Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday stood in a queue with other local people in the Kalighat area here to collect her “Swasthya Sathi” smart card from a Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) distribution centre. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh dubbed the move “pure drama”.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief, accompanied by urban development minister Firhad Hakim and other government officials, arrived at the Joy Hind Bhavan, close to Banerjee’s residence on Harish Chatterjee Street, around 11.30 am to collect the card. Swasthya Sathi, a flagship scheme launched by the TMC government, provides health cover up to Rs 5 lakh per annum to families for secondary and tertiary care.
Hakim told reporters that the chief minister stood in the queue like any other ordinary person to collect the card. It goes on to show that she is like any other ordinary person, he added.
On Monday, the chief minister had urged all ministers of her government to collect the card. “I will keep this card in my archive. I urge other ministers, too, to join the scheme,” she added.
The state government has been providing “Swasthya Sathi” smart cards to people as part of its “Duare Sarkar [Government at the doorstep]” initiative — a mass outreach programme for doorstep delivery of welfare scheme benefits. Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadyay has said over one crore people have participated in the initiative so far.
Meanwhile, the state Cabinet on Tuesday approved giving the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) 13.49 acres of land in Ashoknagar in North 24 Parganas for further oil exploration.
Highlighting the benefits for the state — from increased employment opportunities to a boost for the state’s economy — Banerjee said the government would give the national oil company the land for a token amount of Re 1. “We will provide 13.49 acres of land to ONGC in Ashoknagar for oil exploration. They wanted to give us Rs 6.5 crore. But since through this we are going to achieve a huge economic advantage, besides generating employment and setting up ancillary industries, the Cabinet decided to give the land for Re 1. Since the government cannot give away land for free, I will be giving away the land for Re 1 because I want to contribute as I love that it should come up immediately.”
The chief minister said the Cabinet also approved the move to regularise all refugee colonies across the state so that the people living there can get pattas (land deeds) and various licences, and access the state government’s facilities.
“The Cabinet decided to recognise all refugee colonies. We have already regularised 94 and given away the related documents to the owners. We want to help the refugees from Kakdwip, Namkhana to Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Sundarbans and elsewhere in the state. At least 119 are under process, and plots are being handed over to owners.”
Banerjee said the government also discussed the Rajbanshi community’s request that their mother language be taught in around 200 unorganised schools set up for them. “We will carry out inspections at these schools. We also want people to learn in their mother language,” she added.
The Cabinet also gave its nod to setting up 27 leather units in Kolkata’s Bantala area, and gave 3.5 cottahs of land in the city’s Kasba locality to the Calcutta Press Club for free for building a residential complex for its member journalists.
State forest minister Rajib Banerjee skipped the meeting on Tuesday, the fourth straight time he has done so. Minister Sujit Basu was also absent.
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