March 30, 2009

Self contradictory manifesto’s of electoral alliance partners in West Bengal

Trinamool and the Congress manifesto reveal the duality of characters and the opportunist nature of the alliance of West Bengal opposition

KOLKATA: No sane person will believe this. Some excerpts from the manifesto of the Trinamool Congress. “Why shouldn’t the Digha - transformed into Goa? Why shouldn’t the north Bengal be Switzerland. Why should’nt Kolkata be London? If brought to power Trinamool will work on programme to make it possible. The stark absurdness of her manifesto is now a laughing stock for even for the Congress leaders- her alliance partners.

Though it is not envisable how presently a single representative party in the parliament Trinamool congress will come to power in the near future. But if again counting on vague probability she thinks that this is possible pillion riding on Congress’s back then also questions are bound to arise as to why the election promise of TMC is diagonally opposite of what the congress is saying. While the disinvestment process at the Centre and the state had gathered momentum under the NDA government and the Congress government of which she was part many times at election time this year facing the onslaught of the people against her Zero policies on anything of national importance she suddenly has encountered upon the benefit of having PSU units .
Though her alliance partner Congress has kept Mum about the privatization and her one time ally BJP is openly for privatisation of national resources. More importantly she has not uttered a single word against the BJP or Congress. Perhaps she wants to keep open all the sides open after the election depending on the national results. Recently chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had said that even the ordinary congress workers of the state does not any confidence as to whether Trinamool Congress will stick with Congress after the post poll scenario. The fickle minded nature of Trinamool supremo where she has switched sides time and again has underlined this basic nature of unprincipled politics that TMC at west Bengal had been playing. Time and again her brand of politics has been negated by the people of the state but she has not changed a little bit even after the election verdicts.
More than 75% of the promises made by the TMC supremo have been centred on the state and any question of the national politics was not even mentioned there. But one thing for sure even the Trinamool which has given zero explanation for his antidevelopment roles and the promises that she has made , even has not been able to undermine the success of the West Bengal’s success under Left Front government in the field of agriculture ,though she has attributed this success to the climate of the state? On one side she has demanded why new industries are not coming up on another side she is hell bent on creating roadblocks in the path to the state’s development. In the question of infrastructural development also she had to play to the gallery by refusing to pronounce her stance of not letting the national Highways to come up.

Instead she has demanded that the state should advance in industrialization when she has started campaigning against the PCPIR project in Nayachar which has the potential to provide employment to over 1 lakh people in the state. While on the disinvestments and the privatization issue TMC, in face has said that they too want the disinvestment process to be stopped but in the past as the part of NDA she never raised a single objection to the rampart privatization effort of the then disinvestment minister Arun Shourie.

On the communal amity she said she wants that communal harmony to be maintained but as cabinat Minister in Bajpayee government she did not raised any objection to the Godhra carnage and still she thinks that Narendra Modi is the best Chief minster and Gujarat the ideal example of a state where development and peace exists. She never has demanded that the woman’s reservation Bill be passed in parliament but the politics of compulsion as she fears of getting caught in the eyes of the voters of the state has co0mpeelwed her to put the woman’s reservation issue within her demands.
While her electoral alliance partner the Congress government is reducing the interest of pensioners across the state she fearing people’s onslaught had to mention this demand in the election manifesto. Again an example of duality. She, on one hand has condemned the farmer’s suicides in Maharashtra? Will the government there accede to the demand of their partner? In case of Value added tax while she wants it to be abolished the congress on the other hand wants to strengthen the system of VAT.

In all, unable to face the people of the state the Trinamool too has to enact to play acting echoing the demands of the Leftists. But her hide and her act in the past won’t allow the people of the state to believe in her. Riding on anti leftist platform her poll promise had been a clear cut effort in hoodwinking the people of the state. As time and again the politics of the ruling class of the country has been negated by the people of West Bengal, her ploy of winning over the common people of the state by adhering to the demands of Leftists like 50% allocation of Central resources to the states have failed as the initial reaction of the common people has ridiculed this attempt of Mamata.

However, on the issue of giving support to the divisive forces the manifesto comes out of the way to show its clear support to the Maoists the separatists and the other cessionist elements of the state.On the last part of her mainifesto, her clear intention of hood winking the people has been pronounced, as she had said that the aim of her is to reduce the strength of the Leftists in the parliament as it is they who are creating road blocks to implement the various anti people measures of the successive Central government . So in the end she has admitted that her aim is to pave the way for elimination of the leftists as a deciding factor in the Central politics.


SILIGURI: Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on election tour across a vast stretch of north Bengal was clear in pointing out that the opposition in Bengal worked to organise, hearten, and applaud divisism of every kind including territorial separatism. It is the CPI (M) and the Left, Buddhadeb told the various gatherings he addressed between 28 and 31 March, which is ready to go in for sacrifices of every kind to ensure that Bengal remains integrated and a united entity.

The Trinamulis and the scions of Pradesh Congress, said Buddhadeb, were eager and willing to witness the prosperity and political flowering of such dangerous political devices as the call for ‘greater’ Coochbehar, for a separate ‘Gorkhaland,’ and for a ‘free’ state of Kamptapur, for a separate western Bengal centering around Lalgarh.

The separatist ‘Gorkha Janamukti Morcha’ (GJM) was ready to encroach upon the dooars and the terai with impunity for the sake of building up a separate Gorkhali entity that was conceptually and behaviourally a wrong notion from the first to the last of the premises they fatuously advanced. ‘We,’ said Buddhadeb ‘have told the Dooars adivasi organisations that had become very angry at the GJM’s move, that you should maintain calm and be of orderly conduct, for otherwise, the purpose of the GJM would have been served.’ We are aware of the problems that the adivasis face and whether it was the dearth of Hindi-medium school or the issue of closed and sick cha bagicha, the LF government would look into them for a fruitful but amicable solution.’

The CPI (M) and the LF stood for unity – of the plains and the hills, and of the plains people and the hills people in all their colourful existence. Buddhadeb appealed once again to the GJM leaders not to go in for separatism for that would not solve whatever anguish they nourished in the hearts-and-minds, and whatever was the sort of deprivation they might nurture.

‘We are ready to provide the hill area with more administrative and financial powers for developmental purposes, but who would stand to gain if you go in for separatism? Has the carving away of Jharkhand from Bihar been of any help to the people of either of the two neighbouring states?’ asked Buddhadeb.

Buddhadeb asked the Pradesh Congress leaders to come clean of they could on the issue of a separate hill district. The Congress speaks in one tone in the terai and dooars and in quire another in the hills. This was duplicity and the victims are the common people, especially the poor who become more and more confused and angry at being played as ducks-and-drakes.

Recalling the 1970s when the violent Naxalite (later the ‘Congxalite’) movement swept Bengal and the 1980s when the Gorkhaland movement under the counter-progressive stewardship of the GNLF, shed the blood of the poor, the bourgeois parties had silently provided succour and encouragement to the politics of destruction. Those days would be allowed to come back and haunt the poor of the province again, asserted Buddhadeb firmly. In the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, the electorate must vote for peace, for amity, for progress, for development.

Later fielding a plethora of questions, some mundane, others facetious, only a few that could be deemed having political content, Buddhadeb said that the prospects of a strong Third Front grew fast every day, every week. The BJP a vicious outfit that believed in religious fundamentalism of the physical kind (e.g., a young BJP leader’s horrendous threats to non-Hindu communities, uttered brazenly in front of rolling TV cameras) was losing ground fast. Allies were dropping off the ship-ran-aground called the Congress. The resultant political vector clearly worked for the repository of popular trust in the secular-democratic Third Front with the Left and the CPI (M) playing the role of a catalyst.

Elsewhere in Darjeeling the LF’s CPI (M) candidate for the seat Jibesh sarkar was heckled by the GJM but nonetheless, he also received a cheerful welcome from the masses of the hill station, and his campaign up in the hills was such a success that the Bengal CPI (M) would extend electioneering in such important hill towns as Kurseong, and Kalimpong shortly, urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharyya, a long-time Party activist of Siliguri and Darjeeling assured us.

March 29, 2009

UPA and NDA will lose partners after the polls: Buddhadeb

Kolkata, March 29: Both the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will lose partners after the Lok Sabha polls leading to the consolidation of the Third Front, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said Sunday.

“The efforts to cobble up a non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and non-Congress alternative will gain a more distinct shape in the post poll situation. Partners will come out of both the UPA and the NDA,” Bhattacharjee, a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader, said in an interview to his party’s mouthpiece Ganashakti.

“The new force that will see consolidation in that scenario must have a common minimum programme,” he added.Bhattacharjee said the leftists will have to play a role in such a situation. “We will perform our duty.”

The CPI-M politburo member felt the Third Front had become relevant now both in terms of its strength and number of constituents.“But this is not enough. We have to consolidate the front by holding discussions. The process has already started, and such dialogue will continue even after the polls.”

In an obvious reference to the Congress and the BJP ridiculing the Third Front for its large number of prime ministerial hopefuls, Bhattacharjee said adopting the right programme was the main pre-requisite for forming an alternative government.“The leftists are laying stress on drawing up such a programme, and not on any party or leader,” he said.

Bhattacharjee said the leftists will take a call on joining a Third Front government after reviewing the post-poll situation.He said the leftists’ main aim in the Lok Sabha elections is to form an alternative non-Congress and non-BJP government. He claimed that there was a distinct possibility of the leftists, and secular and democratic regional parties getting a majority.


KOLKATA, 28th MARCH: A reality now, more than ever, rather than a theoretical compose the Third Front with the Left in the van shall direct the shape of the Lok Sabha that shall be formed after the Lok sabha election. This was Biman Basu, state secretary, Bengal CPI (M) at the massive convention of Left student-youth in Kolkata at a packed indoor Stadium in the afternoon hours of 28 March, the anti-unemployment day.

Biman Basu said in clear tones that both the bourgeois alliances, one led by the Congress the other by the religious fundamentalist BJP, were breaking apart in front of their own eyes, and they stand helpless. The Third Front gains strength continuously and is spreading its political wings across a larger and ever larger footprint across India.

Explaining that it had been the Left students-youth organisations that had commenced observing the anti-unemployment day from back in 1973, the speaker said that the young generation of the Left had also played an exemplary role in the struggle against quasi-fascism and lumpen terror that Bengal bled under during the 1970s. The relevance of 28 March shall continue to be relevant until an end was wrought of exploitation, deprivation, and the ruling class control over the means of production.

Extending his arguments into analysing the massive economic recession that has slowed down production and has resulted in billions of people losing job especially in the capitalist world, the Bengal LF chairman said that more than a hundred million young men and women stand to lose employment in India itself over the next year or so. By 2020, the rate of unemployment itself shall reach 30% in the sub-continent. In just over a decade’s worth of time-scale India shall be burdened with the presence of eleven crore jobless youth.

As we speak today, said the senior CPI (M) leader, India has lost 1.5 million men and women in the organised sector alone. Five lakh people connected with the once-lucrative ornaments trade and calling has become without a viable means of livelihood. The sunrise Info-Tech industry is expected to shed 50 thousand jobs, come the next half-a-year. BPO will see 2.5 lakh jobs go down the drain, adding to the burden of joblessness.

The country groans under misery of the financial kind because of the fatuous way the ruling classes have clung to the capitalist path and has seen the light at the end of the tunnel in ‘globalisation.’ The Left has cautioned the people during the earlier Lok Sabha polls against the expected facet of the Congress policy of towing the economic policy of the NDA régime, and that proved disastrous for the nation, especially for the toiling masses.

The Left has lent its outside support to the UPA governance strictly based on the few pro-people aspects of the CMP, aspects that the Congress did not follow while selling the nation downstream to imperialism and its lackeys. This resulted in the correct decision of the CPI (M) and the Left in withdrawing support.
Biman also mentioned the u holy alliances that had come together in Bengal against the CPI (M) and the Left Front. As he put, the masses shall bid good night to the forces of darkness whose surreptitious alliance was forged not in the broad day light but in the darkness of the night. Biman was also thoroughly critical of the way the opposition had suddenly started to shed what were clearly tears of sham and falsity for the adivasis.

The opposition was also playing the Communal card as dangerously as the young stalwart of the BJP was doing with imp unity at the national level—and getting away with it. Biman called upon the youth to be politically active in dealing a blow to the hopes and evil ambitions of the opposition in the Lok Sabha polls all over Bengal. A win in Bengal for the CPI (M) and the Left would improve the prospects that much more for the Left-led Third Front. Student and youth leaders, too, addressed the vast gathering, a gathering that was big enough to take a long time to disperse.

Third Front's prospect brightening, says Buddhadeb

Siliguri (WB),28th March : With the desertions of certain partners in the UPA and NDA, the prospect of the Third Front faring better in the Lok Sabha polls is "brightening fast", West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said on Sunday. "The poll prospect of the Left-led Third Front is brightening fast and it will form the government at the Centre," he said in a party workers' meet at Bidhannagar, about 35 km from here.

Mr. Bhattacharjee criticised the Congress for negotiating with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on seeking the hill organisation's support for its candidate Dawa Narbula in the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat. "It is pathetic to see that the Congress has kept aside its political stand to bag one seat," he said.

The CPI(M) leader ruled out any division of West Bengal to create Gorkhaland as demanded by GJM. "The state government is ready for further development of Darjeeling Hills, but there must not be any separation," he said.

He criticised Opposition parties for creating controversy over acquisition of farm land to set up industry in West Bengal and said they had been constantly opposing development in the state.
Blaming the Congress for rise in prices of essentials, he alleged 180,000 farmers had committed suicide during the UPA rule on account of its anti-poor policies.

Singur people want Nano back: Buddhadeb

KOLKATA, Saturday, 28 March , 2009: Global auto major Tata Motors may have moved out its Nano plant from the state but the people of Singur still want the project, says West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. "People of Singur want the factory over there, they are very hopeful and I have conveyed this to the higher authorities of the Tata Group," Bhattacharjee said in an interview to a private regional news channel here.

Singur, 40 km from here in the state's Hooghly district, had turned into a battleground for about two-and-a-half years since May 2006 after the state government allotted land for the Nano project. On Oct 3 last year the company announced it had scrapped its plans to bring out the small car, priced at Rs.100,000, from the Singur facility. The plant was shifted to Sanand in Gujarat.

Tata Motors wound up its Singur plant following sustained protests by a Trinamool Congress-led farmers agitation demanding return of 400 of the 997.11 acres acquired for the project. The agitators alleged that the 400 acres were forcibly taken by the government from farmers unwilling to part with their land.

"I am trying to set up a factory in that plot in Singur. We have already spoken to a few Indian as well as foreign companies. In fact, now our industry secretary is in China talking to a company over there," the chief minister said. He, however, said whichever company sets up a plant in Singur, the government would ensure that it generates as much employment as the Nano project was supposed to do and "if possible even more than that". "It is very important that the youth of the state get employment," he said.

Talking about land acquisition and the compensation that was provided by the government to the farmers of Singur who gave their land for the Nano project, he said: "Around 85-86 per cent of the farmers have taken compensation and of the remaining 10-15 per cent many do not stay in India and few others don't have proper papers of the land. That means the number of unwilling farmers were really small."

"I failed to make the opposition understand the meaning of ancillary industries. They didn't understand that this was an integrated project and 400 acres cannot be given away like that. Giving away 400 acres would have meant stalling the project," he added.

Referring to the meeting between the Left Front government and the Trinamool at the behest of Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi Sep 7 on the issue, Bhattacharjee said: "We didn't sign any deal that night regarding the land in Singur. It was a joint statement in which we stated that we will give back as much land as possible keeping the project intact.

"Later our officials did a detailed study and found out 70 acres from the project, which we were ready to return keeping the nature of the project intact," he said. He said the Left Front government did not believe in using brute force. "In Singur, 80 per cent work was done and we thought we could start the factory. But after the attack on engineers we had to resort to applying force. Otherwise we didn't have any problems with the agitation that the opposition was doing, had they been doing it in democratic way," Bhattacharjee said. He said his government was against using fertile land for industrialisation. "But there is only one per cent fallow land available in the state and it is not possible to set up all the industries on it," Bhattacharjee said.

Regarding the police firing in Nandigram March 14, 2007, he said: "I will always feel sorry for what happened in Nandigram March 14. Police did not go there to torture the locals, they went there along with people of the municipal department to repair road. We even had sought opposition's help that day. But suddenly everything changed and so many people died in the clash."

The state government's efforts to set up a chemical hub project in Nandigram also came unstuck in 2007 following stiff resistance from the Trinamool-led farmers. The project has now been relocated to Nayachar island near Haldia in East Midnapore district. Singur and Nandigram are exceptional cases and do not reflect the trend in the state, the chief minister said. "In Nayachar, we are trying to start work as fast as possible," he added.

Left goes digital, scripts Nandigram, Singur stories to win back rural Bengal

Express News Service
Posted online: Mar 28, 2009 at 0445 hrs

Kolkata : Stung by the growing strength of Trinamool Congress in rural West Bengal as exhibited in the last year’s panchayat polls, the ruling CPI(M) is now banking on digital mediums to reach to its grassroots supporters.

The CPI(M) does not want to make the two episodes - the Nandigram and Singur debacles — its Achilles’ heel and hence it has created CDs to put across the party’s view on industrialisation to the voters. All the 26,000-odd party units throughout the state have been asked to show the audio-video CDs in their respective areas.

“The idea is still in a preliminary stage,” says CITU state president Shyamal Chakraborty, in-charge of producing these CDs, adding that the party will produce a full length film on the issue.
Another reason for adopting the modern mass communication tool is that the CPI(M) lacks crowd-pullers and stalwarts like Jyoti Basu, sources say.

So, the party’s election strategists have decided to take the help of modern equipment to attract voters, especially the young voters in rural Bengal. The party has already produced a CD comprising Basu’s speech which will be distributed after April 16. “More are coming. The party has planned to make CDs of the conflict areas in Bengal politics,” said a senior leader of the CPI(M).

On Friday, one of the CPI(M)-backed directors of a city theatre gave a sneak preview of the proposed film on Singur to a select group of CITU leaders. “First, we will see this and then it will be distributed among the supporters,” said CITU state secretary Kali Ghosh.

Sources in the CITU said the rushes contain details on the case of Suhrid Dutta, who was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation on charges of masterminding the gruesome murder of teenager Tapasi Malik. “The film will show how he was implicated in the case,” said a leader. “Suhrid Dutta’s case has tarnished the image of the party, so we have to react. We think this issue is still alive in the minds of the people,” he added.


KOLKATA(INN): Mamta Banerjee has declared the intention long back. The fact of her intent is now being fructified by the reckless desperadoes of the Trinamulis and their Maoist minders at Nayachar, as a recent visit proved. This was out second visit to this ‘char’ land in the mouth of the Hooghly River. The Nayachar enclave straddles the river and in equidistant from Haldia and Falta industrial zones. One has to touch the shores of the vast empty land (bar for a few fishingfolk’s huts, around two dozen in number) by sailing on one of those ubiquitous motorised dinghies called in the sonorous and common Bengali noun of bhoot-bhooti.

The first time we had visited the place back in February of this year, the place looked desolate. 54 square km of the ‘char’ had been acquired by the state LF government without any resistance or opposition from the fishing folk or even the self-proclaimed ‘environmentalist lobby,’ for the union government-approved petro-chemical products investment region (PCPIR). The rest of the area was filled with shrubs and wild grass.

The change was startling when we recently paid another visit to Nayachar. All on a sudden, we noted the quick increase in the number of hutments. We also found deep dug out. A full-fledged Krishi Ucchhed Pratirodh Committee’ (KUPC) has been formed mostly with Maoist participation. The number hutments had gone up at an incredible rate, from a dozen-odd to several dozens.

The east Midnapore unit of the CPI (M) informed us that they had authentic news that 50 hardened Trinamuli-Maoist killers of Nandigram had been despatched and ‘settled in’ at the ‘char’ land. These goons carried a large cache of arms. They come mostly from the localities of Kendemari, Shrigauri, and Bachhurmari of Nandigram 1 and 2. Others have come from Sagardwip and the abutting coastal zones of south 24 Parganas and east Midnapore. The Maoist chief ‘Kishan’ has already circulated a VCD where the Nayachar issue has been noted and later transcribed into a CP (Maoist) party letter that has been propagated in Midnapore east and at Nayachar.

According to Party sources, the work of making mines and other explosives has already started at the locale of the ‘char’ land, which is thickly shrubbed and has no habitation. This is yet to be confirmed but we have no reason to disbelieve the local fishingfolk, once friendly to us, trembling in fear this time around when asked about the plethora of ‘new people,’ coming into Nayachar and going away from the island.

The desolate areas are Baolatala, Bishalaxmi, and Khejurtala. We learn that the Maoists would start the ‘action programme’ right after the Lok Sabha elections are over under ‘earnest request’ from the Trinamuli chieftains. Maoist leader Sheikh Gaushal of south 24 Parganas is apparently the ‘coordinator’ with the Trinamuli hoods of the ‘char’ land.

March 28, 2009

IOC gets clearance for Rs 30 bn coker plant at Haldia

KOLKATA: Indian Oil Corporation has received clearance from the ministry of environment and forest for installing its proposed Rs 30 billion delayed coker plant at Haldia in West Bengal, reports Economic Times.The company said that about 82 acres has already been acquired from Hindustan Fertilizer Corporation (HFCL).

However, the entire 82 acres will not be required and plans include setting up a petrochemical plant. The IOC board will be working on the exact quantum of investment for the plant. Shares of the company closed up Rs 0.95, or 0.24%, at Rs 396.75. The total volume of shares traded at the BSE was 34,655 (Friday).

Political feud within Ghani Khan family

KOLKATA: “I have been stabbed in the back,” failed aspirant for the Congress ticket from West Bengal’s Malda North constituency, Abu Naser Khan Choudhury, brother of A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury, said on Thursday.

He was talking to The Hindu after learning that he was denied nomination, losing out to his niece Mausam Benazir Noor, who would be contesting the seat in the Lok Sabha elections.“The image of our family which continues to have a magnetic influence here has been tarnished; my niece is too inexperienced for the task ahead and my brother, Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, is shattered by this decision of the Congress High Command,” he said over telephone from the family’s ancestral home in Kotwali near Malda.

Dynastic politics has taken a toll. The Khan Choudhury family has enjoyed popular support in large parts of Malda, the likes of which not too many other families are known to have had in West Bengal. It is attributed to A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury, local icon and undisputed strongman of the Congress in the district when he was alive.

“We, the rest of the family, are all beneficiaries of my brother, A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury’s popularity. But today there is anger within us, I am angry for having been replaced by my niece,” Mr. A.N. Khan Choudhury said. His other brother, A.H. Khan Choudhury, is the president of the district unit of the Congress and will be contesting from Malda South. He held the Malda seat in the previous Lok Sabha.
Mr. A.N. Khan Choudhury’s nomination for the Malda North — the other new constituency that has emerged following delimitation of Malda — was seldom in doubt by local leaders. But before he could present a verification document to the poll authorities, the party nominated his niece.

West Bengal offers Nayachara Island for KoPT dredging

Kolkata, Mar 26 (PTI): The West Bengal government today offered Nayachar Island for disposal of silt for dredging the navigational channels of Kolkata Port Trust to overcome the dumping ground problem.At a high level meeting in New Delhi today, the state government had offered Nayachar Island but Dredging Corporation of India and KoPT officials said it was not a viable option due to technical reasons.

The high level meeting in New Delhi was held by a senior official in the Cabinet Secretariat in presence of Union Shipping secretary, West Bengal Chief Secretary and KoPT Chairman to discuss port issues, sources said. A separate meeting would be held at the state secretariat with DCI and KoPT to resolve the issue, they said.

It was decided in the meeting that 10 additional pilots would be provided to Haldia Dock Complex shortly to tide over the pilot crisis, sources said. The meeting also attempted to know and find solution to long wait of vessels at the sandheads.

March 27, 2009

CPI(M) Polit Bureau Condemn Killing of CPI(M) Cadres in West Bengal

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
Condemn Killing of CPI(M) Cadres in West Bengal

The Trinamul Congress-Congress alliance backed by the Maoists hasunleashed a vicious campaign of terror and violence against the cadresand workers of the CPI(M) after the announcement of the Lok Sabhaelections.

In the month of March upto now eight cadres and activists of the CPI(M)have been brutally killed in various parts of West Bengal. Five comradeswere killed on a single day, March 18, in four separate incidents.

Sohrab Dewan in Raina and Bejoy Sahu in Titagarh of Burdwan districtwere killed by Trimanul goons.

Gopal Mandal, Local Committee Secretary in East Behrampur, Murshidabadwas killed by Congress miscreants Durga Deshwali, Local Committee member of the Party and Santosh Mahatoin Belpahari in West Midnapore district were shot dead by a Maoist gang.

On March 17, Ansar Ali was killed by TMC goons at village Patiram. Onthe same day, the body of Himadri Patra, a staunch CPI(M) worker who hadbeen kidnapped, was found.

On March 12, Saiyad Ali Bhuinya, Zonal Committee member of the CPI(M)was shot dead by Trinamul goons in Bankura.

These killings were preceded by seven murders of CPI(M) workers andtheir family members in the month of February.

These targetted assassinations of CPI(M) cadres is part of a nefariousdesign by the Trinamul Congress and its Maoist collaborators to createterror and disrupt the CPI(M) and Left Front's election campaign and tointimidate their supporters.

The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) denounces this violence resorted to bythe anti-Left opposition. The CPI(M) appeals to all democratic forces tocondemn these brutal attacks. The people of West Bengal will not becowed down by such violent tactics.

March 26, 2009


KOLKATA(INN): Motoring down the Barrackpore expressway this morning (25 March 2009), two fascinating scenes drew our attention. First, at various places on the two sides of the broad avenue, we found Trinamuli and Pradesh Congress election banners, graffiti, and posters overwhelming the side of all sorts of government buildings as well as of other structures including CPI(M) election offices!!.

This is in clear violation of the concerned rules read with the EC regulations in this regard. Nevertheless, who cares anyway, in a parliamentary seat (15-Barrackpore) where the popularity of the hammer-and-sickle is legendary for decades together now, and the candidate himself is a veteran TU leader-- and the new-found Trinamuli candidate, a fresh import from the posh environs of the capital, is perhaps a sure loser.

The second sight that almost forced our attention was a curious one, a very curious one, indeed, and it showed the bad taste that the Trinamulis have grown up with, to mature and fructify, come the polls. We saw vast-sized, garishly coloured photos of Mamata Banerjee and the state governor together in gigantic hoardings all across the township of Bhatpara. We would not know if any of the two featured together had registered their protest with anybody, but the Bengal CPI (M) has drawn the urgent attention of the full bench of the EC to the crass violation of norms, electoral or otherwise perpetrated here.

This brings us nicely to the vying with the Trinamulis, for overturning the election code, by the Pradesh Congress. We have received reports earlier that the morning of 25 March saw the two brothers of the late A. B. A. Ghani Khan Chaudhuri descending on the township of Maldah with a roaring-at-full-throttle fleet of 50-odd massed motorbikes—each carrying the Congress election symbol. Noise pollution, what do you mean? However, more is involved here than meets the ears.

As the Bengal CPI(M) has not lost time in writing to the ECI, this demonstration of massed engine horsepower also violates the electoral regulation that says that such convoys must prominently display on their respective windshields the permit for such a motorcade (in this case, what, a motorbicade?) to be organised, and it contravenes the other concerned rule that lays down that any large convoy of motorised vehicles taking part in an election campaign, must be broken up in small groups with at least 200 metres worth of distance between the groups. On both counts, the Pradesh Congress could not care less.

Then again, once the Trinamul Congress takes the plunge in brushing election rules brusquely aside can the ‘mothership’ called the Pradesh Congress wallow silent in obeisance of forms and norms, electoral or otherwise.


KOLKATA: The Bengal CPI (M) has in latter written on 24 March 2009 pointed out the one-sidedness of pre-election coverage of political activities in the state by the Kolkata station of the All-India Radio (AIR). In the letter, written by the secretary of the Bengal unit of the CPI (M) and signed on his behalf by Party CCM Benoy Konar (Biman Basu is away on election campaign in central Bengal), the Bengal CPI (M) points out that the morning news bulletin of the AIR of 24 March 2009 would not carry the report of the media conference of CPI (M) PBM and the LF government’s industries minister Nirupam Sen where he clarified certain issues on the shifting of the small car project from Singur in Hooghly, to Sanand in Gujarat and to Panthnagar in Uttarakhand.

The Kolkata AIR bulletin in reference, however, carried other political news concerning various other political parties and alliances. The Bengal CPI (M) had already pointed to the biased nature of election coverage-related broadcasting / telecasting of the AIR and the Doordarshan when it had met in delegation the full bench of the Election Commission at the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata back on 19 March. Apparently, the EC did not think it proper to act on it and advise the state-run media to be as impartial as possible in covering news items. The Bengal CPI (M) hopes that the EC would do so in the days to come.(INN)


KOLKATA(INN): LF-supported Forward Bloc candidate for Barasat in north 24 Parganas and noted educationist Sudin Chattopadhyay was taken aback when he saw a rush of hooligans onto the stage. The occasion (on 18 March) was a ‘live’ TV show put up at Barasat where the organisers / TV channel owners wanted Prof Chattopadhyay to enter into a debate with the Trinamul candidate from the Barasat seat.

As the debate progressed it was clear that Prof Chattopadhyay was gradually gaining an upper hand despite his low-key, polite, and soft style of speaking vis-à-vis the Mamata banerjee-like aggression and fire-and-brimstone kind of approach by his woman rival candidate who has had to swallow defeats every time she had run for the polls, be it the assembly or the Lok Sabha. She had once run against Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee from Jadavpur and had her ego bruised by the thumping margin of the former’s win. Her frustration came through rather easily this time around, if in a menacing manner, as Prof Chattopadhyay was soon to find out.

The organisers had managed to stash away a large ‘cache’ of drunken Trinamul Congress supporters around the open air space from where the show was telecast. Each round of question-and-answer session saw the Trinamuli candidate get the worse of the exchanges in terms of facts as well as argumentation. She kept becoming angrier as the FB candidate never strayed off the cool and the laid-back attitude he is quite well-known for, apart from his great debating skill.

The last straw was reached when the Trinamul candidate started to hurl abuses on the professor, and the Trinamuli goons, perhaps sensing that that was the signal, came rushing up the stage, swept past a sniggering presenter, and jostled with Sudin Chattopadhyay, beating him up with fists and worse.

The latter fell down bleeding and had to be removed to hospital after the local people had to intervene and stop the hooliganism. In hospital, the doctors realised that professor Chattopadhyay had suffered from at least one broken rib plus innumerable bruises on his face and body, and must be rested for some days before venturing out on the campaign trail. The Trinamulis had better come to grips with the fact that this show of terrorism would lose and not win them votes in a seat where the LF and the FB had always prevailed, whoever the rival has been.


KOLKATA(INN): Two serious charges have been levelled against the Election Commission of India (ECI) by the CPI (M). One deals with the time allotted to the different political parties with whom the ECI interacted at the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata on 19 March. The second is concerned with the order in which the political parties were called up for the tête-à-têtes.

The first concerned the order in which the political parties were called up. The ECI chose ostensibly an alphabetical order to call up the leaders of the different, national, and state, parties present on the day. They first called upon the AIFB. To the surprise of everyone, the Trinamul Congress that goes by the grand name of All-India Trinamul Congress in the official ECI documents was not called thereafter. The Trinamuli chiefs were in fact called up at the end the session.

Thus by the time the Trinamulis trooped in the ECI was aware of the say-so of all the Left parties who had duly been called in alphabetical order. In a protest letter, Biman Basu has said that the ECI should follow a single norm. Either it must prefer the alphabetical order, or it should go by the national / state status of the concerned parties. It chose to follow both, one set of norms for the Trinamulis and another set for the rest of the parties including the new-found Trinamuli political dost, the Pradesh Congress.

Second, the political parties were each allocated time slots of ten minutes each for interaction with the ECI, and this included the Pradesh Congress. However, it was found that the Trinamulis were allowed nearly an hour’s worth of time when they went to meet the ECI. The CPI (M) has pointed this pout in a letter to the ECI and has asked for clarification. We are left wondering what the discussion was going on about. The Trinamuli chieftains would not speak to the media when they finally came out, smiles pasted on their visages.

At the meeting, in the ten minutes worth of time the CPI (M) leaders led by Party CCM Madan Ghosh pointed to the following emergent issues, among others, that needed redresssal and early:

1.A situation of terror is being built up in the state with one after another leading CPI (M) workers being heinously murdered
2.The fundamentalists are on the prowl in a markedly intense manner
3.The left sectarians are active in a violent way in the red clay districts and are making it impossible for the CPI (M) to carry out election campaign
4.Opposition candidates are flouting the election code in a variety of manners including coming up with what amounted to graft, and include various infrastructural assurances
5.Walls of government and quasi-governments were being written on with graffiti by the opposition
6.The two official media of Akashvani and Doordarshan were patently biased against the CPI (M) and for the parties of the ruling classes

The CPI (M) asked the ECI to seal the interstate and the international border around Bengal during the poll period. They also asked the ECI to look into instances where the number of voters has suddenly increased, out of expectation.
By B. Prasant


KOLKATA: The Lok Sabha elections approach. The opposition is panic struck. The rank of the panic struck includes reactionary forces here and abroad. Thus, we are at the receiving end of a wide array of conspiracies, some foolishly, overtly executed, and these are but few. The water runs dangerously deep in most instances of the orchestrated, concentrated, planned, scheming moves against the Left Front and the CPI (M).

Shall we begin with the obvious? Numerous groups of men and women are on the move across the villages and towns, the hamlets and the urban centres in Bengal even as you read this. They include women in widows’ weeds, young boys, and girls, with a gang of toughs hanging back.

The groups approach the households during the noon hour when the menfolk have gone out to earn their livelihood. They get hold of the women. They tell them horror stories of ‘atrocities perpetrated on us at Nandigram.’ Sometimes, the locale is a Singur hamlet. The refrain is the same. “Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has a yen for land. He will take away your agricultural plot and your homestead land. Buddhadeb represents the philosophy of the CPI (M) to ‘rob the poor.’ Beware of him, and of them. Chance comes to you every five years only. Take a plunge, and vote for change.”

Mostly, these ploys backfire. Curious women ask them of the details and for these bearers of the untruth the devil lie in the details. They cannot name the villages they inhabit. They will not give out their names, even names of their family members. They are then turned out, politely by the householders. The toughs slither closer, and utter whispered threats, and then they disappear in the waiting car or auto-rickshaw, their always engines awhirr as they wait.

That was the obvious. The conspiracy is professionally organised elsewhere. The target is the minority communities, or one minority community, the largest of them in Bengal, a community that has always been by the side of the Left Front and the CPI (M). Old men yet tell us with more than a touch of pride how most of the pioneering dozen of the founders’ brigade of the CPI had been Muslims! They recall the political-ideological-organisational contributions of such comrades as Kakababu (Muzaffar Ahmad), Abdul Halim, Abdullah Rasul, and Shahidullah in Bengal.

We find the imam of the Bada Masjid, up to little good-- for anybody. Shahi Imam of Bengal, who is the Mufti-e Azam, as well as the chief Mufti and Quazi of the state government of Bengal also being the Dar-ul Ifta and Quaza of Bengal per se, issues a press release of 21 March 2009, on a piece of paper that carries the official government emblem in the form of the Ashoka Pillar (Ashoka Stambha), as used in government documents, on the top left side of the page.

In that release, he falsely berates the present state administration for its ‘anti-Muslim’ frame of mind, and calls upon all ‘sane citizens,’ to ‘go ahead and make a change,’ while casting their votes. We find this not merely a perversion of facts but a dangerous communal approach that is also grossly inflammatory in character. Most Muslims would ignore the appeal. Nevertheless, the intent, or rather the severe malignancy of the exercise is sure to make happy and rock with pure pleasure, Mamata Banerjee, men, and women of her ilk, and, who knows, perhaps also the chieftains of their new-courted ally, the Pradesh Congress, and their patrons, here and abroad.

After all, even as a Bengali-speaking ambassador of the US to India is steps in, set to ‘begin the beguine’ for the imperialists from Delhi, the man on the spot of the US of A in Kolkata has chosen the cosy, air-conditioned, five-star confines of a central Kolkata hotel to meet more-than-once a chosen few Muslim leaders who are both familiar and comfortable with the idioms of fundamentalism and of anti-Communism. The agenda, we can assume, is not either religion or peace.

The Left Front has stepped up its election campaign. Smaller meetings are stressed on—baithaks, as well as pally or neighbourhood meetings, smaller gatherings at rural haats and urban bazaars are concentrated upon, discussions are opened to the masses on the issues of the day, the candidates march along the routes within their constituencies, always stopping by for a bit of political adda, and a glass or two of cool water, maybe an earthen pot or three of black tea – and while bigger rallies are held fewer in number, preference is gradually being allocated to intimate, personal, one-to-one, house-to-house contact with the masses.

The Left Front itself marches on in solidarity with the people, as one. Biman Basu, state secretary of the CPI (M) and the Bengal LF chairman has assured the people that the LF is united as ever, and that ‘we are fighting for all 42 seats, not one less.’ Wild predictions shall meet a wilder fate we are assured by the elderly and the young alike. In the meanwhile, Biman Basu rushes off to big and small rallies at several places in south Bengal having arrived at the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan a few hours earlier from a lengthy trip to north and central Bengal.

Centre approves double-lane highway in West Bengal

GANGTOK: An alternative double-lane highway via Chalsa in West Bengal to Menla, near Nathu La, has been approved by the Centre. The cost of construction for the 176-km stretch will be around Rs 400 crore. The West Bengal forest department has been asked to give clearance soon so that the project starts in 2009-10 and ends by 2011-12. The road is very important for defence movement up to the Indo-China border. It will also benefit the full-fledged Indo-China border trade via Nathu La which is expected to start by 2013-14.
The new road would be in addition to the existing one of Chalsa to Jaldhaka-Thode-Rachela-Aritar-Rhenock-Rorathang-Rangpo-Singtam to Ranipool to connect the existing NH 31A. NH 31A, from Sevoke to Gangtok BRO, spotted 79 points which were mostly vulnerable landslide zones. Out of that, 59 have been sanctioned and work will start by April. Completion is due by October, said Brigadier RK Patyal, chief engineer, BRO Project Swastik. For this Rs 47 crore has been sanctioned. Brig Patyal added that most of the hydropower developers in Sikkim and West Bengal, including NHPC, Gati Infrastructure, Teesta Urja, have agreed to bear the cost for strengthening roads and bridges on their route to Siliguri.

Catch-22 for Trinamool, Cong in mixed-up doubles

Kolkata: Congress turncoats Somen Mitra and Sudip Bandopadhyay, now in fray on Trinamool tickets, face ire of their former and current party workers Somen Mitra and Sudip Bandopadhyay, both state Congress stalwarts who switched sides to join the Trinamool just before the Lok Sabha election dates were announced, are faced with a double whammy.

As if taking on CPI(M) heavyweights were not enough, the two have to grapple with an undercurrent of opposition from sections of party workers of both the Congress and the Trinamool, which have since joined hands. Mitra, a former state Congress chief, is contesting from Diamond Harbour while Bandopadhyay is in the fray for Kolkata North, both on Trinamool tickets.

Despite an alliance between the Congress and Trinamool, Congress workers are reluctant to work for a leader who abandoned them just over a month ago and the Trinamool cadres are yet to accept their new leaders. Both Mitra and Bandopadhyay were Congress MLAs and were expelled from the party, before being dismissed from the state Assembly by the Speaker after they left the Congress. Mitra is contesting the Lok Sabha election for the first time.

“Though we have been asked to campaign for Trinamool candidates, it is difficult to ask and explain to a Congress worker to join a rally or campaign for a leader who had just abandoned them for an election ticket,” said Shibaji Singha Roy, general secretary of West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee.

“Just the other day, we demanded the expulsion of the two leaders from our party and wanted them barred from the state Assembly. Now we have to campaign for them. Our workers are asking if the common voter will take us with our two-faced attitude. Yet, we are trying to make our workers understand,” Roy added.

Mitra and Bandopadhyay, however, are high on optimism. “I was always with the people of North Kolkata. As an MP, as an MLA, I have served North Kolkata. It is clear in people’s mind as to why I left the Congress. A large section of Congress and Trinamool workers is with me. I am sure of victory,” Bandopadhyay said.

Mitra pinned his hopes on grassroots workers. “People know why I left the Congress and floated my own party, Progressive Indira Congress. The grassroots workers know me and respect me,” he said. Mitra has been able to rope in Badal Bhattacharjee, his close associate during his Congress days, as his election agent to attract more Congress workers to join his campaign.

In Diamond Harbour, Mitra is pitted against CPI(M) strongman and sitting MP Samik Lahiry, who defeated Trinamool candidate Sougata Roy by a margin of 1,53,784 votes. Lahiry got about 51.5 per cent of votes, whereas Roy secured 33.13 per cent. Daulat Ali Sheikh of the Congress got about 11 per cent of the total votes.

Bandopadhyay is pitted against CPI(M) heavyweight Mahammad Salim in Kolkata North, which was formed after delimitation adding areas of erstwhile Kolkata North East and North West constituencies, both of whom were won by the Left party.

In 2004, Salim had defeated his nearest rival, Trinamool’s Ajit Panja, by 73,780 votes in Kolkata North East. In Kolkata North West, Sudhansu Sil of CPI(M) had defeated his nearest rival Subrata Mukherjee of the Trinamool by 43,004 votes.

The CPI(M) too is banking on the “flip-flop” factor against the two candidates. “My opponent was first in the Congress, then changed to the Trinamool, and now is back again in the Congress fold. He has flip-flopped so many times that even voters have lost count. I do not think people will vote for such a candidate,” Salim said.

CPI(M) patriarch Jyoti Basu, 94, is a star in cyberspace

Kolkata: The former West Bengal chief minister outperforms his younger Left colleagues in cyberspace. Jyoti Basu's frail health does not permit him to take part in raucous rallies and public meetings. Yet, of all his Communist colleagues, this spare nonagenarian, who was chief minister of West Bengal from 1977 to 2000, is the biggest crowd puller -- even among cyber communists.
Basu's recently recorded appeal to party cadres and voters for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections was uploaded on the party's special election website through YouTube on March 17.Till Wednesday morning, 2,309 viewers accessed Basu's video on YouTube. The video also received five stars -- the highest rating given to a YouTube video.Although Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat, at 60, is closer to the younger generation than Basu, his recent video does not record so many hits. Karat's opening remarks during the release of the party's manifesto on March 17 were uploaded on YouTube, but had received just 26 hits till Wednesday and no rating.
The full version of Karat's video, along with politburo member Sitaram Yechury's [Images] sermon on the economic crisis, has been uploaded on the party's website through Google video. Since Google doesn't provide details about the number of "hits" for its videos, the popularity of these versions cannot be established.A video of Karat's speech on the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement, however, remains the most popular contribution of a Left leader on YouTube, drawing 7,089 views till Wednesday morning. But this was posted more than a year ago.Some of the CPI(M)'s cyber-savvy workers or fans regularly upload videos of the party's top leaders on the Net. The party also provides video speeches on important issues in its special poll website --
Apart from Basu, Karat and Yechury, two other politburo members -- Brinda Karat and Md Amin -- have also found space on the party's internet initiative to woo voters. Brinda Karat talks about food security and high prices and Md Amin laments over the fate of the working class under the United Progressive Alliance. Basu no longer holds an official position in the party, the largest of the four Left parties in the current Lok Sabha, but is a "special invitee" to the politburo. Yet, even as leaders like Prakash Karat, Yechury, current West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Brinda Karat and Pinarayi Vijayan share the maximum burden of the main campaign in different parts of the country, Basu remains a pivotal character in the party's run-up to the polls.
Other top leaders may provide loads of points, counter-points, sharp political attacks and ideological dimensions to politics in the Lok Sabha election campaign, but no one can match the 94-year old Jyotibabu in providing the much-needed emotional stimulus to its cadres and his trade-mark incomplete sentences.Party insiders fondly recall an incident during the 2004 elections. After the BJP managed to win the Dumdum Lok Sabha seat (where Basu himself was a voter) in 1999, sending shockwaves through the CPI(M), Basu led the mission to win back the Left bastion in 2004.
Since the party had suffered the loss due to severe in-fighting, Basu addressed a joint meeting of the rival factions and said, "I may not live till 2009. Before I die, I wish to see Dumdum back in the hands of our party." The appeal did the magic and the rivals worked together to ensure a massive victory of the CPI(M) from that seat in the 2004 election.The party, which generally avoids eulogising personalities, has posted Basu's picture on the masthead of its election site. "Jyoti Basu is the only member of our first politburo of 1964 who is still alive. He has been hailed as the living legend of the party.
So, there's nothing wrong if we display his photo on our site," Yechury said at the launch of the website last week.And for Jyoti Basu, confined to Indira Bhawan, Kolkata, history has run a full circle. The man who once spearheaded the infamous anti-computerisation movement in the state, a position he subsequently reversed, is now the biggest hit in the virtual communist world on the web.
Source: Business Standard

Sad day for people of West Bengal: Nirupam Sen

Kolkata, 23rd March: The commercial launch of Nano from Mumbai rather than Singur in West Bengal was a sad day for the people of the State, West Bengal Minister for Commerce and Industry Nirupam Sen said. Addressing a press meet at the party office here on Monday, he hoped that the people of West Bengal would definitely respond against the ‘destructive politics’ practised in Singur and which culminated in the ouster of the project from the State.

“Nowhere in India, this type of destructive politics is played,” he said. The momentum that the proposed project had imparted to the State’s industrialisation drive was dampened by the exit, he said. To a question, he said it was unfortunate that a national party had tied up with such a political party. He said there was a need to analyse how the people of West Bengal benefited either by the agitation or the subsequent exit of the small car project. “An evaluation is necessary.”

Responding to another question on the main Opposition leader’s indifference to the exit of the Nano project from the State, Mr. Sen said this clearly showed the dichotomy between the slogans now being raised by that party in favour of development in the State and the stark realities. “The role of the Opposition party and some of its allies during that agitation was dangerous as it was unfortunate,” he said.

Mr. Sen rued that the dreams of the State’s youth were shattered, adding that the irresponsible action of the political party had tarnished the State’s image before the world. Answering a question on land acquisition in Singur, he refuted the suggestion that the Land Acquisition Act was applied mindlessly, saying that everything was done in a transparent manner. “Has anyone applied the RTI Act to find out what concessions the Gujarat government offered to locate the Nano project in the State?” he asked.

He said the Tatas had said they would take between 10 and 12 months to dismantle their structures at Singur. He also hoped that future investment by the Tatas in the State would not be hampered.

Singur mourns as Nano rolls out from Mumbai

Singur (West Bengal),22nd March : The abandoned factory stands as a silent reminder of the frenzied activity and the air of expectancy one saw here less than a year ago. The prevailing feeling now is of loss and sadness as the Nano prepares to roll out far away in Mumbai Monday.

A big burden for Tata
The cluster of buildings that was once designed to roll out the revolutionary little Nano is now enveloped in darkness - symbolic of the state of mind of those in this rural hamlet who bemoan the loss of the prized project to Sanand in Gujarat.

Facts about Nano
From the rickshaw puller at the local Mankundu railway station to the tea stall owner in the vicinity of the factory, the general feeling is of dejection. But the sharp political polarisation in the area ensures that there are quite a few with a different viewpoint too.

The Nano team
On Oct 3 last year, global auto major Tata Motors announced that it had scrapped its plans to bring out the world's cheapest car from the facility at Singur, 40 km from state capital Kolkata. The plant was shifted to Sanand. "I used to earn Rs.200 daily ferrying the Tata Motors employees from the railway station to the factory gate after construction of the plant started... But now, with the project scrapped here, my earnings have become less than half," said Rasik Dey, a rickshaw puller.

Dibakar Das, a farmer who gave five acres for the Nano project in Hooghly district, told IANS: "It is really sad that the project didn't come up over here." "The project could have changed the financial condition of Singur, but the destructive protests by the opposition did not allow the project to take place." The Hooghly district area had turned into a battleground for about two and a half years since May 2006 after the state government announced the Tata Nano project.
A section of farmers, led by main opposition force Trinamool Congress, carried out a sustained agitation demanding return of 400 acres of the acquired 997.11 acres to farmers who had been unwilling to give land by relocating the ancillary units. But the Tatas, who spent Rs 1500 crore in Singur for the project, were against relocating the auto-component units in the integrated project, saying it would increase the production cost of the car priced at only Rs.100,000.

"It's very unfortunate that the project is not happening over here. They (opposition parties) assaulted them (Tata Motors engineers) and forced them to leave the state," Balai Sabui, a Communist Party of India-Marxist leader in Singur, told IANS. "The factory was almost complete. But the opposition made them abandon the project. It would have helped in the economic development of the state," Sabui said.

He rued that the hopes of the local youth were crushed, as the project had the potential to generate huge employment. Apart from the mother plant, the project was scheduled to house 56 auto-components companies. But the Trinamool Congress does not seem to be missing the little Nano. "This is just like any other commercial product launch for us," Sougata Roy, Trinamool Congress leader told IANS.

Asked whether the party feels bad that the project, which could have been a showpiece for the state, had to be shifted elsewhere, he said: "We would not have been happy had the project come up in the state at the cost of the tears of so many people."

If Bush is Coca Cola, Obama Pepsi: Buddha

SONARPUR(South 24 Parganas), 21st March: Senior CPI(M) leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Saturday flayed Congress for its “over dependence” on the USA and said there was no difference between former US President George W Bush and the incumbent Barack Obama in their “imperialistic ambition” in India.“Bush and Obama are like two brands of similar soft drinks. If Bush is ‘Coca Cola´, Obama ‘Pepsi´,” Bhattacharjee told an election rally in Sonarpur.

The left had withdrawn support to the UPA on this particular issue and would continue to do so in future, he said. Only the Third Front could save India from the clutches of the “aggressive Americans”, he said. He further said the Third Front had no worry over its prime ministerial candidate. The matter could be resolved well after the elections. “Those making an issue out of it, are ,in fact, afraid of the strong anti-US stand of the Third Front,” he said.

Left Front alleges US ‘interference’ in India’s internal affairs

Kolkata, March 21: Chairman of West Bengal’s ruling Left Front Biman Basu Saturday alleged that the US was “interfering” in India’s internal affairs by organising dialogues with sections of the country’s minority communities. However, a US diplomat in the city denied any such meetings.

“We came to know that a top US official recently met a section of Muslim and Christian leaders at a central Kolkata hotel and made comments on the coming general elections also. He cannot do that. If they need to talk to a section of people, they should have called them at the US consulate,” Basu told a press conference here. “People of West Bengal should be more careful of any form of conspiracy which is being fabricated against the communists in the state,” Basu said, declining to divulge any further details about the meeting held by the US official.

“We, on behalf of the party, have already sought information about the meeting from the state government,” he said. The US Consulate in Kolkata, however, denied the report of any secret meeting held by any US official here.“We do have a bilateral relationship with India but we do not interfere in India’s internal political affairs. The claim by Mr. Biman Basu is completely baseless as we did not organise any secret meeting with minority people here,” American Center director Douglas Kelly told IANS.

Basu also attacked the central government for the recent meeting between CIA chief Leon Panetta and Home Minister P. Chidambaram and said he sensed a “deep rooted conspiracy” against the communists in the state, just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. Asked whether he felt that the CIA was trying to dislodge the Left Front government in West Bengal, he said: “I won’t say that now. But the way state Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is being criticised, it shows the CIA model is being followed here also.”

The Left Front chairman also claimed that some people were carrying a “misinformation” campaign against the West Bengal government. “Women, in the guise of widows affected by the Nandigram land issue, are visiting different districts and claiming that if people voted for the Left Front in the coming Lok Sabha poll, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led Left Front government would take away all their land,” he said.

March 22, 2009

Shahi Imam bats for Trinamool-Cong combine

Kolkata: With less than a month for the Lok Sabha polls, Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan Mosque S M Noorur Rahman Barkati appealed to the Muslim voters of the state to vote for candidates put up by the Trinamool-Congress alliance so that a Congress government can be formed at the Centre.

“What would happen in Singur if Mamata Banerjee was not there?” he asked. “In the last 32 years when the CPM has been in power, nothing has been done to uplift the minorities. We have no access to education or government jobs. The Sachar Committee report shows the sad state of the Muslims in West Bengal,” he added.

The Shahi Imam said when the Left Front government was establishing itself, it took away land from the zamindars and distributed it among the poor. “At that time the Muslim community stood by the Left Front. But today they are taking away land from the poor and giving it to the Tatas,” he said. He added that over the last three decades the “Left Front raj” has become the “gunda raj of the cadres”.

He lambasted the CPM for voting together with the BJP against the secular Congress government in the Centre last year. Pointing out the various problems of the Muslim community in Bengal, he said the Left Front government has not been able to fulfil its promise of making Urdu a second language in schools. “They have taken over our colleges like Lady Brabourne College and now our girls find it difficult to get admission there,” he said.

The Shahi Imam also said he had a discussion with the Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee that when she comes to power, she will try to fulfill the demands of the minority community.

CPI(M) submitted a 13-point list of demands to the poll panel

Kolkata: CPI(M) delegation Thursday met the poll panel team led by Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami at Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s residence here. The Lok Sabha elections are slated in West Bengal April 30, May 7 and May 13. The CPI(M) submitted a 13-point list of demands to the poll panel.

The party requested the commission to look into various issues related to the Election Photo Identity Card, voters’ lists, campaign guidelines, disruption of law and order situation, and the election code of conduct during poll canvassing. CPI(M) central committee member Madan Ghosh told a press conference that his party will support and cooperate with the poll panel on the guidelines and the model code of conduct.

“We wanted to bring certain things to the EC’s notice that there are number of cases of violence of guidelines by the major political parties belonging to the opposition in our state,” Ghosh said.
“We hope the commission will definitely look into the issue,” he added.

Poll panel 'discriminatory', says West Bengal's Left Front

KOLKATA,21 March: West Bengal's ruling Left Front is upset with the Election Commission for meeting members of the opposition Trinamool Congress for a longer period than representatives of other parties, including the communists. The poll panel officials had come to West Bengal on a two-day visit during which they held discussions with political parties, giving each party 10 minutes.
However, the Trinamool Congress had a 40-minute meeting with the poll panel officials. The communists have sought a clarification from the Election Commission on the issue. "We want to know on what basis the Election Commission had called the political parties, national as well as state-level, for election-related interaction. They have to explain whether they had called the parties by following an alphabetical order or they had first called the state-level parties and then the national parties," state Left Front chairman Biman Basu said at a press conference here Saturday.
He said the central Election Commission team first called the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) for the interaction at Raj Bhavan. "So the very next, they should have called All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) if they followed an alphabetical order. But they did not do that. The CEC team called AITC at the end. "When every political party - including Indian National Congress (INC), Communist Party of India (Marxist)-CPI(M), Communist Party of India (CPI) - was given only 10 minutes for their dialogue with the CEC team, the AITC got 40 minutes," Basu said.
He continued: "Of course, they (the election commissioners) have certain constitutional powers but that does not mean they can follow a discriminatory process. They should maintain a neutral stand between all political parties." Basu said the Left Front would seek clarification from the election commission on the issue and might write to the panel demanding an explanation.

Forward Bloc ready to join government this time

Kolkata, 20th March: The Forward Bloc released its manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls on Friday and said that if Third Front comes to power at the Centre, it will join the government. At a press conference, party general secretary Debabrata Biswas said, “The Third Front will come to power and we will join the government.” He said that the Third Front will not project any one as its prime ministerial candidate. “The question of selecting a prime ministerial candidate for a non-BJP and non-Congress combination will arise only after the election. There is no dearth of leaders for the top post,” Biswas said.

He added: “Even Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati has said that she would help in consolidating the Third Front against the Congress and the BJP and the question of choosing a prime minister can be taken up after the elections.” Biswas said that his party will prevent FDI in retail sector if it comes to power. He said his party is not averse to Chandrababu Naidu or any other party in the Third Front though the Left parties had labeled Naidu as pro- America. “But all that is past and he has also changed his stand,” Biswas added.

The Bloc will contest in 23 Lok Sabha seats —- three each in West Bengal, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh, four in Bihar, two each in Delhi and Jharkhand, one each in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.

RSP MP from Alipurduar Joachim Buxla resigns

KOLKATA, 20 March: The sitting RSP MP from Alipurduar Joachim Buxla on Friday resigned from the party as well as from the Lok Sabha after being denied a party ticket this time. Buxla, in a letter to the RSP’s state leadership in Kolkata, has announced his resignation from both the party and the Lok Sabha. Four-time MP from Alipurduar, Buxla was denied a party ticket this time. Not just Buxla, the RSP this time denied tickets to all its three sitting MPs.
Apart from Buxla, two sitting MPs --Sanat Mondal from Joynagar Lok Sabha seat and Ranen Burman from Balurghat Lok Sabha constituency also did not get a party nomination this time. Of the three sitting MPs, it is Buxla who had lodged strong protest against the party leadership for not giving him the ticket. RSP leader and PWD minister Kshiti Goswami has been in Alipurduar for the past few weeks to hold talks with Buxla to persuade him not to resign.
The RSP, however, stuck to its decision of not giving Buxla a nomination this time even after his protest. Goswami’s efforts to keep Buxla within the party finally fell through on Friday. Buxla also indicated that he might contest the Alipurduar seat as an Independent candidate and in that case, the West Bengal minister of state for PWD, Manohar Tirkey, who is contesting the seat in place of Buxla, might face difficulties to retain the constituency.

West Bengal budget tries to help people in meltdown: Finance Minister

Kolkata, March 20: Providing sops to a cross section of people, West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta Friday presented a Rs.70-million deficit budget in the state assembly for 2009-10. Referring to the “severe worldwide recession”, Dasgupta later told reporters that the “budget is aimed at helping the common people to increase their purchasing power in this difficult time”.

However, the budget proposals did not include any tax rebate. In a bid to provide some relief to the “poorer people” during the global economic meltdown, the budget proposed to distribute rice at Rs.2 per kg for Below Poverty Line card holders through ration shops. “This scheme would continue year after year…and the state government has allocated Rs.422 crore (Rs.4.22 billion) as subsidy for the entire year for this programme,” Dasgupta said in his speech.

While listing the industrial achievements of the state last year, Dasgupta refered to the Tata Nano project not materialising in Singur “due to opposition from a section of the people”. “It is necessary to mention that the realised investment and employment generation would have increased further, if the small car manufacturing unit at Singur could have completed the remaining part of investment and could be linked with the production of downstream units.”

The state government has decided to create a land bank to facilitate setting up of large-scale units in the state by purchasing relatively infertile land from the farmers at a fair price and thereafter by acquiring land in some remaining cases after consulting the farmers. “For this purpose, a decision to create a corpus fund of Rs.500 crore (Rs.5 billion) has been included in the strategy to combat recession,” Dasgupta said.

The state government has decided that it is necessary to create an internal market for information technology (IT) and information technology enabled service (ITeS) units and not make the development of this sector so much dependent on exports. It has allocated Rs.250 million for IT and ITeS and its expansion up to the village level. “As part of the strategy to combat recession, the state government has decided to launch a new scheme of construction and development of housing for the poor and low-income groups with an outlay of Rs.1,000 crore (Rs.10 billion),” he said in the speech.
The state government has planned to appoint 50,000 additional teachers at primary school level. At present, there are 145,000 existing teachers at primary level.

March 21, 2009

Power utilities in WB to register a net revenue collection of Rs 8,289.19 cr

KOLKATA, 20 March: State-owned power utilities in West Bengal are slated to register a net revenue collection of Rs 8,289.19 crore during 2008-09 with an estimated net profit of Rs 289.47 crore. Accordingly, enthused by the decent revenue collection projections, the West Bengal government on Friday increased plan allocation for the power sector from Rs 2,061.73 crore during 2008-09 to Rs 2,376.4 crore for 2009-10.
This, however, is inclusive of internal resources of the power utilities. The state-owned power utilities include West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Co, West Bengal State Electricity Transmission Co, West Bengal Power Development Corporation Ltd and Durgapur Projects Ltd.
In his budget speech for 2009-10, West Bengal's finance minister Asim Dasgupta said: "Special emphasis has been given to improve the internal efficiency of power utilities in the state. As a result, the plant load factor of these power utilities has increased from 53.2% in 2001-02 to an estimated 63% in the current year.
In addition, the transmission and distribution loss has also been reduced from 31.1% from 2001-02 to 22% in the current year." Mr Dasgupta also claimed that rural electrification has reached 99.2%. "Out of 37,910 villages in the state, electricity has reached as many as 37,606 villages till February 28, 2009. The state government has now set a deadline for completing the task of providing power to each household of every villages within 11th Plan Period."

Buddha pitches for non-Cong, non-BJP govt at Centre

Kolkata, March 19: Pitching for a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative at the Centre after the Lok Sabha polls, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Thursday said a majority of the people in the country does not want the Congress or BJP to be in power.
Replying to a governor's address in the assembly, he said, "After the last Lok Sabha polls, Left had supported UPA to keep BJP out of power. But the Congress, which led the UPA, reciprocated by "bringing in US into the country". He said Left wanted an alternative government to be based on four principles: pro-people programmes, a balanced federal structure, secularism and independent foreign policy.
Blaming the US for the global recession, he claimed, the Left parties had been able to save the country's insurance and banking sectors from its effect by preventing government from opening these sectors to foreign investments.

Vodafone crosses 7 million subscriber mark in WB

KOLKATA,19 Mar 2009: Vodafone Essar on Thursday crossed the 7 million subscriber mark in West Bengal. With statewide coverage spanning over 3253 cities and towns and some 31,000 villages, the company’s total subscriber base in West Bengal has shot up from 4 million in February 2008 to the present 7 million-plus. Vodafone Essar is the biggest cellular service provider in Kolkata and West Bengal circles.

Land alloted in Singur not cancelled: Buddhadeb

KOLKATA, 19 Mar 2009: West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told the state Assembly on Thursday that the land lease agreement between WBIDC and Tata Motors for the 997 acres alloted in Singur had not yet been cancelled. But he also maintained that the state government is determined to use the Singur land for setting up a cluster of industrial units.
In response to issues raised in governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi’s inaugural address, Mr Bhattacharjee assured the House that his government was unwilling to deprive the people of Singur who had given land for the Tata Nano project. "Our government has received a host of proposals from both domestic and foreign investors who wish to set up their units in Singur. We are working on those proposals and will inform you about our plans after we take a final decision," the chief minister said.
Mr Bhattacharjee also claimed that "the Tatas were forced to quit Singur because of violent and destructive agitation by the irresponsible opposition party" in West Bengal. "Now attempts are being made to confuse the people on the utilisation of the land. Demands are also being made for return of the Singur land. This bit is certain that the land will not be returned as the character of the land has already changed and the land given to the Tatas cannot be used for agriculture. We will use the land for setting up new industry," Mr Bhattacharjee mentioned. "We don’t want to keep the Singur people in absolute darkness and we are very clear about the fact that land at Singur will be used for industrialisation," the chief minister said.
The chief minister also assured the House that his government would proceed with plans for setting up the proposed chemical hub at Nayachara. "Setting up the chemical hub at Nayachara is not our government’s proposal. The Centre had invited proposals from several states for setting up PCPIRs and we did not wish to miss the opportunity. The Cabinet in its last meeting had cleared the Nayachara chemical hub and we will proceed with this," the chief minister said.
Mr Bhattacharjee also said that he had thanked the external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and chemicals and fertiliser minister Ramvilas Paswan for clearing the Nayachara chemical hub. Interestingly, the principal opposition party, Trinamool Congress had boycotted the chief minister’s reply to the debate on the governor’s address. Trinamool Congress has already announced that they will oppose the chemical hub at Nayachara.

Japan trip for Nayachar

Calcutta, March 19: A state team will travel to Japan and South Korea to net investors for the Nayachar and Haldia chemical hub. Led by industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen, the team will be part of a larger delegation of the Union ministry for chemicals and fertilizers.
It will meet top officials of Mitsubishi Chemicals, Mitsui Chemicals and Itochu Corporation in Tokyo from March 23-25, followed by meetings with Korean companies — LG Chemicals and Hyundai Chemicals — for two days in Seoul. “We are going to meet officials of the rank of president and above of these companies,” Sen said. The team will leave on Saturday night.

The Union ministry delegation will have representatives from Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, too. The trip is part of a marketing support initiative of the Centre to the three states where petrochemical hubs are coming up. Industry chamber Ficci coordinated the initiative. The Bengal team will have Nandini Chakravorty, the executive director of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, which is an infrastructure partner in the Nayachar hub with Indonesia’s Salim Group.

Swapan Bhowmik, the managing director of Haldia Petrochemicals, and Sanjay Malhotra, a director of the Delhi-based Cals Refinery that is setting up a unit in Haldia, will also be in the team. An official of Singapore’s Jurong Corporation, which set up Asia’s largest chemical hub there, will be with the Bengal team. Jurong is preparing the plan for Nayachar.

In order to break the language barrier, the state has prepared all presentations in Japanese and Korean. “We have translated all documents for the project in the two languages,” Chakravorty said.This trip will be followed by a similar one to the US. Today, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told the Assembly that the government was just waiting for a letter from the Centre approving the Nayachar chemical hub. “The hub will change the complexion of the state as many refineries and downstream projects will come up,” he said.

West Bengal yet to receive centre’s formal approval on chemical hub

KOLKATA, 18 Mar 2009: The West Bengal government has not yet received an official communication on the recent Union Cabinet clearance for the proposed Nayachara chemical hub. This was indicated by West Bengal’s commerce & industry minister Nirupam Sen in the state Assembly on Wednesday.
Replying to a question by opposition leader Partha Chatterjee, the state industry minister said: "There is no immediate possibility of laying the foundation stone for the proposed hub. We have not yet received clearance from the environment department for the said chemical hub and there is no real difference between the chemical hub and the Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR). "I have read in newspapers that the Union Cabinet has given the green signal to the Nayachara chemical hub. But they (the Union government) have not yet informed us in writing," Mr Sen pointed out.
He added that the proposed chemical hub would come up on 250.19 acres and 40 per cent of the land would be used for chemical units. Mr Sen reiterated that 12 lakh people would get direct and indirect employment at the proposed hub which will produce polythene, auto components, synthetic rubber and synthetic fibre which will be used by the garments industry. The Union Cabinet at its last meeting on February 23 had reportedly cleared the proposed chemical hub at Nayachara. The Cabinet session was presided over by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee as the Prime Minister was then indisposed.
Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress has already announced that it will not allow the proposed hub to come up in the pear-shaped Nayachara island near Haldia. Party chief Mamata Banerjee who held an election rally in Nandigram on March 14, had made it clear that her party would not welcome the chemical hub at Nayachara. In fact, the Trinamool Congress candidate from the Kanthi Lok Sabha seat, who also addressed the gathering on March 14, announced that they would everything it took to prevent the Nayachara chem hub from taking off.
However, it is nearly certain that the state government will not step on the gas in expediting the Nayachara venture as Lok Sabha elections have already been announced. But the government might indeed take up the issue after election results are out and the new government in Delhi is formed.

March 20, 2009

Calumny in the Name of Research

A Rebuttal of the Trinamul Congress funded “Study” on West Bengal.
A report titled Transforming West Bengal - Changing the Agenda for an Agenda for Change has recently been released by Indicus Analytics, a Delhi based private sector market research firm, authored by Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari. The report is a nothing but a motley combination of extremely selective reporting and arbitrary interpretation of data and deliberate omission of some obvious and easily available facts. It is worth noting the following from the document:
“Disclaimer: The information contained in this document represents the current views of the author(s) as of the date of publication. This White Paper is for informational purposes only. The author(s) and Indicus make no warranties, express, implied or statutory, as to the information in this document.” (emphasis added)

In other words, the publisher or the authors make no claim as to the veracity of the information they claim to provide! The real purpose of such a dubious report can be understood from its diagnosis of the “diseases” in West Bengal:
What we have just described as the five key diseases are perhaps not the diseases at all. They are symptoms. The key disease is somewhere else. It is the Left Front itself. The Left Front government is like gangrene. It cannot be cured. It has to be excised out.

It is clear that the authors have laboured to compile and present some data only as a subterfuge for their sectarian motivations. While this report does not deserve a serious academic reading or critique, below we present a short rebuttal of the report based on some obvious facts.

Economic Growth: It has been repeatedly alleged in the report that GSDP growth in West Bengal has not been fast enough. However, over the 1990s West Bengal registered the second highest rate of aggregate SDP growth among major States (nearly 7%), after Karnataka. In the current decade, the GSDP growth rate has slowed down somewhat but still remains above 6%. Strangely, the authors have compared the growth experience of only one State, i.e. Maharashtra with West Bengal to show that the latter has not grown fast enough. This is not a valid comparison given the very different historical and geographical contexts of the two States. One has to just consider the fact that while for Maharashtra, per capita Plan Allocation by the Centre increased from Rs. 98.73 in the 3rd Five-year Plan to Rs. 6890.59 in the 10th Five-year Plan, for West Bengal it increased from Rs. 71.63 in the 3rd Five-year Plan to Rs.3571.20 in the 10th Five-year Plan (See Mohun Guruswamy et. al., Economic Growth and Development in West Bengal: Reality versus Perception, EPW, May 21, 2005). Over and above the discrimination in the allocation of Central Plan outlays, the policies of freight equalization and industrial licensing were used by the Congress Governments at the Centre to prevent the flow of private sector investment into States like West Bengal while encouraging investments in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Industrial growth picked up in West Bengal only after 1991, when these policies were abandoned by the Centre and since then West Bengal has grown faster than all the other States in the eastern region. It is noteworthy that in terms of agricultural growth post-1977, West Bengal has remained one of the best performing States in the country.

According to the Eleventh Plan Document, agricultural growth in West Bengal during 1995-96 to 2004-05 was 2.67%, which was the third highest among all major States (after Bihar at 3.51% and Andhra Pradesh at 2.69%), and way above the national average of 1.85%. Maharashtra’s agricultural growth during this period was 0.1% only (Karnataka 0.03% and Gujarat 0.48%). While the acute agrarian crisis has led to farmers’ suicides in several States, especially Maharashtra, West Bengal has remained relatively immune from such acute distress. In fact, West Bengal continues to perform well in agriculture registering 5.14% agricultural growth in 2007-08, while the national average was 4.5%. It is not surprising that the report, given its motivations, has carefully avoided any detailed discussion of agricultural performance. How can any analysis of GSDP growth, which ignores agriculture where the majority of the workforce is employed, be taken seriously?

Poverty Reduction: The biggest faux pas in the report is the assertion that West Bengal has not been successful in poverty reduction compared to other States. The poverty estimates of the Planning Commission have been rightly criticized from several quarters for being a gross underestimation. However, the authors of the report do not subscribe to any such critical views vis-à-vis the official poverty estimates. Rather, page 17 of the report, itself provides two charts based upon Planning Commission’s poverty estimates, which shows that rural poverty in West Bengal declined from 73.2% (percentage of persons below poverty line) in 1973-74 to 28.6% in 2004-05, as against the decline of poverty at the all-India level from 56.4% in 1973-74 to 28.3% in 2004-05. Urban poverty in West Bengal declined from 34.7% in 1973-74 to 14.8% in 2004-05, as against the decline of urban poverty at the all-India level from 49% in 1973-74 to 25.7% in 2004-05. Despite their own chart showing this, the authors conclude that “West Bengal’s success in reducing rural poverty has been far less than what one might tend to think”.

Going by the Planning Commission’s estimate, however, West Bengal has achieved creditable success in poverty reduction, which among the best in the country. In fact the Eleventh Plan document notes (Vol.3, Ch.4, p.80):
In some States, the absolute numbers of the poor in the population has actually increased over the last three decades: in Uttar Pradesh (including Uttaranchal) from 535.7 lakhs in 1973 to 626 lakhs in 2004–05; in Rajasthan from 128.5 lakhs to 134.9 lakhs; in Maharashtra from 287.4 lakhs to 317.4 lakhs, and in Nagaland from 2.9 lakhs to 4.0 lakhs. The total number of poor has also increased in Madhya Pradesh (including Chhattisgarh) taken together from 276 lakhs to 341 lakhs and in Bihar (including Jharkhand) from 370 lakhs to 485.5 lakhs over the same period. There are many States where the number of poor overall has remained roughly constant over the last two decades: Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, and Mizoram. However, there are also States that have succeeded in reducing the absolute number of the poor in rural areas over the three decades from 1973 to 2004–05: Andhra Pradesh from 178.2 lakhs to 64.7 lakhs; Karnataka from 128.4 lakhs to 75 lakhs; Kerala from 111.4 lakhs to 32.4 lakhs; Tamil Nadu from 172.6 lakhs to 76.5 lakhs; and West Bengal from 257.9 lakhs to 173.2 lakhs, and Assam and Gujarat to a much smaller extent. These are the relative success stories in reducing the numbers of the poor in India.
How the report could miss this point despite reproducing charts on poverty reduction based on the same Planning Commission estimates is anybody’s guess.

Land Reforms: The report has deliberately avoided any discussion on land reforms and redistribution in West Bengal under the Left Front Government, which has been the single most important contributor to rural poverty reduction in the State. While net area sown in West Bengal as a proportion of net area sown in India was only 3.9% in 2003-04, West Bengal has accounted for 22.6% of the total land distributed in the country as a whole since Independence, and more than half (54.5 %) of the total number of gainers from land distribution programmes in the entire country.

Table 2.1: Agricultural land distributed and land reform beneficiaries,
India and West Bengal

India West Bengal Share of W.B.(per cent)
Area distributed under land reform (acres)
49,64,995 11,22,116 22.6
Number of beneficiaries
54,57,522 29,71,857 54.5
Source: Budget Statement, Demand No. 36 for the year 2008-09, Land and Land Reforms Department, Government of West Bengal
Note: All-India figures are as on September 2007; West Bengal as on 15 February 2008

Of course, the total number of gainers from all the various land reform programmes in the state is even more. As on 15 February 2008, they also included recorded bargadars (1,510,657) and recipients of homestead land (1,557,151), bringing the total to 5,039,665 beneficiaries. This means more than half of rural households have benefited from land reforms in the State since 1977. The report has wilfully disregarded this vital aspect of the development experience in West Bengal under Left rule.

Per Capita Income and Regional Disparity: The report alleges that West Bengal has very low per capita income compared to most States in India. In reality, West Bengal is a middle-income state, whose per capita income grew faster than the national average over the period 1990 to 2004-05. Subsequently, a slight deceleration in growth has meant that the per capita income in West Bengal is just marginally lower than the national average. However, data from the latest National Sample Survey (2004-05) indicate that per capita calorie consumption in rural West Bengal (2070 cal) was higher than the all-India average (2047 cal).

The report also alleges wide disparities in per capita income between the districts of West Bengal. The data for district wise per capita income provided in the report is sourced from Indicus Analytics; i.e. these figures have been generated by the authors themselves and are not from any authentic source. That is not to deny the existence of inter-district disparities in per capita income in West Bengal. But the authors have not provided any figures containing district-wise comparison of per capita income for States like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, which have otherwise been selectively compared with West Bengal on indicators like per capita GSDP. How do we know whether the disparity in per capita income between Kolkata and Purulia district is more than the disparity in per capita income between Mumbai and Gadchiroli or between Chennai and Sivaganga? The authors have used inter-State comparison very selectively, to buttress meaningless polemics like: “Can the Left Front leader who leaves in Kolkata and frames policies imagine what it is like to live in rural Uttar Dinajpur, even if the cost of living is lower in the latter?”

Employment Growth: The report uses Economic Census Data to portray a dismal picture of employment growth in West Bengal compared to the all-India average. However, it is generally accepted that the Economic Census data is not a reliable indicator of employment. The general practice is to estimate employment growth from NSS data. It is true that employment growth has decelerated in West Bengal as indeed it has in the whole of India in the period of neoliberal reforms. The following chart shows that the growth rate of rural employment in West Bengal between 1999-00 and 2004-05 was higher than that of the all-India average. The urban employment growth rate in West Bengal was, however, lower than the all-India average.
Source: Calculated from NSS 55th (1999-00) and 61st (2004-05) rounds of NSS

Human Development: Very significant strides made in health indicators in West Bengal, especially in the last few years, have been deliberately ignored in the report. The latest figures of the Sample Registration System show that the demographic transition has been rapid and impressive in the State, with very rapid declines in the fertility rate and even faster declines in the death rate. In fact, West Bengal now has the lowest death rate among all the major States, largely because of sharp falls in the rural death rate. The Infant Mortality Rate also fell from 91 in 1981 to 37 in 2007, which is a 60% reduction compared to 50-55% reduction for India as a whole. Only Kerala and Tamil Nadu show better performance, while fast-growing states like Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh perform significantly worse in this regard. Child immunization rates in West Bengal are also significantly better than the all-India average, and have also increased more rapidly according to both the NFHS and the more recent DLHS data. While these facts have been ignored, the report has selectively used human development indicators to portray a completely negative and one-sided picture of the State. It needs to be noted that the Human Development Report 2004 published by the West Bengal Government provides a truthful and honest account of the development experience of the State, including both the significant achievements as well as the shortcomings. One need not depend on this completely slanted report authored by two professedly biased persons to know about the areas in which the State has lagged.

The authors of this report had earlier authored another report released by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies in March 2005, which placed Gujarat as the topmost State in India in terms of “economic freedom”. Besides being a bogus study, which did not have any academic merits, the report created political controversy since a section of the media used the findings to hail Narendra Modi as the best Chief Minister of India! Following this, Mr. Debroy was eased out of Directorship of the Institute by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation headed by the Congress President. After spending some time in wilderness, these two gentlemen have reappeared on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections with yet another specious “study”, this time attacking the Left Front Government of West Bengal.

In the press conference held in New Delhi on 26th February 2009 to release the report, after persistent queries from the journalists the authors admitted that Mr. Dinesh Trivedi, Rajya Sabha MP from the Trinamul Congress had commissioned and funded the “study”. Despite the obvious political motivation behind the making of the report on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections, sections of the media are trying to use its content to indulge in slander against the West Bengal Government. While calumny against the Left in West Bengal has since long become a favourite pastime for many in the mainstream media, what is disturbing is their attempt to masquerade this phoney report as an academic exercise. The authors have indulged in colossal hypocrisy when they have rued the lack of industrialisation and deteriorating law and order in West Bengal, precisely at a time when their backers in the Trinamul Congress are working overtime to stall every attempt by the State Government to set up industries or develop infrastructure, through mindless violence and targeted assassinations of Left activists, increasing the crime rate in the State. Had the authors been genuinely interested in transforming West Bengal for the better, they would have provided some sound and sensible advice to their Trinamuli funders, rather than wasting their time on such trivia.
Prepared by CPI(M) research unit