Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee will ask Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to announce a special package for the Darjeeling hills, a tax holiday for industries to be set up there and an assurance of 10,000 jobs for its unemployed youth. She will also request him to visit the region.
“It has been treated very badly” all these years, and its people “have suffered a lot and could not suffer more,” she said in an oblique indictment of the Left Front government on Monday, adding that she is “ready to negotiate on political matters” as all the leaders she had met in the course of her two-day visit to the hills wanted peace and democracy in the region.
Though claiming that she was not in the hill town to address a political meeting, Ms. Banerjee sought to construe the demand of a section of the local political leadership for a separate State as one for greater employment opportunities and development which had been denied to the people of the hills.
“You will be victorious in your struggle for development,” she told a congregation at a function in which she, as Railway Minister, announced a slew of projects for the hills.
“I cannot offer you much now as I have only one Ministry. But if I get more opportunities I shall give you a lot more,” she said.
“There has been no development, no employment, no power, no drinking water, no new schools and colleges, bad roads. Industry is languishing in the region,” she observed while raising the Trinamool Congress' catch-phrase “Ma, mati, manush” (mother, earth and people) which, she felt, is as relevant to the situation in the hills as it is elsewhere in the State.
Without dwelling on the separate Gorkhaland state demand, Ms. Banerjee threw ample hints of her opposition to any bifurcation of West Bengal.