February 23, 2011

Sports Complex inaugurated by West Bengal Law Minister Rabi Lal Moitra

Kolkata, 7 Feb: West Bengal Law Minister Rabi Lal Moitra on Saturday inaugurated a multi-purpose sports complex on the northern fringe of the city. Soccer personalitiesr P.K.Banerjee and Sayed Nayemuddin besides former hockey player Gurbux Singh were among those present at the inauguaration ceremony. Built by Jagriti, a non-government organization, the sports complex will host various sports events of football, cricket, volleyball, gymnastic and swimming.  

Buddhadeb writes to Chidambaram on 'Trinamool-Maoist nexus'

NDTV Correspondent,

Updated: February 03, 2011

New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today wrote to the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on suspected Maoists sheltering in Trinamool Congress run relief camps.

After two inmates of a Trinamool-run relief camp were arrested by joint security forces on Monday for alleged links with Maoists, Bhattacharjee had issued a late night statement saying that he would inform the Home Minister about 'Trinamool-Maoist nexus' and would be forced to take administrative steps against Trinamool leaders involved in sheltering Maoists.

Mamata Banerjee had said that she too would inform the Centre about the incident. On the arrest of the alleged Maoists, she said the entire incident was the handiwork of pro-CPM police forces.

Alleging arbitrary action of the joint forces, Trinamool Congress activists had blocked the station road in the town, stalling traffic movement for hours after the arrest.

West Bengal to set up 31 cold storage facilities

Kolkata, Feb 2 (IANS): West Bengal will establish 31 cold storage facilities and several food parks across the state to give farmers better rewards for their produce, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Wednesday announced.

The cold storages will be built in association with the state agricultural marketing department, Bhattacharjee said while inaugurating the 'Horti Food Fest 2011' organised by the state's department of food processing industry and horticulture here.

'Along with production, it is essential that there are storage facilities. Marketing of the goods is also very important. These cold storage facilities and food parks will play an important role in enabling the farmers to get better rewards for their produce,' he said.

Describing the state's agriculture productivity as 'very encouraging', the chief minister said: 'We need to consolidate on this growth. We have collaborated with several companies for providing quality seeds and bio-fertilisers to the farmers.'

Bhattacharjee also said that under the food processing and horticulture policy, the government will be providing land, electricity and marketing strategies to encourage small entrepreneurs.

Declaring agriculture as the success story of West Bengal, he said: 'There is no doubt we have had a marked success in agriculture. We are the highest producer of rice, cabbage and cauliflower.'

'The annual vegetable produce of the state last year was 130 lakh tonnes. We also produced 28 lakh metric tonnes of fruits and 5580 tonnes of flowers,' he added.

Agartala-Kolkata bus service via Dhaka

Mon, Jan 31st, 2011 4:17 pm BdST

New Delhi, Jan 31 (bdnews24.com) – Bangladesh may soon launch a direct bus service between India's West Bengal and its landlocked state of Tripura through Dhaka.

Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) may tie up with Tripura Road Transport Corporation for the bus service.

BRTC's director (admin and operation) S M Faisal Alam, now in West Bengal leading a delegation of senior BRTC officials to Agartala and Kolkata, told journalists that the trial run of the proposed bus service might start within two months.

They met transport officials of the Indian states and discussed the proposed direct bus-service between the two Indian cities through Dhaka.

A bus service between Agartala and Dhaka has been operational since 2003. The passengers travelling to Kolkata from Agartala have to change buses in Dhaka. But the bus service could not be popular and it became economically unviable as it takes too much time.

The Kolkata-Dhaka bus service has been operation since 1993.

Tripura transport minister Manik De said the travel time between Agartala and Kolkata would significantly come down if the direct bus service via Dhaka could be launched.

The BRTC delegation met Manik De and officials of the Tripura Road Transport Corporation in Agartala. Later, they traveled to Kolkata and held meetings with officials of the West Bengal State Road Transport Corporation.

Sources in the Indian government said New Delhi and Dhaka were discussing the possibility of simplifying visa regime, exclusively for the benefit of the passengers who would like to travel by buses between Kolkata and Agartala.

Dhaka and New Delhi are also exploring the prospects of BRTC's collaboration with its counterparts in West Bengal and Tripura state of India to launch tour packages to promote tourism.


Water plant lag in arsenic belt


The Telegraph, Issue Date: Monday , January 31 , 2011

Purbasthali, Jan. 30: A Rs 40-crore government scheme to provide purified drinking water to an arsenic-prone zone in Burdwan has been held up for the past six months because of delay in getting power connection.

Officials of the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) said a portion of the high-tension power line would have to be laid under a stretch of railway tracks near the water-treatment plant at Purbasthali but the railways was yet to give permission.

WBSEDCL requires to lay the cable under the tracks between two stations on the Bandel-Katwa section to supply power to the plant from a 132KV substation.

The project was started by the public health engineering (PHE) department in 2008. Once completed, the plant will supply arsenic-free water to around 1.75 lakh people in 100 villages in Kalna, where the arsenic level in underground water is high. Purbasthali is under Kalna subdivision.

“Work on the water-treatment plant has been completed. We have also laid the pipeline and built four water reservoirs,” said Arabinda Sahu, the executive engineer (mechanical) of PHE, Burdwan. “But we have not been able to supply water to the people as we are yet to get electricity connection,” he added.

Sahu said WBSEDCL had given a temporary connection earlier this month but it was not enough to run the plant, which has a capacity to purify 10.8 million litres a day. He said the PHE department had applied for power connection in early 2009 and had paid Rs 95 lakh to WBSEDCL.

PHE officials said water would be fetched from the Bhagirathi river, 700 metres from the plant, and supplied to the villages after purification.

Anindya Kishore Manna, the WBSEDCL divisional engineer of Kalna, said the power utility had applied to the Howrah divisional railway manager for clearance but was yet to get the permission. “We had submitted necessary documents and project details to the railways but nothing has been done yet,” Manna said.

Howrah divisional railway manager P.S. Mandal, however, said he had already given the clearance. “As far as I can recall, I had given the clearance. I don’t know why the decision had not been communicated to WBSEDCL. I will look into the matter,” Mandal said.

Around 100 villages in and around Purbasthali’s Kamalnagar, where the plant has come up, are dependent on underground water.

“We use underground water for cooking, washing and bathing. But because of the presence of arsenic in the water, we suffer from skin problems,” said Dwarkanath Thakur, 53, a marginal farmer.

Krishnendu Haldar, the medical officer of Purbasthali block II, said villagers frequently came to the local health centre with symptoms of arsenic poisoning.

“They suffer from rashes, swellings, headache, drowsiness and discolouration of the skin and nails. We often refer such cases of arsenic poisoning to Calcutta’s SSKM and NRS. About 200 villagers from Purbasthali are now receiving treatment at the two hospitals,” Haldar said.

CIL, NMDC to join hands to set up coal-to-liquid plant

Priyadarshi Siddhanta
Posted online: Sat Jan 29 2011, 01:12 hrs

New Delhi : Arguing for hedging against extremely volatile global crude prices, two navratna mining giants, Coal India Limited and National Mineral Development Corporation have decided to form a consortium in setting up a Coal To Liquid (CTL) project at an estimated expenditure of nearly Rs 15,000 crore in West Bengal’s Birbhum district.

The move comes close on the heels of a recent visit by Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and CIL top brass to South Africa, where they saw the positive impact being created by the world’s oldest CTL plant being run by Sasol in the country’s Mpumalanga province. The liquid fuel generated have provided 27 per cent energy security to the African nation. “In a recent letter CIL Chairman Partha S Bhattacharya has offered to partner with NMDC to jointly execute a CTL project in the Deora-Pachami coal block in West Bengal’s Birbhum district,” Jaiswal told The Indian Express. The West Bengal government has sought a minority partnership in the proposed venture, he said.

Accordingly the CIL-NMDC consortium should be given the preferential allocation of the block which has an estimated reserve of 19 billion tonnes of coal, Bhattacharya said and reminded that the steel ministry too has made similar requests to the coal ministry in this connection. “The Sasol experience has clearly demonstrated the relevance of such a large CTL facility in enhancing energy security along with a hedge against extreme volatility of global oil prices. It would also lead to industrial rejuvenation of the eastern part of the country known for its industrial backwardness,” Bhattacharjee argued in his letter justifying the project.

Trade relations will strengthen further: Vietnam envoy

Kolkata, Jan 28 (IANS): Vietnam has been exploring ways of investing in the field of information technology (IT) in West Bengal, the country's ambassador to India Nguyen Thanh Tan said here Friday.

Speaking at an interactive session on Indo-Vietnam trade relations organised by the Bharat Chamber of Commerce, the ambassador exuded confidence that trade and investment relations between his country and West Bengal will increase in the near future.

'During the past few years, we have witnessed with satisfaction the development of friendship and co-operation between Vietnam and West Bengal. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on his visit to India in 2007 met leaders of the state and business circle,' the ambassador said.

'Kolkata also sent business delegations both in 2007 and 2009 to Vietnam, during which several contracts had been signed.'
'I am confident that with continuous efforts of businessmen of both sides, the trade and investment relations will be further strengthened and developed with every passing day,' he added.

Asked if his country faced land acquisition problems in the wake of rapid industrialisation, he said: 'As of now we have dealt with the issue in a systematic manner. We have special committees set up to ensure that the land givers are provided adequate compensation and rehabilitation.'
However, Indian steel giant Tata's plan to set up a steel plant in Vietnam has been delayed due to land acquisition problems.

He said there was a need for a direct flight from Vietnam to Kolkata.

Mamata Banerjee treats railways as TMC property: CPI(M)

26 Jan, 2011, 02.15AM IST, Tamal Sengupta, ET Bureau
KOLKATA: After the Netai massacre , the ruling CPM in West Bengal isn't keen to focus on the terror issue while campaigning for the upcoming assembly elections. Rather, the party plans to run a "propaganda against Mamata Banerjee for virtually turning the railways into her party's property".
In a recently published document considered as the party's guideline for running its campaigns, the CPM claims, "Indian Railways has virtually been transformed into a TMC property. The party is engaged in stunts. The minister introduces trains even when there's been no budgetary provision or clearance from the Planning Commission."

The CPM in a 16-page document on Mamata Banerjee and her party says, "Introducing new trains without budgetary allocation and clearance from the Planning Commission will hinder passengers safety. The minister is also not making any effort to fill 2 lakh vacancies in the railways, most of which are connected with the aspects of passengers safety."

It is expected that the CPM leaders will harp on this issue while running their campaign for the ensuing assembly elections. The CPM further says that "attempts are being made to encourage the entry of private agencies in the day to day functioning of the railways. Draconian laws are being used to buy land for the railway projects and the minister has transformed the railways into the property of her party."

The document, which has been recently released by the state CPM leadership, will soon reach the districts and the party leaders across the state will run their campaigns against the Trinamool Congress on the basis of the document.

February 22, 2011

Govt may ban ammonia in cold storage units

TNN, Jan 25, 2011, 12.55am IST

KOLKATA: First Barrackpore, then Manicktala and now Nagerbazar. Worried by the repeated incidents of gas leak in densely populated areas, the West Bengal Pollution Control Board is considering banning the use of ammonia in cold storages.

"There are other options, already in use, which can be minimise the use of ammonia and chlorine in coolants," said a PCB official. The board is likely to issue a directive on January 27.

PCB has asked its scientists to find out if climatic conditions this winter has been the coldest in years could be one of the factors in the recurrent gas leaks.

PCB officials admit that there is no mechanism to monitor these small cold storages spread out in the outskirts. "The volume of ammonia they store is within permissible limits. We cannot book them for air or water pollution. We are monitoring the large ones situated outside the KMA limits," a PCB officer said.

All these units came up before the West Bengal Town and Country Planning Act, 1979, came into force. In 1997, the PCB took an initiative to identify hazardous industries to move them out of the city. "The government shifted the Howrah foundry units and tanneries in the Beliaghata, Tiljala and Topsia under Supreme Court directives but cold storages escaped the notice of the board because they do not regularly discharge effluents," the PCB official said.

There is another side to the story. Unlike other metros, Kolkata did not have a land map demarcating residential, industrial and mixed areas. This allowed many residential complexes to come up in erstwhile industrial areas in North 24-Parganas, Howrah and Kolkata. When KMDA put the land map in place, it could do little about the old units.

Complaints about these units poured in from residents but the government could not relocate them due to lack of space. Now, the government is considering a proposal to bring all chemical storage units under the scanner. "The PCB is preparing a list of all such units to bring them under the Factory Act," said an official.

Good harvest cools potato prices

20 Jan, 2011, 01.14AM IST, Sutanuka Ghosal & Madhvi Sally,ET Bureau

KOLKATA & CHANDIGARH: Though onion prices are yet to cool down, potato prices have dropped at the retail end. An early good crop of potatoes in Punjab, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh has pushed down the prices. While in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, mandi prices of the Pukhraj variety are hovering around Rs 2.50-2.75 per kg, the mandi price is about Rs 4 - 4.50 per kg in West Bengal. Potato prices in southern India are ruling at Rs 14-16 a kg.

According to industry officials, supplies will pick up by the second week of February across the main centres of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Sachid Madan, director, Technico Agri Sciences, a subsidiary of the cigarette-to-hotel major ITC, said potato production was likely to remain at 32 million tonne and prices would be firm. “Prices will correct when cold stores open by February,” he said while adding that the processing varieties will be harvested by the second week of February.

“The prices of processing varieties such as Chipsona and Lady Rosetta are ruling at `10 a kg in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh whereas in Uttar Pradesh the prices are at `6.5-7 a kg,” he said.

Bengal is expecting a 95-lakh-tonne production this year as well. “Weather has been favourable. Though the sowing area is slightly less this year, we expect production will be around 95 lakh tonnes,” said Sanatan Santra, president of West Bengal Progressive Potato Traders Association.

At a Ludhiana mandi, Rajesh Khanna, owner of Ramji Das Benarsi Das, said potato was sold for ` 6 a kg in January first week but the price has gradually fallen. On Wednesday, spot prices were quoted at `2.50-2.75 per kg for the early-crop Pukhraj variety. He added that prices were ruling at `4- 4.50 a kg in West Bengal and `4.50 at the Khandauli mandi in Agra.

WB government to constitute medical board

Kolkata, Jan 19 (PTI): Acting on Calcutta High Court directions, the West Bengal government today said it will pay compensation to the relatives of those killed and injured in the January 7 Lalgarh firing in West Midnapore district and also constitute a medical board."We have decided to constitute a medical board headed by Director Health Services comprising two medical officers.The board will examine the nature of injury, serious or otherwise so that the compensation amount can be fixed," Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh told reporters here.

The board will be functional by Saturday, Ghosh said.The high court has directed that the kin of those killed be paid Rs two lakh each, the seriously injured Rs one lakh each and those with minor injuries Rs 50,000 each within seven days.On the investigation, Ghosh said that since the court has directed that the investigation will be carried on by the CID, it has been asked to expedite the investigation under a senior officer and report to the state government."We will have to produce developments so far as investigation is concerned, to the court on February 4," Ghosh said.On armed camps, Ghosh said, "A joint team of police and central forces will look into the list of camps placed in court."


February 8, 2011

West Bengal Fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda attacked by Trinamool

Kolkata, Jan 27 (PTI): West Bengal Fisheries Minister Kiranmoy Nanda today alleged he was attacked by supporters of the opposition Trinamool Congress while returning from a meeting in his Assembly constituency of Mugberia in East Midnapore district.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told reporters that he had "heard" about the incident.

Nanda was on his way back yesterday after attending a Socialist Party meeting at Mugberia when some Trinamool Congress supporters waved black flags at him while some others pelted stones at his car but he was not hurt, the minister claimed before reporters.

Socialist Party is a partner in the Left Front government.

The minister said the attacks took place in the wake of local Trinamool Congress leaders and supporters cautioning him against holding any meeting in the area.

"But I went ahead with the meeting, which was attended by many people although several others could not, threatened by the opposition camp".

Nanda, however, neither filed an FIR nor took up the matter with the Chief Minister.

"Let the police do their duty suo motu", he said.

In reply to a question regarding the alleged attack on his cabinet colleague, Bhattacharjee said, "I have heard about the incident. I shall look into it".

ONGC gets shale gas indication in West Bengal

India Infoline News Service / 10:03 , Jan 27, 2011

The shares of ONGC are currently trading at Rs 1,133 up marginally. It opened at the day's high of Rs 1,145 and went on to touch a day's low of 1,129.

Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has reportedly found shale gas indication from the shale gas pilot R&D project in West Bengal.

According to reports, ONGC got shale gas indication from the first well they had drilled. However, the Company did not reveal any further details, as tests were not yet over.

If the results of the first well comes prosperous then three more wells would be drilled. ONGC engineers and technical staff had started first shale gas well exploration in the state from September 2010, adds report.

The shares of ONGC are currently trading at Rs 1,133 up marginally. It opened at the day's high of Rs 1,145 and went on to touch a day's low of 1,129.

1.25 families became legal landowners in 2010


19 JAN, 2011, 11.18AM IST, PTI

WASHINGTON: In the year gone by about 1.25 lakh families in India became legal landowners, said a US-based non-profit organisation which has worked with the local government agencies.

"In 2010, more than 124,000 poor families in India became legal landowners and now have the opportunity to build a better future for themselves," said Landesa, the Seattle-based rural development institute.

According to a media release, as many as 65,000 families benefited in Karnataka, followed by 52,000 in Andhra Pradesh, 4,000 in Orissa and 3,000 in West Bengal.
For the next two years it has set a target of three lakh families. Since 2001, it has benefitted some 433,000 families in India.

"To our beneficiaries, their new land title is more than just a piece of paper. It is the foundation for a new life. With this title, they can--often for the first time--send their children to government residential schools, grow the food they need to feed their children a balanced diet, and take advantage of government programs designed to help the poor improve their lives," the statement said.

Landesa said it partners with state and national governments across India to design, implement, and evaluate programs that put small plots of land into the hands of the world's poorest.

India has an estimated 15 million rural families who are poor and completely landless.

Most till other people's fields for cents a day with little hope or chance of improving their life, Landesa said.
"For these people, the most effective route out of poverty is owning a micro-plot of land--a homestead of less than 1/10th of an acre. Micro-plots provide families with a place to live, grow their own vegetables, and supplement their income. The small size of a micro-plot belies its big impact," it said.
"These tennis-court-sized plots are Landesa's innovative tool that allows many of India's cash-strapped state governments to help large numbers of the poor in a cost efficient manner. In some states the total cost of providing legal rights to a micro-plot of land for a poor family and forever changing their lives is as little as USD 3 per family," it said.

"From the hamlet of Kharibandha in Orissa, to the Village of Peace in West Bengal, hundreds of communities are being transformed thanks in part to legal control over a small piece of land," the statement said.

Rly financial position worsens: All PPP projects put on hold

Press Trust of India / New Delhi January 27, 2011, 9:42 IST

Faced with a financial crisis, Railways have put on hold all PPP projects including proposed plants at Kanchrapara in West Bengal and Madhepura and Marhora in Bihar.

Railways have to commit approximately Rs 8,000 crore per annum for these three projects - an EMU/coach factory at Kanchrapara, diesel locomotive factory at Marhora and electric locomotive plant at Madhepura - for assured purchase orders.

"In the current situation, the railways is finding it difficult to commit for the assured offtakes," sources in the Railway Ministry said and added that "due to the fund crunch, railways have put a temporary hold on these PPP projects and have set up a committee to examine how funds can be provided to PPP projects and also to its own production units."

Multinational companies mainly from the USA and Europe are involved in the bidding of these three PPP projects in Kanchrapara, Marhora and Madhepura.

"The committee comprising six senior railway officials is to examine how assured purchase contracts can be provided because railways also have their own production units. If assured offtakes are entertained then there will be very little funds left for its own units," they said.

Railways' annual purchase is estimated at Rs 15,000 cr to Rs 18,000 crore for wagons, coaches and locos.

"If Rs 8000 crore is being kept for the three PPP projects then limited funds will be left for its own production units as well as for purchase of wagons," they said.

The committee has to examine the contradictory demands on railway funds. The committee has been given 15 days time to suggest ways and means to fund PPP projects as well as its own production units.
"So till the committee's report, there is a temporary hold on all these three projects," the sources said.

Rs 107 crore environment plan for Bengal's Bantala SEZ

Indo-Asian News Service

Kolkata, January 18, 2011

The West Bengal government has prepared a Rs 107 crore plan to address the environment problems at Bantala special economic zone (SEZ) in the eastern part of the city, Industries and Commerce Minister Nirupam Sen said on Tuesday.

"We were apprehensive whether investors would invest in Bantala SEZ, because of the environmental hazards caused by the tanneries located nearby. We are reluctant to have it happen where red category marked leather industries are located," Sen said at a programme.

"The investors and developers have faced lot of environmental problems. Even the Cognizant authorities complained that their employees are reluctant to come here because of non-friendly environment and poor infrastructure," Sen said at the inauguration function of the second campus of Cognizant Technology at Bantala.

He said the state government was concerned about the problem. "We are committed to address the problem at the earliest. A plan to renovate the common effluent treatment plants (CETP) and construction of solid waste management has been prepared by the government to resolve the problem at an estimated cost of Rs 107 crore," he said.

At present there are four CETPs, which are not running with full capacity due to lack of renovation. Two more CETPs will be constructed apart from setting up a solid waste management facility.
A plot of 60 acres has been identified for the solid waste management project and a guard wall will be set up to arrest the flow of water from the tanneries. The entire project will be completed at the earliest to improve the environment at the Bantala campus.

Sen said the state government will appeal to the union ministry of environment and forests for providing 70 per cent of the estimated cost as grant. The minister will take up the matter with the ministry officials in Delhi. "But even if the ministry refuses to fund the project, we will initiate the project at our own cost," he said.

After the tendering process, the project has been awarded to Ramco Environmental.

The minister also emphasised that foreign and domestic investors are doing good business here despite negative publicity in the media about the industrial growth of Bengal.

"Actually the foreign and domestic companies are doing good business. All of them are either undergoing expansion plan or have expanded their capacities."

Environment in the state is one of the major issues for development of the industries, said Sen.

Freedom fighter Sushil Dhara passes away

Tamluk, January 28, 2011

Legendary freedom fighter Sushil Dhara, who along with others had liberated Tamluk (then Tamralipta) in the East Midnapore district from British rule for a few days back in 1942 and formed a national government there, died in the district today. He was 101.

A true Gandhian, Dhara was a bachelor and spent his last days at an ashram attached to Prajnananda Smirit Bhavan at Mahisadal.
A redoubtable figure among freedom fighters, Dhara was the 'defence minister' in the 'Free and nationalist Tamralipta (now Tamluk) government' under the commandant of illustrious Satish Samanta in 1942.

Dhara, along with his close associate veteran Gandhite and former West Bengal chief minister Ajoy Mukherjee, retained control over the free Tamralipta government for some days before succumbing to the intense pressure by British government.

A former industry minister in the first government of West Bengal (after independence), Dhara actively participated in the post-independence politics of the state during 1967-69.

Elected from Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency in 1977, Dhara was the chief whip of the Janata Dal parliamentary party at that time.

On February 3, 2010, he became a centurian. President Pratibha Patil felicitated Dhara, a Tamrapatra recipient, on his attaining 100 years by sending a representative at his Mahisadal residence.

"I deeply mourn and express my heartfelt condolence at the death of Shri Sushil Dhara," Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya said in a condolence message.