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Thank Didi for bringing peace to ex-Maoist hub Lalgarh: BSNL lineman Laxmi Kanta

Somi Das | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 6:07 IST

Lalgarh, the former hotbed of Maoist activities in West Bengal's Jangalmahal, goes to the polls on 4 April, under the Jhargram constituency.

This place shot into limelight in the year 2008, when then-Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Union Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan's convoy was attacked while they were on their way back after inaugurating the Jindal Steel plant in Salboni.

Then followed a state crackdown on alleged Maoists - an event that shaped the subsequent politics of the area and the ultimate ouster of the Left Front from West Bengal.

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Maoists had a free run here for almost a year - it was cut off from the outside world, and the democratically-elected government was suspended. Eight years after the upheaval, Lalgarh is a different place; it is even connected to the internet today.

Laxmi Kanta Das is, in a way, the harbinger of change for Lalgarh. The entire Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited service office is manned by this 32-year-old father of two, who is not even a permanent employee.

Das, whose primarily role is that of a lineman, earns just Rs 2,000 a month, but is responsible for the functioning of all the 150 connections in the area - 100 landline telephones and 50 broadband connections.

Das earns just Rs 2,000 a month, but manages 100 landline and 50 broadband connections on his own

His salary is too meager to run a family of six with young kids, so he runs a tailoring shop right next to the BSNL office. Despite all the hardship, Das is a content man.

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He thinks Didi - West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee - has done a lot for the development in this region.

"We have seen a huge improvement here. College, schools, roads, bridges everything," Das says. His five-year old daughter goes to school while his three-year old son will soon follow suit.

In 2011, TMC candidate Sukumar Hansda, a former medical officer of West Bengal, had wrested power from CPI(M)'s Amar Basu, following a groundswell of support for Mamata Banerjee.

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Das feels the strong wave of support for Banerjee will continue due to the infrastructure work done by her. "This place mostly votes for Didi," he says.

But he concedes that there are Left supporters in the area, and they may get considerable number of votes in the constituency.

People like Das, who have benefitted from modernisation in this once-forbidden zone, are using their youth and enterprise to build there lives afresh.

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Ironically, the anti-industry sentiment that sparked off the Lalgarh movement is now an eyesore for people like Das, who has no fixed working hours, off days or job security.

Das has only one complaint against Mamata - her failure to bring in industry and generate jobs.

"There are no factories here, and thus, no employment. So, there is no way I can afford to change my job," he says.

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First published: 2 April 2016, 6:32 IST
 
Somi Das @Somi_Das

Somi brings with her the diverse experience of working in a hard news environment with ample exposure to long-form journalism to Catch. She has worked with Yahoo! News, India Legal and Newslaundry. As the Assistant Editor of Catch Live, she intends to bring quality, speed and accuracy to the table. She has a PGD in Print and TV journalism from YMCA, New Delhi, and is a lifelong student of Political Science.

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