June 11, 2009

Ramsarup Industries commissions DRI and WHRD power plant at Kharagpur

KOLKATA,10 June, 2009: Ramsarup Industries Ltd announced that it has commenced production of 500 TPD DRI plant in West Bengal and Waste Heat Recovery Boiler in Kharagpur.The plant was set up using German Outokumpu technology. Its WHRB will generate 20 MW of power along with gas generated from the blast furnace.The release added that “Ramsarup is taking necessary action to sell approx 11 MW of power through the exchange which will give them approx INR 4 crores per month of revenue. Moreover, the Company has received approval from UNFCCC for carbon credit to the tune of 114,000 CER per annum for the next 7 years. The Company will now be in a position to sell the carbon credit at current rates, and this will generate extra revenue of INR 1 crore per month for the next 7 years.”Mr Ashish Jhunjhunwal CMD of Ramsarup Industries Ltd said that "Commencing production of 500 tonnes per day DRI plant at Kharagpur is another milestone in our steady towards improving our topline and remaining a forerunner in our field.

Fisheries lost nearly Rs 14,000 crore

Kolkata, Wednesday, Jun 10, 2009: For the state fisheries department, Cyclone Aila dealt a blow of Rs 13,959 crore in five districts — South 24-Parganas, North 24-Parganas, Howrah, East Midnapore and West Midnapore.

The report of the damages assessed by the department was presented to the Central team, which is currently visiting the area. “From nets to breeding grounds, pisciculture has been severely affected. Houses built by us for the fishermen have been destroyed,” said Rajpal S Kahlon, Principal Secretary, state Fisheries Department.

The district-wise break-up of the damages assessed shows that South 24-Parganas bore the maximum brunt. With 29 blocks of the district hit by the cyclone, officials have pegged the loss at Rs 6309.6 lakh. In North 24-Parganas, 22 blocks were affected and the loss incurred was Rs 3969.65 lakh.

“We have lost 4926.8 metric tonnes of fish, 2120.12 metric tonnes of prawns and 30.00 metric tonnes of dry fish. Around 46,805 fishermen’s houses have been damaged. Even government fish farms like Kalyani fish farm, BENFISH, West Bengal Fisheries Corporation Ltd and State Fisheries Development Corporation Ltd have suffered losses,” said Kahlon.

The estimated loss of ornamental fish has been put at Rs 22.965 lakh in South 24-Parganas. It has pegged at Rs 65,000 and Rs 1.35 lakh in North 24-Parganas and East Midnapore. According to officials, fish were found dead in cisterns, hapas (breeding areas) and tanks.

Declare ravage national disaster: Left Front

KOLKATA, 10th June: The Left Front Committee in West Bengal has demanded that the May 25 cyclone destruction in three districts be declared a national disaster. In view of the magnitude of damage caused to human life, agricultural land and livestock in the Sundarbans, where lakhs have been rendered homeless and land has become saline, it should be declared a national disaster, committee chairman Biman Basu said after a meeting of the Left Front partners here on Tuesday.

Addressing journalists, he said just as MPs donated money for reconstruction in the wake of the Kosi floods and the Gujarat earthquake, this time too Parliament should make necessary provisions so that members could contribute money for Aila victims. Referring to the ongoing visit of a Central team, Mr Basu said, “We hope to get a positive response from the Centre, once the team submits its report.”
Asked about the Congress attending and its ally, the Trinamool Congress, abstaining from the all-party meeting called by the Chief Minister last Sunday to discuss relief measures, Mr. Basu said: “When we are demanding that it be declared a national disaster, a national party like Congress had come forward to play its national role… we have to rise above narrow party-politics to reach out to the distressed people now.”

On the rehabilitation and compensation package offered by the State government, Mr. Basu said the rate mentioned in its relief manual is “inadequate and should be changed immediately keeping the current market prices in view.” Criticising the Trinamool’s alleged role in inciting violence in several parts of the State on the issue of college admissions, Mr. Basu said such incidents should “stop immediately for the sake of students and the education system.”

Comparing the incidents to the situation that obtained in the State in the early 1970s, he said a “decisive political solution” was the only way out of the violence.

LF demands cyclone disaster be declared national calamity

Kolkata: The ruling Left Front in West Bengal on Tuesday demanded that the devastation caused by cyclone Aila be declared a national calamity. "The Left Front discussed the issue of cyclone Aila at its meeting and demanded that the disaster be declared a national calamity," Front chairman Biman Basu told reporters here. He said that an appeal should be made to MPs and MLAs to give assistance from their area development funds for cyclone victims.

Now, plastic floods the Sundarbans

KOLKATA, 10th June: Post-cyclone Aila, the ecologically fragile Sundarbans in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal is facing another problem — flooding of plastic materials.

Hundreds of non-governmental organisations and private donors, who throng the area to provide relief, are dumping plastic covers, cups and wrappers in water, thus choking rivers. A world heritage site, the Sundarbans has long been declared a plastic-free zone. Yet, tonnes of plastic waste strewn around by volunteers are floating in rivers.

In the absence of government guidelines and as relief distribution has not been coordinated, enthusiastic NGOs have poured into the affected sites with food packets, drinking water sachets and even clothes wrapped in plastic covers.

“We cannot stop the NGOs from carrying on the relief work in this hour of crisis and it is also not possible to keep a check on everyone. All that we can do now is to sensitise them to the plastic menace through the media and ask them not to litter the region with plastic waste,” N.C. Bahuguna, Director of the Sundarbans Forest Reserve, told The Hindu on Monday.

Mr. Bahuguna said he was trying to take up the matter with higher authorities. As Forest department staff themselves were pressed into service to provide relief, it would take some time before any concrete result appeared, he pointed out. “Once water recedes and the situation comes under control somewhat, we will launch a massive clean-up drive.”

This would, however, take months to be completed, said a forest official. According to him, though cleaning up the peripheral areas would be easier, it was impossible to retrieve plastic waste washed into the core area by high tides and this could pose an ecological hazard for both flora and fauna on the islands of the estuarine delta.

Changing political dynamics hits Bengal's social sector projects

Kolkata June 10, 2009: Political setbacks often claim victims in the social sector. The fate of at least eight proposed centrally-funded scientific research institutes of national importance has become uncertain because of the electoral defeat suffered by the Left in West Bengal. They are National Institute of Nano Science (under the Department of Science and Technology), National Institute of Mangrove Research and Coastal Biosphere (under the Ministry of Environment), Institute of Ocean Technology (under the Ministry of Earth Science), National Innovation Centre (CSIR), National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (under the Ministry of Chemicals), National Institute of Biology and Medical Genetics (under the Ministry of Biotechnology), Centre for Space Application for East and North-East (Under the Ministry of Space Technology) and National Institute of Public Health (under Ministry of Health).

According to state government sources, the central government earlier had cleared proposals to set up and fund all these institutes much before the recent general elections and for most of them site selection and land acquisition process had been complete. Sujan Chakrabarty, former Lok Sabha member from Jadavpur, who was actively pursuing the various central ministries for speedy clearance and implementation of these projects, feels that after the election the political dynamics has changed a lot and there is strong reason to apprehend that execution of all these projects would slow down or might not take off at all.

In the aftermath of cyclone Aila, which recently devastated the coastal region of south Bengal, Anandadev Mukhopadhaya, an eminent oceanologist, has stressed the need for more research on the nature of ocean and rivers to evolve a knowledge-based strategy to tackle the natural disasters. Proposed institues like National Institute for Ocean Technology, National Institute of Mangrove Research and Coastal Biosphere, among others, could go a long way to mitigate that need. But because of the change in political equation with the Centre, the state apprehends a slowing down process to set in. Already there are indications that some of the ministries in Delhi have cooled down to the queries sent from Kolkata in pursuance of the set up of the institutes.

Political observers feel that West Bengal has entered into a phase of political transition, as the Congress-Trinamool Congress combine is aggressively occupying the political space and pushing the ruling Left to a corner after its massive victory in the Lok Sabha elections. Everyday, there are reports of clashes coming from rural Bengal and the suburbs of Kolkata.
The ruling Left parties are in total disarray. Some of the ruling party MLAs had been manhandled by the Trinamool workers. The political circles feel that the situation will further hot up in the next two years till the Assembly election takes place in 2011. Since the state’s main Opposition Trianmool Congress, led by Mamata Banerjee, has taken part in the UPA government at the Centre, there would be pressure on the Centre for not clearing centrally-funded projects in the state speedily.

Aila relief: appeal for funds by MPs

NEW DELHI: Members of Parliament across the political spectrum on Tuesday appealed to the Rajya Sabha Chairman and Lok Sabha Speaker to request members of both the Houses to donate Rs. 10 lakh each from the MPLADS Funds for relief and rehabilitation of people affected by Cyclone Aila in West Bengal.
In an appeal, the MPs said that on earlier occasions such as the Gujarat earthquake, Bihar floods and the tsunami, members were requested to donate funds from the MPLADS and the rule was relaxed as special cases.

Unitech exits New Kolkata SPV

Kolkata, June 10, 2009: Sells entire 40 per cent stake to partners, won’t say why. Unitech, the country’s second-largest property developer, has exited from New Kolkata International Development (NKID) Pvt Ltd, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) formed to develop several large projects in West Bengal, including the proposed petroleum, chemicals and petrochemical investment region (PCPIR) at Nayachar.

Unitech had 40 per cent stake in NKID, which has been acquired by the Salim group and Universal Success. Sources said NKID was now a 50:50 partnership between these two; earlier, Salim had a 40 per cent stake and Universal had 20 per cent. When asked why Unitech quit NKID, the former’s managing director, Ajay Chandra, said, “I have no comments on this.”

NKID is a 51 per cent partner for the Nayachar project, while the balance is with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC). PCPIR apart, NKID has a host of projects over a 15-year period, which include an Eastern Link Highway, SME industrial estates and a deepwater port close to Nayachar island.

Industry observers said one reason behind Unitech’s exit from NKID could be the long gestation period, given the nature of the projects and the huge investments. Though NKID was incorporated in early 2007, some of the projects ran into rough weather with land acquisition, the most important being the PCPIR, which was ultimately relocated from Nandigram to Nayachar.

The investment in developing infrastructure at Nayachar would be Rs 10,000 crore, while the port could cost Rs 8,500 crore. The investments proposed in NKID projects are sizeable. On the other hand, Unitech has run up debt of around Rs 7,800 crore, and plans to cut it by at least Rs 1,000 crore this fiscal. The company has sold assets over the past few months, and aimed to raise around Rs 1,600 crore for the year ending March 31, from sale of non-core assets in Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon and Kolkata. The focus for the company and all other real estate developers now is affordable housing.

Though the Nayachar investments would be made over a long period of time, smaller investments are underway. For instance, four different studies are on. Also, Singapore-based Jurong Town Corporation have been appointed as consultants. Consultants have been appointed for the deepwater port, too. Even with the offloading of stake in NKID, Unitech would have a presence in West Bengal. The company has a residential project in New Town Rajarhat and an IT park, in partnership with the Universal Success group.

Central team to submit 'Aila' impact report to Home Minister

New Delhi June 09, 2009: The Central team, which visited West Bengal to assess the damage caused by cyclone 'Aila', will submit its detailed report to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram.
The 11-member central team, visited West Bengal to take stock of the post Cyclone Aila situation. The team during its three-day visit surveyed a large part of cyclone-ravaged South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts in southern West Bengal and Darjeeling hills. The central observers Tuesday took an aerial view of the marooned Sundarban Islands.

Later they held a high-level meeting with state Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, Chief Secretary Ashok Mohon Chakraborty and other senior government officials at the state secretariat Writes’ Buildings. On the basis of the team’s report, the central government will announce its compensation package for the cyclone-affected people of the state.

Meanwhile, the state’s Left Front government has demanded Cyclone Aila be declared as a national disaster and sought the central government’s help to carry out the rescue operation in the delta region. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has asked for Rs.1,000 crore of funds to provide relief to thousands of cyclone victims in the state. Dasgupta rushed to Delhi and submitted a memorandum to the central government on the state’s demands.

The team, which returned to the capital today after a three-day tour, visited all cyclone-affected districts, including South and North 24 Parganas and the Darjeeling hills and took stock of the damage caused to the people and their livelihoods.

"They are now compiling all the inputs and submit the report to the Home Minister within a day or two," a Home Ministry official said. On the basis of the report, the Centre will announce its compensation package for the cyclone-affected people of the state.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today assured the Rajya Sabha that "the Centre will do everything in its power to provide purposeful relief to West Bengal". Observing that a Central team has already visited the state, Singh said, "I have been in touch with the Chief Minister and there will be no laxity in meeting the need of relief and rehabilitation".

Central Govt plans to lease out three units of National Jute Corp

New Delhi, Jun 09, 2009: In the first such move in India’s chequered public sector history, the government is considering leasing out three production units of National Jute Manufacturers Corporation Ltd (NJMC) to private companies. NJMC has been sick since 1994 and had a negative net worth of over Rs 6,250 crore by 2007-08.

NJMC has six jute mills in West Bengal and Bihar. The units that are proposed to be leased out are Kinnison and Khardah in West Bengal and RBHM in Bihar. The remaining three factories-National, Alexandra, Union in West Bengal-are to be closed, according to the proposal of the textiles ministry, which administers operations of the company.

“Reviving the sick NJMC is in our priority list. We have proposed to lease out three of its units, while the other three are to be closed. We will take the proposal to the Cabinet at the first instance,” textiles secretary Rita Menon said. The company also has a sick subsidiary in Kolkata, Birds Jute & Exports Ltd, but its fate is not yet clear.

The entire proceeds from the lease rent and sales of the units will be used to offset the financial assistance given by the government to the company, another senior official in the ministry said. The units that are proposed to be closed have land assets worth Rs 310 crore, he said. The government has given Rs 1,210 crore to the company, including Rs 675 crore to settle the VRS claims, Rs 275 crore to offload the dues and liabilities and the balance for wages and salaries.

NJMC, set up in 1980, is under the supervision of Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) since 1994. The BIFR has recommended winding up of the company in the same year, but the case went into litigation and as per the latest information, the Appellate Authority for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction has put a stay on the BIFR order.

The company stopped production in 2004-05 due to non-supply of power after it failed to pay the pending bills. At that time, it had accumulated losses of around Rs 4,000 crore. However, in 2008-09 it resumed production but is manufacturing a small quantity of sacking only.

Under the revival proposal from the Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises (BRPSE), the government had offered voluntary retirement scheme to the employees of the company. A total of 16,000 class IV employees and workers availed of the scheme. NJMC currently employs 250 officers and 18 clerical staff. At the end of 2007-08, the company recorded a net loss of Rs 487.13 crore and a negative net worth of Rs 6,254.62 crore.

Medical aid to West Bengal cyclone victims

South 24 Pargana (WB), June 9: Army has set up medical camps for the displaced victims of cyclone Aila, residing in the relief camps in South 24 Pargana district near the Sunderban Islands in West Bengal.

Thousands are suffering from gastroenteritis triggered by the consumption of infected water. Medical units of Indian army are treating the people in several medical camps in the district. The Army Medical Unit of Bengal Area and Eastern Command have set up several medical camps in the district. There is no official confirmation of deaths in the region but villagers claim that some have lost their lives due to diarrhoea and even cattle are affected by it.

‘Generally in the flood areas, diarrhoea crops up and here also it is the same. But it is under control here as we are providing medical aid to the patient’s daily. There is no official report of death due to diarrhoea. But we have heard that there are two human deaths and cattle have also died because of it. This is because of the contaminated water in the village,’ said Cornel M.K. Samanta, medical officer, Indian Army.

The medical officers are treating and providing medicines to the affected people since June 4. The 12 medical teams are visiting the affected places of the district. Several areas in the Sunderban Islands are still inundated with floodwater. Many people have been unable to find refuge in relief camps.
South 24 Pargana district in particular continues to reel under the devastating affects of the cyclone. Thousands of people in West Bengal and Bangladesh remained marooned without food or water after cyclone Aila hit them. It originated over the Bay of Bengal on May 25.The cyclone has killed at least 275 people, but officials say the toll could mount due to epidemics.

Pranab constitutes eight-member core committee of WBPCC

KOLKATA,7th JUNE: An eight-member core committee of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress has been formed by its president Pranab Mukherjee to take decisions on policy matters.The committee has been constituted to take decision on important policy and organsational matters in consultation with Mukherjee, the Union Finance minister, since he would be busy in Delhi, WBPCC working president Pradip Bhattacharya said on Monday.

Individual office bearers of the WBPCC would carry on their assignments, he said. Apart from Bhattacharya, other members of the committee were Subrata Mukherjee, working president, Manas Bhunia, leader of Congress legislature party, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, MP, Shankar Singh, Abdul Mannan, Maya Ghose and Subra Ghose, all general secretaries of PCC.

Keeping in mind the next assembly polls in the state, Pranab Mukherjee, who had presided over a meeting of PCC working presidents, general secretaries and the CLP leader here last Saturday, exhorted them to work to strengthen party organisation.

Infosys drops West Bengal project

KOLKATA, JUNE 07, 2009: As far as Infosys goes, the West Bengal story is as good as over. Neither has the state government shown any interest in pursuing Infosys, not does the company see any urgent business need to begin operations there. In 2004 Infosys had planned to invest Rs 500 crore in setting up a development centre, seating 5,000 people, in Kolkata.

Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan told Financial Chronicle that the company was forced to have a “relook” at its plans in West Bengal. It had sought up to 100 acres of land, but it was not satisfied with the plot offered.A couple of months ago, West Bengal’s minister for information technology and biotechnology, Debesh Das, had told reporters in Bangalore that his government was planning to provide land to Infosys this year.“There seems to be no communication on this. So we have decided to put the project on the backburner,” said Gopalakrishnan.“The new economic environment is not conducive to any expansion. So that’s a consideration as well,” he said. “Instead, we plan to focus on ongoing expansion at Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad.” Infosys plans to add 20,756 seats this year to take the total to 1,15,000.

Infosys is facing problems also in the Sarjapur project in Bangalore. The company has tied up about 300 acres “but land conversion has not taken place yet,” Gopalakrishnan said. The project has been on the drawing board since 2000 when Infosys had asked the Karnataka government for 845 acres. This was refused. Three subsequent requests were approved but the project has not moved an inch since controversies arose after former prime minister Deve Gowda questioned the company’s land acquisition motives.

Trinamool boycotts all-party meet to discuss distribution of relief

Buddha admits problems with relief in far-flung areas. Another all-party meeting to be held on June 14

KOLKATA,7th June:
The Trinamool Congress, the principal Opposition party in the State, on Sunday boycotted an all-party meeting convened by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to discuss ways to ensure a non-partisan approach to distribution of relief to the lakhs of people affected by cyclone Aila.

“We can’t sit on things”

Asked by journalists to comment on the Trinamool’s boycott, Mr. Bhattacharjee said: “If they do not come, it is my misfortune. Had they come, it would have been better but if they do not we cannot sit [on things] but need to go ahead [with what is to be done],” he added while admitting that problems related to reaching relief to victims in far-flung areas continued to exist.

The Chief Minister reiterated the need to set aside narrow political interests and work towards providing relief to the victims “hand-in-hand.”

Meet successful

“The meeting was held very successfully; the Congress that is running the government at the Centre was present,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said. Another all-party meeting would be held on June 14, to which the Trinamool was also invited, to reassess the progress in relief work, he added.

“We are not going to oblige a government that has been callous in tackling the situation … and is only interested in financial assistance rather than providing the necessary relief to the victims,” senior Trinamool leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Partha Chatterjee told mediapersons.

“Delay tactics”

Those to be invited to the meeting were parties that have a representation in the Assembly. The importance of the presence in the talks of representatives of the Trinamool cannot be overstated. The party is in control of the local rural bodies in several of the affected areas — the last in the chain of agencies engaged in the relief distribution process. The party leadership claimed to be administering to the needs of the cyclone victims independent of the government that, it alleged, was engaging “in delay-tactics [in relief distribution] to get funds [from the Centre].”

“Under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, we have already organised providing relief to the victims in our own capacity,” Mr. Chatterjee said.

Fresh inundation

Certain areas in the Sunderbans spanning parts of the two districts of North and South 24 Parganas faced fresh inundation in the wake of the spring tide that caused water to gush in through the damaged embankments that are yet to be restored. A large number of people have been evacuated to safer places since Saturday.

Damage assessment

Two groups of Central officials visited the two districts while one was in the landslip-scarred Darjeeling hills to assess the extent of damage caused by the calamity. They inquired about relief supplies and will be submitting a report to the Centre after a final meeting with the State government here on June 9.

Power system collapses after Aila in Sunderbans

Kolkata June 08, 2009: Cyclone Aila which hit West Bengal on May 25, has devastated the entire solar panel set-up in the Sunderbans island, leaving the island completely bereft of electricity.

It is to be noted that the islands of Sunderbans at present do not have any access to grid connectivity and solely depend on solar, biomass and renewable energy sources. Solar power has emerged as the primary source of electrification in most of the inhabited islands in Sunderbans.

“The state government is reviewing the extent of damage.Preliminary estimates suggest that 40 per cent of the household solar power installations have been damaged. As per WBGEDCL's estimate the quantum of damage is likely to be around Rs 50 crore.

Rehabilitation work has started, but it will take some time to repair the damage caused," said S P Gon Chaudhuri, managing director, West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Limited (WBGEDCL) on the sidelines of an interactive seminar organised by Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

WBGEDCL, the state nodal agency for promoting use of renewable energy sources, in association with the centre and state rural development department had set up one lakh household solar power installations or solar-powered home lighting systems in Sunderbans area. The largest cluster of solar power system in the country is in the Sunderban islands of which 40 per cent have been damaged now, Gon Chaudhuri informed. The cyclone has washed away or destroyed close to 40,000 solar panels. This apart the storm had damaged 21 clusters of solar and biomass power hubs which supplied electricity to around 10,000 households there.

“The power clusters have been repaired, but the individual house solar panels or the home lighting system is yet to be complete. It will need some more time,”said Gon Chaudhuri.

A large number of villages and islands — which are located on the fringes of the core forest area will remain in darkness unless steps are taken on a war-footing to restore electricity there.

“We will suggest to the government to incorporate new low-cost technologies by which these houses in the coastal areas can both get power through renewable sources and at the same time be rigid and resilient to climate changes and disasters. There are lots of technologies. We will help with the technical input,” said Gon Chaudhuri.

Left Front lawmakers collect donations for victims of cyclone Aila

Kolkata, June 8, 2009: Lawmakers of the Left Front in West Bengal took to the streets on Monday to collect funds from the willing public to help the victims of cyclone Aila in the state. “The government from the very first day has come forward with all their resources for the flood victims. They have appealed to the people of Bengal and the Government to lend their support so that post-flood rehabilitation programme can take place in the area,” said Mohammed Masiha, Chief Whip, Left Front, West Bengal Legislative Assembly.
The deadly cyclone Aila that hit the state recently caused immense damage to life and property. Reportedly, more then 5.1 million people have been affected by the cyclone.Although relief work is on in full swing, several parts of Sundarbans and also South and North 24 Parganas are still under water.The cyclone also affected several areas in Malda and Jalpaiguri regions in Bengal. The opposition TMC had boycotted an all-party meeting on Aila that was convened by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Sunday evening.
However, unfazed by the stand taken by the TMC, the Left leaders, still smarting from the defeat in the recent Lok Sabha polls, are continuing with their efforts to show their interest and concern for the plight of the commoners. This fund collection ‘Padyatra’ could be one such effort.

Two CPI(M) leaders dead, violence spreads

KOLKATA, 7 Jun 2009: The bloody trail of political violence created by Trinamool goons stretched to new areas on Saturday, pushing deep into Malda and East Midnapore. The situation in parts of Hooghly and East Midnapore that witnessed violent attacks on CPI(M) cadres and supporters in the last few days continued to remain tense on Saturday. Trinamool Congress workers in East Midnapore's Panskura went into a huddle after news reached that CPI(M) local committee member Gobinda Samanta had succumbed to his injuries at Sambhunath Pandit Hospital in Kolkata. Samanta was allegedly attacked by Trinamool men at Simulhanda in Panskura on Friday morning. A CPI(M) local committee member from Palta, Samanta was elected to the Keshapat gram panchayat in 2008. A 12-hour bandh has been called in the area on Sunday.
Salboni murder: CPI(M) leader Jayanta Mahato (35) was killed by Maoists on Saturday morning at Dirghosa jungle in Salboni, West Midnapore. An armed group of 15-20 men dragged other CPI(M) leaders out of their home and beat them up in the Dhinpur village panchayat area. Last Tuesday, Maoists had announced at a meeting that Mahato would be killed. Shyam Pandey, CPI(M)'s Salboni zonal committee secretary, said, "Around 50 leaders have fled the locality in fear." Fearful villagers did not venture out to remove Mahato's body. SP Manoj Verma said, "We heard that a few CPI(M) leaders have been kidnapped by Maoists. However, we have not received a murder complaint yet."
College clashes: Barasat Government College and Naihati RCB College were rocked by clashes on Saturday over distribution of UG admission forms. Though many students were injured, police have not arrested anyone. SFI and Trinamool Chhatra Parishad have lodged complaints. Trouble broke out at Barasat college during form distribution. SFI supporters alleged that TMCP boys were threatening them with dire consequences if they entered the college campus. In the clash that followed, TMCP boys started hurling bricks and bombs to SFI supporters. MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar reached the spot. TMCP boys later ransacked a shoe store and threw bricks at police jeeps. Barasat police IC Paritosh Ghosh was injured in the incident.
Murshidabad deaths: A CPI(M) activist was killed and at least four others were injured on Saturday evening while making bombs at Katabari village in Jalangi. The blast victim has been identified as 30-year-old Kajal Sk. He was a local CPI(M) leader. Police sources said the others were all local panchayat members.

All-party meet on ‘AILA’ successful

Kolkata, Monday, Jun 07, 2009: Even though the Trinamool Congress did not attend the all-party meeting called by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to discuss how to tackle the situation in the cyclone-affected areas, Bhattacharjee called it a successful meet and has convened another on June 14.

“Had they joined, it would have been much better. But what do I do if they do not come. We cannot sit idle. The Congress, which is running the Central government, was there. I call it a successful meeting,” Bhattacharjee said after the meeting on Sunday.

The all-party meeting on June 14 has been called at the behest of Congress, which said since they were informed about today’s meet only two days ago, they could not prepare a detailed note. In the meeting, a resolution was passed exhorting the state and the Central governments to work together on short-term and long-term plans to mitigate the suffering of people.

The Congress was represented by party working president Subrata Mukherjee and Congress Legislature Party Leader Manas Bhunia was also present. Those who boycotted the meeting included the Trinamool, the SUCI, the Jharkhand Party and the GNLF.

The chief minister admitted lacunae in distribution of relief material. “The Congress said that relief material is not distributed evenly and has not reached remote places. We agree with them and will ask officials to act accordingly. The Congress also said there should be no politics in distribution of relief material and I will ensure that,” Bhattacharjee said.

Asked whether he was ready to rope in ministers from the state Cabinet for the relief operations, the CM said: “We will take the help of all ministers, if required.” The Congress said it was not happy with the way and pace relief was being distributed. “We have asked the chief minister to undertake the relief work with more transparency and efficiency,” Bhuina said.

He also said he would take up the issue of more relief for victims with the Centre and the Congress leadership.

A seeming threat to West Bengal’s Left Front

by Marcus Dam

The Trinamool Congress-led Opposition’s demand for the State government’s dismissal may gain shrill stridency in the months ahead.

As the Left leadership in West Bengal introspects, and seeks ways to win back the confidence of the State’s electorate at large in the wake of the pointers thrown up by the Lok Sabha elections, the greatest challenge ahead for the Left Front government relates to governance. The Trinamool Congress-led Opposition’s demand for its dismissal may gain shrill stridency in the months ahead. There are already signs that its leader Mamata Banerjee may step up her confrontational campaign.

The next Assembly elections are two years from now and the Left parties do not have too much time to brace for them with new strategies. Ms Banerjee will undoubtedly press even harder for early polls now that she is in the government at the Centre. She may be hoping to cash in on what she has described as a “storm for change” in West Bengal. Coming in the way of her efforts will, however, be the Constitution.

True, there has been erosion in the electoral base of the Left that has resulted in its worst electoral showing since it assumed power in the State 32 years ago. But does it follow, as Ms Banerjee would like all to believe, that the polls — by their very definition a choice of the government at Centre — constitute a mandate against the Left Front government and that it has no “moral right” to continue in power?

The Trinamool Congress leadership has been arguing that what it alleges is “state-sponsored terrorism” is reason enough for the State government to be “dismissed.” This has been its refrain that reached a crescendo as a turf war raged in Nandigram during much of 2007. Any move by the authorities to restore order was promptly dubbed as state terrorism.

This makes the State government’s task to take deterrent action when there is a breach in law and order all the more formidable. Left leaders have cautioned that attempts could be made to create anarchy. Steps to restore peace and order in the face of disruptive activity could mean the State government risking facing the charge of being a “sponsor” of “terrorism.” The police had entered the Nandigram area on March 14, 2007 not to grab land for a proposed chemical hub as was rumoured, but to facilitate the restoration of normality in a region cut off from much of the district for weeks, with roads dug up and culverts damaged. The deaths in police firing and the violence that followed were indeed unfortunate, as was any loss of life.

Singur, the site of the now relocated Nano project of Tata Motors, was another flashpoint. The embers there are being stoked afresh. Emboldened by an electoral verdict that suggests that apprehensions of being robbed of their farmland weighed heavily on the minds of peasants who constitute a large chunk of the rural electorate, Ms Banerjee is gearing to renew the agitation that had forced Ratan Tata to move out. The Trinamool Congress has been demanding the return of 400 acres of land it alleges was “forcibly acquired” for the small car project.

Staring the State government — still smarting under the impact of an anti-incumbency factor that also was evident in the polls — in the face is another phase of agitations in Singur. Ms Banerjee has also vowed to oppose the setting up of the proposed chemical hub at Nayachar — what was initially planned for Nandigram. She is throwing a challenge not just to the government’s programme for greater industrialisation but to governance as a whole.

The Left leadership has admitted that the debate on farmland acquisition for industry could have determined in a big way the voting pattern in rural south Bengal. The events in Singur and Nandigram have, it is conceded, had a negative impact on the process of industrialisation in the State. There is already indication of the Left Front government going slow on future plans to acquire farmland for either industry or infrastructure development projects: at its first Cabinet meeting after the elections it was decided that plans to acquire land for the development of a city centre in Kharagpur be put on the backburner. Also being considered are alternative strategies to make land available for industry and to prepare a land bank.

That it will be putting greater emphasis on seeking a broader political consensus before setting up major projects that necessitate acquisition of farmland in a State where the land-holding pattern is characterised by its intensiveness, has been reiterated. Whether the Trinamool Congress will agree to join in talks for a consensus in the matter at a time when Ms Banerjee has upped the ante against the State government is another matter. She seems to be spoiling for a fresh bout.

Her rhetoric is increasingly forceful. Even as desperate efforts are on to provide succour to the over six million people reeling under the impact of cyclone Aila, she is demanding that the Central financial assistance for the victims should bypass the State Secretariat and be given to the local panchayats for disbursement. Incidentally, it is the Trinamool Congress that controls the local bodies in some of the areas worst affected by the calamity.

When Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has been calling for humanitarian initiatives unencumbered by narrow political concerns, Ms Banerjee has seized the moment to set up a clique of her own to purportedly administer to the needs of the storm victims as an alternative to the State government that, according to her, exists “only in name,” one that “does not perform.”

Add to this the “state-sponsored terrorism” Ms Banerjee accuses the State government of resorting to, and she believes she has a case for its “dismissal” — a demand the previous government at the Centre had paid little heed to and for which it was severely derided by her. Today she is a part of a government headed by the same Prime Minister, led by the same party — once an adversary, now a partner sharing common ambitions in West Bengal.
THE HINDU, Friday, Jun 05, 2009