January 9, 2009

Left will have key role after LS poll: Nirupam Sen

KOCHI(Kerala),8th January, 2009: The ball is yet to roll. But, all parties have started preparations for the coming general elections to the Lok Sabha. The three-day central committee meeting of the CPI(M) here will chalk out the party’s strategy for fighting the elections.

The party politburo member and West Bengal Industries Minister Nirupam Sen, who is in Kochi to attend the meeting, in an interview said that the party would have to fight hard to retain its poll share in West Bengal in the coming general elections.

"The extreme right and the extreme left have decided to join hands against the Left, especially against the CPI(M). A formal alliance has not been shaped yet, but once such an alliance materialises, it will be difficult for the party,’’ he said.

But in the last panchayat elections, the party could manage to get more than 50 percent of votes even after having some differences among the Left parties over the issues like the land acquisition, industrial projects etc, he said.

But, in the Lok Sabha elections, the Left parties will sort out the issues and remain united. Nandigram will hardly be a poll issue in Bengal, he said. The poll outcome will give birth to a hung Lok Sabha and the third front led by the Left will then have an important role. Parties like the BSP will fare better in North Indian states. The Left parties will have a say in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Tripura, he said.

"The general conviction that the policies of the Left could help cushion the shock of global economic recession will be a positive factor for us,’’ he said. "We had warned the UPA Government. But our advice fell on deaf ears,’’said Sen. "Defeat the BJP and Reject the Congress", will be our stand, he said. The Left has its own alternative for beating the meltdown. More money should be pumped into the infrastructure and agriculture sector.

The government should ask the banks to lend more loans to farmers, especially to the marginalised. The PSUs should be vitalised. Issues of the deprived and marginalised classes like dalits and minorities should get more attention, Sen said.

Opposition in West Bengal obstructing progress: WB CM

Alappuzha(Kerala), Jan 08: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee today accused the opposition Trinamool Congress, BJP and Maoists of joining hands to obstruct the development of the state. Addressing a public meeting organised in connection with the Central Committee meeting of the party at Kochi, he said CPI(M) led Left Front government was trying to resist the challenge posed by these forces. With Tata shifting its car project from Singur, the state had lost 6,000 direct job opportunities and the Opposition owed an explanation for the "harm" they had caused to the state, he said.
These forces were trying to create problem in West Bengal by raking up the issue of Singur and Nandigram, Buddhadeb added. Charging the UPA Government with following a pro-American foreign policy, Bhattacharjee claimed the United States was trying to make India its junior partner. "UPA government was co-operating with USA on political, economical and military spheres," he claimed.

Tourism fair gives a taste of India

KOLKATA, 8 January, 2009 : The sixth Tourism and Food Festival organized by West Bengal tourism department in association with The Times of India was inaugurated on Wednesday at Nalban Ecopark. The five-day festival will present some of the best folk performers from different states for the audience.
On the first day, the performance by Manipuri danseuse Priti Patel and her troupe proved to be a perfect beginning as the audience was left mesmerized with the graceful moves. Amidst prayers and chants, the Sun God was invoked. Performers trained in martial arts then demonstrated a fierce sword fight that left the audience awe-struck. When they demonstrated the intricate art of sword fighting blindfolded, the admiration of the audience knew no bounds. The men also performed acrobatics like jumping through a ring of fire and balancing on spearheads with ease. Delegates from many states, including the tourism minister of Andhra Pradesh, were present for the programme.
State tourism minister Manab Mukherjee lit the hawan kund. "I think the festival will be an immense success. We have inaugurated the festival with a Manipuri dance since the state and its culture finds mention in Tagore's work time and again," he said. Ankita Lahiri, a college student from Sodepur, was in the audience. "This is one of the best performances I have seen," she gushed. In the coming days, one of the primary attractions will be a colourful ballet by a Chinese troupe from Kunming. Among the other performances is a group dance by Tanushree Shankar on Thursday.
The Times of India will present a gala musical evening with latest singing sensation, Anik Dhar, on Saturday. There will also be performances by the Vyas Brothers on Sunday, army and BSF bands, a fashion show and tribal dances from Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Move us up on Naxal-hit list, says Bengal

Kolkata, Jan 08, 2009: A recent bid on the life of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee by Maoists in Salboni notwithstanding, West Bengal doesn’t figure in grade two on the list of Maoist-affected states in the country — something that has not gone down well with the state Government.

On the second day of the chief ministers’ conference in New Delhi, Bhattacharjee requested the Centre to place the state in the grade two of the list. Bengal is included in grade three at present. “As we were put in grade three (in the list of Maoist-affected states), it will not be possible for the Centre to pay attention to the Maoist menace in our state. We have, therefore, asked the Centre to include Bengal in grade two,” Bhattacharjee told the mediapersons.

Earlier, former Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil had struck off Bengal from the list of grade two Maoist-affected states but Home Minister P Chidambaram had put the state back on the list. The state, however, is again missing from the list.

According to the police, Maoist activities in Bengal are confined to the forests of three districts — West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia — bordering Jharkhand. The state Government had claimed that Maoists hailed from Jharkhand and formed an alliance with organised groups in Bengal for operations. “We want to conduct joint raids with bordering states against such armed groups and need Centre’s approval for the same,” the chief minister said.

NHPC to construct mini tidal power project in Sundarbans

DELHI: Project monitor reported that NHPC Ltd has invited global tenders for the implementation of the 3x1.25 MW Durgaduani mini tidal power project in the Sundarbans in 24 Parganas district of West Bengal.The scope of work for this turnkey project includes planning, design, engineering and execution of civil structures such as dyke, inlet sluice, powerhouse and switchyard, 3x1.25 MW bulb turbine generator units and associated auxiliaries, ancillary equipment and hydro mechanical works such as vertical lift gates and stoplogs, hoists and gantry cranes.As per report, the 3 units of the project are to be commissioned within 27 months from the date of issue of letter of acceptance. The RFP document is priced at INR 5,000 and will be available till February 12th. The last of submission of bids is February 13th 2009.

Mamata’s acts are childish: Biman Basu

Kolkata, Jan 7: Terming Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s acts as “childish”, West Bengal’s ruling Left Front chairman Biman Basu Wednesday said that state’s main opposition party lacked any political ideology, after Banerjee led an agitation against the alleged anhandling of a taxi driver by a policeman here.”Mamata Banerjee often acts childishly which is not desirable in Indian politics. They’ve no principle and political ideology. People do not like this type of activity in politics,” Basu told reporters here.

“I heard that Banerjee has turned 54 but unfortunately she does not have any mental stability at this age,” he said, while commenting on Trinamool supremo’s role in leading an agitation Tuesday evening over an alleged manhandling of a taxi-driver by a policeman in Kolkata.

Hundreds of Trinamool Congress activists, led by Banerjee, laid siege to the central business district. They blockaded important arterial roads around the Calcutta High Court area, inconveniencing thousands of commuters. Later a large police contingent arrived at the spot and resorted baton charged the mob.

As the situation worsened, Banerjee arrived at the scene with her party’s senior leaders and demanded that the constable be punished.“She (Banerjee) should not act in such a childish manner,” Basu said.

WBGEDC offers zero-pollution auto

KOLKATA, 7 January, 2009: Auto owners flustered with the EMI on new LPG autos have an alternative at hand. The West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation, along with automobile manufacturer Tara International, is offering them a package that will turn out cheaper than an LPG switch and be even more environment friendly. What's better, they don't need to dump their old vehicles. All they have to do is pay Rs 65,000 and have a battery-driven engine mounted in their old auto.
WBGEDC managing director SP Ganchouhuri said Tara International had approached them to manufacture battery autos in the city. "They have already started manufacturing such autos at their Barasatunit ," he said, adding that WBGEDC has run "10 to 15 battery autos on an experimental basis". The company's battery-operated two-wheelers have been a success, Ganchoudhuri said. "So far, more than 10,000 green two-wheelers have been sold. We now plan to introduce battery-run autos in the city that would drastically cut down auto emission," he said. It would cost about Rs 1.25 lakh to convert an old auto into a battery-driven one, Ganchoudhuri. "The Centre will give a subsidy of Rs 50,000 and another Rs 10,000 subsidy would be given by the state. An auto driver will only have to shell out about Rs 65,000, that too in phases," Ganchoudhuri said.
According to a scheme that is being worked out, a driver would be able to repay the entire amount simply by paying Rs 200 daily to get the batteries recharged. Ganchoudhuri said: "The old fuel-based engine would be replaced by a motor that would have rechargeable batteries. These autos can run up to 80 km per charge and can have a maximum speed of 60 km per hour, carrying six passengers. WBGEDC is designing small solar panels that would tap solar energy to recharge the batteries. So, the auto owner doesn't even run up an electricity bill. The battery auto is not only a zero-emission vehicle, it is also soundless."

Congress to ask two West Bengal legislators for explanation

Kolkata, Jan 7: The West Bengal Congress Legislature Party (CLP) Wednesday decided to send a show-cause notice to its two senior legislators - Somen Mitra who floated his own party, and Sudip Bandhopadhyay who joined Trinamool Congress - after leaving the party recently.“We’ve unanimously decided to send a show-cause notice to both Congress legislators who broke from the party. We asked them to reply to the CLP within the next seven days clarifying their official stand,” state CLP leader Manas Bhuniya told mediapersons.

He said according to their reply the Congress would inform the West Bengal Assembly Speaker Hasim Abdul Halim and would appeal for the necessary steps to be taken against the two legislators.
“Somen Mitra has formed his own political platform - Pragatishil Indira Congress (PIC) and Sudip Bandhopadhyay has joined Trinamool Congress. If they are no longer with the Congress, they should have resigned on moral grounds. But they’ve done nothing, explaining their political stand so far,” Bhuniya said.“Once they reply to us, we’ll submit their official statement to the state assembly speaker here,” he said.

Nandigram by-poll held under Trinamool terror: BIMAN BASU

Kolkata, 6th January, 2009: West Bengal's ruling Left Front chairman Biman Basu on Tuesday said the by-election in troubled Nandigram constituency was marred by opposition Trinamool Congress threats to voters.

"Apparently everything was very peaceful in Nandigram during the assembly by-poll Monday. But the Trinamool Congress activists threatened innocent villagers of dire consequence and asked them not to cast their vote in the by-poll," Basu told a press conference here.

Nandigram, around 150 km from here, saw prolonged blood letting over land acquisition for a proposed chemical hub project in 2007. Basu said: "Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) polling agents could not reach five polling booths - 141, 146, 139, 151 and 170 - as they were threatened by Trinamool Congress activists. Later with the help of the police and district administration they could enter those polling stations."

According to state Election Commission officials, more than 81 percent of votes were cast in East Midnapore's Nandigram assembly by-election. Police said there was no report of violence or untoward incident during the peaceful election process.

"Trinamool Congress activists also beat up villagers at Sonachura and Kalicharanpur locality and tore off their Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC)," Basu claimed. He said more than 1,000 people could not cast their vote in the by-poll in Nandigram. "The election was not conducted in a fairly manner almost in 53 polling booths," he alleged.

Two more hooch deaths in city, toll rises to 28

Kolkata, Jan 6: Two persons died after consuming spurious liquor in New Market area today as the number of hooch deaths in the city rose to 28.Police said two persons died at state-run hospitals after consuming spurious liquor in New market area, three day after the hooch tragedy in West Port area which claimed 26 lives.
Sada Mallick and Rongila Hela, two sweepers of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, consumed the brew at a den on Marquis Street and fell ill.While Sada, admitted to Sambhunath Pandit Hospital today died later, Rongila, who was admitted with vomitting symptoms at another state-run hospital yesterday, succumbed this afternoon.
The deaths took place barely three days after the hooch tragedy in the West Port police station area, just a few kilometres away from New Market, where 26 persons died in past couple of days, with the condition of three more stated to be critical.
In the Port area local people destroyed huge quantities of liquor bottles, cans and bladders and razed to ground hooch dens.West Bengal Finance and Excise Minister Asim Dasgupta has ordered a departmental inquiry to identify lapses which led to the deaths in port area since Saturday night.

Singapore's Changi Airport International buys 26% in Durgapur Aerotrop

KOLKATA, Jan 6, 2009: Changi had already signed a technical services agreement with Durgapur Aerotropolis last year. Singapore's Changi Airport International Pte has acquired a 26% stake in Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Ltd (BAPL), who is developing India's first privately owned greenfield airport project.
The project is being developed in Durgapur, the industrial hub of West Bengal, which is about 160 km away from Kolkata. The other four stakeholders in the firm, who have the remaining 74% in the firm, are Pragati Social Infrastructure, Pragati 47, Lend Lease Ltd and City Star Ltd. The stake has been picked up through Changi Airport India Pte Ltd, reports Economic Times. Changi had already signed a technical services agreement with Durgapur Aerotropolis last year. The airport project will cost about Rs10,000 crore.

Durgapur Aerotropolis is coming up over 950 hectares of land in the Durgapur-Asansol region. While the airport is coming up over a 300 hectare region, the rest will be used for an industrial park, logistics hub, IT park with supporting infrastructure like housing, tourism and healthcare facilities. Changi is also trying to rope in Singapore-based Jurong International to set up an industrial park in the region.

Around 80% voter turnout in Sujapur by-poll

Kolkata, 6th January: Polling for the Sujapur Assembly by-elections ended peacefully on Monday. “The voting was peaceful,” said IG (law and order) Raj Kanojia. District police chief Satyajit Banerjee said initial reports suggest that about 80 per cent of voters had exercised their franchise.

The counting of votes will be held on January 9. The assembly seat fell vacant after the death of Congress MLA Rubi Noor, the sister of veteran Congress leader A B A Ghani Khan Choudhury. The Congress fielded 27-year-old Mousam Benajir Noor, daughter of Rubi Noor.

Benajir had recently obtained a law degree from the Calcutta University. The Trinamool Congress decided not to field any candidate as a tribute to the late Congress leader. Benajir’s contender is CPI(M)’s Haji Ketabuddin who had garnered 65 per cent votes from Sujapur in the May 2008 panchayat polls.

Twelve companies of paramilitary forces were deployed in the constituency and additional police personnel from adjoining districts like Murshidabad, and North and South Dinajpur districts have been called in to maintain law and order.

Trinamool unleashing silent terror, says CPI(M) local leaders

Nandigram, 6th January: The CPI(M) has accused the Trinamool of unleashing ‘silent terror’ among villagers in Nandigram. The party also admitted that they have little chance of winning the by-elections.

“How can we win the election in this situation? More than 3,000 of our supporters were not allowed to come out of their houses. Many were driven out of Nandigram,” said CPI(M) zonal secreatry of Nandigram Ashok Bera.

The CPI candidate for Nandigram, Paramananda Bharati alleged that their supporters were beaten up in Reyapara and Sonachura area and four of them had to be hospitalised. “Armed miscreants, supported by Trinamool, went from door-to-door in many areas and attacked our supporters. They were not allowed to cast their votes. Had they voted, the result would have been in our favour,” Bharati said.

CPI(M) leaders claimed that they have approached the Election Commission and the police with hundreds of such complaints on Monday, but no action has been taken yet. The CPI(M) also failed to post their polling agents at nearly 60 booths. At various booths in Jalpai, Hazrakata, Kendamari, Sonachura, Kalicharanpur, even CPI(M) cadres were absent. Booth camps were also not erected at many places.

“We could not put up the camps nor post our agents. Our cadres are afraid and no one wants to be posted at the booths,” said Harun-al-Rashid, CPI(M) former Gram Panchayet Upo-Pradhan of Jalpai. “At booth numbers 168 to 173, our supporters were not allowed to come out of their homes. At other booths, Trinamnool supporters snatched the voter-identity cards from our supporters,” said Bera. “ We have told the administration regarding this,” he added.

The Trinamool, however, alleged that the CPI(M) attempted to terrorise villagers. “CPM cadres have attacked and injured four of our supporters at Reyapara and assaulted many others at different places,” Trinamool leader and MLA from Contai (South) Suvendu Adhikari said. “They, however, could not muffle the voice of the people and now at the face of defeat they are making absurd allegations,” he added. Trinamool candidate Firoza Bibi said: “The Opposition tried to create disturbance but they could not do it due to the presence of the police. We will surely win the elections.”

WB seeks greater coordination between Centre, state agencies

New Delhi, 6th January: West Bengal on Tuesday sought greater coordination in intelligence sharing between Central and state agencies to fight terror and its Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the process should essentially be a "two-way process".

Stressing that terrorists should not be linked to any religious group, Bhattacharjee said such attempts were fraught with the danger of widening rift between different religious and linguistic groups in the country, "thus weakening our determination to fight terrorism unitedly."

Addressing the Chief Ministers' conclave on internal security here, Bhattacharjee observed that the present arrangements for collection and dissemination of intelligence in states and the Centre was sometimes done in a disjointed manner and the process was "far from satisfactory".

Responding to Home Minister P Chidambaram's appeal to states to forward intelligence inputs to the Intelligence Bureau and central agencies, he said while he would advise the agencies in West Bengal to do so, "intelligence agencies in the states hardly receive useful inputs on regular basis from the office of the Central IB situated in the state."

Pointing to instances in which the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau in states "could hardly enlighten the state IB and Home Departments" on terror threats in time, Bhattacharjee said the process of information sharing and coordination "should essentially be a two-way process."

While agreeing to "seriously act upon" the suggestions made by Chidambaram, he stressed that besides strengthening the intelligence network and raising professional competence of security forces, "building up of people's awareness on the terrorist menace" was absolutely essential.