After giving a call to Maoists to lay down arms, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday turned her attention to the poorest of the poor in 'Junglemahal' by announcing that all tribals in the three districts would be included in the below poverty line (BPL) list.
"I am declaring all tribals living in Junglemahal as BPL families. I have instructed the chief secretary to work out the details to implement this within one and half months," Banerjee told a public rally at Saranga in Bankura district on the second day of her first visit to Maoist-hit areas as chief minister.
Stating that the key to development in Junglemahal comprising West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts, lay in food for all, she said, "Our government's top priority is to give food to all."
"The huge population living in Junglemahal is poor. If all get food, the problem will be solved. The previous government neglected development of Junglemahal," she said.
Stating that her government had decided after coming to power that tribals earning less than Rs 42,000 a year would be eligible to rice at Rs 2 a kg, she said that non-tribals have also been given some relief.
Non-tribals, who earlier required a BPL card to be eligible for the rice scheme, would be eligible for rice at Rs 2 rice a kg if their income was less than Rs 36,000, she said.
During the previous Left Front regime, tribals in Junglemahal with annual income of less than Rs 24,000 were eligible for the rice scheme.
"Our focus will be on improving basic services such as health, education, drinking water and sanitation," she said.
"I am also instructing BDOs, SDOs and other officials to ensure that none die in junglemahal for want of food. To born in a poor family is not a crime," the chief minister said.
She also said that those residing in forest areas should have right over forests. "The new government has inherited a a debt burden of Rs 2.3 lakh crore from the previous Left Front government. But despite financial constraints, we will ensure that development schemes are implemented on a time-bound basis," Banerjee said.
Expressing desire to visit Junglemahal again, she said the implementation of the schemes announced by her would be strictly monitored.
Measures announced included recruitment of 1800 teachers for teaching in Alchiki language in 900 schools, construction of quarters for doctors to be posted there, upgradation of 48 schools from secondary to higher secondary and a blood bank in the Khatra Subdivision Hospital in Bankura and girls colleges in some areas including at Indus in the district.
Banerjee said there was also a plan to set up an IT industry in the district.
The chief minister was accompanied by state ministers, including Sukumar Hansda, Shyam Mukherjee, Subrata Mukherjee and union minister Mukul Roy besides the chief secretary, home secretary and the director general of police.