West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held a meeting with Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes legislators of all parties for the first time since her Trinamool Congress party came to power in the state eight years ago and discussed with them the issues affecting the communities.
During the one-and-a-half-hour-long meeting, they discussed the need to simplify the process to get caste certificates and the problem of land encroachment. It was held in a conference room of the assembly.
The meeting drew the criticism from senior CPI(M) leader and legislator Sujan Chakraborty, who questioned its legality. "We gave the suggestion of simplifying the process of getting case certificates to the chief minister. We also stressed on the need to increase the number of pension holders among SCs and the STs," Sukhbilas Barma, Congress legislator of Jalpaiguri, said after the meeting.
Manoj Tigga, BJP legislator from Madarihat who was also present at the meeting, said emphasis was given to open up the closed tea gardens in north Bengal to carry out the development programmes there.
Both said the issue of encroachment of land owned by SC and ST by land sharks was also discussed at the meeting.
"The meeting was a very good one. Almost all the MLAs belonging to SCs and STs irrespective of their political affiliations were present in today''s meeting. They have given their views on the various developmental projects in the tribal areas of the state," Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee said.
Around 80 out of 294 assembly segments are reserved for SC and ST legislators in the state. "The CM has taken a note of the suggestions given at the meeting by the MLAs. She also said that she would meet the MLAs again if required," Mr Chatterjee said.
Sujan Chakraborty said the meeting was held parallel to the proceedings of the assembly in its precincts. "This is against the law."
West Bengal won the first prize of the National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation on Tuesday for its performance for SCs for 2017-18.
"I am happy to share with all of you that National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation has awarded first prize to Bengal for excellence in performance for Scheduled Castes for the financial year 2017-18. My heartiest congratulations to all," Ms Banerjee wrote on her Twitter handle.
"Incidentally, today I had a meeting with all SC and ST MLAs of all political parties in the assembly and took stock of development activities and other works for SC, ST communities. My best wishes," she added.
State Backward Classes Welfare Minister Rajib Banerjee, who was present at the meeting, said the state has won Rs 7 lakh for the award.