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Namasudra Dev Board gets Mamata's go-ahead

Namasudra Dev Board gets Mamatas go-ahead

Kolkata/Darjeeling: A Namasudra Development Board is all set to come up after front rung leaders of the community met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Uttar Kanya on Thursday and claimed that the latter has extended all possible support to the movement launched by various social organisations against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

Banerjee held back-to-back meetings with the Namasudra community; socio-cultural organisations of Assam and various tribal organisations at Uttar Kanya, the mini Secretariat in Jalpaiguri district bordering Siliguri on Thursday.

"The state government has constituted numerous development boards for different communities in the state. It has been our long-standing demand that a Namasudra Development Board be constituted. We had met the Chief Minister at Nabanna on August 6 with this demand and she had assured us that she would consider it," stated Mukul Bairagya, working president, All India Namasudra Bikash Parishad (AINBP).

He stated that a 25-member team from the community had held an hour-long meeting with Banerjee on Thursday. "The Chief Minister assured us that the process for the formation of the Development Board would be initiated at a Cabinet meeting slated for November 5. We are confident that the Cabinet will approve it," added Bairagya.

He also maintained that the Namasudra population in the state stands at around 2 crore 87 lakh. Mamata Banerjee on a tour of North Bengal, however, did not brief mediapersons on Thursday.

"We also discussed how Bengalis were being targeted in Assam and their names systematically being left out of the NRC. 31 people have already committed suicide (18 in the last two months). Many of them were government employees. They were born in Assam," stated Bairagya.

Incidentally, the AINBP has a presence in Assam and has been strongly protesting against the NRC process. Recently they had organised a long march at Kamakhaguri, bordering Assam, against the NRC. "The Chief Minister has given us her word that whatever needs to be done to safeguard our rights in Assam, she will do it. She extended full support to our agitation in Assam," added Bairagya.

Political observers feel that this is an important development in the backdrop of Bengali organisations deciding to field candidates in all the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam. Bengali-speaking people can influence the result in 13 out of 14 seats in that state. A seat-sharing arrangement could be on the anvil between the TMC and Independent candidates fielded by these Bengali organisations, feel political pundits.

The Chief Minister also held a meeting with the Tribal Advisory Council. "Tribal organisations from all over the country have thanked her for the creation of the West Bengal Adivasi Development and Cultural Board," stated Birsa Tirkey, chairman, Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad, who is also a special invitee to the Tribal Advisory Council talking to Millennium Post.

Tribal representatives requested that surplus land be earmarked in tea gardens in Terai and Dooars regions which then should be allotted to the landless tribals. They further requested that a Hindi medium college be opened at Kalchini along with women's colleges at Bagdogra and Nagrakata respectively.

In an important development, the Bengal government has increased the ex gratia of Rs two and a half lakh to Rs 4 lakh in case of death caused by wild animals and Rs 2 lakh to those injured in such attacks. Such deaths are rampant in North Bengal, especially caused by elephants in areas bordering the forests.

"During the previous government ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh used to be given to the family of any person killed by wild animals. This amount was increased to Rs two and a half lakh by our government. The Chief Minister has been strongly advocating for the increase of this amount. Accordingly, it has been raised to Rs 4 lakh. An order to this effect has been issued by the Finance department," stated Binoy Krishna Burman, state Forest minister.

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