June 1, 2009



MEDINIPUR: In a landmark judgement, the special court of Midnapore absolved all 12 accused in the Chhoto Angaria criminal case lodged by the CBI.  Mr Justice Shyamal Sengupta the West Midnapore fifth additional district session’s judge said in his judgement that no evidence could be furnished by the CBI against the accused and thus they were all of them absolved of all charges and acquitted.  

The CBI had charged the CPI (M) workers including two district committee members Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali, of murder, kidnapping with intention to murder, criminal conspiracy, arson, unlawful assembly with deadly weapons and illegal possession of arms.  None could be proved with any evidence.  

Biman Basu, state secretary of Bengal CPI (M) has expressed his satisfaction that justice delayed was not always justice denied, as the present case had amply proved with the trumped up accusations summarily dismissed in the court of law.


The case harks back, we recall, to the fiery days and weeks of the early part of 2001 when the Trinamul Congress with the help of the then People’s War Group or PWG (who subsequently merged with other Naxalite factions to become the CPI-Maoist) were deep into a storm of violence in the Keshpur-Garbeta region of Midnapore to sweep out the CPI (M) from the rural countryside.  109 CPI (M) workers were killed in the run up to the 2001 Assembly polls in this district alone. 

On 4 January of 2001, dozen-odd Trinamuli-Maoist criminals had assembled at one Bakhtar Mondal’s house at the Chhoto Angaria village of Garbeta.  Their purpose was making bombs as well as crude improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as later events proved.  Deep into the night, the entire village was shaken into awakening by the ear-splittingly loud bang of a huge explosion as something went very wrong at the Mondal household and the entire stockpile of explosive material burst into one massive blast.   

The house itself disappeared into tiny pieces of rubble over a very large area.  No bodies were to be found by the hordes of forensic experts who descended on the scene quickly enough, and the CBI drew up a list of important CPI (M) functionaries and inter alia held them accused of having caused the explosion.  The arrests were made with equal alacrity and those arrested were sent in on long terms of either police or jail custody. 

CPI (M) Midnapore west secretary professor Dipak sarkar expressed his happiness at the acquittal of the Chhoto Angaria accused, and the released comrades were brought out of the court house in a large procession and were garlanded.  We recall in this connection that the CPI (M) has done very well in the parliamentary polls in the district, as in the rest of the laterite zone.  In the Garbeta segment of the Jhargram (ST) seat, the CPI (M) has won 81% of the valid votes increasing its lead by 23, 000 votes from that achieved in the 2006 Assembly polls.  

Leadership change not an issue facing CPI(M) after poll debacle

New Delhi, 31st May (PTI): The issue facing CPI(M) in the wake of its worst electoral debacle is not that of leadership change but drawing "correct lessons" from it, senior party leader Sitaram Yechury said on Sunday.


"No, that is not the issue. Let me put it very clearly, the issue in CPI(M) is not an issue of any leadership change. The issue is to come to a proper understanding of why this defeat took place and draw the correct lessons. That is the issue," he told PTI here.


Asked if accountability, including of the top leadership would be fixed, Mr. Yechury responded by stating that the Central Committee meeting in Delhi from June 19 to 21 would discuss all these issues concerned and then decisions will be taken.


When specifically asked whether somebody would take responsibility for the defeat when the party talks of collective responsibility, he said "that we will discuss."


When pointed out that parties take shelter under collective responsibility so that heads did not roll and whether it applied to CPI(M) also, Mr. Yechury said "I cannot pre-empt my Central Committee's discussions. That is the problem. You will have to wait till the CC discussions."


The Politburo member said there will be "very serious introspection" of the issue that led to the worst performance in West Bengal and Kerala since the party came into being in 1964 and the process has already begun.


"All issues that are being raised will be reviewed. There will be nothing that will escape," the CPI(M) leader said when asked whether he thought party General Secretary Prakash Karat would have to quit against the backdrop of the reported feeling in West Bengal unit that he was obstinate on the issue of nuclear deal and withdrawal of support to the UPA government on the issue.


Mr. Yechury said that as a concept the Third Front was not doomed. "Yes, it does," he said when asked as a concept whether the Third Front has a future.


He said what was not credible and viable was the manner in which the Third Front was constituted before the Lok Sabha elections.


He said the CPI(M) believed that in the future also a non-BJP, non-Congress political alternative that can bring about a progressive shift in the country's policies, was required.

"It is not a cut-and-paste pre-electoral job. But it is something that will have to be forged through people's struggles. The CPI(M) is conscious of it that it will take time.


"But in the meanwhile when elections come, we will align with some secular parties, but that alternative cannot be confused with an electoral front."


Asked whether the CPI(M) and Karat made a miscalculation in cobbling up a Third Front, he said the issue will be discussed in the Central Committee meeting and he won't be able to comment anything before that.


Maintaining that he was not blaming anybody for the failure of the Third Front, Mr. Yechury said that CPI(M) brought together state-level alliances into a national projection but the process itself, "it seems did not appear viable to the people. Number two, seeing L K Advani on the other side, people did not see a credible non-Congress secular alternative."


He was asked about how the Left would oppose and stall measures like financial sector reforms in Parliament with Congress having a comfortable majority and whether it would join hands with BJP for floor coordination.


He said the BJP was actually supportive of the nuclear deal and on many other issues, whether it was strategic relationship with USA or economic reforms. "It is very hard to distinguish between the two -- Congress and BJP.


"But if they (BJP) are willing, for example, to say no to disinvestment, they will not allow financial sector reforms then yes... if they are willing to say this and take a position in the House. But somehow, I place this at a bare minimum," Mr. Yechury said.


Though anti-Congressism may crop up in view of Congress party's plans for a grand revival in major states, Mr. Yechury ruled out working with BJP against the Congress in the long run.


Mr. Yechury said after the elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has "emerged taller", but he would wait for the President's Address to the joint sitting to get first indications of the path the government would take in its policies and programmes.


"The crucial difference this time is in the absence of Left support, there is no Common Minimum Programme. And since there is no CMP, you don't know what is the policy direction they are going to adopt," the CPI(M) leader said.


"The seeds of future contradictions in the UPA and the Congress have been sown," he said, adding that while there was an emphasis on the 'aam aadmi' by Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, the Prime Minister stood for "neo-liberal reforms".

"This is where the future contradictions will lie," he said pointing out that the Planning Commission and the Prime Minister had way back in 2006 spoken about full capital account convertibility.


On industrialisation in Bengal, Mr. Yechury said Trinamool Congress had taken its opposition to the Left Front to "an absurd level" that it was even opposing central assistance to the state for relief to the cyclone victims.


"The fact is the obstacles for industrialisation in Bengal that the Trinamool Congress has created so far, they are going to be intensified with them being in the Union Cabinet. And it has reached such an absurd level that media reports that Mamata has asked the Central Government not to give assistance to Bengal for cyclone damage."



Aila cyclone death toll mounts to 125

Buddhadeb reviews situation at high-level meeting; outbreak of diseases feared

KOLKATA, 31st May: Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Saturday held a high-level review meeting in the aftermath of cyclone Aila, which, according to official figures, has claimed 125 lives (excluding Darjeeling). Some villages still lie submerged, and there are fears of an outbreak of waterborne diseases.

Officials in Gosaba in the Sundarbans said there was an outbreak of enteric diseases in some areas there. Gosaba was facing acute shortage of drinking water as tubewells remained submerged.

Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said in New Delhi after a Cabinet meeting that people were in a pathetic condition with neither food nor water to drink. Claiming that no relief was reaching the affected people, Ms. Banerjee said she had urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to send relief first, followed by an assessment team to review the actual conditions.

Reacting to reports of Ms. Banerjee wanting Dr. Singh to send relief directly to panchayats, West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, who attended the high-level meeting here, said: “Relief remains the responsibility of the State government, which cannot be bypassed.” He said accounts would be maintained properly.

On the State’s demand for Rs. 1,000 crore from the Natural Calamity Contingency Fund, he said this was a constitutional right. About 54 lakh people were affected by Monday’s cyclone and the floods that followed. Nearly 10 lakh houses were either damaged or razed. The State government had allocated Rs. 61 crore for relief operations. It had in its kitty only Rs. 210 crore through the National Disaster Management Fund. Under the 12th Finance Commission recommendation, the State government contributes 25 per cent towards this fund, the remaining coming from the Centre.

Meanwhile, at least three Union Ministers of State belonging to the Trinamool — Mukul Roy (Shipping), Saugata Ray (Urban Development) and Sisir Adhikari (Rural Development) — spent the day visiting the affected areas. Mr. Roy said relief should be distributed impartially.

Hit by cyclone Aila, Darjeeling Toy Train on halt

Darjeeling, 31 May: The famous Darjeeling toy train is lying idle at Ghoom – the highest railway station in the world. Service at this world heritage rail route has been hit ever since cyclone Aila lashed West Bengal on May 25.

Along the 80 kilometre route from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, the rail lines have been uprooted or blocked at more than 50 points.

“It is quite a disaster. The maximum damage has occurred between Kurseong and Darjeeling. We are trying to resume service from New Jalpaiguri to Kurseong,” says director, Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, Subhro Nath.

For tourists coming to Darjeeling it is a great disappointment as they will miss the majestic views offered by this century old train service. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1999.


IAF helicopters complete relief operations in West Bengal

Barrackpore, 31st May: Indian Air Force helicopters have wound-up rescue and relief operations in West Bengal that began on May 26, from Barrackpore. 

IAF pressed into service two Mi-17 helicopters from Eastern Air Command airbases to undertake relief and rescue operations in the aftermath of the devastating cyclone - Aila - that hit the State in the last week of May. 

The helicopters were mainly used for airlifting food supplies, medicines and water to the areas which were totally cut off from mainland. On their return leg they brought back the sick and injured to safer areas. 

During the operations, 36 sorties and 50 hours were flown by the IAF Mi-17s. In all, a total of 71.64 tonnes of relief material and 25 passengers were airlifted. The relief operations finally got over on Saturday. 

Yechury slams Mamata’s statement

New Delhi, 31st May: Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury on Saturday attacked Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee for reportedly asking the Centre not to assist West Bengal government in relief and rehabilitation of the cyclone victims.

“The fact is the obstacles for industrialisation in Bengal that the Trinamool Congress has created so far, they are going to be intensified with them being in the Union Cabinet. And it has reached such an absurd level that on Saturday the media reports that Ms. Mamata Banerjee has asked the Central government not to give assistance to West Bengal for cyclone damage,” Mr. Yechury said here.

He said the opposition to CPI(M) and the Left Front in Bengal was “leading to a situation when the Trinamool is even stopping the relief to the people devastated by Aila cyclone.

“As a Cabinet Minister, she is saying do not give money to West Bengal for relief and rehabilitation. So this is the level to which it has reached. This is something we have to as a political party fight,” Mr. Yechury said.

The reports said that Ms. Banerjee wanted the Centre not to accept Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s demand for Rs.1,000-crore Central assistance to help the State repair the damage caused by the cyclone, alleging shoddy utilisation of funds. — PTI

West Bengal to rebuild 400 km embankments in Sundarbans

KOLKATA, 30 May: The West Bengal government will rebuild 400 kms of embankments destroyed by Cyclone Aila in the mangrove forests of Sundarbans in an effort to save the region from any more floods in the coming monsoon. 

"We'll start constructing 400 kms of embankments in Sundarbans and will try to finish the work within the next one week," state Irrigation Minister Subhas Naskar said after surveying the cyclone-hit villages in the Sundarbans on Saturday. 

He said that nearly 350 km of embankments had been destroyed in South 24-Parganas due to cyclone Aila and another 50 km in the neighbouring North 24-Parganas district. 

"We'll at least try to temporarily develop the damaged embankments in Sundarbans to save the local population from a flood-like situation," Naskar said. 

Hundreds of villages in the two districts continued to be marooned, with saltwater intrusion destroying the paddy crop and rendering vast stretches of land fallow in the Sundarbans area in the aftermath of the cyclone. The officials have confirmed 117 deaths so far. 

The floods also washed away seeds, killed livestock and wiped out all stocks of freshwater fish and shrimp.

Mamata wants Centre not to give money to Bengal for cyclone relief

NEW DELHI. 30 May 2009: The feud between resurgent Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee and the CPI(M)-led government in West Bengal has escalated, spreading to the issue of central assistance to the state for the damage caused by the recent cyclone. 

The Trinamool leader and railway minister plans to ask Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not to accept West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's demand for Rs 1,000 crore in central assistance to help his state repair the damage caused by cyclone Aila. Meanwhile, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee held a meeting with the CM on Friday in Kolkata, on the cyclone issue. 

The move follows Bhattacharjee's letter to the PM on Thursday. Early on, the PM had called up the chief minister to inquire about the extent of devastation and had promised to help. 

Banerjee's demand can put the Centre in a bind. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who believes in playing by the book, has an excellent rapport with the West Bengal CM, during the UPA's last tenure when Left partnered the government. In fact, she has also decided to demand a probe into how the disaster management fund has been spent and would ask the Centre to have direct interactions with district magistrates in the state, it is learnt. 

But getting around the Trinamool wall will not be easy. Mamata has crucial numbers in Lok Sabha and is known for stubbornly sticking to her positions even in the face of widesspread opposition. As a matter of fact, she is said to be upset with Pranab Mukherjee for meeting with Bhattacharjee. Banerjee had met Mukherjee on Thursday over the cyclone relief issue.

City smiles on CBSE results day, three girls share top slot

KOLKATA,30 May: It's not just in the West Bengal higher secondary exams that the boys are feeling the heat. Three girls have shared the city top spot in the CBSE Class X results, which were released on Friday. Shubhechhya Ghosal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Ashmita Saha of Kendriya Vidyalaya Ordinance Factory and Himela Moitra of Kendriya Vidyalaya Cossipore have each scored a whopping 96.8%. 

Shubhechhya expected to do well, but her final score was way beyond her expectation. She expected 94% marks at the most and never dreamed that she would be the top-scorer in Kolkata. 

School principal Anindita Chatterjee, however, knew she would do better. "We were quite sure she would excel. What has surprised us is the unbelievable result of the school. As many as 89 children have scored above 90% marks while 221 have scored above 75%. This speaks of the brilliance of the batch and the dedication of our teachers," she said. 

While most toppers would talk about studying electronics and telecommunications engineering or about becoming doctors, Shubhechhya wants to study a core engineering subject. "I want to become a mechanical engineer from IIT Kanpur. My father is a civil engineer and he is my model," she confessed shyly. 

Shubhechhya joined Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan recently after her father got transferred from Doha. "I had to cope with a huge lifestyle change, but on the whole it was fun. There wasn't much of a difference in the course as I used to study in a CBSE school there as well," she added. Shubhechhya is an avid reader of short stories and likes O Henry the most. She also loves to play badminton. What would surprise many is that she just had one tutor for maths. For the other subjects, she depended on school lessons. 

Shubhechhya's co-topper with 96.8%, Ashmita Saha of KV Ordinance Factory, Dum Dum, sparked joyful celebrations in the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan. The Sangathan happily informed that KVs of the zone have been able to clinch all the three top positions along with private schools of the city. 

Parnaba Kundu of Birla High School has scored 96.4% to be the possible second highest scorer in the city. "I am perhaps one of the lucky few who has a maths professor of Jadavpur University for a father. Otherwise I just did with one tutor who helped me with English. My mother teaches biology in a school and helped me with the sciences," Parnaba said. 

He, too, wants to crack IIT-JEE and has already started preparing for it. On Friday, he took a mock test at a coaching centre despite it being a special day for him. Ritika Chak of KV Ballygunj has shared the position with him. 

There are many contenders for the possible third position with scores of 96.2%. Some of them are Ayesha Singha of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Prerak Mall of Birla High School and Rishita Das of KV Fort William. 

The overall pass percentage in CBSE this year has been 88.84%. Girls have fared better than boys. Despite the stellar performance by city schools, the Allahabad region of which West Bengal is an important constituent has finished third. It stood fifth in the CBSE XII results. The pass percentage of this region is a tad better than the national percentage at 89.10%. Chennai region came first with 95.26%.

Buddhadeb meets Pranab

Kolkata,30 May: Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee met Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee here on Friday and reportedly updated him on the devastation caused by Cyclone Aila in West Bengal on Monday. A preliminary report was handed over to Mr. Mukherjee.

The two leaders, who met for the first time since Mr. Mukherjee took over the Finance Ministry, discussed relief operations underway and steps being taken to rehabilitate those rendered homeless. The Chief Minister has sought more than Rs. 1000 crore from the Natural Calamity Contingency Fund and suggested that in view of the severe nature of the cyclone, the disaster be declared a national calamity.

Mr. Mukherjee reportedly told Mr. Bhattacharjee that he would take up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his return to New Delhi. The State government will submit to the Centre early next month a detailed memorandum on the damage.

By its preliminary assessment the cost of restoration of breached embankments and rehabilitation of those rendered homeless is more than Rs. 1,500 crore.

The official death toll has risen to 117 with the death of two more injured in the landslips in Darjeeling hills, according to State Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta. More than 5.3 million people have been affected and over seven lakh houses have been either destroyed or partially damaged. Several areas in the South and North 24 Parganas districts that were worst hit remain under water. Mr. Bhattacharjee will visit the Gosaba area of South 24 Parganas district on Sunday.

WB justifies Rs 1,000cr relief demand from Centre

KOLKATA, 30 May 2009: The West Bengal government on Saturday said it was justified in seeking Rs 1,000 crore as aid to the state for the massive destruction caused by cyclone Aila. 

"Aila which hit the state on May 25 had left a massive trail of destruction. As many as 7.5 lakh houses were destroyed. Nearly 800 irrigation embankments needed to be repaired...The funds available with the state government were grossly inadequate to cope up with the situation," Finance minister Asim Dasgupta told reporters. 

The relief corpus lying with the state government was a mere Rs 210 crore, which would go up to Rs 450 crore after a fresh bout of contributions by the state and the Centre. However, this amount is not sufficient to provide relief to the victims, he said. 

The toll had climbed to 125 and the number of affected of families numbered 53,67,000, Dasgupta said, adding that the state government was providing relief material to the affected on a war-footing. As many as 327 medical teams were providing attention to victims. The government has provided 3,300 kg free rice to the affected, he said. 

"We are not asking for any dole. It is the duty of the Centre to provide the amount," Dasgupta said. 

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had on Thursday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, detailing the destruction in some districts and requested him to sanction Rs 1,000 crore to help the state in relief and restoration work. 

He also requested that a central team be sent to visit the affected areas.