September 22, 2010

Rahul misinformed, says West Bengal Minister

KOLKATA: Reacting to the comments of AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi on the West Bengal government's ‘utilisation' of funds given by the Centre under the Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes, Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta said the Congress leader had been given incorrect information.
“Political statements should be countered politically but at an administrative level, I can say that the picture is the opposite of what is being portrayed,” Dr. Dasgupta told journalists.

Pointing out that the State was awaiting the release of Rs. 1,400 crore, which was its due from the Centre on the rural employment guarantee schemes, he said the people were suffering. “It is no case for petty politics.”

“Shortage of funds”

The truth was that the State was facing shortage of funds and some pancahayat bodies and zilla parishads has had to raise loans for Rs. 25 crore just to meet payment obligations to the rural folk, some of whom are in acute distress due to the drought which has hit 11 districts.

In the wake of the drought, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had written a letter on the pending payments to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Following this, Rs. 170 crore was released.


CPIM) Central Committee member Mohd. Salim on Monday dismissed as “irresponsible” AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi's remarks at a rally here about the siphoning off of Central funds, including those for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) in West Bengal. Mr. Gandhi should instead focus on why the parallel scheme guaranteeing employment in urban areas had not been formulated, he said.

Mr. Salim said a complete audit of the funds released under the MNREGS was conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India as well as by third parties such as NGOs.
As a parliamentarian and senior leader of the Congress, Mr. Gandhi should have read the CAG reports and consulted the concerned Minister before making “such irresponsible statements,” Mr. Salim said.

“The State government has not been able to implement the scheme because the Centre has not been able to release funds. Finance Minster Pranab Mukherjee himself admitted recently that there had been delays in the allotment of MNREGS funds,” Mr. Salim said.

Mr. Gandhi should instead focus on why there had been no progress in the introduction of a similar scheme guaranteeing employment to the unemployed in urban areas, Mr. Salim said.

Mr. Salim was also critical of Mr. Gandhi's remarks predicting the demise of Communism in the State comparing it to the fall of the Soviet Union.

The rank and file of the Congress was depleting in West Bengal under the influence of the Trinamool Congress. This should be of greater concern to the party, he said.

THE HINDU, Published: September 7, 2010 


KOLKATA, 7th Sept. (INN): The 24-hour industrial strike that took the shape, character, and more importantly size of a general strike was another successful working people’s action throughout Bengal on 7 September.



From the tea gardens in north Bengal (for once after a while, the GJM-GNLF call for non-participation in the Left-called strike was ignored courageously by the largest bulk of the chia kaman mazdoor, along the dooars and terai, down the Ganges amongst the bidi mazdoors, right over onto the west to the khadan (mining, chiefly coal) area of the rocky hinterland of the swift-moving Damodar river, across to the east in the heartland of industrial south Bengal crossing Nadia, the two 24 Parganas, and Howrah plus the factory-dotted suburbia of the sprawling Kolkata metropolitan area covering the fast-urbanising eastern by-pass area up to Dumdum airport, up in to the agricultural belt (chiefly sprawling potato patches ranging around the silent sentinels of the air-conditioned, concrete-and-fibre glass-cold storage facilities, onto our beloved forestry area of the red clay earth zone, down again to the dock-and-port area of east Midnapore, there was a hum of activities – of the striking workers taking to the streets, roads, gullies, by-passes, village meadows, alleyways, and the docks, the airports, and the river traffic points of departure and arrival of barges.

Why were the strikes such an enormous success in Bengal, in seriatim, one after the other? Why the success was exclusively achieved whenever the Left had called for such an action, with issues deeply touching the lives and livelihoods of billions of people, especially the poor and the downtrodden? The answer calls for a three-step exercise in thought and action.


The lessons that we ourselves learnt especially during a short stint in the 190s, of an intense decade worth of working, time-to-time, in one of the powerful state units of what is surely the most fearlessly militant and popular TU in the country-- the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).

First, the issues concerning the pièce de résistance around which the emergent need for the working class action is to be woven are carefully sifted around and then finally fixed and decided upon by the national leadership of the TU organisations and the powerful ranks of the workers’-employees’ federations.

Once the issues are firmed up, the highly extensive and intensive, that is the beauty of a dialectical approach, as Lenin had shown during the initial, hesitant, yet bloody years of the past century in what was yet then Tsar-ruled, Cheka-terrorised, imperial Russia, campaign work starts. There are smaller rallies, local level approaches to households, and factory level meetings, indoor and outdoor, hundreds of thousands of them in the space-and-time of two-to-three months.


Then follows the campaign work on a larger, macro, if you like, scale with the TUs and left political parties, with the CPI (M) to the fore, organise bigger rallies going up from the district town, district HQs, and finally onto the Shahid Minar maidan or the Indoor Stadium in Kolkata, depending chiefly on the adversity or otherwise of the weather. All throughout these months, the Ganashakti runs a daily column on the need for the general strike to be a success detailing out every possibly response that the people might well like of us in a corporate ambience where any working class action is regarded as an action non grata.

On the day-night in the case of a 24-hour strike, the streets, the bylanes and the gullies, the fields and the mines, the docks and the tea gardens are active with marches, smaller rallies, street-corner, factory gate meetings, and the Red flag is aflutter very visibly across the state. This year, especial attention was given to the month of fasting (ramaz’an) of the minority community-- and the shops-and-establishments of every kind were seen to open and function as normal in the minority populated areas and zones, so that no inconvenience was to be created anywhere for anyone.


Thus when the CITU leadership congratulated at the end of the day the people and the toiling masses for making the 7 September strike action a glorious success, they were iterating the deep and wide base that the people have built up over the decades in their hearts-and-minds for the CPI (M) and the CITU as the vanguard weapons of struggle, of campaign, of movements. Expectedly, nothing untoward, nothing unpleasant has occurred as we file this report despite attempts to the contrary. (B. PRASANT)



KOLKATA, 6th Sept. (B. Prasant): We ventured out on a hot-and-humid afternoon on 6 September to have a listen to the ‘young’ man from 10 Janpath, whom the Naxalites – we mean one their many splinters and fractions existing within the splinter, the mind boggles- have chosen to describe in this metropolis as the ‘prince-in-waiting,’ we are sorry but we do not see any sarcasm going around here, rather a trembling confession that the left deviationists always scrabble around for and find, in the political debris, for comfort-- and then we found mud being slung at us. There was that in the form of rhetoric from the dais too, and thankfully, we were timing, for exactly 9.5 minutes. The place of occurrence was a sparsely covered patch of the Shahid Minar maidan.

The other, real, rather than rhetorical, parts of mother earth, wet from a recent splash, that came bounding at us, covering the better part of the ancient body corporal, in a thick lay of dark grey, were hurled by irate Congressmen who had earlier been instructed to ‘step up to the dais,’ and the accusing finger guided them to where we the men and women from media sat slightly atremble, tightly packed. Earlier to that, the media have been heard to remark how empty some of the’ frontal’ areas of the meeting ground were – committing thereby a near-fatal mistake in a Congress gathering.

As we were saying, we were constantly reminded by the present Shahid Minar ‘rally,’ of the desolate meeting addressed by the late Rajiv Gandhi at the Park Circus maidan late in the 1980s where, too, policepersons gave a tough fight to the actual audience and participants in terms of sheer numbers. The present ‘rally’ was not expected to be an aberration, and it was not.

What was said in those eager nine minutes-and-a-bit, deserve a semblance at least of a rejoinder. We shall ignore for the present, the ‘young’ person’s call, in an emotion-laden voice, about maintaining the ‘izzat’ of the Bengal Pradesh Congress even while going about a ‘mili-juli’ co-existence with the senior political partner here. We are sure a whoop of derisive laughter arose in the air at the Kalighat residence of the chieftain of the previously mentioned ‘senior partner.’

Then the lies started to pour out. There was a faux pas in the beginning though. It was said that ‘there now exist two forms of India,’ one for the poor the other inhabited by the rich – how true. Let us put in a small if discomforting refrain to that, if we can. For example, we can point to actual figures and say that close to 80% of the population is not able to spend Rs 20 per man-day for the very basic needs of living out even a poverty-ridden life as the super rich luxuriate in the comfort of tax havens within the dictates of the finance department.

The speaker would not bring out the glaring fact about the very parliament he is a member of, where there are 306 crorepatis, and that, of these super-rich, there are 141 Congress MPs. Dare we recall whose names feature on that list and whose do not? In the meanwhile, the tax concessions to the rich amount to Rs five lakh crore per financial year and increasing. The Left demand for Rs 450 crore worth of food subsidies is ignored

The speaker accused the Left Front government for leaving about ‘unutilised’ NREGA funds. Would the ‘young’ Congress leader kindly elaborate why, while even after repeated reminders, the union government is not willing to release Rs 1400 crore scheduled and earmarked for Bengal for that particular employment scheme itself?

There was a saving grace of a kind elsewhere at a ‘closed door’ meeting that the speaker took of the various segments of the Pradesh Congress in their office on the CIT Road, and one which we chose rightly not to attend although all the cameras of all the major TV channels and news crews, print and audio-visual, would troop in, and were covering the gory details ‘live.’

At that meeting, the speaker is supposed to have said-- we don’t give credence to the TV cameras of the corporate media, there could well have been a maligning voice-over or dubbing/remixing, who knows-- that he would like to come to Bengal so many times in the future to unfold, that ‘aap pareshan ho jayengey.’ We would reserve our comments on this especial bit of internal affairs of the Congress, Pradesh and otherwise.(INN)