June 27, 2009

WB govt to provide financial assistance to Aila victims

KOLKATA: In what could provide some succour to those devastated by Cyclone Aila, the West Bengal government has decided to offer monetary assistance to over 3 lakh villagers for rebuilding their homes.

The size of the housing package isn’t known immediately. It could be anything between Rs 75 crore and Rs 350 crore, a senior official familiar with the matter told mediapersons. The state government will offer Rs 2,500 to Rs 25,000 per family depending on the extent of damage of their dwelling units. The state machinery is busy assessing the damage and puttting together a list of potential beneficiaries. The state’s finance department has firmed up the package a couple of days ago and activated banks to disburse the sum to villagers in North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas, the two worst-hit districts by Aila.
Accordingly, the state through banks will shell out Rs 25,000 per household for building a pukka home and Rs 10,000 for erecting a kuccha house. Likewise, it would offer Rs 5,000 and Rs 2,500 per family for repairing partially damaged pukka and kuccha dwelling units respectively.To avail of the benefit, villagers will need to have a savings account with any nearby bank. Incidentally, according to primary estimates, merely 20-25% of the targeted beneficiaries have bank accounts, raising questions about the success of the scheme. Given the magnitude of financial exclusion, state finance minister Asim Dasgupta has appealed to the likes of Allahabad Bank, State Bank of India, Uco Bank, United Bank of India (UBI) and West Bengal State Cooperative Bank to open zero-balance and no-frill accounts in a war footing. When contacted, UBI general manager Swapan Biswas said: The finance minister has called on select bankers just recently and made an appeal to open new bank accounts in seven days. The monetary assistance to end-users will flow via banks, It would be an daunting task for bankers by any stretch of imagination and may take at least a month.
Financial Assistance Plan per household:
For complete destruction of pukka houses: Rs 25,000
For partial damage of pukka houses: Rs 5,000
For complete destruction of kachcha houses: Rs 10,000
For partial damage of kachcha houses: Rs 2,500


KOLKATA, JUNE 25: A continuous political campaign is going in Bengal to resist the attempts by the forces of anarchy to disrupt peace and order. A large rally held at Rani Rashmoni Road was the focal point for the first day of the programme on 23 June. There was another such central LF rally held at Howrah on the same day.

All the district headquarters, reports reaching us, witnessed big assemblages of people from all facets of lives and livelihoods. They came together in condemnation of the doings of the Bengal opposition in the ranks of which there is the entire opportunist political array from the reactionary right to the sectarian left.

The Kolkata rally attracted more than ten thousand people. The addresses of the LF leaders were suitably interspersed with songs, recitations, poster dramas, and such other cultural events. Painters drew pictures in vivid colours and bold strokes of the brush-and-the-pen that represented the remonstration of the culture of Kolkata and Bengal against anarchy of every kind. There was a poster exhibition on related themes as well.

Biman Basu, Bengal LF chairman said in his address, which expressed a controlled anger against the killings of the innocent yet taking place in Bengal courtesy of the Trinamulis, the Congressites, and the self-styled ‘Maoists,’ that the Left Front had in the past battled against authoritarianism, communalism, divisism, and anarchy. The task is not yet finished for the stakes in society continue to fuel disorder and division for their own class interest. Where the ruling classes go, the corporate media follow faithfully.

Biman recalled the terrible days, and months, and years between 1970 and 1977 when the dogs of war were let loose on the masses of Bengal. The CPI (M) was the prime target. The same form is hideously emulated shamelessly by the Bengal opposition following their detesting and condemnably triumphal fall-out of the electoral results they had had in recent times.

Party offices are put to the torch, residences are pillaged, hutments are burnt to the ground, roads are dug up, crops are set on fire, relief materials are looted, women are harassed even molested, and above all, CPI (M) workers are butchered – 56 CPI (M) workers, and one Forward Block worker, being the latest list of casualties in Bengal. In one area of Khejuri alone more than 200 residences, pucca, and kutcha have been pulled down and set fire to. 10 Party offices have been burnt after being ransacked within a radius of 19-odd kilometres.

The Trinamulis averred a total of 45 activists of their ranks having been killed post-poll, but would print and publish, after a lengthy delay following the vaunted claim, carried expectedly in the corporate media with aplomb, a list containing 23 names. One name refers to a person as a resident of ‘Nandigram, of the south 24 Parganas living in the’ (non-existent) ‘Purba Midnapore Lok Sabha constituency.’ Such gross ‘errors’ of location linking the deceased to the area where that person lived, abound, among other ‘mistakes.’ This is a clear attempt to baffle the people, declares Biman Basu.(INN)


KOLKATA: The Bengal government and the Midnapore west unit of the CPI (M) have been engaged for the past couple of days in extending food, drinking water, clothing, and related rehabilitation and relief material to the 3000-odd families or around 15,000-odd rural folk who had been forcibly ousted by the ‘Maoists’ and their Trinamul sympathisers in the guise of the ‘people’s committee.’

The affected people belong to principally the four blocks of Lalgarh, Goaltore, Salboni (where the proposed steel industries unit yet hangs fire), and Jhargram. Six kilos of rice is provided to each affected family, and here it is a declared policy of the pro-poor Left Front government that the administration would not look for political affiliation even if well-known for notoriety.


When the families approach the relief centres with containers and bags, they are each of them treated to a large dollop or three of the ubiquitous khichdi on sal leaves that the starving innocent visibly relish, with a second or even a third servings. We found it very moving how entire families- even the walking sick - and thin-visaged bahus with children on their back, tribal-fashion, stand patiently and in all politeness, no shoving here, in queue for hours together to await their turn of the rice, occasionally dal, and of course the servings of khichdi that were much appreciated by everybody around, eyes ashine with the sheer pleasure of digging into the victuals. Plenty of drinking water was around for taking long swigs and ten carrying home in two-litre plastic bottles

These are the people who were forced by the predators from the neighbouring lawless areas on the other side of the state border to starve, and to take up bows and quivers of arrows in a bid for ‘revolution.’ Unwilling to bear arms against anyone, the peaceable people, as we were told in tales that were filled with pathos, were tortured, kept in a condition devoid of the basic means of life, and then muscled in to rob them of the little they had by way of household items – a few much-dented, and scrubbed-thin metal utensils, earthen water pots with long narrow necks, a pestle or two and a stone slab with a rough-surface to grind lentils and rice on, a extra sari, a spare dhoti or two, perhaps also headgears bedecked in tender care with the long and sweeping tail-feathers of the waterfowl, and very occasionally the prize possession - a charpoy.

Central forces carrying INSAS stens and having a variegated nomenclature, ‘specials,’ ‘cobras,’ ‘strakos,’ ‘greyhounds,’ led by cordons thrown up by the hordes of state police squads armed with AK-47 rifles, uncoiled past us in two-by-two formations from Pidakata rural zone either to mount anti-landmine trucks or to go ahead on foot, disappearing into the thick of the forestry. Some of the police personnel were in mufti, t-shirts, denim trousers, and ‘sports’ shoes prevailed-- which made a strange sight to us of ‘civilians,’ carrying AK-56 rifles, GPS-equipped man-packs, and pouches of survival kits strung around their waists. One lives and learns.

Not much of the much-feared-in-the-corporate-media ‘Maoist’ military opposition could be seen. From what we heard, and we dared not flout the state government’s strict instructions never to tag along with the force, although our corporate counterparts irresponsibly did, that when the ‘fierce warriors’ of the extreme left did appear, it was in a most amateurish fashion. They ran without covers, they took pot shots and stayed rooted on-the-spot completely exposed, were clad in bright red or orange coloured clothing that was easy target for the professional sharp-shooters in the ranks of the ‘cobras,’ and 12 or maybe more were picked off and killed on the spot before the rest 50-odd ‘braves’ simply ran, dragging the bodies ignominiously away. By the time, the combined forces reached the Lalgarh police station, led by the Midnapore range DIG, the ‘armed’ opposition has become distinguished by its absence.

A boring drama of the absurd was played out all the while on the air waves, in several TV channels, over one ‘Kishanji,’ supposedly a ‘supreme leader’ of the ‘Maoists,’ occasionally sounding quite plaintive and pathetic while calling in a thin, high-pitched, reedy voice for an end to the ‘police aggression,’ and asking piteously of the Trinamuli chief to ‘please, please, help us out.’ The appeal was echoed by the once-all-powerful-leader of the ‘people’s committee,’ the Trinamuli goon Chhatradhar who in turn appeared on TV as pale, bleary, and somewhat devoid of cognitive abilities, especially when he was solicitously told by the scions of the corporate media that the police ‘were out to kill him’ (a lie if ever there was one). We are told that the man broke down and started to whimper about him being caught between a rock (the ‘Maoists’) and a hard place (the Trinamulis who now disown him.)

As we file this report, the police are regrouping for mopping up ‘ops’ if there is need for any. ‘Kishanji’ and ‘Vikash,’ the two Maoist leaders who appeared almost daily on most TV channels have quietly slinked away from Midnapore west to Jharkhand, in the company of their lackeys, and thence to Andhra Pradesh. The anti-Communist ‘civil society’ a few of whose members met ‘Kishanji’ and came back quite unimpressed, are crest-fallen. State secretary of the Bengal CPI (M) Biman Basu has said that the Left Front was against the banning of the ‘Maoist,’ stressing the need for a political battle ahead while the administration looked to the safety and security of the people. At the moment, all is quiet, and peaceful, on the western side of the red clay zone of Bengal. (INN)