February 12, 2009

New terminals to breathe fresh life

KOLKATA, 11 February, 2009: There is good news for West Bengal. Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) is planning to set up a series of terminals around Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) to facilitate handling of barges and ships. Expressions of interest have already been invited from private parties for four barge terminals under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme.
KoPT chairman Dr A K Chanda has also written to the state government, seeking land at Shalukkhali and Kukrahati on the west bank of the Hooghly for terminals to handle large ships. "Surveys have already been conducted and if things move according to plan, the barge terminals should become operational in the next one and a half years. These terminals will facilitate the movement of cargo transloaded at other ports, to West Bengal and promote coastal shipping as well as inland water transport," Chanda said.
According to senior HDC officers, major port users like CESC Ltd have welcomed the move as this will facilitate easier movement of cargo like thermal coal for its power plant coming up in Haldia. It is a win-win situation for all sides as ships will no longer have to depend on the lockgate to enter HDC. They can unload their cargo onto barges on the Hooghly itself and turn back. At a later stage, the ships can also berth at Shalukkhali and Kukrahati where draught is expected to be nearly 10 metres. An officer said that this may also give rise to a new class of vessel the Haldiamax that will be wider and flatter than normal seagoing vessels.
At present, HDC has 13 berths for handling dry bulk cargo and containers. In addition, there are three oil jetties outside the lockgate. The lockgate can be operated only about 8-10 times a day. This allows not more than five vessels to enter the confines of HDC. An equal number leave the port. Once jetties are built outside HDC, more ships can be handled without any additional use of the lockgate. "Presently, we handle 6,300 tonnes of cargo per day at Haldia. To compete with other ports, we will have to increase this by at least three times. There is also tremendous potential for inland water transport (IWT) as this region is close to two National Waterways. In days to come, land acquisition for roads and railways will be a big problem and IWT may turn into the best option.
Unfortunately, there is no scheme to provide road connectivity to IWT jetties. At present the volume of traffic moved through inland waterways is nearly one million tonnes. There is potential to move 70-80 million tonnes," Chanda said while addressing Shiport East 2009, a seminar organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce. Captain PVK Mohan, chairman, National Shipping Board, pointed out that coastal shipping is not receiving the kind of importance it deserves. "This is one of the reasons why cruise shipping has not taken off. Unless we exploit our vast coastline, the economy will not improve. Ports like Haldia will have to give priority berthing to coastal ships," he said.

Hand-written letter of Rabindranath Tagore found in Bangladesh

Dhaka (IANS): A rare hand written letter by Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore has been found from a private collector in a Bangladesh village. The six-page letter was found in Patisar village under Atrai Upazila in the northern Bangladesh district of Naogaon. Over 66 years since Tagore's death, it is a major find for those interested in his memorabilia.

Naheed Sultana, custodian, Rabindranath Kachharibari Museum at Shazadpur Upazila in Sirajganj district, confirmed that Tagore addressed the letter to someone in Bolpur, now in West Bengal in India. He had set up Santiniketan, an open air university, there.

Apparently the missive was a response to a request to the poet for his photograph. The letter was dated on Bhadra 28 in the Bengali year 1317, The Daily Star said on Wednesday. "As far I know, no original handwritten letter or manuscript of Tagore is in any of the museums in Bangladesh," said Mohammad Abdul Khaleque, director general, Department of Archaeology, Bangladesh. The letter throws interesting light on Tagore's date of birth.

Tagore had pointed out in the letter that his date of birth was May 6, 1861. However, Sultana thinks he was born May 7 in the same year. She maintains that Tagore was in all likelihood born after midnight, hence the discrepancy. In response to a request for his biography, the poet said in the letter that his life history was not important. He did, however, give insights into his younger days and his conjugal life.

The letter has a complicated history: Matiur Rahman of Patisar village collected the letter from a man named Nazrul Islam. Nazrul Islam inherited it from his father Kabej Ali Mandal, who was one of the cooks working on the poet's boat. Matiur Rahman has been collecting Tagore memorabilia from several districts in the county since 2003.

The newspaper, however, complained about the poor upkeep of Tagore memorablia.

Potato yield to suffer 20-22 percent in West Bengal

Kolkata, Feb 11: Wheat production in the country during the current year is likely to be 78 million tonnes, the output recorded last year, after rains resumed in north India, but potato production may suffer by 20 per cent.Stating this at a CII-sponsored seminar on agri-business, the Secretary to the Department of Agriculture&Cooperation, T Nand Kumar, pointed out that in January the temperature in Punjab was higher by 2-3 degrees, but the rains in the past few days were a big boost.

A long dry spell coupled with rising temperatures in January had raised concerns over falling wheat yields in Punjab and Harayana which account for more than 90 per cent of the wheat bought by the government.

Last year, the country had bumper wheat production and higher production this year may encourage the government to consider wheat exports as it already has more than adequate stocks. The potato production in West Bengal is expected to be lower by 20-22 per cent due to late-blight disease, state agriculture minister Naren De said.

The western disturbance has prevented temperature to dip further and temperature was 2-3 degree higher than normal. De also said the state was attempting to replace 20 per cent of chemical based fertiliser to bio-fertiliser during the 11th plan period.

Our doors are still open for Mamata: BJP

Kolkata, Feb 11 : Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee is inching towards an alliance with the Congress in West Bengal for the Lok Sabha polls, but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has still kept its doors open for its former ally.“We want an alliance with her. We have kept our doors open. But it is for Banerjee to decide,” state BJP president Satya Brata Mukherjee told mediapersons.

A day after Banerjee said she had not attended meetings of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for the last four years, the Congress Tuesday withdrew its candidate from the Bishnupur West assembly constituency of South 24 Parganas district which is slated to go for a by-election Feb 26.

The Congress decision paved the way for a straight fight between the state’s ruling Left Front major Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Trinamool and brightened the prospects for a Lok Sabha poll tie-up between the two opposition forces. But Mukherjee said anything was possible. “If she is sincere in fighting the CPI-M, then she should stay away from the Congress, which will again join forces with the Marxist party after the polls.”

Asked how the BJP would fare without an alliance with the Trinamool in the state, Mukherjee said: “Well, neither Trinamool nor the CPI-M is going to form the government at the centre. The choice is between the BJP and the Congress. We will tell people how miserably the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has fared on all fronts.

“We will also remind the people about our stint in power. I am sure people of this politically conscious state will take the right decision,” said the former union minister. The BJP drew a blank in the state during the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, where it fought alone. Earlier, fighting in alliance with the Trinamool, the BJP got one seat in 1998, and doubled the number of MPs from the state in the 1999 mid-term elections.

On whether former union minister and former MP Tapan Sikdar, now expelled from the BJP, would be given the ticket from his old constituency Dum Dum, Mukherjee said: “This decision has to be taken by our national leadership. But he is yet to rejoin the party.” The Lok Sabha elections are due in April-May.

First national milk grid in Jalpaiguri

Chandigarh, Feb 11 : In view of surplus production of milk, India has drawn up plans to export 40 million tonnes of milk annually to Saarc countries. Disclosing this on Wednesday, a spokesman of the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) said that the annual milk production in the country had touched about 109 million tonnes as against its annual consumption of 69 million tonnes.

India's milk production has shown a quantum increase in the last one decade or so owing to development and propagation of high milk yielding cross-bred cattle breeds in intensive researches by the NDRI, the country's premier and oldest dairy research institute headquartered at Karnal. This is the first time India would be exporting milk to milk-deficit countries.

As such about 40 million tonnes of milk could be exported annually from the country. The export of milk would not only increase the income of farmers, but also earn foreign exchange for the country, he said.

Following the NDRI's suggestion, the Union Ministry for Animal Husbandry and Dairying is contemplating export of milk to the Saarc countries. For this purpose, three milk grids were being set up in the country.

The first such grid would be set up at Jalpaiguri or New Jalpaiguri of West Bengal from where milk would be exported to Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Presently, these countries were importing milk from USA to cater to their needs. The second milk grid would be set up in Chennai which would export milk to the South-West countries and third grid was proposed to be set up in Gujarat, the spokesman said.

The spokesman said that the first phase of setting up milk grid had nearly been completed. Data of milk production is being collected from all the states to know the quantity of milk to be supplied to the milk grid. The rates structure at which milk is being imported by the Saarc countries was also being studied. With the export of milk, the cattle breeders would not only get higher rates for milk, but the price of milch cattle would also go up substantially.

Process for seat-adjustment with Trinamool open : Cong

Kolkata,11th February : After withdrawing its candidate in favour of Trinamool Congress nominee in a bypoll, Congress in West Bengal today said the door for seat adjustment with that party was open but there was no response from Mamata Banerjee-led outfit.

"The process of seat adjustment between Congress and Trinamool Congress for the Lok Sabha poll has started. We will withdraw our candidate for the February 26 Bishnupur (West) assembly by-poll," WPCC working president Pradip Bhattacherjee told reporters here.The Trinamool had lost the last election in this constituency in 2006 by 4000 votes.

Bhattacherjee and another PCC working president Subrata Mukherjee said "now it is upto the Trinamool Congress to appropriately respond to Congress' gesture." Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, however, remained tightlipped on Congress' decision to withdraw its candidate in favour of her party nominee.

The Congress decision came less than 24 hours after Mamata distanced herself from BJP-led NDA and vowed to back a secular alliance after the polls. Mukherjee said the decision on terms of seat-adjustment would be taken by the party high command.

Bhattacherjee said the newly-formed co-ordination committee headed by WBPCC president Pranab Mukherjee would meet here on February 14 here to discuss policy and follow-up action on seat adjustment with Trinamool Congress.