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Govt eyes hills' fast growth to win hearts

Posters put up in Siliguri to welcome Mamata Banerjee
Siliguri: Senior Bengal government officials hinted on Sunday that the administration would expedite development projects in the Darjeeling hills to win back the confidence of the people.
"The chief minister will arrive here on Monday and attend the fourth round of bipartite talks with hill parties on Tuesday. After the meeting, she is likely to announce some new infrastructure projects for the hills. Different state departments which have already taken up projects in the hills will be asked to speed up their works," said an official.
The fourth round of talks will be held at Pintail Village, located at Dagapur, on the outskirts of Siliguri.
Along with Mamata Banerjee, who has attended all previous rounds of talks with the hill parties - two were held in Calcutta and one at Uttarkanya here, some members of the state Cabinet will also be present at the November 22 meeting.

After the statehood agitation had been renewed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in June, infrastructure projects taken up by the state or the GTA have come to a halt.
"After the shutdown was lifted, the state has granted additional funds to the GTA and Binay Tamang (chairman of the Board of Administrators) has announced some works that will be taken up in due course. But works which were taken up by the state are yet to move apace," said a source.
The fourth round of talks, political observers said, is significant.
"So far, discussions were on issues related to the agitation. The state has accepted some of the demands made by the parties and taken a few decisions. At this meeting, it seems there would be talks on the development agenda," said an observer.
Even now, Morcha chief Bimal Gurung has supporters in the hills, said the observer.
"By using the development tool, the state would try to alienate Bimal Gurung further and would like to prove its sincerity before the hill population," he said.
State tourism minister Gautam Deb, when asked about the chief minister's visit, said she would also hold a review meeting of Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar districts at Uttarkanya on November 22, a day after the tripartite talks.
"The chief minister might make some new announcements for the region," said Deb.
The review, sources said, is significant, as the BJP has been focussing on these three districts.
State BJP leaders are frequently visiting these places and working for rural polls which would be held next year.
"It is important for Trinamul to retain and consolidate its support base. This can be done by extending benefits through social welfare schemes to maximum number of people. It is obvious that the chief minister will assess the performance of each district," said the source.

The Telegraph

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