May 7, 2009




Package for Muslims already in place: CM

KOLKATA, 6 MAY, 2009: The state government has already introduced a special package for the uplift of backward Muslims of the state. The scheme, which aims at imparting vocational training to Muslim youths and encouraging Muslim students to pursue higher education, will be implemented through the Minority Development and Finance Corporation. It has already taken up development programmes for Muslims in 12 districts of the state. Announcing this at an election rally at Rajabazar on Tuesday, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee appealed to the people to elect CPM's Mohammad Salim from Kolkata North constituency.
Md. Salim, incidentally, is the corporation's former chairman. Bhattacharjee came down heavily on the Opposition and a section of the media for criticising the Left Front government for acquiring land from Muslim peasants in the state. "Why should we do that? Are we mad?" he asked. Citing statistics, the chief minister said of the 11.5 lakh acre, which the Left Front government had distributed among peasants since 1977, 25% went to members of the minority community. "We have recruited 11% of our teachers and 8% of our policemen from the minority community," he added.
Bhattacharjee, however, felt that still a lot could be done to bring Muslims back to the mainstream. The CM appealed to voters to elect Left Front candidates in order to bring a non-Congress, non-BJP government at the Centre. "The Left are gaining strength from various regional parties and we want to form a pro-people government at the Centre," he said. Bhattacharjee felt the issue of prime ministership would not arise at this moment. "We want to form government on the basis of a common minimum programme. We need to ensure the supply of essential foodgrains to the poor at the lowest price and give more land to the landless. We need to promote secularism and follow a sovereign foreign policy," he said. Bhattacharjee said the Left Front government had decided to supply rice at Rs 2 a kg through the public distribution system, thanks to the record production of rice in West Bengal. Though loadshedding plunged the area into darkness for about 20-25 minutes, the chief minister continued with his speech unperturbed.

Contai hooch toll 21, one arrested

CONTAI,6 MAY: The official toll in Monday's hooch tragedy in East Midnapore rose to 21, with one more person dying at the district hospital in Tamluk on Tuesday. Unofficial reports, however, said three more persons had died in the villages.
In Kolkata, chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti said one person has been arrested in this connection, and announced the formation of a one-man committee of additional commissioner of excise, Ananda Ghosh, who will inquire into how the incident took place and pin down responsibility. He will submit his report by May 18. Chakrabarti said raids were on all along, and in the last three months, five persons were arrested in Tamluk alone. Even as excise and finance minister Asim Dasgupta had announced he would make the state free from illicit liquor, Chakrabarti said had the state reached such a stage now, such an incident would not have taken place.
Nearly 50 people are still at the Tamluk hospital. Hundreds of others have been kept under observation. Medical teams have been sent to more villages while district health officials have contacted Kolkata, seeking more facilities. "The district hospital has never faced such a situation and we don't have the kind of infrastructure required to handle it effectively. Had there been an intensive care unit at the hospital, we could have performed dialysis on the more serious patients and saved a few lives. We have taken up the matter with the state health department," said district CMOH Rabi Kinkar Naik.
With a large area under the Shahid Matangini Block being affected, Trinamool Congress has trained its guns on CPM. District magistrate Choten D Lama prepared for raids at places where illicit liquor is brewed. "We had conducted raids earlier, but could not locate many of the spots. There may have been leaks from our side," said Lama. It is evident that an organized racket under the aegis of Trinamool Candidate of Tamluk constituency Suvendu Adhikary, operates in the area with Nandakumar being the main distribution hub. The Bera family has been running the illegal liquor den on the main road at Ramtaroghat for two generations now. Many of the bottles of poisonous liquor were bought from this shop on Monday. Present owner Gopal Bera fled after the incident. Most of the hooch in the district comes from Mohammadpur, Kalyanpur, Bhabanipur, Kolsar, Rajnagar, Geonkhali and Santhalchowk in the Nandakumar, Mahishadal and Moyna police station areas.
A mixture of water, yeast, molasses and a special kind of salt is put into 20-litre earthenware jars and left to ferment inside ponds. Distillation yields six litres of hooch from each jar. Insiders revealed that a problem with the proportion of yeast or salt in the mixture can result in a tragedy like Monday's. A visit to Mohammadpur revealed that even women and children are involved in the process. Locals revealed that each distiller has to pay the local police up to Rs 15,000 per month to keep his business running.
After Monday's incident, police had paid a visit to the area. Broken jars bore evidence of this. Despite that, villagers were seen pouring the stuff into bottles. The distillation process now takes place during the night. There are around 20 such distilleries in Mohammadpur. Sources said a panchayat member is involved in the racket that has been running for over four decades. Police conduct raids from time to time, but do not meet with much success. Divers are hired by them to jump into the ponds and demolish the fermentation jars hidden inside. Sources revealed that the divers often strike a deal with the bootleggers and for Rs 50 extra, leave the jars intact.

Ural India for a small car from Haldia in 2009

KOLKATA: Ural India Ltd, an Indo-Russian joint venture, is keen in building small cars at Haldia in West Bengal during this year and would also be conducting road shows to evaluate feedback from its prospective customers, reports The Times of India. TOI has also added that JV company would be producing two small cars by assembling parts at their Haldia factory for the road shows. The tyres, gears and engine would be produced locally, though the mould and metal sheet will be imported. The small car is estimated to cost around Rs 1.6 lakh, though no official announcement has been made by the company, where the West Bengal state government holds an 11 per cent stake. The company is planning to launch both AC and non-AC models and there would be options for switching over to LPG models as well. However, it could not be ascertained, whether the Kolkata-based company would seek any inputs or tie-up with the Chinese auto giant, FAW Corporation.

It may be recalled that First Auto Work (FAW), have reportedly signed a Memorandum of understanding (MOU) on 7th November'08, to set up a small car and bus manufacturing facility in West Bengal. The amount earmarked for the proposed JV is Rs. 1,500 crore and the price of the entry-level low-cost is estimated to be around Rs. 1.6 lakh. It is widely believed the JV will initially be rolling out the small car, followed by trucks, buses and minibuses. Sources on condition of anonymity have revealed that the proposed project would take at least 18 months to begin production. The Chinese public sector automobile company is eyeing to set up the unit either at Singur, or at Haldia, adjacent to Ural's existing truck assembling unit. Currently, the officials of FAW are hobnobbing with the West Bengal government officials and are reportedly seeking approximately 600 acres of land.

Bengal students bag top honours in Civil Services exams

KOLKATA:May 06, 2009-Some of the top rankers in this year’s All India Civil Services Examinations appeared from Bengal. The Indian Express profiles four of them:

Shilpa Gouri Saria
Rank: 25
Saria, a resident of Phoolbagan in Kolkata, spent 18 hours everyday on her studies. Her elated parents credit the success to Shilpa, who is working as a CA with the PricewaterhouseCoopers. “She worked very hard for this. She did her B.Com (Hons) from Calcutta University and stood 3rd,” says her mother.
Saria’s academic record has been excellent through out. She had topped in her school in both the ICSE & ISC examinations with 93 per cent. She had also secured all-India highest score in Mathematics with 99 per cent. “She was also a rank holder in the Chartered Accounts examinations and was the topper among women candidates in the eastern region,” said her mother.
“One has to forget everything. Even going to a movie was like losing three precious hours of preparations,” says Saria, whose relaxes by listening music. Keen to “serve the nation and the society”, she believes that though politicians frame policies but they have to work in coordination with administrative officers. On celebrating her success, she says: “Certainly there will be one, but my family members will be dealing about it,” Saria replies. Right now she wants to take some much-needed rest as she has a few months before her training starts.

Kaushik Bhattacharya
Rank: 30
Kaushik is currently Block Development Officer of Lalgola in Murshidabad. “After joining the West Bengal Civil Services in 2005, I realised that there is so much we can offer to the society. I was determined to crack the civil services examinations,” said the 26-year-old. He says it is a myth that civil servants cannot do much for the society. “Civil servants are endowed with enough power and can do a lot for the people,” he added.
“Interestingly, I was not asked any question in the examination about my job profile. I was rather asked a question on the image of the state after Nano was pulled out from the state,” he added. Kaushik opted for West Bengal, his home state, and he wants to work for the people of Bengal. An Economics graduate from APC College in New Barrackpore, he had chosen Economics and Political Science as his optional papers for civil services exams.
Although he made it to the top in his fourth attempt, Kaushik did not go to other states like several other candidates to appear for the examination. “There was no reason why I could not prepare from Bengal. So I did not go to other states,” said Kaushik. Kaushik comes from a family of bureaucrats. Kaushik’s father Shyamal Kumar Bhattacharya is an IAS officer and is the Director of Fisheries in West Bengal.
Anuj Jha
Rank: 52
This is the second time that Anuj has succeeded in civil services examinations. Last year, he was selected for the Railway Services, so he appeared again this year and achieved what he desired most. “I want to become a District Magistrate which is the most coveted post in Civil Services,” said a beaming Anuj.
After completing his schooling from Madhubani in Bihar, Anuj did graduation from a college in Durbhanga. His father Badri Jha retired from his job when Anuj was doing his graduation. He says that he cannot build the nation single-handedly. So he wants people’s support to succeed.
Susmita Bhattacharjee
Rank: 498
Susmita owes her success to husband Rabindranath Chaterjee, a management lecturer at the Sikkim Manipal University in Kolkata. “Without my husband’s help and guidance I would not be have been able to make it to the merit list,” says Susmita, who has a 20-month-old son Maitraiyo. A resident of Dum Dum Park in north Kolkata, Susmita says that finally her longstanding desire to serve the people has been fulfilled. Though she had high hopes for a better result but nursing the toddler and pursuing her studies proved a bit tough. She has opted for IAS, IPS and IRS. She says she will settle for IRS since it is related with her subject economics. Susmita says that she never followed a proper routine for her preparations and adds that her hobby was reading. She took coaching from the Institute for Civil Services Aspirants at Salt Lake.

Small car big factor for urban vote bank

5 May 2009, 0253 hrs IST,
Prithvijit Mitra, TNN

KOLKATA: As the afternoon sun beats down mercilessly on a crowded, treeless Kasba Road, Ajay Dhar crouches under the tin shed of a tea-stall. Sipping from an earthen cup, he wipes off beads of sweat from his brows and stares at an election hoarding that talks about the Nano's exit. "They also wanted the Nano, but not in West Bengal," it screamed. "It could have changed things here, at least to an extent. Who knows, some people could have got jobs," mumbles Dhar, a private firm employee.
The world's cheapest car that weaved a prosperity dream only to drive out dumping the state unceremoniously evokes myriad emotions in south Kolkata. Outside Singur, this is perhaps the only constituency where voters are faced with the Nano dilemma. Candidate Mamata Banerjee being the binding thread. Most roadside discussions and tea-stall adda sessions invariably veer around to the car.
And the reactions to the Nano episode are both varied and curious. From total indifference to despair for the loss, south Kolkatans can't get over the Nano. "There are more relevant issues. Roads, water supply and traffic problems. But you can't wish away the Nano for it reflects the candidates' views on industrialization and their priorities. Nobody knows if the Nano would have made a difference. But it did make people dream and its abrupt end has left many disappointed," said Mohammed Qasem, a primary school principal from Kidderpore.
Tapas Jana, a private firm employee from Kasba, agreed. Jana had been saving money to buy the car. He has lost interest following "the ugly tussle" that it led to. "People like me can't afford any other car. But after all the trouble and the politics, it makes no sense," Jana said. It's not just a missed opportunity for the middle-class, but an economic setback for the region, felt some. Artist Anup Bhattacharya was not planning to buy the car that is on display at a showroom less than a kilometre away from his Ballygunge home. "But we needed it for the sake of our youngsters. It could have created a few more jobs. In this employment-starved zone, even a 100 jobs are welcome. It would've served as a starting point for industrial revival," rued Bhattacharya, munching on a biscuit at the Kasba tea-stall. But would the Nano influence voting? South Kolkatans doubted it. But it will definitely be on every voter's mind as they press the button.
A car can't be an election issue even if its costs a lakh, felt social worker and pottery designer Anupama Jalan. Sitting at her Alipur residence, she said it was strange that the Nano had become the talking point in a constituency plagued by numerous civic problems. "I see everyone discussing the car, probably because Mamata Banerjee is the candidate. There are so many issues that are far more important roads, garbage clearance and transport. Few can afford to buy a car," said Jalan.
The Nano effect will have a marginal impact on voting, agreed independent candidate Nishat Khan. Moving around in his hoodless jeep, Khan has been interacting with voters all over the constituency. A banner on the vehicle exhorts people to vote for him for better civic amenities, higher literacy and a greener city. Nowhere has he encountered voters who were very bitter about Nano, said Khan. "But yes, it has been talked about. It is the middle-class and the lower middle class who are talking about it more. But it will disappear from their radar soon as the more immediate problems start tormenting them. CPM has planted it here to turn voters against Trinamool," he said.


KOLKATA, 5th MAY: A very typical feature of CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat’s mass rallies is that on arriving at the spot she does not climb to the dais or go near the podium waving. She makes a quick beeline for the women who usually in Bengal election assemblages sit to the front of the rallyists, plonks down, starts talking to them, and also manages to listen to their emergent as well as day-to-day problems amidst the prattle that inevitably follows.

The women -- of all ages -- find this very Communist gesture comforting in warmth as well as a bit of a thrill. Women rallyists have told us time-and-again after such tête-à-têtes with Brinda, that she allows them to bask in the reassuringly fresh air of relating themselves directly to the CPI (M) and to whatever the Party stands for-- through a top-level leader, a woman leader at that.

The series of rallies that Brinda has addressed at as far away a place at Cheliyama in Purulia to closer to ‘home’ at places around Kolkata have proved immensely popular among the common people in general for she speaks their language without the frills of political overload, explaining the politics of the evolving situation in simple, clear language. They also like the bit of class-based anger that comes out in her addresses, albeit in sober tones, in distinct and attractive phraseology. All her rallies are well populated.

Addressing such a massive rally recently in the industrial zone of Khardaha in north 24 Parganas, Brinda spoke about the election battle assuming, as the days and nights go by, the proportions of a class struggle with the rich and their political formation ranged against the people. The poor are under assault, oftener than not physically, and the mass of the people are put under immensity of grinding load with the runaway prices affecting the householder every day, every month, every year. At the one end of the political spectrum stand the Congress, the BJP, and their corporate minders. At the other end are arrayed the people and their political formation like the Left Front and the CPI (M). The picture in Bengal is a reflection of the all-India scenario said Brinda who is an all-India leader of the CPI (M).

The opposition in Bengal are engaged in a politics of destruction. They would block all the paths to development, pro-people, pro-poor development. They would not hesitate to augment divisive forces ready to carve up the state again. They would frustrate all social welfare schemes. They have but one aim: to oust the popularly elected Left Front from office. They utilise the Lok Sabha elections not to speak about all-India issues but of issues, and non-issues pertaining to Bengal. They adopt a vow of silence in these terrible times. The stand that the opposition in Bengal adopts clearly marks out their class position.

Defeating all these conspiracies, in Bengal as elsewhere, a government for the workers, the kisans, the middle class, the women, the minorities, and the working masses would come up in Delhi, Brinda Karat had no doubt. Following the election the Third Front will gain and gather strength across the country. The more the reactionaries adopt tactics of violence and deceit, the more determinedly united the masses have become to ensure a victory for the third Front, concluded Brinda Karat.


KOLKATA: Addressing a face-to-face session at the Kolkata press club in the afternoon of 4 May, CPI (M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was again talking of the Left support because after three phases of the nationwide polls, he was resigned to the fact that the UPA was not coming back to office.

The speaker said that pressure from the neo-liberal economic policy and the worldwide economic depression has made the common people suffer the most. The central government should have spent much more than it did on development so that employment opportunities grew. This would have accelerated the stagnant economy. Neither of the two political formations led by the Congress and BJP thought about the mass of the people. This had been proved during the tenure of the governments they successively ran.

Sitaram Yechury referred to history while answering questions on the uncertainty that faced the Third Front in terms of nomination of a Prime Minister. In 1996, the United Front was set up post-elections and H D Deve Gowda became the PM. In addition, at a different end of the political spectrum, A B Vajpayee became PM following the completion of the electoral process in 1998 when the NDA was established. It can even be said that Dr Manmohan Singh did not know that he would be chosen the prime Minister by the Congress in the wake of the 2004 Lok Sabha polls. Again, the UPA was set up post-poll.

Strongly refuting the charge that the setting up of the Third Front would benefit the BJP, Sitaram Yechury said that it was the Congress that was responsible for the rise of the BJP. Had not the Congress withdrawn support from the UF government in 1998, there was no way the BJP would have come to office. He iterated that of the 61 Left MPs who won their way to the Lok Sabha in 2004, 54 defeated the Congress. Yet, to keep the communal forces away from office, the Left chose to support a Congress-led UPA government based on a CMP. The Left is most committed of all political formations against communalism and they have carried out consistent struggle against the BJP-RSS combine in a continuous manner throughout the country.

Sitaram Yechury also spoke on the malafide Congress campaign against the Left Front government in Bengal, he ruled out the possibility of the Left supporting the Congress to form a government in Delhi, and he called upon all the socialists and former socialists to augment the Left forces nationwide.

Decision on support only after polls: Biman Basu

KOLKATA: A decision whether or not the Left will support a Congress-led government at the Centre will be taken only after the polls, Biman Basu, Chairman of the Left Front Committee, said here on Tuesday.

“I cannot pass any comment on what will happen in a post-poll situation”, Mr. Basu, who is also the Secretary of the West Bengal State Committee of the CPI(M), said replying to a question by journalists here.

He declined to comment on a remark by AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi, expressing confidence that the Left would support a government headed by Manmohan Singh. “We have given a call for forming a Third Front government based on secularism, pro-people policies and an independent foreign policy. This is a pre-poll announcement by the Left parties and their Third Front partners.”

In a dig at the Congress leadership, Mr. Basu wondered how the party could speak of the Left support when its alliance partner in West Bengal (Trinamool Congress) was saying the Left would end up with “zeros” in the elections in Kerala, Tripura and in this State. “Have they not discussed the matter [between themselves]?”

The CPI(M) leader also ridiculed the recent “helicopter tour” by Mr. Gandhi to West Bengal during which he came down heavily on the performance of the Left Front government. “None can get to know a State through helicopter tours.”


KOLKATA,5th MAY: Addressing a crowded media briefing at the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan in the afternoon of 5 May, Left Front chairman and senior CPI (M) leader Biman Basu said that of late, the Trinamulis had started to issue statements and comments that were designed to create tension, and perhaps worse, during the next two stages of Lok Sabha elections in Bengal. In the second stage, 17 Lok Sabha constituencies would go to the polls. The rest of the constituencies would face elections – 14 Lok Sabha seats were included in the first phase on 30 April – by 13 May.

The Lok Sabha seats going in for polls on 7 May (numbers 9 to 42) are Jangipur, Berhampore, Murshidabad, Krishnagar, Ranaghat (SC), Howrah, Uluberia, Sreerampur, Hooghly, Arambagh (SC), Tamluk, Contai (Kanthi), Burdwan east, Burdwan-Durgapur, Asansol, Bolpur (SC), and Birbhum.

Biman Basu cited two specific examples in this regard. Addressing meetings at three places in Hooghly and Nadia what the Trinamul chief said was certainly alarming, fearfully so, reminding us perhaps of the rôle of agent provocateurs who rouse anti-thetical feelings and then aggravate the commencement of violence.

Biman drew the urgent attention of the media, and through the media to the mass of the people, to a series of illegal comments which would clearly be regarded as provocative of anger that were uttered by the Trinamuli chieftain, as widely given publicity in such newspapers as Bartaman 4 May 2009 where it was said that she called upon the people, while addressing a meeting at Dhaniakhali in Hooghly, to ‘launch a series of attacks’ on ‘cadres’ of the ‘CPM.’

Biman said how it was reported in the Aajkaal, 4 May 2009 that the Trinamuli leader urged upon the people attending her rally at Chakdaha and Gayeshpur in the district of Nadia under the Krishnagar Lok Sabha seat, to keep ‘cooking on hold on election day,’ and to take up ‘cooking utensils like metal ladles and metal spatulas and whatever else they can lay their hands on to come out in the streets.’

In an instance of dangerous provocation, she also called upon the members of the Muslim community present to ‘apply muscle power in the streets’ on the day of election and to keep the ‘machinery ready.’ Do you possess muscles in your bodies, she cried loudly, and said, if so, get ready to go in for a piece of action on the streets, on poll day. Another Trinamuli leader and a former bureaucrat called upon the electorate to make good use of heavy staves to berate the CPI (M) workers with during the next two phases of the election.

Biman also said that there was possibility that electronic devices would be attached by a section of the voters to deliberately make the EVM go wrong, before crying foul, and going in for anarchic behaviour in and around the polling booths. The presiding officers, the polling officials, as well the election agents, in the case of the latter, irrespective of political leanings, should look for any voter staying too long in the enclosed area where the EVMs would be kept. The LF leader also called for additional supervision on the part of the state administration and the ECI in the Assembly segments marked ‘sensitive,’ ‘very sensitive,’ and ‘very, very sensitive’ under the Tamluk Lok Sabha seat.

Left’s dominance continues in Bardhaman

Raktima Bose,
The Hindu

People say CPI(M) has brought prosperity and jobs to the district

KOLKATA:Bardhaman has been a Left citadel since the early 1970s when West Bengal voted the Left Front to power. The district, with its three Lok Sabha constituencies (after delimitation) — Asansol, Bardhaman Purba (SC) and Bardhaman-Durgapur — goes to the polls on May 7, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leadership is confident about contin uing its dominance.
“The people in the district have full faith in our party and its functioning. This is our greatest achievement so far,” says Amol Haldar, secretary of the CPI(M)’s district committee. The party won all the four seats in the district (before delimitation) in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2004, each commanding more than 50 per cent of the total votes.

Each constituency here has its own distinctive feature: Asansol constituency falls in the coal-belt, the Bardhaman-Durgapur constituency is an industrial area (especially steel) and the Bardhaman Purba (SC) constituency is largely agricultural.

“Living conditions have improved manifold following the CPI (M)’s coming to power. Previously the Congress-backed local landlords tormented us no end. We owe our prosperity today to the party,” says 83-year-old farmer Sheikh Ilahi Baksh from Shaktigarh village.

Mr. Baksh’s view has wide backing. People here say that the CPI(M)’s land reforms and efforts to modernise agricultural methods, allow most fields grow crops thrice a year, against the earlier single crop.

There is, however, a feeling among grassroots level CPI(M) supporters that there might be some erosion in the party’s vote-share among the minority population due to the Opposition’s negative campaign about the findings of the Sachar Committee Report.

No alternative

“We cannot stop that from happening. Still, we believe there is no alternative to the CPI(M) in this region,” says Ghulam Hossein of Shaktigarh village. The opinion is not very different in the other two constituencies. Anath Saran Raj of Anandapur village under the Asansol constituency, says: “The CPI(M) has given us an identity, carried out numerous development projects and has brought new industries and generated jobs for our youths. What else can we expect?”

The opposition Congress and Trinamool Congress, however, are unwilling to concede that development is the reason for the CPI(M)’s dominance. “The CPI(M) has unleashed a reign of terror in the district. People cannot come out and vote independently as they are threatened if they vote against them. Had there been a free and fair election here, the CPI(M) would have lost its grip long back,” alleges Moloy Ghatak, Trinamool Congress candidate from the Asansol constituency.

“They have no principle, all they can do is shout and blame. We will win and there is no doubt in it,” says Mr. Haldar.