Suparna Nag couldn't believe her eyes when she updated her bank
passbook on June 1. In her 15 years of career as a teacher in West
Bengal, it was the first time that she got her salary on time, and
that too just eight days after new Chief Minister Mamata
Banerjee's promise to that effect.
"This is great. I am very happy. I have never received my salary
before 10th of every month," said a visibly elated Suparna, who
works at the government-aided Ichhapur Girls High School in
neighbouring North 24 Parganas district.
Equally surprised was Sushmita Chowdhury, headmistress of
Amritberia Tilottama Sabitri Girls High School in remote
Mahishadal of East Midnapore district.
"The money has already reached the bank. I feel so relieved. There
were instances earlier when we would got our salary as late as the
22nd of a month," Chowdhury told IANS.
Four days after her May 20 swearing-in after a landmark election
victory, Banerjee had announced that teachers of all
government-funded schools will get their salaries on the 1st of
every month beginning July.
"During the 34 years of the Left Front, we had time and again
pleaded that our salaries be paid on time. But we only received
assurances. And nothing happened after that," said another
"Banerjee could do in a few days what was not done for decades.
Also she fulfilled her promise well ahead of the deadline of July
she had set for herself," he said.
Not even a month into her job, 56-year-old Banerjee has also
brought a qualitative change in the services of several government
hospitals by undertaking surprise visits.
Long known for their unhygienic surroundings, poor services,
callousness of doctors and other staff, the hospitals are now
witnessing frenetic clean-up drives twice a day.
During her brief, unannounced tours, which have kept the
authorities on their toes, Banerjee has been talking to patients
and their kin to know about their problems and confronting the
medicos and officials about infrastructural shortcomings and
On one such visit to the Bangur Institute of Neurosciences (BIN),
its director Shyamapada Ghorai objected to her turning up with a
bevy of journalists and also expressed his inability to meet her
citing pre-scheduled emergency operations. Hours later, Ghorai was
put under suspension which sent shockwaves across the medical
On Wednesday, Banerjee expressed her disgust during a surprise
check at south Kolkata's Bagha Jatin State General Hospital about
lack of doctors and OPDs starting work as late as noon.
Things moved fast. On Thursday, all doctors were seen early
morning at the OPDs and work started at 10 a.m. sharp.
"Today, there are more doctors in the morning. Their behaviour has
also improved. The hospital is also cleaner," said the relative of
To revamp the shoddy medical infrastructure, the chief minister
has announced upgradation of existing hospitals and health centres
and setting up of four super-speciality hospitals.
Besides, with a view to keep its poll pledges, the new Trinamool
Congress-led government at its maiden cabinet meeting announced
that the 400 acres of land taken by the previous Communist Party
of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led regime for setting up the Tata Nano
factory at Singur would be returned to farmers as the land was
taken "against their will".
As part of her promised special package for the Maoist-affected
Junglemahal, Banerjee has announced that all tribals with annual
income less than Rs.42,000 will get rice at Rs.2 per kg, against
the earlier annual income cut-off limit of Rs.24,000.
Banerjee has already earned praise for her agility and hard work.
She wakes up around 8 a.m., keeps a gruelling 18-hour schedule,
does not use any government or bullet-proof vehicle, and travels
in a car owned by her party. Her convoy stops at all traffic
signals, and she is very particular that pedestrians and commuters
are not inconvenienced when her car hits the road.
In a rare gesture, she began her chief ministerial stint by
donating Rs.1 crore to the chief minister's relief fund from the
sale of her own paintings.
However, the government has also drawn criticism on some counts.
Ahead of the polls, Banerjee had promised a small cabinet to
prevent wasteful expenditure, but settled for 38 ministers
following pressure from Trinamool district units.
Again, she promised to make public the 2007 agreement between Tata
Motors and the state government on Nano, but the government did a
volte face within a day, citing legal complications.
The government also faced criticism from the opposition for
continued political violence which has claimed the lives of 14
CPI-M workers and four of the Trinamool.
Panth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)