'Give me peace, I'll give you prosperity'
Darjeeling: Months after violence and tension in the Hills centring the Gorkhaland movement that brought life to a complete halt in the Hills, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday asked the political outfits in Darjeeling to maintain peace and ensure no form of violence returns to the region.
Banerjee appealed for continued peace to ensure a conducive environment for investments. "Give us peace and we will give you prosperity," she declared while flagging off the historic two-day-long Hill Business Summit in Darjeeling.
Binay Tamang, Chairman, Board of Administrators, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA,) reciprocated by assuring that henceforth, Darjeeling and Kalimpong will be strike-free zones.
The Chief Minister, thereby, cautioned Delhi against indulging in divisive politics for the sake of a mere "seat."
For the first time, a business summit is taking place in the Hills in a bid to woo investors so that investments pour into Darjeeling and Kalimpong.
In her inaugural speech, Banerjee stated: "If peace is maintained, industries are ready to invest in the Hills. Industries will, in turn, generate employment. Owing to the near six-month-long unrest and four months of bandh last year, the tea industry incurred a loss of Rs 300 crore. In total, the loss was more than Rs 1,000 crore owing to the political unrest. However, let us make a new beginning. Our government is ready to help and cooperate in every way possible."
The Chief Minister also announced that her government would provide Rs 100 crore for promotional development of job oriented industries in the region.
She stated that Darjeeling has an immense potential in the tea, tourism, transport, IT, agriculture, horticulture, food processing, handicrafts, flowers and orchids, medicinal plants sectors.
Banerjee also stated that two IT parks will be set up in the Hills. "There is immense scope in IT and software development sectors. Kurseong will be developed as an education hub with a Presidency University campus and a medical college in the offing. Mirik will be developed as an art and folk culture hub. Kalimpong has immense tourism and agricultural potential. New tourist destinations will be developed as well," stated Banerjee.
The Chief Minister maintained that violence would benefit only a few political leaders. "Earlier, the Hills were neglected. But I nurture the Hills more than I nurture my own constituency. It is not possible to always fulfil the demands of individuals but we can work collectively for the betterment of the region," she stated. She then appealed to Delhi to allow her to ensure development and prosperity in Darjeeling. "Just to split Darjeeling away do not prop any individual. I will in no way allow the division of Darjeeling or the brand of politics that Delhi is indulging in just to gain a seat," cautioned Banerjee.
Incidentally, with the support of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, BJP candidates won the Darjeeling parliamentary seat twice. The state has time and again levelled fingers at Delhi for allegedly propping GJM leader Bimal Gurung who led an agitation in 2017 and is at present on the run.
Binay Tamang in his address stated: "I, along with the people of Darjeeling, would like to give our commitment that Darjeeling and Kalimpong would be strike-free zones and there will not be any political disturbance in the Hills anymore as we have suffered a lot."
Even the prospective investors made it clear that without peace and political stability, it would be difficult to invest in the Hills. "Without peace, there cannot be any economic development," stated Rudra Chatterjee, Director of Luxmi Tea.
Sanjay Budhia, Managing Director of Patton, added: "It is a historic day for Darjeeling where the first-ever Business Summit is being held. The CM has brought back hope and promise for the people of the Hills."