Adhir was reportedly greeted by a large number of cutouts of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Mukul as well as cartoons depicting Adhir’s “criminal cases” that surrounded Bell Institute, where Chowdhury inaugurated a programme to celebrate 150 year of Kanchrapara Railway Workshop.
“The small town of Kanchrapara Railway Workshop is filled with garbage. The garbage needs to be cleaned because it has destroyed the beauty of this historically important town,” Chowdhury said in a veiled reference to the cartoons.
Chowdhury’s remarks came a day after a concrete welcome arch, set up to mark the occasion, was partly damaged allegedly by Trinamool supporters. “The structure could not be decorated as labourers were threatened with dire consequences if they started work,” a security personal said. The programme was held without the structure being decorated.
The incident set political temperatures soaring at Kanchrapara and unprecedented security arrangements were made. Trinamool supporters put up thousands of party flags and tens of dozens of cutouts of Mukul and Mamata. So tense was the area that many shop owners chose to keep their establishments closed. In the evening, the Trinamool organised a rally at Gandhi More.
Mukul’s son Subhrangshu Roy, the local Trinamool MLA, dismissed the charges. “Why should Trinamool workers damage the structure? I had designed it. There was delay in preparing it after my father relinquished charge. Also, all developmental works have slowed in the area.”
The MLA added that the town was covered with posters and festoons because of today’s rally and not to “display might” before Chowdhury.
Addressing the event, Chowdhury said: “Kanchrapara railway town needs to be cleaned of garbage elements (indirect reference to Mukul and others in the TMC). The railway officials said they have an effluent treatment plant. So they can clean up the city.” Again alluding to Mukul and Mamata, who were railway ministers before him, Chowdhury said: “There are many criticisms against Railways because it did not meet the demand-supply gap and lacks modernization and speed.”
In a question-answer session, Chowdhury criticised Mamata’s announcements of providing jobs in Railways to those who give their land for network expansion. “This cannot be a policy. I will speak to the PM and Planning Commission against it. Employment in lieu of land cannot be implemented. In stray cases, employment is offered to land losers because of compulsion. But this cannot be generalised. If it is done, then 1.7 to 2 lakh people will have to be given employment just in Eastern Railways, which is not feasible.”
He called some decisions taken by Mamata as railway minister “populist moves”. Asked about the fate of railway projects announced by her, Chowdhury said: “One may become populist by making announcements, but one has to look at the reality and financial implications of the projects. Acquisition of land is also important and the state government plays a role in land acquisition. So there is need for strong coordination between railways and the state government.”