The Trinamul Congress will protest the shift of a wing of the Bankers Institute of Rural Development (BIRD) from here to Calcutta.
Trinamul Bolpur MP Asit Mal has written to the chairman of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), Chintala Govinda Rajulu, requesting him to bring back the BIRD office to Bolpur. The office has been shifted in the last week of February.
The regional training institute of BIRD was set up here in 1984 at the initiative of the then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. The institute was set up as a tribute to Rabindranath Tagore’s endeavour in rural development at Sriniketan.
BIRD, which is an arm of the Nabard, is engaged in training and capacity building of officials of rural financial institutions, including cooperative banks and government and non-government organisations. People from Assam, Bihar, Chattishgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and north-eastern states used to come here for training.
“I have written to the Nabard chairman requesting him to bring back the institute to Bolpur. The place is famous for Rabindranath Tagore whose contribution to rural development inspired the government to set up the centre here,” said Mal.
In his letter, Mal also highlighted the glory of the place that is home to the Visva-Bharati University.
“This has hurt the sentiment of the people as the institute was set up here as a tribute to Rabindranath Tagore. Thousands of people used to get training at BIRD that has now stopped. I will raise the issue in Parliament next week,” the Trinamul MP said.
Nabard sources said the institute used to operate from a few rooms at a private hotel, about 800m from the Visva-Bharati campus.
The Centre had in 2005 shifted the institute to Calcutta, but the move was reversed following intervention from the then CPM MP from Bolpur and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.
Sources said BIRD had bought around four acres of land at Sian in Bolpur to set up a new office there.
“Earlier, it had been decided that a building would come up on its own land to house the institute. However, it was postponed midway and the BIRD headquarters in Lucknow started the process to shift the office to Calcutta,” said an official.
BIRD officials said the institute was shifted to Calcutta mainly for two reasons — first, they were paying a monthly rent of Rs 1.9 lakh to use the hotel and second, Calcutta had better communication with other states.
“Recently, our old office in Calcutta been has shifted from Royd Street to its new address in Salt Lake. To save money, the government shifted the Bolpur institute to Calcutta, which is well connected to all parts of the country,” said a Nabard official.
However, repeated attempts to contact BIRD director T.S. Raji Gain in Lucknow went in vain as she was busy in a meeting.
Veteran residents of Santiniketan have criticised the reasons cited for the shift to Calcutta. Swapan Kumar Ghosh, a veteran Santiniketan resident and author, said: “The shift of such a centre has disheartened us. The centre has functioned here for the past 36 years without any hazards.”
Trinamul sources said, they would make the shift of BIRD a political issue highlighting the Centre’s policy to deny Bolpur an institute of national importance.
“It proved that the Centre has no space for its place and we will raise the issue as part of our campaign,” said a senior Trinamul leader.