Hillary meets trafficking victims, visits Victorial Memorial (Roundup)

Kolkata, May 6: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Sunday spent the first day of her two-day trip to Kolkata, a city she returned to after about 15 years, with a socio-cultural itinerary, meeting young women rescued from human traffickers and visiting the British era Victoria Memorial.

Clinto then hosted a dinner for senior officials of the US consulate here, as the city was virtually turned into a fortress to ensure foolproof security for one of the most powerful politicians of the world.

The focus now shifts on the topmost agenda on Clinton’s trip – a meeting with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Monday at the secretariat where issues like FDI in retail, the Teesta treaty and US investment in West Bengal could come up.

The 64-year-old US leader flew into this eastern Indian metropolis by a US Air Force plane at 12.55 p.m. and hours later met young women survivors of trafficking at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations’ Rabindranath Tagore Centre.

She also met representatives of several NGOs working towards preventing human trafficking and told them to “keep up the spirit”. Clinton also offered to help them.

Clad in a dark suit, Clinton also clapped enthusiastically during a four-minute welcome dance by the women at the centre.

She encouraged the performers and asked about details and significance of the performance from Sohini Chakraborty, founder of Kolkata Sanved, an NGO looking after trafficking victims.

“She thoroughly enjoyed the show and personally greeted the girls. She said she was very excited to see them perform,” Chakrabarty, who directed the show, told IANS.

“She is a very warm person. She was very happy with our work and congratulated us saying keep up the spirit. She enquired about the problems the NGOs are facing and also inspired us with her words.”

She reached out to all with her kind and encouraging words and even offered her help saying I will look into how I can help you people,” added Chakrabarty.

Clinton was then driven to the British era museum Victoria Memorial – housing a major collection of paintings, sculptures and manuscripts from the British period and a rich collection of a visual history of Kolkata.

“It is a monumental hall. It has been well preserved. For long, I wanted to visit the Victoria Memorial. It has been a treat for me,” Clinton exclaimed after spending 15 minutes at the museum.

During her stay at the museum, Clinton was shown an exhibition of paintings of Gaganendranath Tagore, a 19th century Indian painter and cartoonist of the Bengal School and a nephew of nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

She also saw the paintings of 19th century artist Charles D’Oyly and some other creations at the exhibition hall, said Victoria Memorial curator and secretary Swapan Chakraborty.

Tight security was in place for the visit, with even outbound and incoming flights from the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport halted from the time her plane came on the radar till the point the former US first lady and her long convoy left the tarmac.

Apart from her deliberations with Banerjee Monday, Clinton will address the students and a cross-section of eminent persons at the La Martiniere for Girls schools.

Clinton had earlier paid a visit to the city in September, 1997, to attend the funeral of Mother Teresa.

IANS