August 29, 2010

China to fund gallery at Rabindra Bharati University

PTI, Aug 29, 2010

KOLKATA: China will fund a gallery at the Rabindra Bharati University campus here to highlight Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore's relations with that country, Chinese Consul-General Mao Sewei has said.

The gallery, to be named 'Rabindranath and China, will cost Rs 53.6 lakh to be provided by the Chinese government, said Mao, who signed an agreement on the project with RBU vice-chancellor Karuna Sindhu Das here on Friday.

Covering 180 sq mts, the gallery will have motifs on themes like Chinese Civilization, Lord Buddha: the Great Liaison between India and China, Tagore's inquisitiveness and respect for China, his visit to China in 1924, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan and Studies of Chinese Literature and Culture.

Mao said the Gallery will be inaugurated on Tagore's 150 birth anniversary in May next year.

Stating that Tagore was very popular in China and his complete works were published in 24 volumes in Chinese last year, Mao said, "As far as I know, Chinese is the language which has done the most for Tagore's publications, second only to Indian languages and English.''

In May this year, President Pratibha Patil had unveiled a bust of Tagore on a busy road in Shanghai to mark his visit to the city 86 years ago.

Woman Maoist leader arrested in Kolkata

IANS, Aug 29, 2010, 06.29pm IST

KOLKATA: A hardcore woman Maoist leader from Bihar, Chameli Devi, was arrested from this West Bengal capital on Sunday, police said.

Acting on intelligence inputs, policemen from Bihar's Munger district, teamed up with Special Task Force (STF) personnel of the Kolkata Police and raided a slum in the northern part of the city.

"Chameli was involved in eight cases, including the explosion in the sub-divisional office at Abeli in Kharagpur of West Midnapore district," an STF official said.

A resident of Vikhadi village in Bihar, Chameli was active not only in her home district but also in Jhajha and Jamui of Jamui district, the official said.

She was later brought before the chief metropolitan magistrate's court who gave her transit remand for three days to be taken to Bihar.

Maoist arms suppliers held in Bankura

BANKURA, 29th August: Two arms suppliers who allegedly catered to the Maoists were arrested early Sunday from West Bengal's Bankura district, police said.

Biswanath Mondal and Sheikh Amjad were arrested from Bankura district's Chatna area.

'We have arrested two arms suppliers from Chatna area early Sunday,' Bankura Superintendent of Police Pranab Kumar told IANS over phone.
Fifteen gelatin sticks and 20 detonators were recovered from them, he said.

Maoists are active in three western districts of the state - Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore.

Backward Muslims in Bengal to get OBC certificates soon

PTI / Sunday, August 29, 2010: Nearly 1.4 crore backward Muslims in West Bengal would be issued OBC certificates under the reservation policy for poor people of the community after the state cabinet approves the decision on September 22.

The policy decision has been taken and it awaits approval of the cabinet on September 22, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said while inaugurating a Haj House-cum-Empowerment Centre at Kaikhali near Kolkata airport.

"If SC and ST population can come under reservation, why not the minorities like Muslims?" he said adding that the state government was encouraged by recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission in this regard.

The Rs 10-crore Haj House is the second of its kind in the state after the one situated near Park Circus in the city, which made West Bengal the only state to have two Haj Houses for the benefit of Haj pilgrims, he said.

Bhattacharjee said there was need for such a facility to cater to the growing number of Haj pilgrims in the state. While 1,410 pilgrims went to Haj in 1985, the number rose to 10,272 in 2010.

Built by the state government's PWD department, the G-plus-seven-storeyed building can accommodate pilgrims for three months during the pilgrimage to Mecca.

During the remaining nine months, minority beneficiaries would be given vocational training there by the Aliah University, he said.

Bhattacharjee said "minorities were not living in anybody's mercy" and the government had given approval for starting 12 English medium madrasas in the state.
In addition to 600 madrasas in the state, steps have been taken to prepare a list of 300 more of the institutions to impart education not only in religion, but also in subjects like science, mathematics and computers to make the minority community students more competitive.

Minister of state for minorities development and madrasa education Abdus Sattar said unemployed Muslims would be imparted vocational training in 37 trades in the Haj building for nine months by the Aliah University.

West Bengal: Woman Maoist commander surrenders

Press Trust of India,

Updated: August 28, 2010 00:50 IST

Kolkata: A woman self-styled Maoist commander has surrendered before the police in West Bengal's West Midnapore district alleging sexual exploitation by ultra leaders.

Shobha Mandi alias Sikha is the second Naxal to surrender after the West Bengal government announced a rehabilitation package for them.

"Shobha, who has five cases against her, has been keeping in touch with us for the last eight days and we succeeded in convincing her to surrender," West Midnapore Superintendent of Police, Manoj Kumar Verma said after the woman Maoist leader turned up at the Midnapore Police Lines.

"We will refer her cases to the review committee and they will decide finally," Verma said.

Mandi, the daughter of Jamadar Mandi, a resident of Koyerpahari under Sarenga Police Station in Bankura district left home in 2003 after Maoist leaders Sasadhar, Akash, Bikash, Madan and Suchitra met her family and convinced them that she would have a better life with them.

"We were very poor and they convinced us that I would have a better life. So I left home and joined a Maoist camp. But the experience turned out to be horrible," Mandi said.

"They tortured me mentally and physically in the forest and I was forced to sleep with Bikash and Kamal and others too," Mandi claimed.

Asked whether she had complained about the exploitation to top Maoist leader Kishenji, she replied, "Kishenji is too big a leader. We don't have permission to speak to him. I have seen him of course, but never spoke to him."

She claimed that the top Maoist leadership knew about the sexual exploitation of women cadre, but did not take any steps.

"I left camp on April 25 in frustration. When I came to know about the rehabilitation package I contacted the police and they promised me security. So I surrendered," she said.

She handed over a bag containing Rs. 55,000 rupees to the police which she said was given to her by the Maoist-backed People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA).

Asked about the connection between the PCPA and the Maoists, she replied, "The Maoists and the PCPA are the same. The PCPA doesn't do anything without the consent of the Maoists."

Verma said that in the next 36 months she would stay at a transit camp after which she would be provided security by the police so that she was not disturbed by the Maoists or the PCPA.

Jhargram Superintendent of Police Praveen Tripathi was also present on the occasion. The Maoists, however, alleged that Mandi was arrested on April 25.

On Thursday, a Maoist squad member Shobhon Karak surrendered with arms. He was the first Maoist to surrender after the announcement of the rehabilitation package by the state government.

Meanwhile, two suspected Maoists were arrested and some explosives seized during anti-Naxal operations at Barigara in Khunti district of Jharkhand.

The securitymen comprising the CRPF and district police arrested Satya Deo Thakur and Ravi Munda, both facing charges of blowing up a mobile tower, Additional SP Vijay Kumar told newsmen in Khunti.
The arrested duo led the security forces to a hideout at Lungburu hills where a landmine, ten empty cans, a binocular and equipment for making explosives were found, Kumar added.

Jnaneshwari sabotage accused killed

Hindustan Times, Jhargram, August 27, 2010

The West Bengal Police have killed one of the Jnaneshwari Express sabotage accused, Umakanta Mahato, on Friday in a night operation in a forest near Jhargram in West Midnapore district.

Mahato, one of the three people accused of causing the train accident on June 28 this year, killing 148 people, carried an award of Rs 1 lakh.

“Locals have identified the body as that of Umakanta Mahato,” said Praveen Tripathy, Jhargram police chief. He said Mahato’s body was sent for post mortem by afternoon.

Of the other two Jnaneshwari sabotage accused, Bapi Mahato was arrested on June 20 from Jamshedpur, while Asit Mahato still remains at large. All three are reportedly leaders of the Maoist-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA).

On Thursday, the police got a tip-off that Mahato, Maoist leader Jayanta and some other rebels were hiding in the forest. The Maoists, according to their standard operating procedure, dispatched two scouts, Abani and Sanjib, to find out about the force’s movement. But since the two were apprehended, the Maoists did not get any information.

The police said there were 10 to 12 Maoist rebels at the spot when the four-hour gun battle began about 1.30 in the night. After the battle was over, the police found a trail of blood and several sandals, which led them to believe that the Maoists had taken away the injured, leaving behind the body of the PCAPA leader.

Since May 2010, this is the third successful night operation by the security forces.

The police recovered a revolver – probably snatched from security personnel – a cell phone, some cartridges and a motorcycle from the spot. The police also detained 10 people from the area. Some of them may be formally arrested later. The motorcycle belonged to a headman of a nearby village, Soumen Bhakat, who was recently killed by the rebels.

First Maoist surrender in West Bengal

MIDNAPORE, 26th August, 2010: Nearly a month after the announcement of a rehabilitation package for Maoist rebels who give up arms, the West Bengal government met with its first success when a Leftwing rebel surrendered in West Midnapore district Thursday.

Shobhan Karak alias Bijoy was the first rebel to lay down arms by responding to the rehabilitation package of the government.

Bijoy, a squad member that used to operate in Goaltore area of the district, surrendered with arms before the police at the district police line, said West Midnapore Police Superintendent Manoj Verma. Verma, who was present when Bijoy surrendered, said he was also an active member of a militant wing of the pro-Maoist body Peoples' Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA). Bijoy has been booked in at least 13 cases.

'We will make a fixed deposit of Rs.1.5 lakh in his name for three years and refer the case to the rehabilitation committee,' Verma said. Once the rehabilitation committee clears the case, the Maoist would get a monthly remuneration of Rs.2,000 for three years and vocational training of his choice, he said.

He also said many more Maoists were expected to surrender in the next few days.

Interestingly, West Midnapore police had earlier announced that a woman squad member Sobha Mandi has expressed her wish to give herself up to the authorities and would do so Thursday. But police officials now claim she will surrender after discussing the matter with her family members.

Meanwhile, the state government is yet to set up a barrack to rehabilitate the surrendered Maoists cadres, where they will also undergo vocational training during the rehabilitation period of three years.

A senior state home official said: 'The district magistrate of West Midnapore has been asked to identify a location to set up the rehabilitation centre after a meeting Wednesday between the home secretary and other home department officials.'

West Bengal's Left Front to petition PM on price rise

KOLKATA: West Bengal's ruling Left Front Tuesday accused the opposition of inducting false names in the voters' list and said it will submit a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regarding the price rise of essentials and other vexed issues.

'False names are being inducted into the voters' list. People are being brought to the (election commission) offices in trucks and lorries. This is a peculiar trend we are noticing this time. But I will give details regarding this issue very soon,' Left Front chairman Biman Bose told reporters.

The Election Commission is currently inducting names in the voter rolls ahead of next year's state assembly elections.

Left Front leader and state minister Kshiti Goswami said a memorandum will be submitted to the prime minister covering a gamut of issues including price rise of essentials and the drought situation.

Bose also blamed Trinamool Congress, without naming them, of having undercover deals with the perpetrators of the Gyaneshwari Express tragedy.

'Some people are having undercover links with those who are the prime suspects in the tragedy,' Bose said.

The Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwari Express derailed after suspected sabotage by Maoists and was then hit by a freight train near Jhargram in West Midnapore district May 28, resulting in 148 deaths.

Bengal madrasah with more Hindu students draws eyes, President’s award for teacher

By Shiv Sahay Singh

Indian Express, Posted online: Thu Aug 26 2010, 01:56 hrs

Kolkata:  A teacher in West Bengal who has enrolled more Hindu students than Muslims in his madrasa is to receive the national award from President Pratibha Patil this Teachers’ Day.

Anwar Hossain, the headmaster of Orgram Chatuspalli High Madrasah in Burdwan district, will be among the 12 teachers from the state who will receive the award at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.

Back in 1977, when Hossain joined the madrasa, it had just 34 students. Slowly the number increased and the institute drew more Hindu students. Today, it has about 64 per cent Hindu students.
“The award, I hope, will do away with the false notion about madrasas in our country,” Hossain told The Indian Express. “Madrasas are centres of learning where all sorts of education — computer education and English education  is being provided along with religious education.”

Hossain (56), says the madrasa drew more students from other communities because the institution provided help to students who had no access to education and did not have any means to support their education.

“We went from village to village and spoke to parents who could not afford a single rupee to educate their children. We did not charge any fees and started giving free books.”

Even today, all books till class X are given free of cost. And the teachers of this madrasa move across villages to identify the children who are out of school or who have dropped out due to financial constraints, said Hossain, who plans to donate his prize money to the madrasa.

“When students get support for their education, they don’t mind studying two extra subjects Arabic and Islam Parichay along with other regular subjects,” he added.

When The Indian Express first reported about the madrasa on January 19, 2009, it had 883 students of whom 555 were Hindus. Now the madrasa has been upgraded to higher secondary level and has 1,078 students studying in science and humanities streams. Even now, the number of non-Muslim students has remained 64 per cent.

“The headmaster (of the madrasa) has a big role in the making of the institution,” said Dibyen Mukherjee, the Director of School Education, West Bengal.
Abdus Sattar, Minister for Minority Development and Welfare and Madrasah Education, said the selection of Hossain for the President’s award points to the efforts made by the state government to modernise madrasas. “We have been able to provide a system where all communities can get education together,” he said.

We regret not being able to do what we wanted to do, says Ratan Tata

By Indrani Dutta

Kolkata: West Bengal is very much a part of the Tata group's identity, said Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata on Monday, regretting that it could not do what it wanted to do in the State.

Mr. Tata was in the State on the occasion of the annual general meeting of the group company Tata Global Beverages (formerly Tata Tea). In response to a query whether the Tata group was planning to leave the city, he said: “We have not exited Calcutta. Our visits may be less. But we have a very warm feeling for this part of the country.”

The Cancer Centre which is coming up at New Town in Rajarhat in East Kolkata is likely to be dedicated to the people this year. “We hope it will save many lives,” he said.

He scotched rumours that investment in the State was being curtailed: “We have not changed our views in terms of investments. In fact we have increased our investment in the hospital and I hope that before the hospital comes up, those elements in Calcutta that may feel alien towards us will understand that we are still very much Indian and West Bengal is very much a part of our total corporate identity.”

Mr. Tata had a 45-minute session with West Bengal Governor M. K. Narayanan at Raj Bhavan. He also visited the Cancer Centre.

After the Tata Tea AGM in 2009 he had addressed a hurriedly convened joint press meet with State Industry Minister Nirupam Sen to reiterate that all other group investments were on track. The shareholders' fresh apprehension stems from the fact that the erstwhile Tata Tea has shifted its operational base to Bangalore. “We started in Calcutta, our head office remains in Calcutta.” he said.

Asked why the company was continuing with its listing at the Calcutta Stock Exchange, he said: “It is a respect for our roots. Our presence in the Calcutta Stock Exchange is a mark of respect to the place where we began. We do notice that there is little or no transaction but that listing we will keep.”
Since the announcement of relocation of the Nano project to Gujarat in 2008 following violent protests led by Trinamool Congress over land acquisition, the Tata Sons chief has had to reassure the State's people time and again about the group's abiding interest in West Bengal as an investment destination.

West Bengal govt announces pension for accredited journalists

KOLKATA: The West Bengal government on Sunday announced a post-retirement pension scheme for journalists and promised to implement a health insurance scheme for them soon.

"All accredited journalists will be given a monthly pension of Rs 2,000 after retirement. We are planning to raise this amount in the future," finance minister Asim Dasgupta said at an Independence Day function at the Press Club, Kolkata.

The minister said he had discussions with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee about a health insurance scheme for journalists and hoped he could announce a positive decision soon in this regard.

The state government has already decided to allow free travel to journalists in state-run public transport, including buses, trams and ferries.

Release Rs 1,400 cr for drought in West Bengal: CPI(M) to Centre

New Delhi:  The CPI(M) today urged the Centre to release Rs 1,400 crore to West Bengal to meet the situation arising out of severe drought in 11 districts, saying the amount was due on account of the employment guarantee scheme.

"We are not asking for charity, neither are we seeking aid from the PM's Relief Fund. We have urged the Centre to release Rs 1,400 crore which is due to the state government on account of the national rural employment guarantee scheme," CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury told reporters here.

His senior colleague Basudeb Acharia said he had met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and informed him that 11 districts of the state, which is the largest rice producer, have had deficient rainfall, ranging from 35 to 55 per cent. "Agricultural workers, who have worked under the scheme, are yet to get their wages for over 20 days as the funds have not been released by the Centre so far," he said.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this regard and also urged Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to send a central team to assess the drought situation, he said.

Asked whether the funds were not released as the state government had not submitted the utilisation certificates for the money sanctioned to it earlier, Acharia said these certificates have been "duly furnished. So there is no problem in releasing the funds. But why is the delay"?

To a question whether Trinamool Congress which was part of the UPA government was creating any obstacle in this process, Yechury said "After all, the government functions on the basis of collective functioning." "We hope that the Centre would release what is due to West Bengal," he said.

Polls in West Bengal on due date only: CEC

KOLKATA: Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi Friday said the assembly elections in West Bengal will be held at their due time only and not be advanced.

'There is no question of advancing assembly elections in West Bengal. Time for the polls is still away. And we have no reports to advance polls,' he said, adding that the assembly elections were due before June 11, 2011.

Participating in an interactive session organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Quraishi said: 'Nothing on the radar. We come into the picture only six months before the due date. Before that we have no locus standi at all.'

'Before Dec 11, 2010 we are not in the picture at all. We can only say that the assembly elections in the state will be held between Dec 11, 2010 and June 11, 2011,' he added.

Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has been insisting on early polls in the Left Front-ruled state citing 'breakdown' of law and order there and that the government has lost the moral right to continue in office.

Quraishi maintained that they are satisfied with the preparedness of the state government, but declined to answer to a question whether the polls will be held in phases.

'The preparation of electoral rolls is our first priority and when the appropriate time will come, we will decide if the polls will be conducted in phases or not.'

Asked about the unexpected number of fresh applications for voter identity cards submitted, he said: 'We will ensure error free voter list will be prepared.'

'The independent observers, who came twice to oversee the preparation process, verified the 56 lakh new applications submitted before the state election commission,' Quraishi said.
He said that the independent observers will again come to oversee the process and a survey will be conducted to erase the names of the voter, who have migrated to other places or died.

Quraishi also said that people without voter identity cards would no more require any affidavit to cast their votes this time. 'People without voter cards are requested to communicate with the booth level officers for getting voter cards,' he said.
The poll panel chief was later scheduled to hold a meeting with the district magistrates and other state officials to discuss the poll preparedness.

West Bengal urban poor get Rs.400 crore for house building

23rd August, 2010

KOLKATA: The West Bengal government has allocated Rs.400 crore this fiscal for building dwelling units or renovating the old ones for the urban poor, who did not benefit from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

A state government press release said Rs.1 lakh would be utilised for construction of each new house and Rs.60,000 for renovation of the existing ones.
'The beneficiaries are not required to pay a single farthing under this scheme. They may spend additional amount of money if possible, or may contribute to the scheme by way of manual labour,' the release said.

The government had allocated Rs.500 crore in the last financial year (2009-10) for the same purpose.

BENGALI SWEETS Gaining international flavor

Posted by Calcutta Tube

Bengal is known for its delectable sweets. Now it is going global in taste and marketing, keeping with the times, finds Baishali Mukherjee.

Bengali Sweets

Reshmi Singh, a doctor, was attending a marriage party of her colleague. It was an elaborate affair consisting of delicacies from all over India. Being a foodie she was enjoying every bit of her gastronomical experience. “But what came as a surprise was the dessert: traditional Bengali sweet Malpoa served with Brandy sauce! Though I knew about Bengali sweets gaining international flavour lately- but Brandy sauce! Simply out of the world,” she enthuses.

This kind of happy surprise is becoming common these days at opulent parties. With increasing overseas travel by Indians, food- along with many other things, are acquiring an international aura. Bengal sweet is not lagging behind.

Gulab Jamun - Bengali Sweet

From the archaic to the ultra modern, from the rich to the plebs- and from the veggies to the non-veg, sweets- typical Bengali sweets have successfully wooed them all. That includes celebrities, Bollywood stars to international sportspersons visiting Kolkata. Few can withstand the temptation of savouring a hot rosogolla or a Nalen Gurer sandesh (with a jaggary made from date palm). This item hits the menu during winter when this jaggery makes its appearance.

Rosogolla is believed to have been first made by Nabin Chandra Das, father of Krishna Chandra Das (The original owner of the famous sweet joint K C Das) in 1868, though some say that the rosogolla actually originated in Orissa and is as old as the Ratha Yatra in Puri. But sandesh was in vogue even before that. Though it is hard to determine exactly when the term ‘sandesh’ came to indicate a sweet made of chhana (sweetened cottage cheese) rather than kheer (thickened milk), it is reasonable to assume that the term became quite common by the later half of the 19th century.

Jilabi - Bengali Sweet

Sanjay Budhia, managing director, Patton Group, is a self confessed sweet lover. “I must confess I have a sweet tooth. In spite of restrictions – self imposed or otherwise, I take full advantage of the special occasions and gorge on sweets on special days like– Raksha Bandhan, Diwali etc. when you get an official license to indulge in.” Though he has tasted some of the new innovative sweets like the Black Current sandesh and liked it too, he confesses that “I prefer to stick to the traditional stuff when it comes to sweets.”
Indrani Mukherjee, a young entrepreneur who runs a boutique, loves sweet in any form. “I have tasted the strawberry and papaya flavored sandesh and loved it. But the mere mention of Bhim Nag’s (a famous sweetmeat shop in Bowbazar area) Abar Khabo sandesh or the Jawl Bhora sandesh of Surya Modak of Chandannagar, makes my mouth water. Still I feel that the experimentations are good, especially the recent innovation of low-calorie ‘Diabetic sandesh.” This sweet was born out of both necessity and demand by diabetic patients who love sweets but are forbidden to take them. With India arguably the Diabetes capital of the world, the reason is not difficult to find.

However, for the renowned writer Mani Shanker Mukherjee of Chowringhee fame, experimentation with Bengali sweets is a no-no. He believes that there are certain things in this world like the classical music, where there isn’t any scope for experimentation, Bengali sweets should stand firm against the tide of interference. He insists that nothing can substitute a rosogolla or a Nalen gurer sandesh. “Traditional Bengali Sweets”, Shankar says, “are so rich and satisfying in taste that they don’t need to be changed in any way.”

Nevertheless, Bengali sweet is now spreading its wings to woo the new generation with its many variations. Savour these mouth-watering items: Parijat (a mix of pista, nuts and kheer), Moushumi (sandesh stuffed with nuts and coconut), Golapi Pera (pure chhena rolled in rose water), Dilkhush (kheer, chhena and pista) and Sourabh (chhena with sugar globules and pista).

Rosogolla - Bengali Sweet

Maestro Satyajit Ray was a frequenter at Nokur, so now are his son Sandip Ray and Tollywood director Rituparno Ghosh, often billed as Ray’s protégé,. Singer Manna Dey has a sweet tooth; so do actors Vidya Balan, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai who try out the Bengali goodies when in Kolkata. “Bengali sweets are now travelling beyond Bengal. This recent gourmet trend is aimed at keeping sweets of Bengal contemporary and relevant to younger people,” says Prashanta Nundy of Nokur. Therefore, to tempt the new palate, the 165-year old Nokur is adding new flavours—orange, pineapple, mango lichi, black currant and kiwi—to its sandesh. Nokur already ‘exports’ its sweets to various parts of the country and abroad, from its base in North Kolkata.
What used to be a mere family-based industry is now looking beyond the horizon and talking of export markets and patents, terms unthinkable in the past. But their primary focus is to strengthen their footing to the other parts of India.

Globalization together with the new market reality has resulted in a change in the character of Bengali sweets which now come with a blend of nuts, pistachio, rose water and cardamom. The enterprising confectioners are honing the desi spread with some internationally preferred flavours like black current, kiwi and strawberry. So you have Alphanso Dahi from Balaram; Black currant sandesh/ Kiwi sandesh/ Strawberry Rabri from Nokur; Strawberry Rosogolla from Gupta’s; Tulsi Doi and Tulsi sandesh from Hindustan Sweets and Soya Roll, Rose-cream Peshwari, Orange Dahi from K.C. Das.


Says Rabindra Kumar Paul, general secretary of West Bengal Sweetmeat Makers’ Association and director of Hindustan Sweets: “ Though people of Asian origin are our primary customers, Americans and Europeans are increasingly taking interest in this delicacy. They are gradually getting aware that where a pastry is full empty calories, a sandesh or rosogulla have some nutritional value. However, compared to the Indian customers who often ask for the international flavours, the foreigners and the NRIs prefer the traditional flavours.”

K.C. Das, arguably the most popular brand of Bengali sweets (particularly for its canned rosogollas), is also gearing up to go global, albeit more aggressively as is clear from its retail spread—five shops in Kolkata, as many as nine in Bangalore and one shop in Mysore. What was a shanty shop at corner of Baghbazar in North Kolkata way back in 1866, is now Boasting of items like many innovative sweets.

Hemen Das, one of the proprietors of K.C. Das, is excited about their Bangalore outlet. “We are having 1.5 times more sale there than in Kolkata. Most of our customers there are non-Bengalis,” he says. The popularity of Bengali sweets among the non-Bengalis can also be made out from the fact that Haldiram’s which mainly cater to the non-Bengali customers are now coming up with sweets like rosogolla giving steep competition to the traditional outlets.
So, would the fusion sweets mark the end of the good ol’ mishti? A vehement no comes from Amor Bhattacharya, an NRI living in Dallas: “Traditional Bengali sweets are inimitable and have proved their worth. They are part of history now. Let them come up with items like Carrot rosogolla, Soya rosogolla, Tulsi rosogolla, but nothing can take the place of a plain hot Rosogolla”. But Atalanta Banerjee of Bangalore seems quite happy with the fusion sweets, “I just love to savour a Rosecream Peshwari. It melts in your mouth and the flavour is just awesome. I often visit the K.C. Das outlet on my way back from office.”

The next course? Sweet makers are now taking steps to integrate traditional and modern methods of production. K.C. Das is carrying on research at its southern unit in Bangalore to improve the flavour of its prime product, the rosogolla.

Aiding these efforts is Jadavpur University, where scientists are trying to evolve standardized procedures to be followed by the sweet makers. “Since health and fitness have become important now-a-days, Kalyani University, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology and IIT-Kharagpur are coming up with new ideas to help us develop new sweets that are healthy,” says Paul.

Ranging from traditional to international, Bengal’s repertoire of sweets is getting more and more colourful and exotic thus making its birth place the dessert capital of India.