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  • Published 14.01.12

Digha, Jan. 13: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has for the first time conceded the possibility that constraints on land and money could force her to scale down her grand plans for transforming pockets of Bengal into London, Goa and Switzerland.

“When I say Calcutta will be like London, I am expressing an idea. Calcutta can even become better than London. But we don’t have encumbrance-free land or money as they have in London,” Mamata said this afternoon at an event to inaugurate the Beach Festival 2012 at New Digha.

“Small is beautiful. Puti maachher jhal to khete bhalo hoy. Sab samay je boal maachher jhal-i bhalo ta noy (curried small fish is tasty too. It is not that only curried boal is tasty). Beauty is in the mind,” the chief minister added.

The two issues she mentioned — land encumbrance and shortage of funds — have become the biggest litmus test for the new government.

The chief minister has not yet stated with clarity if she will scrap the land ceiling rules — Bengal is possibly the only state to retain the archaic law. Neither has she shown any willingness to take hard decisions to fight the financial crisis.

The statement today, however, is a tacit admission that land rules are coming in the way of Mamata’s plans for Calcutta and Digha, which she had promised to convert into London and Goa.

Through her speech today, the chief minister seemed to be seeking to lighten the burden of expectations on her and asking the people to factor in the ground realities while judging her performance.

An indication of this was that she did not unveil any specific plan for the development of Digha. Instead, Mamata chose to lash out at the erstwhile Left Front government for “ignoring” the state’s tourism potential. “The previous government did not realise the tourism potential, so they didn’t do anything. We know what can be done and we are going to do it.”

She added that the infrastructure that would be provided would have to be for all sections of the society. “We have to keep in mind that people cutting across all social backgrounds love to travel. We have to provide facilities catering to international, national and local clientele,” Mamata said.

According to government sources, the government’s “priority” in Digha was to improve basic infrastructure such as sanitation and drinking water. “We are working with the local gram panchayats for this. Hotels have mushroomed and unless care is taken to ensure that basic services are available, no one will come to Digha,” a senior urban development department official said.

Mamata said the embankment along the sea needed to be protected urgently. “I have asked irrigation minister Manas Bhunia to work on protecting the embankment in Digha. The previous government did nothing even though funds were available,” she said, drawing loud cheers from the audience, mostly comprising Trinamul supporters.

The chief minister also spoke about the prospect of Mandarmani as a tourist destination. “Digha has become very congested. There has been a lot of encroachment. I have been told that the 22km beach at Mandarmani is the longest motorable beach in the country,” she said. Mandarmani now has private hotels and resorts.

Actress Paoli Dam, who is shooting in Digha, attended the event on Mamata’s request. “I was shooting when I got her message. I am a big fan of her. It is our responsibility to make her dreams come true,” Paoli said. Percussionist Bikram Ghosh was also present at the inauguration.

In the evening, there were fireworks on the beach, performances by Tanusree Shankar’s dance troupe and the band Krosswindz.

Earlier in the day, Mamata held a nearly two-hour-long meeting with ministers, bureaucrats and MLAs for the development of East Midnapore.