September 9, 2010

Maoists open fire at CPI (M) worker

KOLKATA, 5th Sept., 2010: Even as Maoists shot at another person, who is  a worker of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), near Lalgarh in West Bengal's Paschim Medinipur district, Manoj Mahato, the secretary of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee was remanded to 14 days in judicial custody on Sunday.

“Bidyut Pandey was shot at by a group of four persons, suspected to be Maoists, near his home at his village, Bhairabkundu, near Lalgarh,” Superintendent of Police Manoj Verma told media.

Manoj Mahato was produced in the court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, which remanded him to judicial custody.

There were reports that Bidyut Pandey was a relative of Anuj Pandey, a local leader of the CPI (M). Only late last week did Anuj Pandey lead a rally of party supporters and workers returning to their homes which they had left under the Maoist onslaught.

Mahanayak Uttam Kumar museum, gallery in Tollygunge

TNN, Sep 4, 2010, 01.05am IST

KOLKATA: More than 50% of his celluloid films are lost forever, but it is only now 30 years after his death that the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government has decided to set up an archive on Uttam Kumar. There are also plans to set up a permanent gallery on the matinee idol.

On Thursday, minister of state for information and cultural affairs Soumendranath Bera, said that a decision has been taken to set up an exclusive vault to archive films, photographs and writings on Uttam Kumar at the Chalachchitra Shatabarshiki Bhawan in Tollygunge.

According to Partha Raha, curator of the Bhawan, still photographs on the matinee idol have been procured since 1948, many posters of his films as well as a number of booklets containing articles on Uttam Kumar and his films have also been collected. These have discussions, reviews and analyses of his films.

"At the moment, we have procured 13 celluloid prints of Uttam Kumar's films. In addition, we also have two films from the Satyajit Ray archive Nayak and Chiriakhana in which Uttam Kumar played the lead role," Raha said.

One of the four vaults at Chalachitra Shatabarshiki Bhawan, dedicated to Uttam Kumar, is also being named after the actor.

There are also plans to create a permanent photo gallery on the actor at the Bhawan. "This should be ready by December," Raha said. According to the minister, film scholars keen on research on Uttam Kumar will also benefit hugely from this archiving being taken up by the government.

According to film scholar Sanjay Mukhopadhyay, most of Uttam Kumar's celluloid prints are either damaged beyond repair or completely lost. "A proper film archive means a celluloid archive, and the technical expertise required for restoration of damaged celluloid prints is hardly available in our country. It remains to be seen how the state government goes about preparing the archive," Mukhopadhyay said.

Police arrested Maoist-outfit PSBJC leader Manoj Mahato

Kolkata, 4th Sept. 2010: Paschim Medinipur district police arrested the general secretary of the Maoist-backed so-called Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC), Manoj Mahato.

Addressing journalists at the district police headquarters at Midnapore town on Saturday, Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Verma said that Mr. Mahato and another suspected Maoist, Naba Kumar Mahato, were arrested following a day-long combing operation in the Goaltore-Lalgarh-Kotwali region launched on Friday morning.

“The arrest of Manoj Mahato is a big success for us. His name is mentioned in seven first information reports and we have information that he was involved in 15 other cases of sedition, murder and violation of prohibitory order under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC). He will be produced in court on Sunday,” Mr. Verma said.

A 9 mm pistol and six rounds of cartridges were also reportedly recovered from him.

Naba Kumar Mahato was allegedly involved in two murder cases committed in 2006 and 2009, according to Mr. Verma.

“We had been saying from the very beginning that the PSBJC is in no way different from the Maoists and the arrest of Manoj Mahato justifies our stand.

“We hope that other absconding senior PSBJC leaders and Maoist squad members operating in the region will be caught soon,” he said.

Manoj Mahato, the nephew of arrested PSBJC convener Chhatradhar Mahato, was recently made the secretary of the outfit, after the encounter death of the former secretary, Sidhu Soren, in Goaltore on July 26.

Potato prices may dip as Bengal plans stock cut

By Sutanuka Ghosal & Madhvi Sally, ET Bureau

3rd Sept, 2010, 12.24AM IST

KOLKATA & CHANDIGARH: Potato prices may drop as the West Bengal government is all set to offload 1 million tonne (mt) in the market by next week to rapidly cut excess stocks. Output in India’s second largest potato growing state doubled this year to touch almost 10 mt. But branded snack companies such as ITC and Pepsi will see no dip in raw material costs as the prices of the specialised varieties they buy remain steady.

Talking to ET, Mr Mortaza Hossain, West Bengal’s minister of agricultural marketing, said: “We have decided to offload the potato that we had asked consumer cooperatives under the West Bengal State Consumers Cooperative Federation (Confed) to procure. The offloading will begin from next week. We are currently working on the model that we will use to offload these potatoes.”

West Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta said: “These potatoes will be sold in two phases. The first phase will kick off from September 9 and will continue till the first week of October. In the first phase, we will offload 5 lakh tonne. Of this 5 lakh tonne, 1 lakh tonne will be sold through public distribution system at a price lower than the market price by Re 1 per kg. The rest 4 lakh tonne will be sold through a tendering process.” The second phase will begin after the Pujas and will continue till the first week of December. “The modalities of selling potatoes in the second phase has not yet been decided,” he added.

Confed had procured 1 mt from farmers at Rs 3.50 per kg. Prices in retail markets are currently ruling at Rs 5-12 a kg. Prices of varieties used in snacks such as Chipsona, Atlantic and Lady Rosetta are ruling at Rs 8-9 a kg, said Nischint Bhatia, executive vice-president at PepsiCo India.

Potato is India’s top vegetable crop, with an annual output of 35 mt that contributes the lion’s share to the total annual vegetable production of 100 million tonne. Table potato prices are politically sensitive for the government that monitors them closely as it is an Indian household favourite across incomes.

“A sentiment dip for a short term may happen. In the long term, prices will remain stable before the new crop hits the market from Punjab, West Bengal and Bihar,” said Sachid Madan, director at Technico Agri Sciences, a subsidiary of the cigarettes-to-hotel major ITC Limited. “Prices are bound to increase by Rs 2-3 in October-November when new processing variety crop comes from South and Central India.

However, with Punjab crop coming in from November, end prices will touch Rs 8-9 a kg,” he said.

The company procures close to 1.5 lakh tonne potato annually. In the previous year, processing varieties prices had touched at Rs 16 a kg.

In Bengal, consumers at the retail end get two kinds of potatoes — Chandramukhi and Jyoti. In the wholesale market, Chandramukhi potatoes are available at Rs 600-625 per quintal whereas Jyoti is available at Rs 500 per quintal. The retail consumer gets Jyoti potatoes at Rs 6 a kg whereas the Chandramukhi variety is available at Rs 8-9 per kg.

Sowing has already begun in Una district of Himachal Pradesh and Hoshiarpur district of Punjab where Pukhraj and Chandramukhi varieties are being planted. Across India, sowing will begin after paddy is harvested in October. “The Una and Hoshiarpur crop will come into the market by November and we expect prices to fall with a huge stock in the country,” said Naininder Singh Dhillon, an expert in potato marketing and farming in Punjab.

On Thursday, the MCX September contract was ruling at Rs 425.70, October at Rs 453.10 and March 2011 at Rs 468.10.

Famous actor Dilip Roy passes away

KOLKATA, 3rd Sept. 2010: Well-known Bengali actor and director Dilip Roy died here on Thursday after a prolonged battle with cancer, sources from his family said.

Mr. Roy (79) was a bachelor and is survived by three adopted sons. His first break came in Parivar, and he appeared in 44 films in a career spanning over two decades.

Mr. Roy's directorial ventures include Neelkantha, Debdas, and Amrita Kumbher Sandhaney. He was also cinematographer of the Bengali film Bhalobasa Bhalobasa, besides Oriya films Tu Eka Aama Saha Bharasa, Mamata Ra Dori, and Chaka Bhaunri.

In his later years, Mr. Roy acted in a popular genre of Bengali theatre known as ‘Jatra.' — PTI


By B Prasant

KOLKATA (INN): Before we go at some detail into the CPI(M) and Left Front leaders’ addresses to the absolutely packed-to-overflowing indoor stadium in the heart of the metropolis, on 31 August 2010, let us quote some important if grief-ridden statistics – and dwell on the their political impact.
From 1 September 2009 until now, over 200 CPI (M)leaders-workers-supporters have been brutally done to death in Bengal, at the merciless and hired hands of armed goons in the pay-and-patronage of the left sectarians, the right reactionaries, and their combined gangs of the night. The murder, the latest occurrence, in broad daylight of a school teacher, comrade Dibakar Mahato at Salboni in Midnapore west, in front of students, on 4 September, and the photo run by even the corporate press of the comrade who yet clutched a pen in his right hand, has a million stories to tell.

The figure is politically important because these were not, could never be, part of the deteriorating law-and-order situation in the country, and Bengal is never an island of excellence in a sea of mayhem. On the other hand, the political fall-out, as we are witness to it has been considerable with people unshackling themselves of the chains of fear and trepidation clamped around them and countering very effectively the attack on their daily lives and livelihoods, the jangal mahal in particular, but also elsewhere in the state.
The political import of the martyrs’ columns now vigilant for ever in the towns and villages across what is now a climatologically but not politically arid Bengal, has been that this is the first time ever that so many of our comrades had to embrace martyrdom within the calendar span of a year, since the coming to office of the Bengal Left Front government, riding the crest of a popular surge for change, in the fateful months way back in 1977.

For the record, on 31 August even further back in 1951, the then Dr B C Ray-led Congress state government had bludgeoned to death – bullets, had commented the then top police brass, proved an ‘expensive proposition,’ no less than 80 hungry men, women, children who formed part of the three-lakh-strong ‘march for food’ onto what was then Calcutta, from all over the state. This is the reason why the day is nurtured into the memories of the Communist Party and the left parties as the ‘martyrs’ day,’ for ever afterwards.

The tone of the indoor rally was certainly set by chief minister of Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who called the Trinamuli outfit and its cohorts—populated by creatures who thrived on lies, untruth, and deception. Buddhadeb was sharply critical of the goings on in the principal opposition party where one leader sat at the top of the heap and others sat at the supremo’s feet, helpless, lacking independent initiative, even a difference of opinion—or be damned for ever.
Quoting the more blatant of the lies with which the chieftain of the opposition went to town recently, splashed duly across the docile and compromised corporate-run print and the airwaves, Buddhadeb pointed to the shameless untruths uttered by that worthy union minister on the fire at the Stephens’ Court, the so-called attempt at communal riots in Kolkata, and the series of railway mishaps, chief amongst them the killing incident of the Gyaneswari Express, and finally, crucially, the tale told with élan that the chief’s convoy was ‘breached’ by a truck for purposed of doing bodily harm to the worthy.

The outfit stands on lies and deception, slanders and untruth – how much longer would the democratic-minded people of Bengal tolerate the ways that they see unfold in an ugly manner before their very eyes, every hour, every day? The CPI (M) and the Left were able to frustrate, taking the masses of the people along, a similar campaign in the seventies in Bengal, and had been then swept to office, decisively. A few simple souls even now would not question the lie campaign going on and the reactionaries as well as their left deviationist allies it is their goodwill that the enemies of the people cashed their political cheques on, hoping to draw political dividends.

The state has had to pay dearly for these calculated if fatal antics of a single individual and her docile columns. There has been no motor car industry in Singur. Nandigram was over run by the right-left combination of the Trinamulis and the self-styled ‘Maoists.’ Normal rhythm of lifer was violently upset in the jangal mahal, and only now that the people have turned to face the enemy rather than continue with the poor quality of life under siege-like conditions. The forces of violence must be stopped in their predatory tracks or they will cause ruination to visit the state.

Buddhadeb was bitterly opposed to the policies of the union government that would cause food shortage to haunt the common person, and which would not hesitate before ensuring that the public distribution system was dismantled brick by brick. The fact that food crops rotted away in union government-run storage facilities and godowns appeared to be little interest to the Singh government. The CPI (M) Polit Bureau member also fogged the union government’s outlook when he said that it would not cooperate with the state on the issue of 100 days’ worth of work under NREGA.

Biman Basu, secretary of the Bengal CPI (M) and chairman of the Bengal Left Front did not mince word when he began his brief if important address by delineating the condition’s prevailing in the country, and the victim of which was the state of Bengal as well. Biman Basu said that there existed a terrible food crisis and crisis of agriculture throughout the country. The price level was changing upwards by leaps. Forward trading ruined commerce. The rationing system has been allowed to break down in incremental, fatal, doses of policy decisions.

In the political realm, the CPI (M) leader pointed to the waves of attacks on the democratic people and on democratic movements and struggles in Bengal. They attempt is to create a maelstrom of confusion amongst the people on the part of the enemies of the people by spreading slanders and lies of every heinous kind. The kisan and the khet-mazdoor, the worker and the employee faced the terror filled nights that brought back the bad dreams of the seventies. The task of the day was to stay vigilant, stay warned, and to keep at bay the armed assaults being perpetrated with the specific political aim of breaking the political back of popular opinion, and the slogan mouthed is ‘either you are with us we shall bash your head in.’ Biman Basu spoke about the need to approach the masses and build up deeper, daily contact with them and to adhere to the class outlook all the while.
Other Left Front leaders who addressed the massive gathering were Ashok Ghosh (FB), Kshiti Goswami (RSP), Swapan banerjee (CPI), Pratim Chatterjee (FB-M), Janmenjoy Ojha (SP), Sunil Chaudhuri Biplabi Bangla Congress), Rampada Samanta (DSP), Subhas Roy (RCPI).


By B Prasant
KOLKATA, 2nd Sept. 2010 (INN): For some time now, like about three months, the left sectarians, heinous criminals who go under the costume of their brand of so-called ‘Maoism,’ have been forced on the backfoot by the mass of the people. The résistance, much absurdly reflected in an expectedly bitter corporate media, comprises, as we were very recent witness to the mass movements in Midnapore west, and indeed elsewhere in the red clay rural belt, three distinct phases.


First, in places like Pidakata and Dharampur, the left sectarians and their somewhat loosely weaved, amorphous, and, Trinamul-financed ‘front’ of armed goons called the PCAPA (‘people’s committee against police atrocities’ is the full nomenclature), are initially with politeness, and then with vigour asked by the rural people, who have had enough of the blood-letting of the poor by the villains, to let them alone.

Second where this is heeded, rare, the mass of the people put up the Red Flag, organise rallies, house-to-house campaign on the truth behind the ‘Maoist’ phenomenon, and then go about the good and great business of bringing rural tranquillity back in place.

In due course, democratic activities resume, shops and stalls open, the tea stall is a vital sign of normalcy, the smoking chullah sending out the signals of the right kind as a massage of comfort to the early morning toilers as they trudge across unploughed fields, lying barren both from disuse and from the pitiless sun pouring heat from the frighteningly, unseasonably, bright blue above. Life resumes its hum and rhythm.


Third, and this is becoming a sickening repetition ad nauseum now more than ever, there are pockets that are situated deep into the dark grey-green foliage of whatever forestry is left behind by the electric chain-saw wielding illegal fellers of trees, ‘Maoists’ featuring prominent among their ranks, we had better note right here and now, in pockets, described by the terrorists and enemies of the people as ‘terrain,’ there are splinter groups of the ‘Maoists,’ and the splintering has been fashioned both vertically and horizontally, a classical example per se of the crumbling of those who mistake crime for rebelliousness, with everyone ‘inside,’ suspecting everyone else, there are ‘desperadoes’ who would not heed the writing on the wall.

Here what the rural masses do is an interesting example of the people’s idea of résistance -- in words and deeds. And, no, we are not talking of counter-violence and/or listening, and reacting to the tired uncredenced, hesitant drumbeats that are heard in the corporate media about ‘armed camps,’ (the Union Home minister would even go so far as to mention the bourgeois-damned ‘c’ word, when he talked about ‘cadres,’ but would not confront the truth).

The rightist supremo, ruthless, hateful, and a violence-baiter, who has by now quite suborned the pathetically keen political arm-weaving of a drowning unit called the Pradesh Congress, may allow the corporate media to run away with lies and half-truths that the reactionaries always adhere to, and the left deviationists thrive on, but the facts speak for themselves. Let us here and now pose a question that begs for an answer, and it is this: ‘how many ‘Maoists’, and for the record armed Trinamulis have been killed, now and ever in the past, except in police actions? Would the proponents of the much-vaunted armed camps theory that they shamelessly go sickeningly ga-ga over, kindly stand up and be counted, even if once? In the circumstances, we confess they had better pay heed to what we saw, and what made us joyous and proud.

The place of occurrence is Dharampur, some miles away into the deep of the jangal mahal. The date is 2 September 2010. The time is day break and into the morning hours of sun and sweat. Readers will no doubt recall what has been reported in these columns in the arid summer of 2009. It was the 15th day of June. For close to three days, the left deviationists surrounded and cut off Dharampur from the rest of the forest sub-division.


Then the killing of the helpless and the innocent started. Initially the Trinamul-identified leading cadres of the CPI (M) were beaten up, hacked away with sharp weapons and then left mangled, bleeding heaps, and in the intensity of agony to die the most horrible death imaginable. The peasants were next. Anybody with links, even the remotest of links to the CPI (M) Kisan Sabha, the SFI, and the DYFI, and the AIDWA were singled out and beaten up – some were to succumb to their injuries for days afterwards, as the cries of help for medical attention went unheeded.
Women were systematically raped and left disfigured, some, unable to withstand the agony, mental and physical, were later to take their own lives. The houses were looted and put to the torch. In the year that followed, close to 270 CPI (M) leaders and cadres were murdered in the contiguous areas of the jangal mahal around Dharampur and Lalgarh, in particular. Villages after villages of the area were made bereft of activities, even of the most basic kind. Kisans left their home-and-hearth-- and took shelter in the district wherever they could, the helpless and innocent fugitive, and the refugee was born again.


Would the corporate media report a line of this, oh, no, and who ran armed camps then, friends, and at under whose patronage-- could this be explained by those same members of the media corps who today doth protest mightily and too much, too soon, about they having been ‘attacked,’ during their recent approach into Pidakata, not far away from Dharampur?

May we venture an educated guess (that may very be the truth as well, however unpleasant it may seem in some quarters) for their recent brand of protestations? They, quite frankly, do miss their fond linkages with the now-fled ‘Maoists.’ They fly into a rage when they see the Red Flag aflutter from fearfully large number of hutments and establishments, and not just in Dharampur, for the welcome scene is repeated along large tracts of the jangal mahal now where the people have torn apart the veil of fear-- and have spoken, loud and clear. Those that are the soil of the earth, those that were driven away from the red clay zone, have now returned. Life is tough. The tea stall chullah, however, smokes again, the aroma of tae and of oven-fresh succulence of soft bread loaves spread, the bright Red Flag alert and a-flutter from the shambled top of what is now effectively a shanty, among many shanties that are in a serious need of a clean up, the housewives nod and agree. Life has picked up its age-old cycle of normalcy in the better part of the forest areas of Midnapore west.


KOLKATA, 2nd Sept, 2010: In its two-day meeting held over 1-2 September at the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan in Kolkata, the Bengal state committee of the CPI (M) called upon every worker, and upon the leadership to bring to reality the ambience that calls for a positive change in the political scene of Bengal today. No sacrifices should be shunned, no activities pro-people, especially pro-poor, slackened, and the forces of anarchy out to destroy the carefully-nurtured democratic environment of Bengal must be deal a hard blow of defeat, taking the masses of the people into close confidence.


The state unit let it be known in clear and in ringing tones that there was a positive sign of protest amongst the masses to defeat the forces of deviationism and reaction in the political arena. This must be kept firm in mind and contact with the masses made, as before, a continuous and ever-widening political-organisational drive.

In the long and meaningful discussion sessions, the members of the state committee were at one in noting that during the month-long August campaign on issues touching the lives and livelihoods of the people, especially the poor, the effort to reach out to the masses with the Party’s political campaign along with the need to resolve the emergent problems troubling the daily lives of the people, the rise in process of common commodities taking the prime of place as did the issue of anarchy and counter-democratic ploys of the enemies, has had its effect in more and more popular participation in the CPI (M)-led movements and struggles.

The increase in the mass participation in the programmes set up and going by the mass organisations is another pointer in this vigorous direction. It was duly noted by the state leadership that more than in the recent past, the taking enthusiastic part in the party-led programmes of campaign-movements from amongst the poor and from the backward classes of every community has visibly increased and the trend continues to display long-term prospects of the right kind.


The section or sections of the people that had been even marginally alienated from the acts and activities of the Party have chosen emphatically to rejoin the ranks and regroup for mass struggles to have a politically meaningful significance. This process is also seen as a welcome development amongst those people who not as such vote for the party or the left.

The state committee members made an especial mention of the situation in the jangal mahal. The state unit noted the militant nature of protest and resistance of the masses that are now quite infuriated against the anti-people and anti-poor acts of commission perpetrated on them by the so-called, self-styled ‘Maoists.’ People in massive numbers have taken to the streets in the jangal mahals widest areas across the districts of Midnapore west, and Bankura to frustrate the anti-people and anti-poor designs of the revisionists and the reactionary elements. The pro-people and pro-poor initiatives of the state LF government have continued to receive as in the past the fullest support from amongst the people.


In conclusion, Biman Basu, state secretary of the CPI (M) said that the assignment of importance to be pursued with dedication comprised the political task of bringing back to the Party ranks those of the Party workers, supporters and sympathisers who had chosen to break ranks with the Party for some acts of the Party that had irritated them into doing what they have done. The attitude of resistance is a gaining ground amongst the masses, as Biman Basu did not fail to draw emergent attention of the state leadership of the Bengal CPI (M).

The hired goons of the enemy must be countered by maintaining and deepening an enduring contact with the masses, all the while, all the way. The party and the people shall advance by defeating the machinations of the forces of anarchy and mayhem. Top make this aim fructify, the intensity of the campaign-movement must be sharpened and widened in the days, months, and years to come.

Biman Basu also took note of the need to ensure that the working and the works of the Panchayats were organised successfully, again taking the masses into confidence. He also underscored the need to increase the Party initiative and Party monitoring in the concerned sectors.

Biman Basu said that while going in full tilt for making a success out of pro-people developmental work and undertaking the correct political initiative, the massive corruption and assorted crimes against the people perpetrated by the opposition- run Panchayats, Panchayat Samities and Zillah Parishads, the masses must be mobilised and mass deputations submitted everywhere, at every functional level.


The Bengal CPI (M) also said that a wide and deep programme of jathas under the aegis of the Bengal Left Front would be organised in the villages as well as the urban stretches between the last week of September until the first week of October, based on the emergent needs of issues touching the lives and livelihoods of the masses. It was iterated that a detailed plan was drawn up at the recent past meetings of the district LF and the party committees at the appropriate levels must make it a task to ensure that the programme was carried through and properly implemented in a planned manner.

The jatha programme would comprise some basic issues. These include the issues that affect the lives and livelihoods of the people adversely. The other important point was the drafting of demand charters to be placed appropriately with the union government and the LF government here in Bengal. The Bengal LF workers must reach out to the people in this regard.

The jathas’ success depended on the panning that has to be taken up beforehand by drawing up and implementing a detailed programme of smaller baithak meetings and street-corner meetings in the rural and urban areas. The LF workers must meet the people at the household level to speak to them and to listen to their problems and woes, to guide them and the lead them. The Trinamul Congress and indeed the entire spectrum of the opposition in Bengal have taken up the onerous task of undertaking a lie campaign against the Party, the LF and the LF government. There should no lacunae anywhere to place before the masses the facts of the situation explaining and elaborating on the political campaign of the Party and the LF.

By B Prasant (INN)

Apollo may set up more hospitals in West Bengal

KOLKATA, 2nd Sept . 2010: Healthcare major Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd is in talks with Parkway Holdings of Singapore to set up more hospitals in West Bengal via their existing joint venture, a top official said here Thursday.

'Our agreement is for West Bengal only and we are looking at setting up more hospitals,' Apollo Hospitals managing director Preetha Reddy said on the sidelines of an event at the Institute of Company Secretaries.

The joint venture runs one hospital in India under Apollo Gleneagles brand in Kolkata.

Asked if Apollo has plans to expand the scope of joint venture with Parkway, Reddy said Apollo would remain a 'knowledge partner'.
Parkway is now owned by Khazanah, a soverign fund of Malaysia. Talking about the company's investment plans, she said it is pumping in Rs.1,800 crore in the next 24 months.

Is Centre shielding Mamata on Maoist issue?

By Marcus Dam

The Hindu, September 2, 2010
Two Union Ministers defending Mamata's remarks shows that Congress will go to any length to keep its alliance with Trinamool.

Successive comments by two senior Union Ministers within four days on certain remarks of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on the Maoist situation in West Bengal only go to show that the Congress is overtly keen on not upsetting the apple-cart and will go to any length to keep its alliance with its partner in the United Progressive Alliance government intact.

Not to be forgotten is the critical Assembly election in West Bengal due next year and the need for shoring up the rather wobbly electoral pact between the two parties in the State.

By stating in New Delhi on Wednesday that “there are some camps in some parts of West Bengal,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram virtually endorsed Ms. Banerjee's allegations about the existence of camps belonging to armed activists of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the Jangal Mahal region (forest areas spanning Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia districts) in the southwest of the State.

Mr. Chidambaram, however, chose not to mention the CPI(M) while making his observation, much as Ms. Banerjee might have liked him to.

The Trinamool leadership must have felt its stand similarly vindicated on Sunday when Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, at an event here, pointed out that he saw no contradiction between Ms. Banerjee's remarks on the death of Maoist leader Azad at a rally in Lalgarh on August 9 and the UPA government's “stated policy” on the subject.

Ms. Banerjee's utterances at the rally that she believed Azad's killing in an encounter with the Andhra Pradesh police on July 2 was improper, and her paying tributes to him raised a stir in Parliament subsequently.

But even in the face of the allegation that the Maoist leader was killed in a “fake encounter,” which the Centre denied, Mr. Mukherjee said that given the Andhra Pradesh government's explanation of the situation and the circumstances under which the killing took place, he did not think “that what she [Ms. Banerjee] has stated has any contradiction with the stated policy of the UPA government.”

A chest pain Ms. Banerjee developed when a lorry hit a car of her convoy that in turned brushed against her vehicle in what was alleged to be an attempt to “assassinate” her while she was returning from Lalgarh kept her away from Parliament and from facing the Opposition's flak for her remarks at the rally till she finally made an appearance in the Lok Sabha on August 19.

That the State's Criminal Investigation Department probing the incident has so far found little evidence to suggest that it was an “assassination attempt” is another matter.

In Mr. Mukherjee shielding Ms. Banerjee from accusations of her having links with the Maoists, and his assertion that just because the Trinamool is a constituent of the UPA does not mean that it cannot have an “independent opinion” seem hidden the imperative not to rub the Trinamool chief up the wrong way.

This, particularly, at a time when the Congress is only too eager to ensure that nothing comes in the way of its alliance with the Trinamool, which is by far the dominant of the two in West Bengal's political firmament. Needless to say, much of the Congress's fortunes in the Assembly elections depend on its relations with Ms. Banerjee's party.

CPI (M) expels Subodh Roy

NEW DELHI: The CPI(M) on Wednesday expelled its former MP and Central Committee member Subodh Roy from the primary membership for “grave anti-party activities” with immediate effect. Mr. Roy, who represented Bhagalpur between 1999 and 2004, had lost the 2004 general elections to Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP. In a 2006 by-election, necessitated by the resignation of Mr. Modi, the seat was won by Shahnawaz Khan of the BJP, who retained it in 2009. There are reports Mr. Roy is likely to join the Janata Dal (United).

CPI(M): camps set up to lodge people evicted by Maoists

The Hindu, Kolkata, September 2, 2010

A day after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said there was a general agreement on the existence of camps of armed cadres in parts of West Bengal, Biman Basu, secretary of the State Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said here on Thursday that his party set up camps on the fringes of the Jangalmahal area only to shelter those evicted from their homes by Maoists.

“Our party is working in the Jangalmahal area [that spans the forest areas of the districts of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia], but that does not mean we have set up camps for armed cadres,” Mr. Bose said, when asked to comment on Mr. Chidambaram's statement.

Mr. Chidambaram might not have mentioned the CPI(M) while making his remarks, but they came in the background of allegations by the Trinamool Congress that the CPI(M) set up several armed camps in the region under the cover of the joint security operations to flush out Maoists.

Mr. Bose said the people of the region were united in offering resistance to Maoists.

The camps set up by the CPI(M) were for “those driven out of their homes,” some of which were set on fire and ones who were “under a constant threat from Maoists.”

The CPI(M) was trying to revive its activities in the region and could not remain silent in the face of atrocities being committed on people, he said.

“The people are also rising up against the extremists' activities having learnt from their bitter experience,” Mr. Bose said.

Senior leader of the CPI(M) and member of its central committee, Nilotpal Basu said the least expected of the Centre was that it got together all political forces against those violating the Constitution and breaking the law.

IG refutes charges

Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) S.K. Purakayastha discounted reports of armed camps being set up in the Jangalmahal area by any political party.

Camps there belonged to the security forces, who were engaged in activity related to area domination.

The police did not receive any formal complaint from any political quarter of armed cadres being housed in camps.

Buddhadeb blames Centre for not releasing MGNREGA fund

BS Reporter / Kolkata September 1, 2010, 0:22 IST

West Bengal's Left Front government, already feeling the heat as 11 districts of the state remain drought-stricken ahead of the expected hustings next year, has trained its guns on the Centre for holding back crucial funds for alternative employment generation through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Act (MGNREGA).

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, speaking at the 51st anniversary of the CPI-led food movement here today, said that the Union government is yet to disburse the full amount of Rs 1,400 crore required for MGNREGA.

“I have written to the Prime Minister and told Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, but haven't received the amount yet. If they don't give the money, what will we (state government) tell the farmers? What will these farmers do without work?” he said.

Bhattacharjee, who visited some drought-affected districts of the state last week, had also earlier requested the Centre to send a team to review the situation in these afflicted areas.

Paddy-sowing has not been possible across about 11 lakh hectares in West Bengal, the country's largest rice producer, this year due to a 30 per cent deficit in rainfall.

Although the state government has decided to pump in an additional Rs 50 crore to salvage the situation, alternative employment remains of importance.

ADB grants $100m loan for Indo-Bangla power line

Financial Express Report

VOL 18 NO 94 REGD NO DA 1589

Dhaka, Wednesday September 1 2010

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Tuesday approved US$100 million loan for Bangladesh to install Indo-Bangla cross-border power transmission line in a bid to import electricity, officials said.

The Manila-based lender said its board of directors approved the loan for the Bangladesh-India 40-kilometre power grid installation project.

The government in early August completed negotiations for getting the loan. Bangladesh will install the 400-kilovolt cross-border power transmission line, investing Tk 10.40 billion ($150 million) by June 2012.

Power Division officials said the state-owned Power Grid Company of Bangladesh Ltd (PGCB) has already undertaken the project to build the line having the capacity of exchanging 500-megawatt electricity between the two nations.

About 100-kilometre cross-border power grid would connect Bangladesh's western Bheramara and India's eastern Baharampur in West Bengal.

The PGCB would install nearly 40-km grid from Bheramara to the border point, and the rest 60-km portion from the border point to Baharampur would be installed by the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCI) by its own fund.

Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB) and PGCI on July 26 signed a 35-year power transmission agreement to import 500-mw electricity, starting from late 2012.

The agreement keeps the provision for Bangladesh to export power to India in the future, and the transmission system will have the capacity to exchange 500-mw of power soon after the system is launched.

The project marks a new era in energy cooperation in South Asia, and is likely to herald further power trading agreements, resulting to more effective use of energy resources in the region, said Sultan Hafeez Rahman, director general of ADB's South Asia Department.

"Connecting of the two grids demonstrates substantial economic benefits that come from enhanced regional cooperation, helping to address energy gaps across the region," he added.

The ADB's $100 million loan has a 32-year repayment period including a grace period of eight years, with 1.0 per cent interest per annum during the grace period and 1.5 per cent for the rest of the term.

Mamata deployed RPF for Lalgarh rally, kept Centre, state in dark

New Delhi, 1st Sept. 2010 : When it came to security for her August 9 rally in Lalgarh in West Bengal, Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee, in addition to roping in trusted retired IPS officers, ordered the deployment of the Railways Protection Force (RPF) at the venue.

The RPF deployment was made without keeping the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and West Bengal Police in the loop and this has generated a lot of heat.

The RPF deployment, official sources told The Indian Express, was a violation of standard operating procedures governing the security of VIPs like Union Ministers. “It was completely against the directives of the Blue Book which lays down rules on how security should be provided to VIPs. The RPF presence at the rally was unauthorised,” the sources said.

Two RPF companies (around 200 personnel) were deployed for the Lalgarh rally. Senior RPF officials from the Eastern and the South Eastern Railways were also present there. The RPF personnel were present in the motorcade, at the ground where the rally took place and provided cover to the dais from where Banerjee spoke.

“Being a Central paramilitary force, the Railways Ministry required MHA clearance before deploying RPF in Lalgarh. No such permission was taken. The RPF should have coordinated with the state police since the latter was primarily responsible for Banerjee’s security. That too was not done, leading to a situation where the local police got sidelined, opening gaps in overall security,” sources said.

Last year, Banerjee declined to spare RPF personnel for election duties in Maharashtra and Jharkhand. It was only after a rap from the MHA that Rail Bhavan allowed the deployment of the force. On another occasion, Banerjee declined to clear a list of RPF officials nominated for a FBI-sponsored 12-day training programme on railway security in the United States because no official from home state West Bengal was on the list.

Maoist camp: Trinamool misrepresents fact

THE REAL PICTURE: Trinamool Congress MPs demonstrating outside the Parliament House in New Delhi on Tuesday alleging CPI(M) atrocities in West Bengal. In the photograph, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar,MP (second from left), displays a poster saying it is a camp of "CPI(M) goons" in the Jangal Mahal area of West Bengal. It is actually a picture (at right) of armed Maoists outside a camp in the forestsof Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. That file photo, taken by our Staff Photographer Akhilesh Kumar, appeared in the online edition of The Hindu on March 15, 2010.--- Photo: R.V. Moorthy 

By Marcus Dam

KOLKATA: Even as West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattcharjee on Tuesday described the Trinamool Congress as a party of “grotesque lies and slander,” an MP of the party, demonstrating with some of her colleagues outside the Parliament House in New Delhi, was seen sporting a poster with a picture apparently depicting Maoists in one of their training camps in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh.

The poster, borne by Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, representing Barasat in West Bengal's North 24 Paraganas district, read: “All camps by CPI (M) goons in Jangal Mahal areas must be disbanded.” Below this was a picture showing men with their weapons.

The same picture appeared in the on-line edition of The Hindu on March 15 this year ( 245722. ece) under the heading “Centre warns of retaliatory attacks by Maoists” with the caption: A Maoist training camp in the forest of Dantewada district.”

The Trinamool MPs were demonstrating against alleged atrocities by the CPI(M) in West Bengal.

This begs the question: Was the Trinamool Congress MP (Ms. Ghosh Dastidar) misrepresenting facts and passing off a picture showing armed Maoists in a camp in Dantewada as one of CPI(M) goons in the Jangal Mahal area (a forest area in West Bengal spanning the south-west districts of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia)?

The Trinamool leadership has been claiming that CPI(M) activists have been entering the Jangal Mahal area and setting up camps for their armed activists under cover of the on-going security operations against the Maoists there.

Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee has even demanded that the security operations be withdrawn even as she claimed that they were being used by the CPI(M) to gain ground in the region, particularly in those areas of Paschim Medinipur district considered the hot-bed of Maoist activity.

On Monday, the eve of his retirement, Director-General of Police Bhupinder Singh told journalists at the Secretariat that “no evidence of the presence of armed supporters of the CPI(M) has been found in Lalgarh and its vicinity.”

THE HINDU, 1st September, 2010

It's all lies and slander, says Buddhadeb

By Ananya Dutta

KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on the Trinamool Congress for “being a party of grotesque lies and slander.”

“Here is a political party [Trinamool Congress] that is surviving on lies….How long will the people of West Bengal accept these lies? I believe that they will on no account accept the grotesque lies and slander of this party,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said at a rally to commemorate the death of 80 supporters of the Left parties during a protest demanding food in the city in 1959.

Mr. Bhattacharjee cited several examples of “unfounded claims” made by Ms. Banerjee — the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was responsible for incidents such as the devastating fire at the Stephen Court, the Jnaneswari Express derailment, the accident in Sainthia and the disruption of her convoy on her return from Lalgarh.

“Lies, all lies,” he emphatically declared to a stadium full of supporters, who responded with a thundering applause.

The Trinamool was a party “without a policy or agenda” and it solely depended on Ms. Banerjee's word. The State had already suffered many losses because of them, Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

Referring to the Trinamool-led agitations in Singur and Nandigram, he said: “Everyone in West Bengal knows the losses that the State has suffered. Shall we accept more of these injustices? The nexus between the Trinamool and Maoists began in Nandigram where we could not defeat them and had to retreat……It will have to be seen if we can limit them to the Jangalmahal region or will the joint army of the Trinamool and Maoists convert all of West Bengal into Jangalmahal.”

Several people in the State had begun to believe in the lies being spread by the Trinamool and it was the responsibility of the supporters of the Left parties to reach out to them and convince them otherwise, he added.

Farmer abandoned

Mr. Bhattacharjee raised concerns at food security and the abdication of responsibility by the Centre.

“The Centre has abandoned the farmer. It is not even spending what was spent earlier in the form of subsidies,” he said. The country's agricultural productivity had dropped over the last few years.

He questioned the Centre's claim that agricultural productivity would increase fourfold, adding that a situation was arising wherein the country's food security would be on the brink of a breakdown.

“While rice and wheat are rotting in the godowns of the Food Corporation of India, people will be forced to die of starvation,” he said.

Mr. Bhattacharjee appealed to the Centre to release funds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to drought-affected West Bengal.

THE HINDU, 1st Sept. 2010