February 23, 2009

Kolkata Metro extension to be completed by 2014

Kolkata February 23: Continuing with his announcements of heavyweight infrastructure projects over the past one week, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today laid the foundation stone of the Rs 4,874.58-crore East-West Kolkata Metro corridor project, the first ever in the country to run under a river.

The central government will invest Rs 1,169 crore for the project through equity and subordinated debt, while the state government will spend around Rs 1,452.58 crore. The remaining Rs 2,253 crore will be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as a senior-term debt loan.The 13.77-km corridor would run from Salt Lake Sector V, the IT hub of the city, up to Howrah Maidan. Of this, around 8 km will be underground with six stations and the balance 5.77 km will be on an elevated track.

The underground corridor starts from Howrah railway station and will cross the river Hooghly at a depth of 60 feet from the water level. The proposal to extend the metro alignment up to Howrah Maidan from Howrah station covering an additional 900 metres at an added cost of Rs 198.58 crore was sanctioned by theCentre’s committee of empowered ministers last Thursday.

“The Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC) has been registered as a joint venture company with equal equity participtation from the Centre and the state government in July last year,” Bhattacharjee said. “It has already started issuing work orders and tenders,” he added.Tender for the elevated corridor at Salt Lake was awarded to Gammon India Ltd on February 20, informed state Transport Secretary Sumantra Chowdhury, who is also the managing director of KMRC.He added that KMRC aims to make the Salt Lake-Sealdah stretch ready by 2012. The deadline for completion of the entire project is October 2014.

Pranab asks Mamata to keep development out of politics

KOLKATA: Taking a dig at the Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said development should be kept above party politics. He was referring to Banerjee’s criticism that he was strengthening the CPI(M) by sharing the dias with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at various occasions.
Mukherjee was speaking at the foundation ceremony of the East West Metro Corridor project near Yubabharati Krirangan at Bidhan Nagar on Sunday. He was the chief guest while Bhattacharjee laid the foundation stone of the project.

“All developmental work should be kept out of narrow political interests. Some people oppose development for their selfish gains. This is most unfortunate,” said Mukherjee. At the Jangipur rally in Murshidabad district on Saturday, Mukherjee had slammed Banerjee that she could face the same opposition for development projects once she became the chief minister. “Kolkata got the first Metro in the country. This 15 km-corridor will also be the first in the country. History does not forgive people who oppose development,” Bhattacharjee said on Sunday.

Later in the day, Partha Chatterjee, the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, said Mukherjee was siding up with the CPI(M) against the people of Bengal. Chatterjee was speaking to media at Banerjee’s Kalighat residence, where, incidentally, the Trinamool chief was not present. “Bengal’s hero (Mukherjee) is acting as the votary of the CPI(M). Where was he when people were killed in Nandigram or Tapasi Malik was killed in Singur? He is not with the people of Bengal but with the CPI(M),” said Chatterjee.

Labeling Mukherjee as CPI(M)’s mouthpiece, he said both Mukherjee and the CPI(M) are rushing to lay the foundation of various projects before the elections. “In the 32 years of CPI(M) rule how many projects have materialised? The Bengal’s hero and Bhattacharjee are going on laying the foundation of one project after another,” he added. “Mukherjee did nothing for the revival of Dunlop and Basumati and did not help PTTI students. But he is keen on helping the CPI(M),” Chatterjee added.

He claimed that the East West corridor project will be a disaster and said: “20 lakh people will be displaced in Kolkata and greater Kolkata by the project. Who will take care of their rehabilitation?” Chatterjee added. When asked whether Mukherjee’s actions will hamper the prospects of Trinamool’s alliance with the Congress, he said: “We will cross the bridge when we come to it.”
Interestingly, Congress workers shared the dias with their Trinamool counterparts while campaigning for the Bishnupur West by-elections on Saturday. In Bishnupur West, the Congress has recently withdrawn its candidate in favour of the Trinamool.

Asian brown cloud has robbed West Bengal of winter

KOLKATA: Winter wear hardly got out of cupboards this year in West Bengal, as it never really got cold. Environmental experts feel a blanket of pollutants in the air, called the Asian Brown Cloud, could be responsible for the climate change.

"For the past few years we have not been experiencing winter in West Bengal. This environmental change is caused by the formation of the Asian Brown Cloud," environmentalist Pranabesh Sanyal, who is also a member of the World Conservation Union, told IANS. "The cloud has been formed due to increasing automobile pollution in the air, carbon soot (or particulate carbon) and chemicals used in the agriculture sector."

According to Sanyal, the Asian Brown Cloud is the main reason behind the apparent climate change in India. "It's also causing delayed winter and absence of chill factor in West Bengal." "Massive use of inorganic fertilisers and automobile byproducts lead to nitrous oxide emission in the air. This has caused the formation of an atmospheric brownish haze layer over a vast portion of South Asia," he said.

As far as the brown cloud impact is concerned, India ranks first in the entire South and Southeast Asian region with Malaysia and Indonesia in second and third positions respectively, he added. In satellite images, the cloud appears as a giant brown stain hanging in the air over much of Asia and the Indian Ocean every year between January and March.

Sanyal said considering the disastrous environmental impact, many countries in Europe have already stopped using chemical fertilisers in agriculture. "Use of chemical fertilisers in agriculture contributes almost 50 percent of nitrous oxide to the nature while airborne pollutants from combustion and carbon soot have a contribution of 30 and 20 percent respectively."

Other experts on ABC, like V.S. Ramanathan of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in California, have however said soot - caused by burning fuelwood and dung for cooking - is the main culprit in the formation of the brown cloud. Agreeing that the brown cloud affects the laws of nature, South-Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE) director Dipayan Dey said: "It's (brown cloud) one of the major reasons behind the erratic climate change syndrome," Dey told IANS.

"This apart, unplanned industrialisation, rapid urbanisation, eroding coastal flood plains and fast dying out of wetlands are reducing the carbon sequestering ability of our nature. "The trend is very prevalent in the developing world. It's randomly casting a negative impact on our environment and affecting the resilience of our ecosystem," Dey pointed out.

He said the use of biomass or organic fuel, especially in the rural belts, significantly adds sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide and some amount of methane to the air which ultimately leads to the formation of atmospheric brown cloud and greenhouse impact.

"These components arrest infra-red rays from being reflected back by the earth's surface and helps to increase temperature," he said. Emphasising on the environmental protection strategies, he said the policy makers should always think about the long-term impact before setting up any developmental projects in the country.

"We must focus on community-based awareness campaigning programme and mitigate the use of fossil fuel in our surroundings," Dey said, adding the irregularities in the Indian climate is the fallout of the brown cloud. According to a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the brown cloud stretches from the Arabian Peninsula to the Yellow Sea. The study also identified 13 cities as brown-cloud hot spots - including Bangkok, Cairo, New Delhi, Seoul and Tehran. "This climate change syndrome - specially the effects of delayed winter, untimely rainfall and abnormal temperature rise - disturbs agricultural productivity, nature and wildlife loss and over all it hampers the ecosystem," the report said. (IANS)

World famous toy train resumes run in West Bengal

Siliguri (WB), Feb 22: The world famous toy train in Darjeeling hills is back on track after it was suspended for 10 days following agitation for a separate Gorkha state.The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) is on a roll to attract as many tourists as possible across the globe. The train, listed among UNESCO’’s World Heritage Sites, passes through a number of picturesque locations including ”Batasia Loop” (the valley of storm), the tea gardens of the Darjeeling Himalayas, the world’’s highest rail station ”Ghoom” and many other locations covering the forest lands of Terai.
The operation of the train has been severely curtailed in the last three years in the wake of the agitation by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM).The train chugged again since February 19 after being closed down on February 9. Despite the turmoil, the magnetic charm of the world famous toy train brings back the tourists.“It is a very famous train, and very well known train in England. People know about it,” said Mark James, a tourist from United Kingdom.Ever since the GJM agitation rocked the Darjeeling hills, the tourism industry in the region received a major setback. Last year 16 charters and eight-winter safaris had to be cancelled due to the agitation and strikes in the hills.There has also been a steady drop in the number of tourists.
The DHR reports project a drop of 28 per cent in volume with mounting losses of rupees two million.“Last year, I brought 42 people from all over the world. We were unable to run because of the Gorkha strike. One of our people comes back this year. I now know that there was another strike last week. But we better be sure we run for the next two days,” said Andrew Nil, the tour conductor from U.K. The DHR toy train was started in 1896 by the then British Lieutenant Governor Ashley Eden, offering riders an opportunity to enjoy the majestic beauty of nature along the Darjeeling hills.At the beginning, this railway was named as the Darjeeling steam Tramway Co. Later when India gained independence in 1947, the railway was named as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR).DHR was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO on December 5 at their 23rd session. (ANI)

NSG chief holds talks over force hub in West Bengal

KOLKATA: J.K. Dutt, chief of the National Security Guard (NSG), Friday held talks with West Bengal home secretary Ardhendu Sen over selecting land for a proposed hub of the anti-terrorism crack force in the state.“I had a discussion with home secretary Ardhendu Sen regarding land to set up the NSG hub and an anti-hijack squad in West Bengal. I have told him about our land requirements and he has assured all possible help,” Dutt told reporters at the secretariat Writer’s Building here. Dutt, however, declined to give details of the meeting.

“Nothing has been finalised yet, so there is no point in discussing it with the media. I will be having another meeting with Sen on Feb 25. Hopefully, I will be in a position to talk after that,” the NSG chief said. “All I want to say is that no matter where we get the land, the state will get its NSG hub and anti-hijack squad soon,” he added.

According to a source at the secretariat, Dutt has asked for 1,200-1,400 acres of land for the NSG hub and a comparatively smaller land near the city airport for the anti-hijack squad. “There are proposals for three lands - near Kalaikunda Air Force Station in West Midnapore district, at Barrackpore town in North 24 Parganas district and at Kaikhali near the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Sangeet Natak Akademi to set up National centre for Chhau soon

Bhubaneswar, 22th February : The Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) will set up a national centre for Chhau at Jamshedpur soon. Sangeet Natak Akademi secretary and Kathak exponent Jayant Kastuar announced this while addressing the inaugural ceremony of the first edition of the ‘Chhau Parva’ (national Chhau dance festival) at the Utkal Mandap here on Friday.

Mr. Kastuar said, and added that the facility for Chhau would give the much needed boost to the Chhau culture of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa. The four-day festival, conceived as an annual affair, was planned for Jamshedpur but the SNA decided to host it in Orissa as a mark of respect to eminent scholar Dhirendra Nath Patnaik of the State who significantly contributed to the performing arts traditions of Orissa – Odissi and Chhau in particular. The festival was dedicated to Patnaik, Mr. Kastuar announced.

Commissioner of Culture B.C. Jena, who inaugurated the festival, revealed that efforts were on to convert the State-owned Odissi Research Centre as a national centre of Odissi. The festival, the first of its kind for the State, would feature 28 troupes from Orissa, Jharkhand, West Bengal and New Delhi representing the three styles of Chhau – Mayurbhaj, Sareikalla and Purulia.

“We have to help small units too” : Buddhadeb

Kolkata,22th February: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said he would seek the help of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who holds additional charge of Finance, to mitigate the sufferings of the small sector in these recessionary times.
“It is not enough to save only Satyam – I will talk to Pranab da when I meet him at the inauguration of the East-West Metro Railway project on Sunday – we have to try to help the small industries too who are suffering badly due to the recession,” he said while inaugurating a project at Durgapur.

Mr. Bhattacharjee kicked off two projects on Saturday, which are being implemented in phases. Together, they entailed an investment of over Rs. 500 crore for the units inaugurated on Saturday. He said that had the Left not blocked the Congress’s proposals on opening up several sectors of the economy, India too would have been in as big an economic mess as the U.S. finds itself in now.

Speaking at the inauguration of an alloy and steel unit by JaiBalaji Steel, he said the State government was committed to providing job opportunities for the youth.

Buddhadeb inaugurated Jai Balaji Group steel plant

Durgapur, Feb 22, 2009: Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today lambasted the Opposition for its criticism of the proposed chemical hub in Nayachar and rubbished fears of environmental hazards. The chief minister also lashed out at the Centre for playing “little brother” to the US which he blamed for the economic slowdown.

The chief minister was speaking at the inauguration of the alloy and stainless steel division of an integrated steel plant at Banskhopa in Durgapur owned by the Jai Balaji Group, which is expected to pump in Rs 425 crore in the next 18 to 24 months in Durgapur.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee had recently announced she would agitate against the chemical hub to be set up in Nayachar for its “negative environmental impact”. “Some people are opposing industrialisation and development in Bengal. Do they know the meaning of petrochemicals? Butadin means rubber, polymer means textiles. What harm will be done? In which country has there been any harm?” said Bhattacharjee.

“They are opposing even a power plant in Katwa. They are opposing it just for the sake of it. This has just become a fight between the ruling party and the Opposition. But we need industry for jobs,” he added.

The CM targeted the Centre for siding with the US, which he held responsible for the economic slowdown. “America is the root cause for the economic recession. They have drowned and they are dragging others along with them. In fact, Delhi is playing little brother to big brother America. Why should we beg to America? We should look towards China for a model. They are fighting America on equal terms,” he said.

“We will set up a coke oven plant and a ductile pipe plant at our facility at Banskopa in Durgapur,” said Aditya Jajodia, chairman and managing director of Jai Balaji Group. The group has inaugurated a 0.45 million-tonne alloy and stainless steel division with an investment of Rs 225 crore today.

The company has already invested Rs 2,000 crore for five of its manufacturing facilities in West Bengal. It has also lined up Rs 16,000 crore for setting up a 5-million tonne integrated steel plant, a 3-MT cement plant and a 1,215-MW captive power plant at Raghunathpur in Purulia district.

West Bengal annual plan 2009-10 finalized

NEW DELHI: Annual Plan of West Bengal for the year 2009-10 was approved today at a meeting between the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. The Annual Plan size was agreed at Rs.14150 crores. This includes additional Central Assistance of Rs. 50 crores for projects of special importance to the State.
In his opening remarks the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia complimented the State for plan performance. He said appreciable efforts are visible in expediting implementation in the social sector. Human development indices is improving. The State Government’s efforts to set up land bank to meet requirements of investments in the industrial sector were appreciated. He said the Planning Commission was keen that time lack in operationalising the initiative listed in the stimulus packages is reduced as far as possible. The State Government should join hands with the Central Government in early implementation of the stimulus packages.
The State was advised to accelerate the process of purchasing buses for mission cities of the State. The Planning Commission was willing to review the guidelines of the Centrally sponsored schemes if States were finding some difficulties in implementation. It was pointed out that the Central Government has finalized guidelines on the implementation of national programmes which will be communicated to the State shortly.
The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr. Buddhadeb in his comments on the performance of the State said that the consequences of the global economic crisis were affecting State’s and wanted Centre to give a grant of Rs.20000 crores to the States. He said the State Government was increasing budgetary allocation to the sectors which are employment intensive so that its impact is minimized at the lowest level. Allocations to roads, bridges, irrigation & drainage are being increased substantially for this purpose.
Emphasis on vocational education will continue as despite slow down investments in sectors like steel and cement were coming. To overcome the problem of providing land to the investors, the State Government was actively considering setting up of a land bank with initial provision of 5000 acres of land. More houses for poor in rural and urban areas would be constructed.