Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has decided to set up two new commissions for the welfare of Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).
The decision, taken on November 25, could be seen as TMC’s counter against BJP's growing presence in the Jangalmahal district, mainly in Purulia, Midnapore, Birbhum, Jhargram and Bankura assembly seats.
Modelled after the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Castes – the new state commissions will be autonomous bodies comprising of five members. The chairperson of the commission will be an official of IAS rank and an IPS officer of DIG rank will also be a part of this commission.
The commission will take measures to provide redressal to the complaints of people belonging to SC and ST communities and hear their suggestions to provide better service to the people.
Following BJP’s significant rise in Jangalmahal in the last Panchayat and Lok Sabha Polls, Banerjee has decided to focus more on the tribal belt. Recently, she had launched special toll-free numbers, similar to ‘Didi Ke Bolo’, exclusively for the welfare of backward people.
Once a Maoist stronghold, Jangalmahal’s substantial vote bank of the Left Front has indirectly helped the saffron brigade to march ahead of the ruling TMC in recent years. This helped the BJP to secure 18 Lok Sabha seats (out of 42) in 2019 in West Bengal.
There was allegations that some tribal districts are facing problems in availing their rights. On July 2, 2019, concerned by the issue, Banerjee and all 84 SC/ST MLAs (from all political parties) held a meeting at the State Assembly and asked the concerned officials to expedite the process of disbursement of SC/ST certificates. It was then discussed to have two separate commissions for them.
Between 2011 and 2018, Jangalmahal was a strong bastion of the ruling TMC but post 2019 Lok Sabha polls, BJP has successfully managed to emerge as a strong contender in most of the tribal dominated areas.
In 2014, Jhargram was won by TMC's Uma Soren, who had wrested the seat from Pulin Bihari Baske of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), ending the Left front’s 42-year domination in the area. However, in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, TMC’s Beerbaha Soren lost to BJP’s Kunar Hembram.
Since then, TMC has worked hard and managed to regain lost ground in most parts of Jangalmahal. This was evident in the bye-poll results in Kaliagunj, Karimpur and Kharagpur Sadar.