August 31, 2010

Political compulsions behind clean chit to Mamata Banerjee: Brinda karat

PTI, New Delhi, August 30, 2010

CPI(M) attacked Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for giving a clean chit to Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee for her remarks on Maoist leader Azad’s death, saying the Congress leader was bound by political compulsions.

“Being a junior partner of Trinamool in West Bengal, he is trying to defend the indefensible. The Finance Minister is bound by political compulsions,” senior CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat told reporters outside Parliament.

In Kolkata on Sunday, Mr. Mukherjee had said that Ms. Banerjee advocating talks with the Maoists doesn’t mean she has links with them.

He had also said though the Railway Minister was part of the UPA, her party could have independent thinking on issues.

Commenting on the matter, CPI(M) polit bureau member Sitaram Yechury said, “the Prime Minister should explain why he is saying that Maoist violence is the biggest threat to the internal security of the country. He should say that whatever he has said is wrong and what Ms. Banerjee said is right.”

Include all Darjeeling parties in talks: Yechury

By Agencies, 30/08/2010

All political parties from the hills should be invited to the next round of tripartite talks on an interim council proposed to be set up in Darjeeling, CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram Yechury has said.

"So far, the Centre has invited only one party. Other parties too have a say in hill affairs," he said, in a reference to talks between the Centre and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which has put its demand for Gorkhaland on the backburner and settled for the interim hill council to replace the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

All political parties in Darjeeling should be invited to the seventh round of talks on September 7, he said while delivering the Ratanlal Brahmin Memorial Lecture at Darjeeling Gymkhana Club last evening.

The CPI(M) leader also said he would raise this demand in Parliament and take up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Earlier in the month, the West Bengal government had broadly agreed on the Centre's draft proposal to set up an interim council in Darjeeling.

But all political outfits that came to participate in the subsequent talks convened by the state government to find a solution to the Darjeeling problem rejected the Central government's proposal on the contours of the Gorkhaland Autonomous Authority that is supposed to replace the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).

Representatives of the Trinamool Congress and BJP who came to attend the meeting as part of the Democratic Front, however, did not join it after receiving instructions from their leadership. The outfits that did not attend the meeting included the GNLF and CPRM.

Mother Teresa film festival packs in 45,000

Posted By jessy On August 30, 2010 @ 4:14 pm In Indian News

The Mother Teresa film festival was a resounding success with over 45,000 people attending the four-day event organizers in Kolkata say.

It was an honor for the West Bengal state government and its film center to host the event, said Nilanjan Chatterjee.

Chatterjee, the head of the government film center, was speaking at the closing ceremony of the Third Mother Teresa International Film Festival on Aug. 30.

I was proud to be part of the festival that marked the birth centenary of Mother Teresa, he said.

Nandan, the film center, along with Calcutta Archdiocese co-organized the festival.

The event made history by giving the disabled an exclusive opportunity to watch films, Chatterjee said.

No other film festival has ever done this, he added.

The festival showcased 18 films about Blessed Teresa, with 64 screenings, for some 45,000 people, said festival director Sunil Lucas.

I am “amazed” at the response, all the shows were packed with people sitting in the aisles or standing at the back,” Lucas said.

Besides the two special screenings for 500 disabled people, there were also more than 7,000 residents from Missionaries of Charity care centers, he said.

The festival will now tour India over the next six months, and will be staged in 15 other countries, he added.

Gaurav Singh Ray, a business school student, said he “was able to see missioners’ selfless service through these films.”

The cooperation between Church and secular organizations in staging the event was very moving, said Canadian Jesuit filmmaker Father Pierre Belanger who presented his film The Making of a Saint.


CPI(M) urges Manmohan to clarify Centre’s position on Maoists

PTI, Kolkata, August 30, 2010

CPI(M) asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make a statement in Parliament regarding Centre’s position on Maoists after Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee backed Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s stand on Maoist leader Azad’s killing.

“Let the Prime Minister give a statement in Parliament and spell out clearly the correct position of the Centre regarding the Maoists,” CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose said, commenting on Mr. Mukherjee’s observation that he found “nothing wrong” in Ms. Banerjee’s statement.

At a rally in Lalagarh on August 9, Ms. Banerjee had said Azad’s killing on July 2 was “not correct” - a statement for which she faced drew flak from the opposition parties.

The senior Congress leader also said there was no reason to suspect that the Railway Minister’s party had links with Maoists.

“If she thinks that the Maoist problem can be negotiated through dialogue and invites the Maoists for talks then that doesn’t mean that she has links with the Maoists. She has got every right to make an independent statement” Mr. Mukherjee had stated at a book release programme at Kolkata Press Club.

Refuting Ms. Banerjee’s charge that the CPI(M) had set up armed camps in the Maoist-dominated areas of West Bengal, Mr. Bose said, “We do not have any such camps alleged by the Opposition. But we do have some camps for the people there who were rendered homeless by the terror unleashed by the Trinamool-Maoist combination.”

GJM withdraws indefinite strike in Darjeeling

PTI, Aug 30, 2010, 02.55pm IST

DARJEELING: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has withdrawn the indefinite strike called in Darjeeling hills from Monday in view of the tripartite talks with the Centre and West Bengal government on September 7.

The decision was announced by GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri after a meeting with the Darjeeling District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police Devendra Pratap Singh.

The indefinite strike had been called to demand production of Nicole Tamang, the main suspect behind the May 21 killing of Gorkha leader Madan Tamang in the town, in court by Monday.

To press for the demand, Giri said batches of seven GJM supporters would fast in Kalimpomg, Kurseong and Darjeeling from September 1 to 17.

A GJM 'investigation team' has also been formed, he said, adding it would leave for Assam and Nepal in search of Nicole.

He also announced that henceforth government and Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council offices in the hills would be allowed to function unhindered.

Top economist favourite for Presi VC post

Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey, TNN, Aug 27, 2010, 01.19am IST

KOLKATA: Jayati Ghosh, one of the world's leading women economists, could be the first vice-chancellor of Presidency University. She is said to be the forerunner among three names doing the rounds for the prestigious post.

The 55-year-old Ghosh is now the chairperson of the centre for Economic Studies and Planning at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her credentials as a researcher and scholar are so strong that if she does get the chair, her supposed closeness to the ruling CPM would not raise eyebrows.

Ever since the Presidency University Bill was passed, all talk has centred around who would be the first vice-chancellor, especially because of the international significance of the institution. The search committee that has been set up by the state higher education department to suggest three names to be placed before the chancellor ( governor M K Narayanan) came in for some criticism because the members are known to be close to Alimuddin Street. It was speculated that they would choose a candidate who would look up to the CPM for directions.

The three members of the search committee are eminent economist Amiya Bagchi, vice-chancellor of Jadavpur University P N Ghosh and former director of ISI Shankar Pal. A large number of former Presidency students, faculty members and students have been crusading against the appointment of a V-C who would be close to the CPM.

Jayati Ghosh's name is seen as the most acceptable one. She was educated at Delhi University, JNU and the University of Cambridge. Her specialties include globalisation, international finance, employment patterns in developing countries, macroeconomic policy and issues related to gender and development.

Ghosh has held positions at Tufts University and Cambridge University and in academic institutions throughout India. She is one of the founders of the Economic Research Foundation, New Delhi, a non-profit trust devoted to progressive economic research. She is also executive secretary of the International Development Economics Associates (IDEAS), a network of economists critical of the mainstream economic paradigm of neo-liberalism.

She was the principal author of the West Bengal Human Development Report, which has received the UNDP Prize for excellence in analysis. She regularly writes for the country's leading financial newspapers and magazines and also in Ganashakti, the CPM's mouthpiece. Her husband Abhijit Sen, also an economist is a member of the Planning Commission. It is little known, but she is very well educated in Western Classical music and occasionally lectures on the genius of Mozart.

All the three members of the search committee were tightlipped about it. State higher education minister Sudarshan Roy Chowdhury said: "This is not a question you should be asking me or I should be discussing publicly at this stage. There is a process involved. The search committee is working to a deadline."

1 in 10 Sunderbans tigers man-eater

Subhro Niyogi, TNN, Aug 25, 2010, 01.18am IST

KOLKATA: Bangladeshi tiger researcher Monirul H Khan believes the hostile terrain of the Sunderbans is breeding man-eaters and fears the ratio may increase as it becomes a part of the Royal Bengal's genes.

"One in every 10 tigers that inhabit the Sunderbans is a man-eater. That is the estimation on the Bangladeshi side where 50 people are mauled and eaten by tigers every year. As people fall prey and young cubs, too, feed on human carcass, more tigers will become man-eaters in the future. The only way out is to stop entry of villagers into tiger territory in the core of the forest," Khan said.

The official figure of deaths is much lower as the government only takes into account casualties against the number of entry passes.

While the forest department in Bangladesh claims there are around 400 tigers in the eastern section of the Sunderbans covering 5,770 sq km, Khan says the real figure is half as much. If one goes by his count, based on camera-trapping, relative density and pray density rather than pug marks), there are at least 20 man-eaters in the Bangladeshi section of the Sunderbans.

In the western part that lies in West Bengal, the number of man-eaters would be similar since as many people die each year when villagers enter the forest to collect honey and cut wood. "The man-tiger conflict happens only when people enter the core area. The tiger kills to protect its territory. Unlike in other forests where only tigers that are incapacitated by age or injury turn to prey on man, in the mangrove forests, even healthy tigers turn man-eaters," he said.

Unlike the Sunderbans in West Bengal, across the border tigers get killed by men when they stray into human habitation.

"Every year, around two-three tigers die when they stray into villages. There is no system of tranquilizing and capturing tigers for release in the wilderness unlike the practice here," Khan said, adding that awareness on tiger conservation was low and forest department resources poor.

Khan has through research devised a means to discourage tiger straying by forming vigil teams comprising 15 men and five dogs that receive intensive training to ward off tigers.

In the city to attend a symposium organized by Bengal Tiger Bachaao on man-tiger conflict, Khan felt forest officials on both sides could liaison better to exchange learning and ideas.

"There is a need for greater cooperation to stop poachers and smugglers because they tend to slink away to the other side after the crime. If foresters on both sides act in unison, poaching can be curbed to a great extent," Khan reasoned.

Comprehensive Social Security Scheme for Transport Workers

KOLKATA: AFTER “beedi” and construction workers, the Left Front government of West Bengal has recently launched a comprehensive social security scheme for the workers of transport sector, which is the first of its kind and unique in India. This scheme will cover at least 14 lakh workers of bus, mini bus, taxi, auto rickshaws, truck, mini truck, waterways and other categories of mass transport.

Although the UPA government had taken the step to form the National Commission of Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) with Arjun Sengupta as its chairman, back in September 2004, nothing concrete has been done so far by the union government for the social security of workers of unorganised sector.

In contrast, at the initiative of the Left Front government of West Bengal, for the first time in the country, a provident fund scheme for the unorganised sector was introduced in the state in the year 2000-01. The number of workers enrolled under this scheme till date is 17 lakh, which is expected to reach the mark of 25 lakh by the end of this financial year. Moreover, around 85,000 beneficiaries have been registered upto October 2009, under the Building and other Construction Workers’ Welfare programme.
Under the Revised Integrated Housing Scheme for Beedi Workers, (2005) taken up by the ministry of labour and employment, government of India, an amount of Rs 40,000 is given as subsidy to the individual beedi worker of this state for construction of dwelling houses. In response to that, the state government also pays an amount of Rs 10,000 per tenement as uniform subsidy and another Rs 2500 per tenement for electrification of their houses. A state 'Assisted Health Scheme' has also been introduced to the unorganised sector workers of the state registered under the Provident Fund scheme but not covered by the social security scheme for Beedi Workers, transport workers and construction workers.

Under the scheme for transport sector workers, launched recently, each worker will get a pension on monthly basis after retirement from 60 years of age till his death. But in case of disability of permanent nature caused by an accident, the worker will be entitled to get the pension since the occurrence of the accident. Apart from this, in case of accidental death, the family of the worker will receive a sum of Rs 1 lakh as financial assistance under the scheme.

Among other facilities and support provided by this scheme include :
Rs 50,000 for permanent disability

Rs 25,000 for partial disability

Rs 10,000 for treatment of diseases like tuberculosis, cancer, leprosy, cardiac problems, renal disorders, AIDS, thalassemia etc.

Rs 30,000 for surgical purpose

3,000 as maternity assistance (maximum two times)

Educational assistance for children includes Rs 2,000 for Higher Secondary level, Rs 3,000 for graduation level, Rs 5,000 for post graduate level and Rs 10,000 for studies either engineering or medical

Rs 5,000 as assistance for marriage of their daughters

Rs 30,000 as a financial assistance for normal death of the worker

So far as the magnitude of poverty and dimension of the vulnerability of the workers of unorganised sectors are concerned, the scenario is more or less the same across India as a whole. But the approach adopted by the Left Front government of Bengal to resolve the crisis may definitely be considered as forward moving step towards making a difference to the lives of workers in the unorganised sector.

Bangla to fulfil Basu wish- Barudi house to be turned into library and museum


The Telegraph: Thursday , August 19 , 2010

Dhaka, Aug. 18: The two-storey house on the Meghna’s banks where Jyoti Basu spent a part of his childhood and kept returning to in later life will be turned into a library and a museum in keeping with his wishes.

The plan, an initiative of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, is now awaiting the approval of Basu’s family in Calcutta, whom the Bangladesh deputy high commissioner has been asked to contact.

“This is an excellent proposal,” the late communist leader’s son Chandan Basu said in Calcutta. “I had visited my ancestral home near Dhaka along with my father when Gen. H.M. Ershad was the (Bangladesh) President. I shall be delighted if the Bangladesh government goes ahead with its plans.”

Basu’s family lived in the house, set on 2.04 acres in Chowdhury Para in Barudi village, about 20km from Dhaka, till the early 1940s before moving to Calcutta. Basu was born and educated largely in Calcutta but seems to have been deeply attached to his ancestral home with its pond and leafy premises.

Local journalists said the veteran communist had visited the house during his last trip to Bangladesh in 1999 and expressed a desire to have it converted into a library.

Basu had spent some time at the house during his January 1987 and November 1997 visits too, and regularly asked about its condition till his death in January this year.

Soon after it came to power, the Awami League-led coalition government had decided to turn the house into a museum. The plan was to have Basu inaugurate it after its completion, but that was not to be.

The government’s move is expected to attract tourists and help the economy of Barudi village, where hundreds of Hindus and Muslims had gathered after Basu’s death to pray for the soul of a “great man of the subcontinent” who would speak to them “like a commoner”.

No blood relatives of Basu now live in Barudi, and caretaker Shahidullah, 75, and his family are the only current occupants of the house. Shahidullah’s mother Ayatunnessa once looked after Basu, the youngest of three siblings after Surendra Kumar Basu and Sudha Datta Basu.

Basu had charmed Barudi during his trips when he was Bengal chief minister.

“He spoke to ordinary villagers like us and asked about our welfare as though we were very close to him,” Mohammad Rafiq, a 60-year-old farmer, had said after his death. “He behaved as if he was a commoner like us; that’s how sincere he was.”

The house has two bedrooms and a drawing room on the top floor and two rooms and a meeting space on the ground floor. It has been taken over by the cultural affairs ministry and put under the care of the archaeology department.