January 21, 2009

Country’s largest solar power plant in state soon

KOLKATA: The state is set to get the countrys largest solar powergeneration plant by the end of March this year, said state power minister, MrMrinal Banerjee speaking this morning at the inaugural ceremony of the 18thInternational Photovoltaic Science and Engineering Conference and Exhibition(PVSEC) at Science City.

The minister said the power plant, under construction atJamuria near Asansol, would be capable of generating around 2MW solar power.The state government has invested Rs 38 crore(USD 8MN) in the project.

As per the norms, 4.8 per cent of the total powerdistributed by West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) should be generated from renewable resources, which is not currentlythe case. Mr Banerjee said: ""Initiatives to increase powergeneration from renewal resources will be essential for the future of thecompany."" He added: Besides the government initiative,many private companies have started investing in the sector to meet the crisis.


KOLKATA: In the late morning of 20 January, the anarchic separatist activists of the so-called ‘greater Coochbehar’ movement blockaded the busy north-south national highway 34. Initially, 40-odd youth loitered in and out of the road space at Raigunj, dislocation traffic as a logjam started to build up.

Then suddenly, catching everybody by surprise, 500-odd armed separatists, equipped with sharp, cutting weapons, and a few countrymade firearms came out from the roadsides, sat themselves down on the highway and started to attack vehicles as well as passers by including cyclists through heckling, threats and pelting of stones and brickbats. They also created an atmosphere of provocation and the villagers and urban dwellers of the area came out in sheer frustration at the block.

By 12 noon, the civil administration of the subdivision and the police argued with the separatists to withdraw the blockade as tension was on the rise. In response, the divisive elements launched an armed attack on the police and regrettable the latter had to resort to a ‘push back’ through a lathi charge. A few tear gas shells too had to be lobbed. The way was soon cleared.

In a statement, Biman Basu, state secretary, Bengal CPI (M) has condemned the separatists’ acts of commission and has said that the separatists’ ranks are filled with the worker of the Trinamul Congress, the BJP, and the Pradesh Congress, the latter always willing to fish in troubled waters. Biman notes that one Shivaji Sarkar, who leads the Coochbehar separatists, is often seen as a leader of the local unit of the Trinamul Congress, the BJP, and the Pradesh Congress.

Under Sarkar’s nefarious leadership, the separatists have been engaged for some time in a covert manner to create spurts of disturbing of the public life in the district. Sarkar’s henchmen-in-chief are Katan Burman, Sashthu Burman, and Bundilal Burman of Bhatol. Biman has appealed to the Left and democratic forces and the mass of the people of Raigunj and north Dinajpore to protest vociferously against the attempts made afresh to create disruption by the forces of division and separatism. The clique that would go to the extent to call for a de novo division of the state must be isolated from the masses, by the masses, said the CPI (M) leader. (INN)


KOLKATA:The Bengal unit of the Integrated Child Development Scheme or ICDS, a central government project, is by far the largest representative organisation of its kind in Bengal and in the country. The Bengal ICDS unit is affiliated to the CITU. At the all-India level, the unit is a member of the all-India Anganwadi workers’ federation.

The work of the ICDS concerns the health welfare of the mother and the child through a balanced diet of nutrition. The coverage limits the scheme to a child until she or he is of six years. In this realm, the Bengal ICDS has done a continuously exemplary work as far as coverage density and coverage width are concerned. This has been going on with help from the social welfare department of the Bengal Left Front government whose one-time minister and an active ICDS leader is Nirupama Chatterjee who yet heads the organisation as its president.

Each ICDS centre like the one by the side of which I reside in a block of ancient flats in east-central Kolkata, provides a healthy mix of cooked food that comprise rice and / or home-leavened bread (chapatti), lentils and pulses in the form of thick soups, and a variety of green, orange and red vegetables plus milk and potable water keeping in mind the nutritional imperatives of the growing child and the post-partum mother.

The untiring work of ICDS workers in Bengal has helped bring down drastically the rate of child and mother mortality. The ICDS centres also prepare survey reports that are great inputs as developmental indicators. The ICDS workers – they are all women – also help in the tasks of vaccination, schooling, and general social welfare of the child and the mother.

The ICDS workers receive but a pittance from the central government, with the Bengal LF government providing them with what are virtually living wages but even this is not enough. Over and above these travails, the humble but dedicated ICDS worker get no benefits of employment, not even pension and PF facilities, not to speak of cadres, posts, and promotional avenues.

Fluting with impunity the apex court’s order to make the ICDS universal, the successive union governments have carried on with a pitiable state of affairs in the domain of child and mother welfare-- whilst the Bengal LF government is hamstrung by its financial constraints in a state-centre relational structure that heavily tilts towards the latter component.

Of late, as the state conference delegates and speakers from the dais pointed out, the World Bank had sent down a diktat to the docile union government to say that the ICDS project ‘is wasteful and should be restructured.’ This would virtually mean the end of the project as a pro-poor endeavour. The state conference fulminated against this harmful anti-people plan of the central government and raised a set of demands:

1.The ICDS project must be made perennial
2.The scheme must not be privatised
3.Until such time, each Anganwadi worker must receive a wage of Rs 3500 and each Anganwadi assistant, Rs 2500 per month
4.The sixty-plus Anganwadi workers and assistants must be given a lump sum retirement benefit of respective Re one lakh and Rs 50,000
5.The wage must be increased in keeping with the price indices
6.The project must be universalised
7.The World Bank diktat must not be obeyed

The seventh conference that was held at the Salt Lake stadium elected Nirupama Chatterjee as president, Ratna Dutta as the general secretary and Manasi Das as the treasurer of the Bengal unit of the ICDS workers’ association. The open rally that saw the commencement of the conference and which was held at the Rani Rashmoni Road crossing, heard addresses by, among others, CPI (M) leaders Shyamal Chakraborty, Subhas Chakraborty, Kali Ghosh, and Arati Dasgupta.


KOLKATA: In its two-day state committee meeting held at the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan on 16 and 17 January 2009, the Bengal CPI (M) resolved to farther widen and strengthen its political-organisational base and to hold a big rally at the maidan to emphasise its stance against anarchy and for pro-poor development. Benoy Konar, central committee member of the CPI (M) presided.

Biman Basu, state secretary, explained the resolutions of the most recent meeting of the central committee. He also said that the upcoming Lok Sabha elections would be a tough challenge for the Bengal unit of the CPI (M) and for the mass of the people of Bengal. Biman was of the firm opinion, as he expressed it, that all kinds of opposition forces, stretching from the right reactionaries to the left sectarians, were arraigned against the Party and the people.

The opposition were working in unison or at least in tandem with one another. The garget was the CPI (M). The Bengal CPI (M), said Biman, must thus build up fast an even better, deeper, and wider contact with the mass of the people, clearing their confusions, and rallying then along the correct path. The Bengal CPI (M) must farther widen and deepen its bases among the rural and urban poor, Biman stressed.

The CPI (M) leader focussed attention of the state-level leadership to the importance of carrying out intense political campaign at all functional levels and to work towards enhancing the level of political consciousness of the CPI (M) workers. The work of campaign must be accompanied by revolutionary discretion and caution.

The district leadership spoke of the experience borne out of organisational conventions held across the state. They identified the points of weaknesses of the organisation. They emphasised the need to carry forth with vigour the ongoing rectification campaign. The state committee noted how the mass mobilisation for development and against anarchic manoeuvres had increased manifold of late. The state committee also had a preliminary look at the processes that obtained behind the results of the three by-elections haled at para, Sujapore, and Nandigram.


KOLKATA, 18th January: The metropolis has been historic witness to many a large rallies. The one held on the morning of 18 January spanned the entire length of the city north to south and the marchers walked in an orderly double-column file. Twenty-one kilometers were covered with masses of the people from all sections of the society. The marchers assembled at the call of the CPI (M).

The basic slogans that under pinned the rally were a cry for development, and a shout against attempts at anarchy—and the slogans reverberated across the length and breadth of Kolkata for all of four hours.

In registering their protests – vibrant and vociferous – the marchers let it be known in no uncertain terms that developmental initiative would have the poorest of the poor at the top of its list of priorities, and the marchers warned the saboteurs of democracy, of the right and the sectarian left padded up by the foreign-funded NGOs not to go ahead with their anarchic planning against the popular and mass mandated Left Front government of Bengal.

Biman Basu, state secretary of the CPI (M) who led the marchers shouldering a large and waving Red Flag also briefly addressed the marchers at the Chiria More crossing near Baranagore in the northern suburbs of the city. Biman said that the country was reeling under the collapsing capitalist economy of the western countries. The prices of articles of common consumption have shot up. The CPI (M) has written to the Congress-run union government to put a leash on the galloping up of the price level – but to little effect. Perhaps this is hardly of surprise concerns as the strident demand does from an anti-people government that would rather be busy hushing the real magnitude of the deepening crisis involving the InfoTech magnates and their hot-money-run firms.

Biman was stringently critical of the foreign policy of the Singh government, a policy that heavily on and towards the US and its lackeys. In a gradual but menacing way, the sovereignty of the nation was put to jeopardy but would Singh and his friends in the ‘right’ places really care? The right reactionary elements have targeted the left in general and the CPI (M) in particular especially after the support to the UPA government was correctly withdrawn some months back on serious grounds of the disastrous-to-sovereignty nuclear accord.

Despite it having been a Sunday, the march was overflowing with people who had come from all over the city and beyond. There were 24 large banners delineating the popular demands as raised by the CPI (M) over the recent period. There were two big tableaux. There were an uncounted number of placards that drew attention of the people to the popular developmental demands of the CPI (M) for Bengal.

The marchers were felicitated in fourteen places in between the starting point and the finishing stage at Tollygunj deep into the south of the metropolis. The marchers had in the van several thousand Party volunteers attired in Red jackets and carrying Red flags.