Mamata Banerjee in Darjeeling, Balasun drinking water project commission

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the Bagdogra airport
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has once again strummed on the wrong chords in complete disharmony with the hills, and this time it is with the Darjeeling municipality, by enquiring about the proposed commissioning of a drinking water project that is yet to be completed.
Last year, the chief minister antagonised ‘friend’ Gorkha Janmukti Morcha with her “rough and tough” talk at a function in Chowrastha, the adverse impact of which continues to reverberate even now. Again, in the run up to the Lok Sabha election, Banerjee rubbed the GJM on the wrong side by fielding Bhaichung Bhutia as the TMC candidate from Darjeeling parliamentary constituency. GJM leaders said they were neither taken into confidence nor consulted by the chief minister before she made the announcement.
On the eve of the commissioning programme today, Darjeeling municipality chairman Amar Singh Rai wondered, “What is the hurry to commission the drinking water project which will take another couple of months to get fully completed? At present there is no scarcity of water. The dry spell from March to May end is over.”
Although the district administration has not been intimated about the chief minister’s itinerary during her two-day stay in the hills, she is expected to formally announce the formation of a Tamang board.
“I have not yet received the CM’s full itinerary. There is a public function at Chowrastha tomorrow where she will commission a water project and officially form the Tamang Cultural Development Board. The CM will also lay the foundation stone for a Rs255-crore Safari Park in Siliguri and hand over houses to members of the Lepcha community,” said Darjeeling district magistrate Puneet Yadav.
It may be mentioned here that the foundation stone for the 35km Balasun drinking water project was laid way back in February 2006 by then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The work was entrusted to Hyderabad-based Ramky Infrastructure Limited. While starting work in 2007, the firm had asserted the scheme would be completed in 24 months, but it is yet to be completed even now. Obstacles such as securing permission from the forest and railway departments and the army along with the political unrest then were some of the major reasons that stalled work on the project.
Work on laying of pipeline on a 5.5km stretch is still in progress and it is expected to take a couple of months to be completed, while the major work from Balasun to Sinchel, where two reservoirs collect the pumped water, has finished.
Uncertainty also hovers over whether GJM leaders, especially party president Bimal Gurung, will give a courtesy call to the chief minister if the municipality chairman’s reaction is to be taken into account.
“Tomorrow is also our party president’s birthday and we will all be visiting him at his home to wish him as was planned earlier. The CM’s visit was not informed to us. I got an invitation from the district magistrate’s office only today,” said Rai.
Meanwhile, other GJM leaders from Darjeeling are presently in Delhi for official work that has not been undisclosed.
The Darjeeling DM said he sent invitations to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration chief executive and sabhasads today.
On the other hand, hill TMC leaders are upbeat about Banerjee’s visit after the drubbing in the election. Welcome gates have been erected at various places along National Highway 55 and party flags have been hoisted at several vantage points.
“The people of the hills love the CM and eagerly await her visits. This visit is also no different from her previous 26 visits. We have made all arrangements,” said senior hill TMC leader Binny Sharma.
The chief minister will leave for Siliguri Saturday and meet party leaders at Sukna. She is expected to fly back to Kolkata the following day.(EOIC)

Mamata Banerjee in Darjeeling, Balasun drinking water project commission - Last year, the chief minister antagonised ‘friend’ Gorkha Janmukti Morcha with her “rough and tough” talk at a function in Chowrastha

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