Kolkata, April 22 (IANS) Soon after taking over the reins of West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had referred to the plight of travellers - particularly women - on the highways, which have a negligible number of public toilets. Eleven months into office, her government has embarked on a massive project to ease the problem.
As part of the scheme, 65 two-storey motels will be set up 30-40 km apart within one year on the national highways, state highways and other major roads linking tourist hubs.
The two storey motels will basically have four facilities - lavatory, resting rooms, bus shelters and restaurants. The resting room section will have two 12-bed dormitories and four double bed rooms.
"The restaurants will serve cold drinks and snacks," state Housing Minister Aroop Biswas said.
"The project is the brain child of Mamata Banerjee. We are working as per her instructions on the project. The motels will be set up in tourist centres. They will be a big help for tourists, especially women," said Biswas.
Spread over 7200-8640 square feet, each of the units will require an expenditure of Rs.30 lakh.
For the densely populated metropolis, which records thousands of footfalls daily, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation has hit upon the idea of introducing mobile toilets.
The mobile toilet vans will be parked at ten important crowded points, including the Mahanayak Uttam Kumar metro station in south Kolkata and Hatibagan Market in the north.
"They will be set up on build and operate basis. And for this, we will invite proposals from private companies," said member, mayor-in-council (health and slum development) Atin Ghosh.
But as her government and party-run KMC board gears up to solve a long-standing problem, Banerjee herself continues to court controversies.
After facing widespread criticism for banning some newspapers in public libraries, Banerjee Thursday asked people not to watch two-three news channels "of the Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M)."
"There are two to three television channels of the CPI(M) that you should not watch. Instead listen to songs on other channels," she said, in the backdrop of the flak that she has drawn over recent developments like the arrest of a professor for circulating a cartoon online which the authorities thought was defamatory for her.
Speaking at an official function in Basirhat of neighbouring North 24 Parganas, Banerjee also advised the people to watch particular entertainment, music and news channels which she named.
A day after, addressing government doctors, the chief minister asked the media not to enter hospitals without permission.
"Don't enter hospital premises. Though I don't need permission, I still take permission of the hospital superintendent before entering hospital premises. I do it since that's a basic courtesy," she said.
With her government close to completing a year, Banerjee is also losing no chance to tom-tom her regime's achievements.
"I will give my government 100 out of 100," "we have completed in less than a year over 90 percent of the work we had set out to do in five years," she has said in various programmes.
On Thursday, the chief minister went a step ahead and said her government had done 10 years' work within this time.
Senior Communist Party of India - Marxist leader and leader of the opposition in the state assembly Surjya Kanta Mishra was bitingly sarcastic.
"She is herself the paper setter, examinee and examiner. She is doing the tabulation also. What more can I say?"
"As railway minister, she has sent the railways to the Intensive Care Unit. Now she is putting the state on the road to the Intensive Care Unit," Mishra said.
(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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