Mamata effect: Salaries on 1st, clean-up drive in hospitals

In her 15 years of career, Suparna Nag as a teacher in WB, it was the first time that she got her salary on time.

Kolkata: 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 said to a news agecy.

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 teacher.

"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 sloppy services.

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 fraternity.

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 am sharp.

"Today, there are more doctors in the morning. Their behaviour has also improved. The hospital is also cleaner," said the relative of a patient.

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.


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