January 3, 2009

LF to sound poll bugle with February 8 rally

Kolkata, 1st January : West Bengal's ruling Left Front will begin mobilising cadres for the general elections this year with a rally in Kolkata February 8, hoping it will not suffer the reverses of the panchayat polls last year.

The rally will be held at the sprawling Brigade Parade Ground, state Left Front chairman Biman Basu announced on Thursday. "We will hold a rally at the Brigade Parade Ground February 8 to make leftfront workers gear up for the coming Lok Sabha elections," Basu told reporters at the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI(M)) headquarters on Alimuddin Street in Kolkata.

“We will also start our campaign soon, taking into account that elections will be held on time.” The Lok Sabha elections are likely to be held in April-May when the five-year term of the current Lok Sabha ends. Basu said the Left Front's performance in the state panchayat elections in May last year suffered due to lack of unity among coalition partners. The Left Front is led by the CPI(M).

"But we have sorted out the differences to a great extent and will hold regular meetings to ensure that the Lok Sabha election results don't suffer like the panchayat elections," Basu said.
The Left Front suffered an erosion of its rural base in the panchayat elections, though it managed to retain its dominant position in 13 of the State's 17 rural districts.

Basu said party activists have unanimously decided to take all necessary steps to make the Left Front "more active" and ensure that district cadres "work together". He also spoke about the Nandigram area of East Midnapore district that has seen prolonged bloodletting between the communists and the opposition over land acquisition for industry. Basu said he was hopeful that election results would be in their favour in Nandigram.

"We are hopeful that if people at Nandigram are allowed to vote independently, without any pressure from the opposition, the results will be in favour of the Left Front. It's the opposition that tries to separate people from us by creating misunderstandings," Basu said.

LF says it will work to remove "misunderstandings"

Kolkata, Jan 1 : With the reverses in the civic polls still playing on its mind, the Left Front today said it will work to strengthen coordination and remove "misunderstandings" among its partners ahead of the Lok Sabha elections."We have been successful in making the partners acknowledge the misunderstandings that had cropped up during the panchayat election last year," the chairman of the ruling alliance in West Bengal, Biman Basu, told reporters here after a meeting of the Front.
The opposition Trinamool Congress won two Zilla Parishads in South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore in May besides sweeping the rural polls in the Singur belt.Bose said that as part of measures to strengthen the Front and "sort out lack of coordination among the partners, the number of meetings, even bipartite, would be increased, if required, at the state and district levels". However, the meeting today did not discuss if there would be any change in seat-sharing following delimitation of constituencies, Basu said.
Basu said he was hopeful of a favourable result in the forthcoming Nandigram Assembly by-election provided it was peaceful and people exercised their franchise without fear.

LF congratulates Awami League for massive mandate in Bangla

Kolkata, Jan 1: The Left Front in West Bengal today congratulated the people of Bangladesh for electing a 14-party coalition, led by the Awami League, with a massive mandate in the recently-held general election. Speaking at a meeting of the LF today, Left Front chairman Biman Basu expressed hope that the restoration of democracy in that country would further strengthen the Indo-Bangla friendship.

Amartya wants politicians to stop threats

Kolkata, 31 December: Even as he pointed out that acquisition of land for industry should be the last recourse, economist Amartya Sen said a huge transformation in the thought process was needed to move away from the culture of threats and agitations so that a dialogue could be started for West Bengal’s development.

Participating in a discussion on ‘Whither West Bengal’s Development,’ he said: “The opposition, the government and the citizenry should have an open-minded discussion.” While none on the panel of economists uttered Singur during their speeches, Professor Sen said, “No one uttered this word [Singur] but it is important to find out why it happened.”

He quoted from the Vedas and said the order of` ‘Paramaparya’ ordained that once a certain stage was reached in a certain matter, one did not go back on it and moved to the next stage. “Once settled, street-fights cannot take place to close down a venture. Social awareness and wisdom was needed to follow a certain order of things,” the Nobel laureate said.

The other economists on the panel were Professor Amiya Bagchi, Professor Pranab Bardhan and Professor Partha Chattopadhyay and Amit Mitra, the secretary-general of industry apex body FICCI. The session, organised by the West Bengal government, was conducted by Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta.

However, Professor Sen was critical of acquiring land for industry. “This should be the last resort. Land should be bought. If we want market forces to prevail, then there is no reason why land should not be bought,” he said. “I supported the Singur project but the Tatas could have bought the land,” he said. The main damage done to the State in the process was the feeling given to all that a project could be closed down in this manner.

Later, while talking to reporters, he said there was need to remove the air of uncertainty created by this sort of happenings. “It was important to bring in a changed industrial environment.” Professor Bardhan felt that while land acquisition was necessary, it was important to accompany it with proper compensation and counselling.

West Bengal to seek time to phase out old autorickshaws

Kolkata : The West Bengal government said it would move the Calcutta High Court to seek more time to phase out old autorickshaws with two-stroke engines from the city roads.”We have decided to move the Calcutta High Court Monday and will ask for some more time. We need additional three months time to phase out old two-stroke autorickshaws and implement the directive in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA) area,” state Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty told reporters here.

In an order issued in July, the high court had banned commercial vehicles registered before Jan 1, 1993 from Kolkata and its outskirts. The court also directed that all autorickshaws, irrespective of their date of registration, will have to convert to either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

It said the order should be implemented by Dec 31 in the KMA, which includes parts of North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly.“We will request the honourable high court to extend the deadline for implementing the order,” he said.

However, a couple of hours after Chakraborty’s remarks, state Transport Secretary Sumantra Chowdhury said the government would start confiscating two-stroke autorickshaws from Jan 1 in accordance with the court directive. Chowdhury said the government could not move the high court before Jan 1 as it was closed between Dec 25 and Jan 4.

According to estimates, if the government implements the court order, around 80,000 autorickshaws, 24,000 taxis and over 8,000 buses and mini-buses would be affected.

Riverbank to invest Rs.30 bn on Calcutta Riverside project

Kolkata, Dec 31 : Riverbank Developers Ltd will invest Rs.30 billion (Rs.3,000 crore) to develop the Calcutta Riverside project at Batanagar in West Bengal, a top official said here Wednesday. Located on the eastern bank of the Hooghly river in South 24-Parganas district, the entire project on 262 acres will have a hotel, malls, residential apartments, hospital, township and an IT special economic zone (SEZ).

Riverbank is a joint venture entity between Calcutta Metropolitan Group (CMG) and footwear major Bata India.“The project will be funded through private equity, debt and cash flow from sales,” CMG managing director Sumit Dabriwala told reporters. “The first phase of the redevelopment should be completed by 2011,” Dabriwala said.

Riverbank has made a joint management contract with the Intercontinental Hotels Group for developing the proposed hotel and service apartments in Batanagar.The cost of construction for the hotel and the service apartments is slated to be around Rs.1.75 billion (Rs.175 crore) Dabriwala said. “The hotel would be ready in 36 months.”

Maoists confess using children

Kolkata, December 31, 2008 : For the first time, the Maoists have claimed that they are indeed using children in their army schools and using them as "ears and eyes" of the revolutionaries. In a booklet, Salwa Julum and its Aftermath, a Maoist publication, which has reached India Today, the segment on children reads: "They (the children) learn to read and write, sing revolutionary songs, and often become the ears and eyes of the party in the villages."
The booklet, which has been published by Radical Publications, Kolkata, is not freely available but distributed among cadres and sympathisers. It reads: "One of the major changes that are observable is the self-confidence of the children. They are organised into Bal Sangams and take up tasks that help them develop their initiative and leadership qualities from a very young age." The booklet is silent on whether the Maoists are also building a Kishore Vahini as reported in some newspapers.

Lately, the Maoists have recruited a spokesman, 52-year-old Gour Chakraborty, who has started briefing the press. However, he has not come out with any dramatic pronouncements yet.

The booklet says, "Often the children inform the party of any person misbehaving or acting wrongly...As they develop into youth, they become party persons and effective guerrilla fighters."

"Earlier they had no existence whatsoever, toiling day and night in household work, sick, ill-fed and neglected. The media propagates these children as Naxalite targets." Countering this, the booklet says the minimum age to enter the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army is 16..."but the media fails to say about their pitiful existence."

The 87-page booklet has list of women rape victims, a separate chapter on atrocities on women and what the women should do to counter such actions of the security forces. It also has a list of 131 people killed by policemen in the Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand areas.

State government sources said that they had nothing to comment upon since none of the victims were of West Bengal. However, some NGOs have already taken this up with the UN chapter of Children and Armed Conflict.