Making no reference to the month-long conditional “ceasefire offer” from the State leadership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday gave a seven-day deadline to the Left Wing Extremists in the Jangalmahal region on her offer of “negotiations if you give up your arms.”
During her second visit to the Maoist-affected Jangalmahal region after assuming charge as the Chief Minister, Ms. Banerjee claimed that she had fulfilled the promises she made to the extremists but they had not kept their end of the bargain.
“We had said that if peace is restored to Jangalmahal there will be no need for joint security operations. I have kept my word, you have not. You have indulged in killings, you have intimidated the people and you are regularly roaming the region brandishing your guns,” she said, without naming the Maoists.
Ms. Banerjee said that she had initiated the peace process in the region and that there had been “no joint operation in Jangalmahal for the last four-and-a-half months [that her government has been in power in the State],” but the killings were continuing.
Addressing a rally at Jhargram, Ms. Banerjee held aloft the child of Lalmohan Mahato, a supporter of the Trinamool Congress who was killed by suspected Maoists recently. The families of Lalmohan Mahato and Babu Bose, a leader of the Jharkhand Samanoy Manch who was also killed by suspected Maoists, were on the dais during the function.
Outlining a three-point programme for the region, Ms. Banerjee said the Maoists must give up their arms, people must be allowed to return to the mainstream and that the State government wanted to work with the people for ensuring development.
“How many jobs do you want? I will provide as many as you demand. Do you need food? We will provide it. Do you need schools, colleges, hospitals, roads? We will give them all, within our limitations,” Ms. Banerjee said, even as she announced a host of projects for the region.
Earlier in the day, Ms. Banerjee held a meeting with certain Ministers and district officials from Bankura, Purulia and Paschim Medinipur district. She announced that the rate of procurement of kendu leaves that are used in bidi manufacturing and one of the main sources of livelihood in the tribal areas would be increased from the present Rs. 46.25 to Rs. 75 and that the State government would set up the West Bengal Tribal Development Cooperative with an initial investment of Rs. 5 crore to procure these leaves.
Ms. Banerjee also announced a special youth festival at Jhargram in December and the setting up of four new colleges in the region. She said the names of the applicants who did not get the 10,000 jobs in the State police, Home Guard and National Volunteer Force, earmarked for the region, would be kept in an employment bank and be considered for other State government jobs.