August 28, 2010

Top Maoist leader arrested

KOLKATA:  senior member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) was arrested here on Saturday by a joint team of the Bihar police and the Kolkata police's Special Task Force (STF), even as Maoists observed a 24-hour bandh in Paschim Medinipur, Purulia and Bankura districts to protest against the security operations in the region.

Sources in the STF said Musafir Sahani, who operated under names such as Anand, Alokda and Manik, was a member of the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh state committees of the CPI(Maoist).

He has over 15 cases of murder, arson and sedition pending against him in Bihar.

The Bihar police took Sahani to Bihar, after a court here granted four days of his transit remand.

Punjab MLA visits driver accused of bid to kill Mamata

KOLKATA: With a Punjab MLA on Thursday visiting Gurjant Singh, a lorry driver facing the charge of attempting to murder Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on August 9, the case has taken a new turn.

Even as there are reports that several political leaders of Punjab have pleaded Mr. Singh's case with leaders of the Trinamool Congress, MLA Mangat Rai Bansal met Mr. Singh at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) here.

One of the escort vehicles was hit by Mr. Singh's lorry when the convoy of Ms. Banerjee, who was returning after attending a rally at Lalgarh, was re-entering the highway after making an unscheduled stop.

He was immediately detained by the police at Kolaghat in West Bengal's Purbo Medinipur district.

Mr. Singh claimed that he lost control of the truck as the brakes failed. He was arrested on the charge of rash driving and released on bail. However, enraged Trinamool Congress supporters laid a siege to the police station, alleging that Mr. Singh's act was deliberate and part of a conspiracy of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). He was re-arrested after a First Information Report was filed by Trinamool Congress MP Subhendu Adhikari, charging him with attempt to murder.

While Ms. Banerjee has stayed away from Parliament and the public eye claiming that she was suffering from the injuries she sustained in the incident, Mr. Singh has spent the past 10 days in police custody.

The CID is now investigating the matter. “Since the charges levelled against him are very serious, the matter will have to be carefully investigated,” Additional Director-General of CID Raj Kanojia told The Hindu.

Mr. Kanojia said the report from the Regional Transport Office confirmed Mr. Singh's statement that the brakes failed, but the CID was waiting for a conclusive forensic report. Senior CPI(M) leader Mohammed Salim recently raised doubts about Ms. Banerjee's version of the sequence of events.

“She usually demands a CBI probe. Why not ask for one now?” he asked.


Save cultivated crops: Buddhadeb

By Special Correspondent

The Hindu, August 22, 2010 

Chief Minister outlines three tasks, on a tour of drought-hit areas

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, now on a tour of the State's drought-hit areas, has said that the prime task before the government was to save whatever crop had been sown in the 11 districts where cultivation had been badly affected by the errant monsoon. Protecting livelihoods was also very important, he said.

“Our first task now is to save whatever crop has already been cultivated by the farmers in these districts. We have talked to our people in charge of minor irrigation projects and also told people in the State power utilities that we must ensure that power supply remains intact so that minor irrigation facilities can be harnessed to save the little crop that the farmers have been able to cultivate.” The State has already sanctioned Rs. 50 crores towards the repair of existing deep tubewells and digging of new ones.

The Chief Minister, who commenced his tour of the drought-affected districts with Bardhaman, held meetings with district magistrates and panchayat functionaries from of the districts of Bardhaman, Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia and Hooghly.

He said that the second task was to take up early cropping of the winter crop rabi, in areas where sowing has been low. “Three types of alternate crops could be taken up. These were maize, oilseeds and dal (pulses),” he said.

A Central team of agro-scientists is to arrive shortly to conduct soil-tests and distribute seeds of alternate crops in the drought-hit districts. This followed a letter written by Mr. Bhattacharjee in this regard to the Union Agriculture Minister this week.

Mr. Bhattacharjee said that the third task was to create jobs under the 100 days' job scheme to protect the farmers' livelihoods. He said that while in Purulia only 6.5 per cent of the normal acreage has been cultivated, in the cases of two other arid districts – Birbhum and Bankura — the figure was around 33 per cent. The rains have been kinder to Hooghly and Bardhaman, where the deficiency was about 25 per cent. Of the 43 lakh hectares the State planned to cultivate during this season, cultivation on 11 lakh has become uncertain due to adverse weather condition, according to Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta.

Mr. Bhattacharjee was also scheduled to tour Nadia, another affected district where he would take stock of the neighbouring districts of Murshidabad and then Malda. On Sunday, he is slated to go to Purbo Medinipur, from where he will monitor Paschim Medinipur, and the two remaining districts of North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas.

Sunderbans tigers' prey ‘die of shock'

THE HINDU, KOLKATA, August 21, 2010:  Six spotted deer from a herd of 25 that was being moved from the Bibhuti Bhushan Wildlife Sanctuary in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district to supplement the prey base of the Sunderbans tiger died early on Thursday morning.

A “post-mortem” will be carried out and it seems they died of “shock” experienced during transportation, Sunderbans Tiger Reserve field director Subrat Mukherjee told The Hindu over telephone.

The herd was being brought to the Deer Acclimatisation Centre in Dobaki. Here they would be constantly monitored before being released in the wild — over a distance of about 200 km, Mr. Mukherjee said.

“There was a delay at a place where the road was severely damaged. The deer had to be shifted from the trucks onto tractors, and then moved back onto the trucks, which took considerable time. It is possible they experienced some trauma then.”

“While three were found dead on arrival, three others were alive. But we could not do much.”

Such occurrences are not uncommon, as spotted deer were delicate animals, Sunderban Biosphere Reserve director Pradeep Vyas said.

Transferring the deer into the wild was essential as several facilities where the animals were being kept were overcrowded.

“The Bibhuti Bhushan Wildlife Sanctuary has nearly 450 spotted deer, whereas it has a capacity to accommodate only 150 deer,” Mr. Vyas said.

The Alipore Zoological Garden in the city is facing similar problems. It had decided to relocate about 60 deer to the Sunderbans. However, it may be deferred for some time.

“The proposal has been sanctioned by Chief Wildlife Warden S. B. Mondal, but we shall have to proceed slowly in this matter. We have to ensure that such incidents are reduced to a minimum,” Mr. Vyas said.

Kolkata is world's 8th most inexpensive city


Saturday, 21 August 2010, 12:17 IST

Bangalore: We always hear of surveys done to find out which is the best city or country in the world. There are studies done to find out in which city is the standard of living very expensive and so on and so forth. Rarely do we come across a study or survey done to locate the most inexpensive city in the world to live in.

Now here comes a survey to find out the least expensive city in the world, carried out by the 2010 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. The survey threw out some very interesting results.

Kolkata (ranked 8th) emerged as the only Indian city to make it to the list of the world's 10 least expensive cities. The capital of West Bengal has a populace of more than 15 million. The city is fondly referred to as the cultural capital of India.
The city that held the top spot is Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan. Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, followed at a close third.
It is no surprise that the cities featuring in this unique list are located majorly in third world countries or developing nations.
Here is the complete list of the cities in ascending order (one to ten): Karachi (Pakistan), Managua (Nicaragua), Islamabad (Pakistan), La Paz (Bolivia), Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Kolkata (India), Tegucigalpa (Honduras) and Windhoek (Republic of Namibia).

West Bengal kharif paddy production expected to fall 16%

25 Aug, 2010, 06.11PM IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: Paddy production in drought- affected West Bengal is likely to fall by over 16 per cent during the current kharif season to 87 lakh tonnes.

The state produced 104 lakh tonnes of paddy in the last season. The state government has already announced drought in 11 districts (out of 19), including Burdwan, called as the rice bowl of the state, due to scanty rains in the ongoing monsoon season. "The production of paddy in the state is likely to be 17 lakh tonnes less than the last kharif season," West Bengal's agriculture minister Naren Dey told PTI over phone.

Dey said that sowing is also expected to come down to around 30 lakh hectares from 41.5 lakh hectares in the last kharif season. "Before the beginning of the current kharif season, we had targeted paddy sowing on 43.79 lakh hectares as against 41.5 lakh hectares of area in the last season. However, owing to scanty rains, paddy can be sown on around 30 lakh hectares only," Dey said.

West Bengal's rice produce has been estimated at around 149 lakh tonnes for 2009-10 crop season, ending June. The paddy-rice conversion rate is 67 per cent.

The truant monsoon has not only affected West Bengal, it has impacted rice sowing in other eastern states like Bihar and Jharkhand. The Bihar government has already announced all 38 districts as drought-affected while Jharkhand has declared drought in 12 districts out of 24.

The dip in output in West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, however, would not have much impact on the country's overall paddy production in the ongoing kharif season as sowing area has increased in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh among other northern states. As per the latest data available, area under paddy has increased by seven per cent as on August 20 in the ongoing 2010-11 kharif sowing season to 29.75 million hectares on the back of a good monsoon. The higher area under paddy augurs well for the country, as rice output had declined by 10 million tonnes in the 2009- 10 crop year (July-June) due to the severe drought in 2009.

Trinamul Maoist Nexus Reconfirmed

15th AUGUST, 2010

THE rally held by the TMC – Trinamul Maoist Combine – at Lalgarh on August 9 reconfirms, if ever such a reconfirmation was required, that the Trinamul Congress and the Maoists have, indeed, been political collaborators in creating mayhem and anarchy in certain areas of West Bengal. The murderous assaults by this combine has already martyred 255 leaders of the CPI(M). Most, if not all of these, belong to the poorest of the exploited classes and tribals, whose interests, ironically, the Maoists claim to champion drawing the blind romantic adulation by some `intellectuals’ and `social activists’.

An embarrassed and cornered Manmohan Singh-led government tried to duck, unsuccessfully, the issue of one of its cabinet members being caught red handed in the open political collaboration with the Maoists. They took refuge behind the argument that they shall return to both the houses of parliament after having “ascertained the facts”. Ironically, the very next day, August 11, the minister of state for home affairs stood up in reply to a starred question in the Rajya Sabha on the involvement of Maoists in railway accidents stating: “Investigation conducted reveals that Police Santras Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC/PCPA), a frontal organisation of Maoists, was involved in damaging the railway track, thereby causing the accident. CBI has arrested 12 persons so far in this case”. It is the very same minister for railways, whose primary job, under oath of the constitution is to protect the life of passengers traveling on the Indian railways and to improve its safety standards, who is openly collaborating with the Maoists. She has openly advocated the withdrawal of the operations of the security forces against the Maoist violence. She, in fact, has gone to the extent of asserting that Maoist leader Azad was `murdered’ and not killed in an encounter as claimed by the security forces.

The Trinamul-Maoist nexus became abundantly clear when, according to media reports: “Maoist politburo member Koteswar Rao alias Kishanji once again batted for Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Azad issue. “There is no doubt that our politburo member and central committee spokesperson Charakuri Rajkumar alias Azad was treacherously killed by the members of Andhra Pradesh police special intelligence branch in a fake encounter. Mamata Banerjee spoke the truth and there is no reason behind the furore over the issue in parliament”. This comes from a Maoist leader whose party openly rejects parliamentary democracy and calls for a `people’s war’ against the Indian State!

Unable to defend the role of an important ally and cabinet colleague, the UPA-II government through its minister for home affairs, P Chidambaram, stated in the Rajya Sabha, “No one should support the Maoists and the government will certainly not encourage anybody who does so.” However, the UPA-II government, in a crass display of political opportunism, requiring the numbers of TMC MPs in the Lok Sabha for the survival of this government, is tolerating such `support to the Maoists’ making a mockery of its commitment to safeguard India’s internal security.

Through these columns, we had drawn attention to an irreconcilable contradiction that continues to plague the UPA-II government. The prime minister has repeatedly asserted that Maoist violence constitutes “the gravest threat to India’s internal security”. Yet, its own cabinet colleague, under the leadership of this very prime minister, openly collaborates with Maoist violence and defends the attempted subversion of parliamentary democracy.

The composition of the people gathered in Lalgarh clearly exposes the reasons for organising this meeting. The overwhelming bulk of the people were brought by huge number of transportation vehicles from outside of Lalgarh. The fact that the people of that area stayed away in large numbers shows the growing political isolation of the Trinamul Congress combine. It is precisely in order to strike terror and browbeat the local population into supporting them that this rally was organised.

Clearly, the Trinamul Congress has exposed itself to stooping to the lowest of levels in its quest to gain in the forthcoming assembly elections in West Bengal. In the bargain, neither the safeguarding of innocent life nor strengthening the unity and integrity of India are of any concern. If the UPA-II government and prime minister Manmohan Singh continue to turn a deaf ear to this threat, then India will have to pay a heavy price. Brazen political opportunism to continue to remain in office cannot be allowed to sacrifice the interests of India’s unity, integrity and internal security. Like in the late-sixties and early-seventies when the CPI(M) politically fought and defeated the mindless terror and violence unleashed by the Naxalites, so shall it do now with their latest avatar of Maoists.

The defence of India’s unity and integrity must rise above the petty electoral pursuits and crass political opportunism.

CPI(M) calls to launch Countrywide Campaign, September 12 to 18, Against Attacks on Party & Left Front In West Bengal

THE extended meeting of the CPI(M) Central Committee, held in Vijayawada from August 7 to 10, has called for conduct of a week-long countrywide campaign, from September 12 to 18. During this campaign, the party units all over the country will express solidarity with the CPI(M) and the Left Front of West Bengal, against the dastardly attacks they are facing from the reactionary combine led by Trinamul Congress and its Maoist collaborators. The campaigns aims at mobilising the Left and democratic forces in the country against these attacks.

Left Protests Illegal Inclusions in Voters Lists

IN a memorandum submitted to the chief election commissioner (CEC) at New Delhi on August 3, 2010, a delegation of the Left parties sought to draw his attention to the ongoing illegal inclusion of photo identity cards in West Bengal through illegal affidavits.

The delegation told the CEC that, on behalf of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), a delegation had met the chief electoral officer (CEO) of West Bengal on July 10, 2010, and drawn his attention to the illegal inclusion of fictitious names in the voters lists.

Because of the delay and large-scale mistakes in the printing of the photo identity cards, some interested quarters are flouting the Election Commission's rules illegally by attaching affidavits in Form 6 for the inclusion of fictitious names in the voters lists. The CPI(M) delegation had also submitted copies of some such affidavits. The chief electoral officer had then assured the CPI(M) delegation that the BLO could not accept such affidavits and would be prevented from enlisting fictitious names in the voters lists. The Left delegation also informed the CEC that some BLOs were accepting forms in large-scale violation of rules of the Election Commission.

On July 10, the CPI(M) delegation had also drawn the CEO’s attention to the difficulties being faced by the people in hill areas of Darjeeling, flood-affected areas in North Bengal, areas under river-banks erosion, terror affected areas of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura districts and the people who have been evicted from their houses in East Midnapur, Khajuri, Nandigram, Moogbaria and other areas. The CPI(M) team had urged upon the CEO to ensure that their names were enrolled in the voters lists.

The CEO said he was fully aware of these issues and assured the delegation that necessary instructions would be sent and steps urgently taken. But there has so far been no instruction from the chief electoral officer with regard to affidavits. In the meantime, thousands of fictitious and illegal affidavits are being prepared for people from outside and forcibly deposited in the office of the electoral officers who are unfortunately resorting to mass-scale acceptance of those illegal affidavits.

The Left parties therefore urged the chief election commissioner to cancel such illegal affidavits and take steps against the electoral officials who accepted those affidavits. The Ecection Commission of India must also initiate legal action against the parties which are resorting to such fraudulent inclusion of fictitious voters directly or indirectly. Necessary steps need to be taken against such activities, so that no names could be included without proper enquiries at the time of hearings.
The delegation of the Left parties that met the CEC included Sitaram Yechury and Basudev Acharia of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Prabodh Panda of the Communist Party of India, Narahari Mahato of the All India Forward Bloc and Prasanta Majumdar of the Revolutionary Socialist Party.


Chronic Problems Demand Welfare Role From Govt

WE welcome the convening of this 55th meeting of the National Development Council (NDC). The main items of agenda are: (1) Mid-Term Appraisal of the 11th Five Year Plan 2007-12, and (2) Issues Pertaining to Urbanisation, Agriculture, Left Wing Extremism, Water Resources, Tribal Development, Interface between Power Generation and Availability of Coal, etc. It gives us an opportunity to express our views on the major issues that are so vital to our people and society.


The Eleventh Plan aimed at an average growth rate of 9 per cent per annum. Our economy exceeded the expectation in the first year of the Eleventh Plan, but the momentum was interrupted in 2008-09 due to the global financial crisis. The growth rate in 2008-09 declined to 6.7 per cent but rebounded to about 7.4 per cent in 2009-10. According to the latest available data, the estimated rate of growth of GSDP of West Bengal would reach 8.68 per cent in 2009-2010, with the growth from agriculture, industry, and services sectors estimated at 4.59 per cent, 7.49 per cent and 10.45 per cent respectively. It may be noted that the growth rate of GSDP for West Bengal is higher than the national average and in agriculture the growth rate is much above the rate of growth of GDP from agriculture for the country as a whole.


The basic objective of the Eleventh Five Year Plan of West Bengal is to follow an all inclusive growth approach for improving the living standards of the masses, particularly of the marginalised people. Poverty and unemployment rate are two important indicators to study the conditions of people over time and across regions. The chronic problems of unemployment and poverty in the country, accentuates the required welfare role of the government, which should be specifically oriented to address the basic issues affecting the common man. It cannot be denied that although there has been perceptible growth in certain sectors during 2009-10, comparatively speaking, the adverse effects of the recent worldwide recession are still acutely present in the economy. It is pertinent to highlight that the policy of globalisation led to marked rise in unemployment. According to the latest data and analysis of the Expert Group of the Planning Commission undertaken in November 2009, the percentage of people living below the poverty line in the rural areas is still as high as 41.8 per cent compared to the official estimate of 28.3 per cent (2004-05). The phenomenon of jobless growth, with an alarming drop in employment opportunities, is noted with growing alarm in the organised and government sectors. It is imperative to firm up definite targets and effective strategies for increasing employment in agriculture, small and medium industries and the services sector.


Another greatly unsettling problem of the country in recent years is obviously the uncontrolled price rise, leading to sharp increase in prices of food and essential commodities. According to price data published by the government of India, the wholesale price index for food items has increased sharply by nearly 19.8 per cent in December 2009, compared to the price level of December 2008. This unprecedented rate of price rise is common to all the states and is a general problem of the entire country. Further, the recent increase in the prices of petroleum products will have a cascading effect on the prices of other commodities and particularly of the essential commodities.

Against this backdrop of rising inflation and the periodical natural onslaughts of droughts, cyclones and floods, a large section of population has major difficulties in meeting their basic minimum needs. It is suggested that the ideas of checking inflation, generation of employment and comprehensive creation on income for the common people may be translated into reality by expanding the welfare role of the government and making it more effective. To protect the common people from the ravages of inflation and to control the process of inflation itself, it is imperative to introduce, from the level of government of India, the Universal Public Distribution System with appropriate subsidies, which needs to be implemented in close coordination with all the states. The state, on its own initiative, distributed subsidised rice at a price of Rs 2 per kg among 2.64 crore persons lying below the poverty line during 2009-10. This scheme needs to be supported by the central government.


For expansion of opportunities of education, priority has been attached to access to primary education for all children (5+ to 8+) and the net enrolment ratio reached 99.25 per cent in 2009-10. To reduce the dropout rate among students, along with enrolment of children in the primary schools, the midday meal programme has been implemented at the level of primary schools through the involvement of self-help groups. It may be highlighted that the dropout rate at the primary school level has fallen to 6.85 per cent in 2008-09, lower than the dropout ratio of the country as a whole (7.8 per cent).

The Right to Free and Compulsory Education for Children Act, 2009 has come into effect from April 1, 2010. Under this act, various statutory obligations have been imposed on the state government. Particularly the state government has to improve the infrastructure of all schools to bring the same in line with the requirements laid down under the act within a period of three years. Similarly, new schools have to be set up and a large number of sanctioned posts for teachers are to be created to meet the requirements under the act. The state government also has to bear the school tuition fees and other charges for 25 per cent of the total number of students enrolled in private and unaided schools. But no provision for financial empowerment of the state government to bear such huge financial requirements to meet the statutory obligations under the act has been made. National Development Council is requested to recommend allocation of funds to the state governments to meet the requirements under the act.

In the fields of higher education, for expansion of the opportunities of education and research and improvement of the academic standard, along with necessary expansion of the two newly established universities, namely, West Bengal State University (Barasat) and Gour Banga University (Malda), steps taken are – establishment of Sidho Kanhu Birsha University centred around Purulia and Bankura, strengthening of the campuses of the University of North Bengal at Jalpaiguri and Rabindra Bharati University at Siliguri, initiation of the process for conferring the status of a university upon Presidency College and playing a facilitating role in the upgradation of BESU to the level of National Institute of Science and Technology. In addition, a centre of Aligarh Muslim University will shortly be established in Murshidabad. The state government has also decided that in the next year, 20 new colleges will be set up and 15,000 additional posts of teachers will be created. A special initiative will be taken to conduct courses on management and information technology in the campuses of 100 general degree colleges.

In order that students can take part in the production process, special priority has been accorded to expansion of vocational and technical education at all levels. With the target of setting up of vocation training centres in secondary and higher secondary schools in the state, 2000 additional training centres will be set up in 2010-11; 25 new IITs will be added to the existing 89 IITs.

In the sphere of madrasah education, 112 junior high madrasahs have been upgraded to high madrasahs and 196 high madrasahs have been upgraded to higher madrasahs in 2009-10. 75 junior high madrasahs will be upgraded to high madrashas and 100 high madrasahs will be upgraded to higher madrashas during 2010-11. A new campus for women will be set up for Aliah University.


In health sector, priority has been accorded to decentralised health care and development of infrastructure of the subcentres within each Gram Panchayat and improvement of services in the subcentres located at the headquarters of the Gram Panchayat. It is found from the latest state-wise data (2008), published by the government of India, that as a result of the measures taken by the state government, the death rate in the state has fallen to 6.2 per thousand, which is not only lower than the all-India average (7.4) but also the lowest among the states. The infant mortality rate in the state has fallen further to 35, which is much lower than the all-India average (53). Birth rate in the state has also fallen to 17.5, which again is much lower than the all-India average (22.8). In the year 2008 the total fertility rate in the state has fallen to 1.9, which is far below the all-India average (2.8).


In West Bengal, 28 police stations in the three districts of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia are affected by the LWE activities. Many civilians and security personnel have been seriously affected on many occasions. Joint operations are being continued by the state police and the central paramilitary forces since June 2009. This is a matter of serious concern.

The state government has announced a surrender-cum-rehabilitation package for naxalities (Maoists) in accordance with the guidelines issued by the government of India in this regard. This apart, a package of special schemes has been announced for socio-economic development of the LWE affected areas. These schemes include, among others: (i) subsidised rice at the rate of Rs 2 per kilogram to eligible all ST families, (ii) filling up of posts of teachers in primary schools in affected blocks with preference for qualified local ST people, (iii) providing a bicycle to each girl in classes IX to XI, (iv) minor irrigation schemes, (v) soil and water conservation schemes, (vi) subsidies for forest produce collected by tribal persons, etc. These schemes would be implemented over and above the usual national and state level schemes. A committee headed by the chief secretary and comprising secretaries of the related departments has been set up to oversee the implementation of the special development package as well as other flagship schemes in LWE affected areas.

The government of India has included Paschim Medinipur district in the list of LWE affected districts for sanction of special development fund in order to wean away people from the extremist movement. Since Purulia and Bankura districts are also significantly affected by LWE, the state government urges the government of India to include these two districts also for sanction of special fund for development.


Over the years, the lingering uncertainty and retarded growth in the agricultural sector has contributed to the price rise factor. As a result of comprehensive steps starting with land reforms, extension of irrigation facilities and improved production techniques appropriate for common farmers, the rate of growth of gross state domestic product (GSDP) from agriculture in 2009-10 reached 4.2 per cent in West Bengal. Use of improved agricultural techniques, flow of institutional credit and improvement of marketing facilities cannot be over-emphasised. For these initiatives, along with the direct involvement of the government, it would be necessary to create more opportunities for the common farmers. The goal would be to increase production and productivity in agriculture through these combined initiatives in such a manner that self-sufficiency in foodgrains can be achieved and maintained at the state level, necessary crop diversification can be brought about, and overall employment generation and income can be enhanced for common farmers and others. Special emphasis on extension of irrigation facilities and enhancement of the net irrigated area will be helpful.

Inadequate coverage of irrigation and drainage aggravates the problem of productivity. Although in the union budget of 2010-11, there has been inclusion of centre-state joint schemes in irrigation and drainage for the state, the share of the irrigation sector in the total central plan outlay was, unfortunately, only 2 per cent, as a result of which the proportion of irrigated area of the country, particularly in connection with foodgrains, has still not exceeded 45 per cent (government of India Economic Survey, 2008-09, Statistical Appendix). This has led to the inevitable neglect of investment in fertilisers and regrettable dependence on imports.

In the sphere of major irrigation projects, accepting the demand of the state, the government of India has accorded the status of a project of national importance to the Teesta Project. Till now, the state government has incurred nearly 79 per cent of the total expenditure of the project (Rs 1,332.55 crore). It is expected that in he coming years, in accordance with the funding patterns of national projects, 90 per cent of the balance requirement of fund for completion of the first phase of the project (Rs 1,759.04 crore) will be borne by the central government. The revised project cost of Subarnarekha Project, included under AIBP, now stands at Rs 1986 crore. As this project’s command area is inhabited mainly by scheduled tribes, the centre should bear 90 per cent of the expenditure, the remaining 10 per cent being borne by the state. Similar AIBP norms should also be extended for Darakeswar-Gandheswari reservoir project (estimated cost of Rs 1574 crore) and the projects proposed for stabilisation of irrigation potential created through old projects like Kangsabati in the districts of Bankura and Purulia. In this context, I draw the attention of National Development Council to the need of further modification of the guidelines of Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) in the LWE affected districts and in the backward districts so that irrigation schemes in these areas may receive the enhanced grant of government of India (90 per cent of the project cost) under AIBP without insisting on percentage of tribal population only as the criterion for such benefit.

I would make special mention here about the post-‘Aila’ mega scheme of reconstruction and improvement of Sundarban embankments planned to be executed at an estimated cost of Rs 5,032 crore. This project is extremely important for saving the ecologically fragile Sundarbans and for saving millions of people living there from the threat of violent cyclonic storms. So far the state has received only Rs 187 crore against the project. Since the project has to be completed on war footing, the government of India should ensure timely release of fund for this project. Further, as execution of all the flood management programmes involve substantial land acquisition and may not be completed within March 31, 2012, the government of India should agree to our proposal of extending validity of these programmes to 12th Plan period.


In the predominantly agricultural economy of India, no sustained development is possible without land reforms being implanted throughout the country. Redistributive land reform remains the fundamental basis of increasing employment-oriented production. It may be noted that 54 per cent of the farmers of the country, who have benefited from distribution of surplus land, belong to West Bengal (data compiled by government of India on land reforms). The total agricultural land distributed in West Bengal, holding the foremost position in land reforms, was 11.28 lakh acres up to February 2010. By now, 30.12 lakh farmers have benefited in the state, 55 per cent belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. With a view to empowering women, 6.15 lakh joint pattas and 1.62 lakh female pattas have been distributed. This apart, through recording of sharecroppers, which forms an important component of land reforms, 15.13 lakh farmers have benefited. The gains achieved through land reforms, however, needs to be consolidated for raising productivity by increasing irrigation facilities and credit facilities.


Weakness in infrastructure is the most important constraint for growth of the economy. For increase of production in agriculture and industries and generation of employment, sustainable improvement of infrastructure is obviously crucial. In 2010-11, construction of 15 new bridges will start in the state. In case of improvement of 650 km of road, taken up during the first three years of the 11th Five Year Plan, work has been completed in respect of 270 km. It is expected that 500 km of road will be brought under improvement work during 2010-11.


The percentage of urban population in West Bengal (28.3 per cent) has always been higher than the national level. This calls for special attention. In keeping with the approach of the 11th Five Year Plan, the state government has been laying emphasis on holistic and inclusive development so that the urban sector may become economically vibrant and environmentally balanced. West Bengal has taken up several projects under JNNURM for creating urban infrastructure and housing facilities for the urban poor. In the urban infrastructure and governance component of JNNURM, the current expenditure as on May 31, 2010, is Rs 1218 crore. In the BSUP, about 32,000 dwelling units have already been completed with the expenditure of Rs 806 crore. Escalation of cost of the schemes is leaving a large burden of expenditure for the state government. The state government has requested the GoI to share the escalated costs. Some JNNURM projects may not be completed by March 2012; it is necessary to roll over such projects to the next Five Year Plan period. The state government also feels that it is necessary to launch a new JNNURM programme for non-mission towns. In order to attract private investments for creation and maintenance of new infrastructure facilities, it is necessary to evolve a National PPP Policy framework and create a regulatory body for better management of PPP projects. At the state level, there is also need to build inhouse core urban planning expertise. This will need financial and technical support of the government of India.

The government of West Bengal agreed to procure 1300 buses under JNNURM for Kolkata and Asansol as a part of stimulus package of government of India to the automobile manufacturing sector on the explicit commitment of government of India to extend subsidy at the rate of 35 per cent for Kolkata and 50 per cent for Asansol. On the basis of this commitment state government has already procured 933 buses and has ordered further 150 buses under this programme for improving the city transport system. The full amount of committed central share against this procurement has not yet been released, linking the same with certain reforms in the transport sector. The reforms suggested will take substantial time to be implemented and some steps have already been initiated in that direction. It is requested to release the full amount of centre’s committed share under this programme without making such release conditional at this stage in the interest of development of transport infrastructure under JNNURM.


Rural credit has become a casualty because of the change in the government of India’s banking policies. The directive to close down the loss-making branches has created a serious vacuum for institutional credit in rural areas. Over 1000 Gram Panchayats (nearly one third of the total) in West Bengal do not have any bank branch. This cripples, at inception, the self-help groups of women who may need to spend Rs 20 for commuting to a bank to deposit Rs 100.

It is suggested that the facilities for banking services should be made universal. For this purpose, it will be necessary to have a bank branch or business correspondent in every village. Agreeing with this view of the state government, the RBI has issued a directive that in order to extend within the next two years the facility of banking services to every village of the state where the population is more than 2,000, a bank branch will be set up and/or a business correspondent would be appointed. This should be implemented at the earliest.

According to the assessment of Expert Committee (Dave Committee) about the need for the credit from the banking systems for agriculture and allied sectors, the minimum annual requirement of bank credits for these sectors in West Bengal is about Rs 25,000 crore. However, during the year 2006-07, the credit disbursed by the nationalised banks and cooperative banks was only Rs 3,580 crore. It was accordingly decided after discussions with the representatives of Reserve Bank of India and other banks that the target for the annual credit disbursement in this sector should, to begin with be raised to Rs 12,000 crore and thereafter the amount should be steadily increased to Rs 25,000 crore. National Development Council is requested to take note of this.


In promotion of employment opportunity, the NREGA is certainly a step towards recognising and ensuring work as a right of the people in rural areas. Our state government and the panchayats at the three levels have taken keen interest in implementing the scheme. Our expenditure under the scheme during 2009-10 was Rs 2100 crore, which is nearly double the expenditure in 2008-09. While implementation of the scheme has gained momentum, its progress is now getting affected due to non-availability of adequate funds. Large-scale unemployment and under-employment is not only a rural phenomenon. As it is also a problem in urban areas, we feel that NREGA should be also extended to urban areas. To reduce the problem of unemployment in urban areas, the state government has already decided to introduce the West Bengal Urban Employment Scheme during 2010-11, which should receive appropriate support from the GoI.


The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) has three component schemes, namely, the National Old Age Pension Scheme, the National Family Benefit Scheme (widow pension), and the National Disability Scheme (disability pension). The schemes provide for payment of pension at the rate of Rs 400 per month (Rs 200 by GoI and Rs 200 by state government). In our state, there are some schemes funded and implemented by the state governments, where payments are presently at the rate of Rs 750 per month and it is proposed to be increased to Rs 1000 p m. In terms of benefits provided, we feel that Rs 400 per month is too meagre an amount. We feel that the amount of benefits under the central scheme should be increased. Another important issue is the age limit for eligibility under the old age pension schemes. The age limit for national schemes is 65 years, but for the state schemes it is 60 years. It may be noted that the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 defines a ‘senior citizen’ as a person who has attained the age of sixty years or above. We feel that the age limit for the Old Age Pension Scheme should be reduced to 60 years.

The constitution of India provides for a comprehensive framework for the socio-economic development of the scheduled tribes and for preventing their exploitation by other groups of society. Our objective is to provide more focussed attention on the integrated development of the scheduled tribes in a coordinated and planned manner. However, there are problems in implementation of the centrally sponsored schemes in this priority sector. During the last financial year, the government of India released only 50 per cent of the budgetary allocation. This is not at all desirable. In the centrally sponsored schemes there is a concept of “committed liability,” which is extremely detrimental to the interest of the state government. Under this policy, the total expenditure of a scheme in the concluding year of a five year plan becomes the “committed liability” of the state government. We propose that this policy of “committed liability” should be reviewed and the government of India should bear 50 per cent of the “committed liability.” Disability due to old age is a major problem for the tribal population, more particularly as they have lower life expectancy. The state government is implementing a pension scheme for the tribal people of age 60 years and above, where the expenditure of about Rs 150 crore annually is met by the state government. We propose that the government of India should bear 50 per cent of the cost of this scheme.


Electricity remains a key element of infrastructure, essential for delivery of targeted levels of economic growth and social development. In our state, the demand for electricity is likely to grow substantially because of the demand from the industry and expansion of rural electrification programme under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana. Accordingly, the state is in the process of augmenting its generation capacity by more than 3500 MW by the end of 12th Plan period. Two major central public sector companies, BHEL and NTPC, have been involved for setting up additional generation capacities at Katwa and Santaldihi. Our distribution company, WBSEDCL, has been ranked as the best public sector distribution company in the country, but power availability suffers because of the disruptions in power generation. There have been progressive additions to our capacity for electricity generation, but the balance between demand and supply is sometimes disrupted because of non-availability of standard quality coal. In our country’s present coal availability scenario, sourcing of coal from captive mines is extremely important to ensure availability of good quality coal. It is therefore necessary to allot captive coal blocks to meet the coal requirements of power stations in the public and private sectors in the state. Such coal blocks are needed not only for the power generation units; they are also needed for the steel plants. We feel that the coal ministry should allot coal blocks to the state government through the state dispensation route to ensure timely supply of adequate coal to power plants and other industries. The state is also facing problems in getting the promised power from NHPC. An MoU was signed in March 2003 between NHPC and the state corporation, by which 500 MW power is to be purchased by the state corporation from Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project, but power from the project has been allocated to other states without taking the said MoU into consideration. WBSEDCL, the state power utility company, would like to set up a hydel power project in Bhutan for which the ministry of power has been approached. As hydel thermal mix in the state is very low, this needs early clearance.


We would like to highlight the case of Sundarbans which is the largest mangrove forest in the world, internationally recognised as a World Heritage Site and a Global Biosphere Reserve. The islands are also inhabited by several lakhs of people who are economically backward. I am thankful that the Planning Commission has arranged for a non-lending technical assistance from the World Bank for climate change adaptation, bio-diversity, conservation and sustainable socio economic development of the Sundarban area of West Bengal. Action on this report may be taken at the earliest.


The above presentation will establish that my government, during the initial three years of the Eleventh Plan period, has tried to achieve the national goal of growth rate of 9 per cent per annum. As a welfare state, we have tried to make this growth an inclusive growth benefiting all sectors of the people. The focus of our activities during these years was centred on alleviation of poverty, reduction of unemployment, making life more bearable for the common man in the face of rising inflation, expansion of facilities in the health sector to cover majority of the people, expansion of infrastructure for education in all stages including setting up of a good number of universities and facilitating the setting up of institute of excellence, continuing land reforms, raising productivity in agriculture and allied activities, and creation of appropriate environment for promotion of industrial activities. Our effort has been to provide employment to these who are able to work and to provide assistance in the form of pension to those who are unable to work. We are hopeful that during the remaining two years of the eleventh Plan Period the momentum of growth will increase further. To maintain this growth momentum, however, it will be necessary on the part of the union government to take positive decisions on some of the issues discussed in brief in this presentation.

Disabled Persons Demand Justice For Bhopal Victims


IN an exceptional show of determination, thousands of disabled persons staged a sit-in demonstration in front of the United States Information Centre in Kolkata on July 12. Their indomitable spirit could not be drenched by the heavy rains that lashed Kolkata that day. They had assembled at the call of the Paschimbanga Rajya Pratibandhi Sammilani, in a show of solidarity with the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy that had killed nearly 22,000 people, maimed many and left thousands disabled for life.

Fifty-seven buses were chartered by the Sammilani units to bring in disabled persons from various districts of the state to participate in the programme. Around 400 of them from North Bengal had to travel overnight to reach Kolkata to take part in the programme. In all, there were around 4,000 people.

A highlight of the programme was the participation of seventeen victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster, who had come all the way from Bhopal. These disabled people were led by Sadhna Karnik Pradhan, an activist working among the gas-affected people in Bhopal. Many eminent artists and sportspersons joined the programme and condemned the criminal behaviour of the Union Carbide which for years has been shying away from its responsibility of providing adequate compensation and rehabilitating the affected. They also condemned the attitude of the central government for ignoring the plight of the victims all these years. Even many of the current recommendations made by the Group of Ministers are an eyewash, they felt.

Prominent among those to address the participants were Kanti Ganguly, general secretary of the Sammelini and minister for sports and Sundarban affairs. Pratim Chatterjee, minister for fire services in West Bengal, artist Wasim Kapoor and swimmer Masudur Rahman also addressed.

All the speakers accused the successive governments, both at the centre and in Madhya Pradesh, of serving the interests of corporates like the Union Carbide. They also pointed out that sections of the judiciary were also affected by this approach. The speakers drew attention to the fact that this attitude and callousness were more so since the victims were mostly poor. A tragedy that could have been averted if only adequate safety measures had been put in place, was allowed to happen because of the criminal negligence of the multinational giant and the complicity of the local administration.

The complicity of the governments of that time, both at the centre and in Madhya Pradesh, in trying to shield the guilty responsible for this horrendous crime and facilitating the escape of Warren Anderson, the CEO of the Union Carbide, drew universal condemnation. The speakers also emphasised that the introduction of the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill in Rajya Sabha reveals that there has been no change in the outlook and perception of the Congress-led central government.

Participants from Bhopal drew attention to the inadequate amount of compensation and said that this was the cheapest settlement in any major industrial disaster in the world. Even today, a large number of gas-affected people continue to die. Disabilities have incapacitated many and rendered them unemployable. Visits to hospitals for treatment of the after-effects of the gas leak have become a routine for many of the survivors. People continue to drink contaminated water.

A five-member delegation comprising, among others, Sammelini joint secretaries Sailen Chaudhury and Prabir Saha submitted a memorandum addressed to the American ambassador through the consular general’s office in Kolkata. It demanded, among other things, the immediate repatriation of Warren Anderson to face trial in India, payment of adequate compensation for the victims, lifelong support to the affected, and immediate and safe removal of the toxic waste from the UCC premises at Bhopal.

The programme concluded with the burning of an effigy of Warren Anderson amidst slogans demanding the bringing of the culprits to book and justice to the victims.

(Muralidharan in Delhi with inputs from Bibek Bardhan in Kolkata.)

Left Front is a United Front of the Highest Order

By B Prasant

ADDRESSING the Comrade Promode Dasgupta memorial lecture, titled ‘Communist Party and the Politics of United Front,’ in Kolkata in the evening of July 13, CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat called for the defence of the Left Front for it was the product of the struggles and movements of the mass of the people.

Looking back at the evolution of the Communist Party’s united front tactics, Karat noted that initially the united front was meant for uniting the workers. The third and the fourth congresses of the Communist International (CI) had stressed the necessity for united fronts to unite the working class. Later in the seventh congress of the CI in 1935, Dimitrov’s thesis on the united front called for an anti-fascist people’s front and a national united front against imperialism in the colonies. It is this understanding which helped the fledgling Communist Party in India to shed a sectarian approach regarding the national movement led by the Indian National Congress.

The Chinese Communist Party’s approach to united front and the experience of setting up of a national united front against Japanese imperialism also helped the Communist party in India to have a correct approach to united front. Mao Zedong had underlined that the united front is based on classes. EMS Namboodiripad had noted that there was an oversimplified understanding before and after the 1952 general elections that the united front meant uniting all the non-Congress parties to defeat the Congress to set-up a non-Congress government. The united front has to be set up on a class basis.

The Party Programme outlines the composition of the People’s Democratic Front. Towards this end, the Communist Party might well have to participate in a stream of different fronts, some of which may only have transient political significance.

Noting the two stages of the process of setting up of a united front, the speaker mentioned that there would first be a consolidation of the masses into a class-based front leading them into the fields of struggles and movements. The recent mobilisation of workers by five major national trade unions in a joint movement on their demands is a step in the right direction. The second stage would comprise the development of this united struggle into a political platform with due importance paid to the democratic role of the working people.

The success of the recent hartals against price rise across the country should be followed up by wider struggles and movements to strengthen the unity among the left and democratic parties. There is at present no third alternative against the Congress and the BJP built up. To build up a successful united front, the Communist Party must play an independent role and gain strength. Only then can the united front be widened.

The West Bengal Left Front was not merely an electoral alliance. It was born in the fields of struggles and movements over a period of time. The LF came into being through the food movement, the teachers’ movement, the movement against hike in tram carriage fare, and above all through a wide and deep kisan struggle.

Calling the Left Front an advanced formation of united front in the country, drawing attention also to the LF’s in operation in Tripura and Kerala, Prakash Karat noted the manner in which, withstanding unyielding assaults, the LF in Bengal was able to forge the worker-peasant unity. In the recent period, there have been strains on this alliance and sections of the peasantry alienated. Steps should be taken to strengthen the alliance. As in the nineteen seventies, the attack is coming from the Left-adventurist forces along with the right. The Communist Party and the LF must draw the correct lessons from history and forge ahead, with the CPI (M) as the biggest constituent of the LF playing a crucially important political role, he concluded.

Biman Basu, Bengal unit secretary of the CPI (M) and Bengal LF chairman illumined the life and times of the late Comrade Promode Dasgupta. Present at the meeting were the top leadership including Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Nirupam Sen, and Benoy Konar. Ashok Ghosh, veteran leader of the Forward Bloc was present along with the top leadership of other constituents of the LF. Prakash Karat also released a booklet brought out by the Kolkata district committee of the CPI (M), titled Promode Dasgupta: A Centennial Tribute.

Desperate ‘Maoists’ Killing Spree Continues

By B Prasant

AS the people’s resistance grows in the western districts of Bengal, the ‘Maoists’ have started to go in for generalised armed attack on the rural population. They have also migrated to the northern hinterland of metropolitan zone in splinter groups of hardened, professional killers-- especially in the Nadia-Murshidabad areas in what can be called ‘central’ Bengal.

The points of resistance have been the Midnapore west Sadar block as well as Salboni, and Goaltore where we found how the ‘Maoists’ were conspicuous by their absence. The taking into custody, albeit belatedly, of some of the killers by the central forces, too has helped. Yet, the attacks on the innocents continue. So do the kidnappings and ransom-demands.

In the face of the armed assaults, people have come out in streams of thousands upon thousands in the jangal mahal over the past week, and it was a heart-warming sight for us to be witness to the resoluteness of the marchers in zones and localities where the Trinamuli-backed ‘left’ ultras had held sway even a couple of months back.

Slogans rose ragingly as the serpentine line of kisans and khet mazdoors traversed across the muddy rice paddies, strode across the sal and mahua forestry, and occasionally walked along the metalled roads where the traffic willingly and perhaps with a sigh of relief gave way to the fluttering Red Flag. This was normalcy. This was welcomed.

The talk about ‘restoration’ of democracy in Bengal is out of line with reality. What has happened has been that democracy, nurtured carefully by the Communist Party and the Left parties, has been subjected to ruthless and continuous assaults and the corporate media has egged the attackers on.

In Jhargram, the Bengal CPI(M) mourns the loss of lives at the hands of the Trinamuli-‘Maoist’ combination of two CPI(M) workers, Comrades Ganesh Murmu and Srimanta Tudu in Midnapore west and also of the SFI worker Comrade Phulchand Mahato. The Bengal CPI(M) grieves for the killing of two poor khet mazdoors who were CPI (M) workers in Naoda in Murshidabad, Comrades Saidul Sheikh and Mohar Ali Sheikh. It is worrying that no trace could yet be found of the kidnapped CPI(M) worker and a para-teacher of Jhargram rural belt, Ajit Giri.

Left Front Wins Durgapur MLA Bye Election

THE following is a UNI report on the election results of the Durgapur assembly seat: "The Left bastion remained undestroyed in the Durgapur - 1 Assembly seat with CPI(M)'s Archana Bhattacharjee winning the Bye Election with 53,513 votes on July 08, 2010. Trinamool-backed Congress nominee Banshibadan Karmakar received 44,696 votes while BJP's Koushik Roychoudhary bagged 4,243 votes. RJD's Sunil Yadav got 1,735 votes.

Of the total 1,39,262 voters, 1,04,187 votes were cast. Wearing a winner's smile, Ms Bhattacharjee said, "The victory is not mine alone, it's my party's victory."

According to the detailed report on the results of the Durgapur-1 Bye-elction - 2010, the Left Front candidate of CPI(M) Party scored 51.36 per cent of votes while the Trinamool-backed Congress candidate got 42.90 per cent of votes. Two others were independent candidates.