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Mamata, Chamling to talk Darj dev issues

Manas R Bannerjee and Reza Pradhan | Darjeeling |

The ‘unpredictable’ Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, once again sprung a good surprise as she attended the second and closing day of the Hill Business Summit here on Wednesday and announced investment from industrialists to the tune of Rs 2000 crore in the Hills.

She dropped a bombshell when she announced that she will be holding talks with Pawan Chamling, the Chief Minister of the neighbouring state of Sikkim, for Darjeeling’s development.

It may be mentioned here that relations between the two states soured in the recent past when Miss Banerjee and her party leaders, along with the chairman of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Board, Binoy Tamang, accused the Sikkim government of fomenting trouble in Darjeeling and Kalimpong and warned the Himalayan state against meddling in the Hill affairs.

“This is Mamata Banerjee, unpredictable in her political equations and relations with other political party leaders,” a political observer said. The observer, who is with her team in Darjeeling presently, added: “After two days of Hill Business Summit, the meeting with Sikkim CM Mr Chamling will be another effort to recover the entire Hill areas politically.”

“I will hold a meeting with Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling at Uttarkanya in Siliguri on 16 March to discuss how we can develop Darjeeling. I have invited him to Uttarkanya,” Miss Banerjee said.

“I am happy to say that entrepreneurs have agreed to invest Rs 1500 crore for setting up industries in various potential sectors in the Hills. Some proposals for investment, estimated at around Rs 500 crore, are also coming shortly. A total of Rs 2000 crore investment will be coming to Darjeeling,” she said, addressing the closing ceremony of the first-ever business summit in the Hills.

“I again ask you to please maintain peace. Laxmi (wealth) will be coming to your homes. What Darjeeling can do, others can’t… Uphold Darjeeling in India as an international destination. Live peacefully and go ahead for more development prospects. As Darjeeling goes in the right direction, some others create problems and stall its growth,” CM said, adding, “Delhi is far from here. Bengal is near you, so please being with us.”

In the first session of the second day on Wednesday, officials of state government departments like the MSME, IT, Tourism, Horticultural, Forest and Technical Education, GTA officials and ministers of the department of forests, north Bengal development, and tourism interacted with industrialists about the prospects, proposals and suggestions for setting up industries in the Hills.

A top official of the MSME department, Rajiva Sinha, conducted the programme. Top state government officials like Debashis Sen, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, Atri Bhattacharya and Nandini Chakravorty talked about the government’s role to develop and extend support to entrepreneurs, even in the IT sector.

Principal Secretary of the GTA, Subrata Biswas, explained how it would provide support and develop infrastructure for interested entrepreneurs.

He also said the GTA has developed a large plot of land near Teesta Bazaar in Kalimpong and asked interested entrepreneurs to setting up the IT industry there.

“Cinchona cultivation has great prospects and an industry can be set up based on it. But unfortunately, a few units that were set up there for manufacturing chemical, are non-functional now. Interested entrepreneurs can revive the project in Kalimpong,” a senior GTA official said.

Miss Banerjee is scheduled to attend an MSME (Medium Small and Micro Enterprise) Synergy to be held at the Darjeeling Tourist Lodge here tomorrow and will leave for Siliguri in the afternoon.