Kolkata : What Mamata Banerjee started 18 years ago as a street campaigner, she completed on Friday as West Bengal’s chief minister with her victory march to the Writers’ Building.
Followed by tens of thousands of followers, she entered the state secretariat, walking from Raj Bhavan, governor M.K. Narayanan’s official residence, after being sworn in at 1.01pm.
On 21 July 1993, she had led a protest rally of Youth Congress activists to lay siege to the Writers’ Building but was stopped by the police and in the street fight that followed, 13 people were killed in police firing.
After her first cabinet meeting on Friday, Banerjee announced the state government would return 400 acres of land to farmers of Singur village from whom land was taken in 2006 for Tata Motors Ltd’s now aborted small car project. If the Tata group wishes to use the rest of the acquired land, it was welcome to do so, she said, addressing the media after the cabinet meeting. The state government had leased out 645 acres to Tata Motors and 352 acres to its component makers.
Earlier, at the swearing-in ceremony, Sandipan Chakravortty, managing director of Tata Steel Processing and Distribution Ltd, said it was unlikely there would be a small car factory at Singur, but the plot could be used by the group in some other way.
Banerjee said deliberations with her cabinet would continue on Saturday. “I have told all ministers that they have to attend office on Saturdays,” she said. She has set a deadline of three months for the state to resolve the dispute over greater autonomy to Darjeeling and the problem of Maoist militancy in the state. “I will solve the problem through development and negotiation,” she said.
On Friday, 38 ministers including Banerjee were sworn in. Amit Mitra, former secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, is to be the new finance minister.
The job ahead is “challenging” in view of the severe deterioration of work culture and the state’s financial heath.