Mamata steps into third year in office

Kolkata, May 20 (IANS) In the shadow of the Saradha Group chit-fund scam, West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee government stepped into its third year in office Monday, with the chief minister claiming the state has outperformed the national average in key sectors.

Having moved from one controversy to another, often triggered by actions and comments of party leaders and ministers, including the chief minister, it was far from smooth sailing for the Trinamool Congress government till the second-year of the rule.

Banerjee drew criticism for branding a marginal farmer Shiladitya Chowdhury as a Maoist and jailing him for publicly questioning her about fertilizer prices.

She also drew flak for mimicking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a national news channel, publicly telling her own security policemen they deserved to be whipped and threatening to slap some photo-journalists.

There were police firings in Tehatta of Nadia district and Loba in Birbhum district, killing one person, and injuring several.

A police sub-inspector Sub-Inspector Tapas Chowdhury was killed during trouble sparked by a college election in Garden Reach area of west Kolkata.

After TV channels aired life footage of the killing, a Trinamool Congress councillor Mohammed Iqbal was arrested.

Another party councillor Sambhunath Kow was arrested for his involvement in the murder of a party leader at Mathpukur in the city’s eastern fringes.

A leader of Communist Party of India-Marxist students wing SFI (Student Federation of India) Sudipta Gupta died in mysterious circumstances amid allegations that the police had beaten him mercilessly.

The Trinamool Congress students wing faced widespread condemnation for vandalising Presidency University in protest against the SFI’s demonstration in Delhi against Banerjee and state Finance Minister Amit Mitra.

The Saradha scam, the biggest financial scandal to hit West Bengal has posed the biggest challenge to the Banerjee government, with reports of closeness of many Trinamool leaders with the tainted group emerging over the past few weeks.

Banerjee has tried to contain the damage by setting up a Rs.500 crore fund to compensate the depositors, and constituted a commission to probe the scam and find out ways to return money to the depositors.

Saradha Group head and suspected scam mastermind Sudipta Sen is also behind bars with his top aides. But only time can tell how much the scandal would impact the regime.

However, Banerjee has gone gaga over her government’s achievements.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed major successes in West Bengal, including “elimination of strikes and poor work culture, extending government support across all sections of the society including women, children and the minority communities”.

“In 2012-13, Bengal outperformed the national average in key performance indicators. In GDP, agriculture, and allied sectors, industry and services, the state grew faster than India,” Banerjee said on social networking site Facebook.

“While India grew by 4.96 percent, 1.79 percent, 3.12 percent, and 6.59 percent, Bengal clinched 7.6 percent, 2.56 percent, 6.24 percent and 9.48 percent growth rates in these sectors,” Banerjee said.

Banerjee also claimed the year’s revenue collection of Rs.32,000 crore was a record 30 percent higher than the previous year.

“In MNREGA (100-days’ work), we are No.1 in the country in terms of expenditure (107 percent) vis-a-vis funds received in 2012-13,” asserted Banerjee adding “Bengal was numero uno in Boro (paddy) cultivation in the country”.

The government is celebrating the occasion in a big. Each of its 30 departments is holding exhibitions, seminars and cultural functions in the districts, while the government has splashed big display advertisements in leading newspapers to spread news about its achievements.

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