Jangipur (West Bengal), Feb 25 (Calcutta Tube) A day ahead of the general budget, the Jangipur Lok Sabha constituency of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is looking expectantly at him for sops that would help in usher economic development and better employment opportunities.
Muslim-majority Jangipur, 260 km north of Kolkata and close to the Indo-Bangladesh border, is located near the historic battlefield of Plassey where the British East India company defeated the young Nawab of undivided Bengal to get a foothold to rule the country.
A sub-division of Murshidabad district, the predominantly rural and semi-urban constituency suffers from massive erosion. It is home to 700,000 bidi workers. Its groundwater has arsenic. Mukherjee, residents admit, has taken several initiatives to improve their lot.
The number of schools for young bidi workers has increased from 40 to 140, and 7,000 youngsters are benefiting from the scheme.
But the cry for development is audible.
‘Murshidabad is one of the backward districts of the state. More than 45 percent in the district belong to BPL (below poverty level) category. Many have migrated to different parts of India as small-scale labourers or construction workers. There is no major industry here,’ wailed Mohammed Sujjauddin of Lalgola area.
‘The Ganges-Padma erosion has impacted the lives of thousands. Many people have been displaced due to tides, especially between Farakka and Jalangi and from Jangipur to Sagardighi area,’ he said.
Mukherjee has taken some initiatives to repair the eroding embankments.
According to Abu Hena, a Congress legislator from Lalgola, the lack of industrial and social infrastructure have mainly hindered the growth of the district.
‘All we want from Pranab da is development for Jangipur. We have great expectations from him,’ Hena told IANS, adding that people of Murshidabad want better roads and industries.
‘The national highway 34, which connects West Bengal with the northeast, also needs to be upgraded from two-lanes to four-lanes. The highway is our economic lifeline.’
Arsenic contamination of groundwater, electricity and improvement of roads are issues of major concern.
Thanks to Mukherjee, work has started for setting up an arsenic-free water plant in the area.
‘Arsenic contamination is impacting a number of people. The minister has promised he will ensure so that everyone gets fresh and pure ground water in the coming days,’ Sujauddin said.
In 2004, Mukherjee won from Jangipur by over 36,000 votes. He went on to manage key portfolios like defence, external affairs and finance. In 2009, he was re-elected by 128,149 votes. Both times he defeated the Marxists.
‘People have voted for Mukherjee with great expectations. Considering his stature, he should help propel the economic growth of Jangipur and Murshidabad,’ Abul Hasnat of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) told IANS.
He said Murshidabad was gifted with adequate human capital. ‘But this natural human resource has been misused. We expect Prananb babu will help in drawing investment for industrial units,’ Hasnat added.
Murshidabad, particularly Jangipur, has seen a large number of bank branches and ATMs coming up in recent years. Mukherjee has egged bankers to open new branches and disburse loans to the farmers.
‘If people don’t have work and money, what will they do with the better banking services? I expect Mukherjee will adress the basic issues in tomorrow’s budget that interest the common people,’ Hasnat said.