“Give me peace, I’ll give you prosperity,” Mamta tells Gorkhas
By Amitava Banerjee
Darjeeling: Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has asked the political outfits in Darjeeling to maintain peace and ensure no form of violence returns to the region.
“Give us peace and we will give you prosperity,” she declared at the historic two-day-long Hill Business Summit held March 13-14 in Darjeeling.
The appeal came almost six months after violence and tension in the Hills centering the Gorkhaland movement that brought life to a complete halt in the Hills.
Banerjee appealed for continued peace to ensure a conducive environment for investments.
Binay Tamang, chairman, Board of Administrators, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA,) reciprocated by assuring that henceforth, Darjeeling and Kalimpong will be strike-free zones.
The chief minister, thereby, cautioned Delhi against indulging in divisive politics for the sake of a mere “seat.” For the first time, a business summit is taking place in the Hills in a bid to woo investors so that investments pour into Darjeeling and Kalimpong.
Both in her inaugural and concluding speech, Banerjee stated: “If peace is maintained, industries are ready to invest in the Hills. Industries will, in turn, generate employment.”
She noted that the near six-month-long unrest and 104 days of bandh last year had led tp the tea industry incurring a loss of 3 billion rupees. The total loss due to the political unrest amounted to more than 19 billion rupees, she said. “However, let us make a new beginning. Our government is ready to help and cooperate in every way possible.”
Bannerjee also announced that her government would provide 1 billion rupees for promotional development of job oriented industries in the region. She stated that Darjeeling has an immense potential in the tea, tourism, transport, IT, agriculture, horticulture, food processing, handicrafts, flowers and orchids, medicinal plants sectors. Banerjee also stated that two IT parks will be set up in the Hills.
“There is immense scope in IT and software development sectors. Kurseong will be developed as an education hub with a Presidency University campus and a medical college in the offing. Mirik will be developed as an art and folk culture hub. Kalimpong has immense tourism and agricultural potential. New tourist destinations will be developed as well,” stated Banerjee.
The chief minister maintained that violence would benefit only a few political leaders. “Earlier, the Hills were neglected. But I nurture the Hills more than I nurture my own constituency. It is not possible to always fulfill the demands of individuals but we can work collectively for the betterment of the region,” she stated.
She then appealed to Delhi to allow her to ensure development and prosperity in Darjeeling. “Just to split Darjeeling away do not prop any individual. I will in no way allow the division of Darjeeling or the brand of politics that Delhi is indulging in just to gain a seat,” cautioned Banerjee.
Incidentally, with the support of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, BJP candidates won the Darjeeling parliamentary seat twice.
The state has time and again leveled fingers at Delhi for allegedly propping GJM leader Bimal Gurung who led an agitation in 2017 and is at present on the run.
Binay Tamang in his address stated: “I, along with the people of Darjeeling, would like to give our commitment that Darjeeling and Kalimpong would be strike-free zones and there will not be any political disturbance in the Hills anymore as we have suffered a lot.”
Even the prospective investors made it clear that without peace and political stability, it would be difficult to invest in the Hills.
“Without peace, there cannot be any economic development,” stated Rudra Chatterjee, Director of Luxmi Tea.
Sanjay Budhia, Managing Director of Patton, added: “It is a historic day for Darjeeling where the first-ever Business Summit is being held. The CM has brought back hope and promise for the people of the Hills.”
The Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), was the co-organizer of the business summit.
“We will be initially investing Rs 150 crore each in the two properties. The first phase of Makaibari is scheduled to be completed by 2019, with the first phase of Ghoom by 2020. We are also contemplating investments in the education sector as in the past, Darjeeling has been an education hub,” stated Neotia.
The Luxmi Group could be investing in the health and education sectors. “Darjeeling came into existence as a health sanatorium.
Banerjee appealed to the Hill civic bodies to keep the Hills “clean and green” and asked CII to prepare an action plan to resolve the water scarcity problem prevalent in the Hills.
“We assure all prospective investors of our support, help and cooperation in their future ventures in the Hills,” stated Binay Tamang, chairman, Board of Administrators, GTA.