Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday announced her government was contemplating creating a “business corridor” as “West Bengal was the gateway to the east”.
“In line with the “Look East Policy” of the Centre, we are intending to create a business corridor as the state is the gateway for Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan,” Mamata said at the 100th administrative meeting of the Trinamool Congress government in Burdwan.
She said the corridor, which would be developed at an estimated cost of around Rs 2,000 crore, would help boost trade, travel and tourism ties with the neighbouring countries. “We will tell the central government about this plan,” she said, adding the money would be spent at border points in developing infrastructure such as widening of roads, creating approach roads and rail overbridges.
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She said the model of holding continuous meetings at districts had proved to be very successful.
“Working at the grassroots level has proved to be very effective. We do not want to impose decisions from the top,” she said, adding that such meetings were held few and far between during the previous government.
Like the three-tier panchayati system, she said the government would create a similar DM-SDO-BDO path to improve delivery mechanism.
The meeting was attended by ministers, bureaucrats, SDOs, BDOs among others.
During a press conference later, the CM clarified that she did not “skip” the Centre’s Niti Aayog meeting, but had fixed “this district administrative meeting” long before the Centre had announced one.
“The CMs are also sometimes busy with their plans. It is not that we boycotted it…this meeting is very important for us. How can I just tell all these people that the meeting has been postponed? They (Centre) should give us ample time to plan our schedule as well.
“As for missing out on a “proper platform”, there was the Centre’s National Development Council and the Planning Commission meeting.
The Prime Minister had again called a meeting on land issue with no other item on its agenda. So how would have I raised the fund problem there? I want the central government to call a full-fledged Niti Aayog meeting where the state governments can discuss their financial problems,” she said.
Holding her government’s land policy as “transparent”, Mamata said the state could act as a model for others.
“We have started some of the Central government’s project at Bagdogra airport. We have a policy of direct purchase of land through negotiation, rehabilitation and payment of 50 per cent more than the market price. And there is also incentive for those who get their land registered within a specific time,” she said.
She added that land was more of a state issue and the state should deal with it independently. “There are many ongoing projects of the state government which get stuck for a small piece of land. I think the land issue should be left to the state. We have our own land bank and land policy which others should follow. We have had no problem at our Durgapur, Kharagpur industrial parks,” Mamata said, adding that they had acquired about 14,000 acre land without any problem.
“We have been following our own land policy because we can’t wait till eternity for the Central government to settle on a proper land policy.”
Mamata reiterated that her government does not have enough funds to carry out the development work.
“There are some projects where 50 per cent work is done. How do I complete the rest of the work? Central government has the power to print notes. State government doesn’t. They are not only stopping funds for the developmental work, they are also taking away a chunk of the revenue in the name of debt repayment,” she said.
Asked if she would join Modi’s ‘Team India’ if her demands are met, she said: “I have got my mandate and the Central government its own. We don’t interfere in each other’s works. Every state has its own problem but I am not getting enough money to address my problems. I am carrying a legacy of debt amounting to over Rs 2 lakh crore. The Centre is not helping at all. I think they have to sort it out.”
On the absence of Opposition leaders, Mamata said invitations were sent out to all the parties but it was “their political decision” not to come.
She then talked about creating a ‘Langcha Hub’ at Shaktigarh. On her way back, the CM along with the chief secretary and other bureaucrats stopped at one of the shops and spoke to a few sweetmeat sellers.