Mamata counters Amit Shah on Bengal's development
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday lashed out at BJP national president Amit Shah for blatantly disregarding development in the eastern state, with the former throwing an "open challenge" to anyone to show growth under such a "huge" debt burden.
Speaking to the press after holding the administrative meeting here on Wednesday afternoon, the Chief Minister said: "In agricultural growth, national average is 1.1 percent while that of Bengal is 6. In service sector, growth in India is 9.2 percent while in Bengal it is 13.99 percent and industrial growth in India is 7.3 percent while in Bengal it is 10.59 percent."
Banerjee's comments came hours after Shah dished out statistics in Kolkata to buttress his charge that the state had performed poorly on development indices.
"If Bengal is lagging in agricultural growth, how has Bengal received Krishi Karman Award five years in a row from the government of India since 2011? This is my open challenge. BJP is jealous of Bengal's progress. We have figures, we do not make false claims," Banerjee asserted after a district administrative meeting.
The Trinamool Congress supremo dared anyone to emulate Bengal's growth trajectory, despite it's huge debt burden.
"With the huge amount of debt, I challenge anyone... if they can show development like this, then I will cut off my ear and give it to them," she said, holding the erstwhile Left Front regime responsible for the debt burden.
Citing the uptick in institutional delivery and the decrease in infant mortality in her state, Banerjee dared the BJP to compare infant mortality figures in Bengal with that of Gujarat, where it has been in power for over two decades. "What Bengal can do, others can't. They have no vision but are giving "bhaashan" (lectures)," she said in an apparent reference to Shah's virulent criticism of her government.
"Krishi Karman Award is given to the state for its achievement in various agricultural sectors. The award is given by the Centre. Before making any statement one should go through the documents and not rely on information provided by figures which the party colleagues who are sitting around them give," she added.
Banerjee said medical treatment was free in Bengal. The state government had set up superspecialty hospitals in the districts. "Name a state where medical treatment is free. The treatment of heart and kidney ailments is free. Patients do not have to pay anything for the bed. This is certainly a major achievement."
The Chief Minister said often parallels were drawn between Gujarat and Bengal but such comparisons were unfair as Gujarat was a much smaller state than Bengal with many more ports. "We have only two ports in Bengal and both in Haldia and Kolkata, the Centre has not conducted dredging operation for years together," she said adding: "Before making statements, one should know the ground reality."
She further added that the Centre had not taken any measures to save the tea gardens in North Bengal. "We have done what we could do. They have not taken over the sick tea gardens and now they are planning to shift the Tea Board to Assam. I have no objection but we have not been treated well."
Regarding the state government paying up Rs 40,000 crore to clear the loan burden of the erstwhile CPI(M) government, she stated: "Why did the Centre allow CPI(M) to take loan that they could not repay. Our government is paying a price for it. I can challenge that no other state could not have done such development with such a huge loan burden."
Despite financial constraints, the state government has distributed 35 lakh bicycles among students under the ambitious Sabuj Sathi project in Mamata's first term and another 30 lakh would be distributed in the coming days. "We have helped SC/ST students and given them scholarships to go for higher studies."
Banerjee further alleged that by using social network and money power, the BJP was carrying out a misinformation campaign.