West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday undertook a pathbreaking visit to the former Maoist stronghold of Belpahari in West Midnapore district, thereby becoming the state’s first CM to visit the region in nearly 40 years.
At a personal level too, the trip was Mamata’s first after taking over as CM. In fact, Didi had last visited the region some 19 years ago.
And barely a few hours after reaching Belpahari, the CM stated her mission-- peace and development for the region. Mamata also reiterated her tough stance against the Maoists whom she described as ‘goondas’ or goons. “If you fight with ideals, then we have nothing to say. But scaring people and stopping development won’t work. Only peace can bring development,” she said.
Further, in a show of real pluck, Mamata dared the Naxals by spending most of Wednesday in Jangalmahal despite her name figuring on the Maoist hit list. Also, the CM’s visit was an open assertion of the inroads made by the administration into the former Maoist stronghold.
And even as another Maoist, Rabi Murmu surrendered before Didi at the rally, Mamata urged the rebels to abjure violence and return to the mainstream society.
“Some goondas who have arms in one hand and money in the other are sitting on your head. Don’t fight with guns, that won’t be tolerated. We don’t want to fight with guns either… We want the police to help you in a humane way,” the CM said adding one member from the family of each of the Maoists who had surrendered will be provided jobs.
She also promised fixed deposit certificates and other benefits to the surrendered Maoists and their kin.
According to Mamata, Maoists were sneaking into West Bengal from Odisha and Jharkhand.
The Chief Minister assured the people of Belpahari that the state Government would provide more opportunities to the region’s economic development. She announced the setting up of a fast-track court in Jhargram, an ITI in every block and said that at least 700 people from Jangalmahal would be drafted into the Railways, while another 5,000 home-guards would be absorbed into the state police.
Mamata urged the local officials to make tribal welfare their top priority. She also asked the officials to utilise the Central funds that have been allocated for the development of the backward areas.