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Advice for Mamata Banerjee from economist mother

The state government should do more to let people know about its development schemes and their working on the ground

By Subhankar Chowdhury in Calcutta

  • Published 17.10.19, 4:29 AM
  • Updated 17.10.19, 4:29 AM
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee with Nirmala Banerjee, mother of Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, at her apartment in Saptaparni on Ballygunge Circular Road on Wednesday evening
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee with Nirmala Banerjee, mother of Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, at her apartment in Saptaparni on Ballygunge Circular Road on Wednesday evening

The state government should do more to let people know about its development schemes and their working on the ground, Nobel prize winner Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee’s economist mother Nirmala Banerjee told chief minister Mamata Banerjee when she called on her on Wednesday afternoon.

The need to make people aware about welfare schemes and their impact is even more acute among people who are not direct beneficiaries, Mamata Banerjee said while summing up the chat at flat 86F on the eighth floor of Saptaparni on Ballygunge Circular Road.

Abhijit Banerjee maybe the toast of India now, but Nirmala Banerjee was a professor at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences and has worked extensively on women workers in the informal sector.

“I was telling her (the chief minister) that we hardly get to know about the many development schemes that her government is working on. That’s what I told her. We don’t have any way of finding out what is going on. At times, we get to know about schemes such as Kanyashree or some other scheme. But how far this project has been carried out or whether they have worked on the ground, we don’t get to know,” Nirmala said.

“Once common people like us come to know about these, it helps us form our opinion. Otherwise, on what basis would we decide whether we should opt for this political party or that. Once we come to know, then we can take a call,” the 83-year-old said.

The chief minister entered Nirmala’s apartment at 4.55pm and extended her arms in greeting to her host. Mamata was all smiles when she stepped out at 5.35pm with Nirmala by her side.

“Mashima (aunt) was telling me that although my government has undertaken so many development schemes, one hardly gets to know about these projects as you (the media) don’t talk much about them. Only the direct beneficiaries know,” Mamata told reporters waiting outside the apartment.

Asked about Esther Duflo, joint winner of the Nobel and Abhijit Banerjee’s wife, the chief minister said: “Congratulations to both of them. We don’t differentiate between husband and wife. They are together. This is a double Nobel. They are the pride of Bengal.”

Mamata Banerjee recalled her government had inducted Abhijit Banerjee into the Presidency mentor group in June 2011. “People have come to realise this now. When the entire world came to realise it, you (media) also understood this. We had also involved Amartya Sen as part of the mentor group,” she said.

Harvard professor Sugata Bose, who headed the mentor group, dissolved it in January 2018 after alleged lack of interest from the state government and the university administration. Asked whether the mentor group would be revived, Mamata said: “This is a matter of the education department. They will decide.”

The chief minister said her government would like to involve Abhijit Banerjee in various public welfare schemes.

“He is already working on several schemes of our health department. He was part of the Presidency mentor group. The more we can engage a person like him in welfare schemes for the public and the poor, the better.”

Abhijit Banerjee had played a key role in gauging the social impact of training informal health-care providers, encouraging the Mamata Banerjee government to start training around 1.2 lakh of them for better rural health care.

Such training programmes were first started in two blocks of Birbhum in 2008 by the Liver Foundation, an NGO working for the improvement of rural health care and headed by Calcutta-based gastroenterologist Abhijit Chowdhury.

The chief minister said her government would felicitate Abhijit Banerjee only after consulting him.

“Once Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee comes to Calcutta from Delhi, he should be allowed to first spend time with his mother. I will also not be in town from October 21. When he comes to Calcutta the next time, we will honour him,” Mamata Banerjee said.

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