September 20, 2011

Missing a historic chance

By Praful Bidwai

Monday, September 19, 2011 

Did India snatch defeat from the jaws of victory during its prime minister’s first visit to Bangladesh in 12 years? The answer is largely yes, although the visit also registered some gains. On balance, the Indian leadership squandered a historic chance to overcome mutual distrust and transform the India-Bangladesh relations to a point where they reflect the potential for exemplary cooperation between the two neighbours, with huge benefits to both and to the South Asian region.

The visit’s biggest vitiating factor was West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who adopted an unreasonable and parochial stand on sharing the waters of River Teesta and pulled out of the trip. Could her obstinacy and temperamental behaviour have been anticipated? Was enough groundwork done to prepare her for an equitable sharing of the river’s waters? There are two divergent accounts of this. One says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s representatives, including National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, tried hard to convince Banerjee that the interests of her state, in particular, the North Bengal districts, were being taken care of in the Teesta agreement with water shared in a 52:48 ratio between the two countries. Banerjee first agreed, but suddenly raised micro-level issues, such as sharing the flows during the lean season. During that season, West Bengal, she insisted, would concede no more than 25 percent of the flow at a barrage called Gazaldoba, which lies 90 km inside Indian territory. Menon took this proposal to Bangladesh for discussion.

But meanwhile, Banerjee abruptly decided to boycott the trip. She is reportedly extremely keen to build a base for her Trinamool Congress party in North Bengal, where the Left and the Congress are traditionally strong. According to the second account, the Central government failed to reassure Banerjee sufficiently, and could have done so had it worked harder on the larger picture. At that picture’s centre is the historic wrong India committed by unilaterally diverting the waters of the Ganga by building a barrage at Farakka in 1975. This was grossly unfair in and of itself. Worse, the diversion caused enormous losses of food and fisheries production in Bangladesh for almost two decades. According to Ashok Swain of Sweden’s Uppsala university, Farakka changed the river’s hydrology, “disrupted fishing and navigation, brought unwanted salt deposits into rich farming soil, [and] affected agricultural and industrial production ...”, causing an annual loss estimated at 2 to 2.5 percent of the GDP. This is equivalent to the effect of the entire Information Technology sector being taken out of the Indian economy! Even worse was the human tragedy, including large-scale displacement, destitution and forced migration.

Farakka became a symbol of Indian domination and stoked anti-Indianism in Bangladesh, which the Right cynically exploited. Anti-Indianism entered the mainstream. Banerjee could have been persuaded to understand the importance of undoing this blunder. She might even have comprehended the inequity of the current Teesta water-sharing pattern, under which India reportedly has access to about 32,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water during the lean season for eight million people, while Bangladesh must make do with just 5,000 cusecs for 20 million. Unfortunately, such a focussed effort was not made. Even if it had been, it’s conceivable that Banerjee would still have been obstructionist – for wholly narrow, short-term political reasons. As a last resort, the Centre could have asked for more time to negotiate a satisfactory Teesta accord, and still tried to get Banerjee on board. That didn’t happen. The Teesta failure is a huge setback to the cause of radically reforming Indo-Bangladesh relations.

Singh’s Dhaka visit was billed as a game-changer, which would pave the way for a Bay of Bengal community, including Burma, and provide greater linkages with Nepal and Bhutan, thus promoting South Asian integration. It would also greatly facilitate transit and trade between India’s northeast and the mainland. Transporting 45 percent of all goods to the region through waterways, roads, rail and air links via Bangladesh would yield enormous savings in fuel and time. The advantages of developing this backward and restive northeast cannot be overstated. India must reverse the damage by negotiating fair and equitable agreements on all the shared rivers with Bangladesh as quickly as possible. India must acknowledge that Bangladesh has legitimate concerns about some Indian dam projects such as Tipaimukh in Manipur. These must be addressed in a cooperative spirit. The Bangladesh government has acted positively on India’s demands on transit and security. It has refused to provide sanctuaries to insurgent groups from the northeast, enabling the agreement now being reached with the United Liberation Front of Asom.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has gone out of her way to meet Indian requests, often at the risk of being branded unacceptably pro-Indian. India should do more than reciprocate all this. Indian policymakers need to remind themselves of the Gujral Doctrine, a worthy principle which held that India’s dealings with all her neighbours barring Pakistan must go beyond strict reciprocity, to generously unilateral gestures. (I would argue this should apply to Pakistan too, especially in trade and people-to-people exchanges, but that’s another matter.) The Gujral Doctrine created goodwill for India, and helped counter the charge that India has a Big Brother-like attitude towards its smaller neighbours and doesn’t hesitate to interfere in their internal affairs, as it did by sending troops to Sri Lanka, imposing an embargo on goods going to Nepal, and militarily intervening in the Maldives. It’s imperative that India rectify not just the image, but the object (its relations).

As India-Bangladesh relations go, it is not enough for New Delhi to rest on the small gains made through the various agreements signed in Dhaka on the land boundary, biodiversity conservation, economic cooperation, and a $750 million loan for trade infrastructure, etc. India must correct the huge imbalance in bilateral trade, with a deficit of $4.5 billion vis-à-vis a country that’s 15 times smaller in economic size. Readymade garments make up 80 percent of Bangladesh’s exports. In 2008, India started giving “duty-free” access to them, but still levied a countervailing duty of 4 to 12 percent, thus taking away with the left hand what was given with the right hand. The garment quota was raised from eight million pieces to 10 million last year, but Bangladesh exhausted this year’s quota in the first six months.

India still has 480 items on its “negative” trade list for Bangladesh. But if all these were to be given true duty-free access, it would cost India a paltry $5 million loss in revenue, according to a 2008-09 estimate by the Centre for Policy Dialogue in Dhaka. Such access would greatly boost investment, growth and employment in Bangladesh, with immense benefits for regional integration. India must develop imaginative strategies in trade, economic and cultural cooperation, education and action to combat climate change. Bangladesh is one of the world’s most climate change-vulnerable countries. Parts of India’s East Coast are equally vulnerable. Cyclone Aila, which devastated large swathes in Bangladesh and India’s Sunderbans, showed this in 2009.

As a precondition for this change of stance, India must stop seeing itself primarily as part of the global Big League and relate seriously to the South Asian region to which it belongs, geographically, culturally and strategically.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email:

September 9, 2011

Mamata Banerjee and our disappointment

Manmohan says Mamata assented to Teesta deal

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the 
media on board his special flight to Delhi on Wednesday.

By Praveen Swami

THE HINDU, September(On Board air india one)

Indian negotiators still unaware of West Bengal's special objections to water deal, highly placed sources say.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that the West Bengal government assented to a strategic water-sharing agreement with Bangladesh before backing out of it over the weekend — and thus forcing India to resile on its international commitments.

Dr. Singh said he had consulted with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for over a month on the details of the treaty, asking National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon “to seek guidance from her.” “I was told that all technical details were sorted out,” Dr. Singh told journalists on-board his flight home from Dhaka.

Last week, the Trinamool Congress raised objections to the draft treaty at a meeting of the Cabinet's Political Affairs Committee. “I again sent Shankar Menon to visit Kolkata,” Dr. Singh said. “He had a meeting, and what the Chief Minister said, and what Mr. Menon understood, he took to Dhaka, and the arrangement was made.”

But, Dr. Singh continued, “some other factors came up and therefore Ms. Banerjee said that she will not accompany me to Dhaka. “It was only subsequently,” he insisted, “that I learned her disagreement was on account on what we were attempting to do on the Teesta.”

Indian negotiators, a highly placed government source told The Hindu, have still received no explanation for West Bengal's eleventh-hour decision to reject the draft water-sharing treaty — making it impossible for them to explain the country's stand to their Bangladesh counterparts or to lay the foundations for an alternative agreement.

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed said on Tuesday night that New Delhi and Dhaka had “reached an understanding on water-sharing in the Teesta and Feni rivers” — the first official acknowledgment of just how close negotiators were to closing a deal.

The agreement, diplomatic sources told The Hindu, envisaged that India would be entitled to just under half the Teesta's waters, and called for both sides to carry out joint studies on how much was available before setting up a bilateral body charged with administering the treaty.

However, New Delhi was forced back out of the deal just hours before the Prime Minister's arrival in Bangladesh, after Ms. Banerjee refused to travel with him to Dhaka. Ms. Banerjee has made not offered an explanation of precisely what objections she has to the proposed treaty, but sources in her party said the draft presented to Bangladesh differed from the one she discussed with Mr. Menon.

The Prime Minister declined to discuss Ms. Banerjee's claims, saying he did not want to “enter into a disputation.”

The troubled Teesta

Even though farmers in Bangladesh will be the immediate beneficiaries of the Teesta treaty, it has huge implications for India. The treaty, which will provide a template for agreements to share the waters of 53 rivers with Bangladesh, will also help India establish principles for pressing its claims to rivers originating in China.

India and Pakistan began talking about the Teesta's waters soon after Independence. The talks went nowhere. In 1961, India adopted unilateral plans to build a barrage on its side of the border, raising concerns downstream.

Following more years of failed talks, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a consensus statement in 1976 which directed both countries to arrive at a “fair and expeditious” agreement. Even though the India-Bangladesh joint rivers commission held over a 100 meetings, a deal could not be hammered out.

Bangladesh completed construction of the Dalia barrage, the country's largest irrigation project, in 1979. The Dalia project was intended to use the Teesta's waters to irrigate some 540,000 hectares of land in the country's northern rice-growing heartlands. From 1985, the 4,500-km canal network meant to carry the Teesta's waters to farmers opened its gates.

The farmers got the water they desperately needed — but then, just a few years later, the canals ran dry.

In 1993, farmers in West Bengal began to get water from the Gazoldoba barrage in Jalpaiguri, which India had built on the Teesta. The Indian project supplied water for 228,000 hectares — farmers who used their votes to ensure that their needs were met before Bangladesh.

From 1996, scholars Yoshiro Higano and Muhammad Fakrul Islam have noted, India's “exclusive control of the Teesta's water in the dry season at Gazoldoba made the Dalia barrage useless.” In the monsoon, they said, releases of water from the barrage caused “floods and bank erosions, leading to serious suffering”.

In 1997, though, a draft treaty on the Teesta was hammered out, a year after the former West Bengal Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu, helped steward a landmark treaty on the Ganga. “He was a great man,” the Prime Minister acknowledged today.

Little progress was made in the decade and a half since, breeding bitterness in desperately-poor Bangladesh where farmers are hit by crippling water shortages in low-rainfall years.

New old name : West Bengal became Pashchimbanga


FRONTLINE, Volume 28 - Issue 19 :: Sep. 10-23, 2011

West Bengal sheds the colonial legacy in its name by becoming Pashchimbanga, but not everyone is happy.

THE proposed change of name of the State of West Bengal to Pashchimbanga has roused mixed emotions. The new name was accepted unanimously at an all-party meeting on August 19, following the submission of the proposal of the two-member committee set up for the specific purpose of changing the name. The two members of the committee were State Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee of the Trinamool Congress and Leader of the Opposition Surya Kanta Mishra of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). “The main rationale behind the name change was that we all wanted to drop the colonial legacy attached to the name West Bengal. All other States have dropped any such colonial appendage and it was important for us to do so too,” Mishra told Frontline.

The first choice of the Left Front was “Bangla”, which was reportedly not liked by the Congress. “Our second choice was Pashchimbanga, which we proposed mainly to facilitate a unanimous decision,” said Mishra. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while maintaining that her party, the Trinamool Congress, did not have any particular favourite, said her own personal choice was “Bangabhumi”. But she was quick to accept “Pashchimbanga” as the consensus choice.


Ironically, in 1999, when there was a move to change the State's name during the chief ministership of the late Jyoti Basu, it was the Left that had suggested the name Pashchimbanga. The Congress rejected it in favour of “Bangla”. However, when an all-party delegation from the State went to meet the then Union Home Minister, L.K.Advani, the matter was not met with much enthusiasm. “The proposal was not directly turned down, it was suggested that the name Bangla was too similar to Bangladesh, which might lead to future confusions,” Mishra told Frontline.


The announcement of the new name was accompanied by a collective groan of disappointment from across the State. From intellectuals and celebrities to students and professionals, many have been vocal about their dissatisfaction. The main objection is that it is no change at all, as Pashchimbanga in translation means West Bengal and has always been in use in the vernacular. “I do not find this change of name satisfactory. Pashchimbanga and West Bengal amount to being the same thing. There has been no real name change. I personally would have preferred the name Banga or Bangabhumi as the Chief Minister herself said she would have liked,” the legendary Bengali thespian Soumitro Chatterjee told Frontline. The renowned film director Mrinal Sen was of a similar opinion. “The word Pashchim should not be there. I believe it should be Bangla or Bangabhumi,” he told Frontline.

Neither were people convinced by the justifications provided by the government for its decision. One of the reasons cited was that the State would be going a few notches up the alphabetical order (from ‘W' to ‘P'), which would improve its prospects vis-a-vis other States during Central meetings and conferences. “If going up the alphabetical order was a criterion, then why not simply change the name to Bangla? Besides, the name does not make sense as there is no ‘Purbo' [East] Bengal any more. It is also a completely Bengali name that many of the non-Bengali speaking people of the State might find difficult to pronounce,” said Pratik Mazumdar, a final year B.Com student of St Xaviers' College, Kolkata.

Almost the same voice of dissent could be heard from within the Congress ranks. Om Prakash Mishra, general secretary of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress, found the whole exercise “unnecessary” and “superfluous”. “This will not bring in the intended benefit as a name change of a State can hardly be justified on the grounds of either administrative convenience or supposed support due to a change in the order of precedence in the alphabetical arrangement of the States in the Indian Union. This purpose would rather be served then by renaming our State as either Bengal or Banga,” he told Frontline.


The eminent historian Sabyasachi Bhattacharya also feels that this change is no change at all. “I see no reason why West Bengal should still preserve its fragmented identity like this. There was once an East Punjab for a very brief period after Partition, but that name was soon dropped and it became simply Punjab. There was also an East Pakistan province which later became a sovereign nation, Bangladesh. Such things should not affect the identity of the people of a region,” he told Frontline. Bhattacharya believes that the most applicable name would have been “Banga”. “The name is not only present in the national anthem – Dravida Utkala Banga – but also has its origins in ancient texts and in Sanskrit. The term West Bengal was coined by the British during the partition of the region,” he said.

The origin of the name of Bengal is shrouded in mystery. In History of Bengal (volume one), edited by R.C. Majumdar, the historian H.C. Raychaudhuri wrote that there was no mention of the land now known as Bengal in Vedic hymns. However, the Puranas and the epics, which came later, refer to various parts of the region as Vanga, Gauda, Pundra and Samatat. In the epics, there is unambiguous mention of the “Vangas” – the people of Vanga. In the Ramayana, they are mentioned among a number of peoples with political relations with the kings of Ayodhya; and in the Mahabharata, Bheema, after defeating the lord of the “Pundras” (as people of north Bengal were referred to), is said to have attacked next the king of the Vangas.

From the seventh century onwards, the Buddhist Pala dynasty consolidated its hold over the region, which became a major centre of Mahayana Buddhism. Around this time, Gauda (in the central part of West Bengal) became the power centre of the region. In the subsequent consolidation and unification of the region that took place under the Pala and Sena dynasties, references to Vanga as a political unit can be found in various inscriptions dating back to the latter half of the eighth century. In fact, the titles Vangapati and the Gaudesvara for the ruler of the region became interchangeable. The name “Vangaladesha” can be traced back to the 11th century in epigraphic and literary records.

The Sena dynasty fell to the cavalry of Ikhtiyar-ud-din Bhaktiyar Khilji, who, it is said, conquered the region with just 17 soldiers on horseback. Thus began the Muslim rule in the region, culminating in the Mughal conquest in the 16th century. Abu'l-Fazl (1551-1602), the author of Akbarnamah, threw some light on the origin of the name of Bengal when he wrote: “The original name of Bengal was Bang. Its former rulers raised mounds measuring 10 yards in height and 20 in breadth throughout the province which were called ‘al'. From this suffix, the name ‘Bengal' took its rise and currency.”


The term West Bengal first came into being in 1905 when Lord Curzon, the then Governor General, decided to partition Bengal into two halves on administrative grounds, though many people believed that the move was meant to stamp out any republican sentiment that was on the rise. East Bengal was created in October 1905, and along with Assam, this new province was placed under a Lieutenant Governor; West Bengal, along with Bihar and Orissa, was placed in charge of another Lieutenant Governor. This unleashed a massive political agitation, which forced the colonial rulers to review their decision. Finally, the two parts of Bengal were merged into one province under a Governor in 1911. Bengal was once again partitioned in 1947 when one half became East Pakistan, and the other once again became West Bengal, this time a State of the Union of India.


In the face of mounting criticism, the Chief Minister stood her ground. On August 23, she defended the move in the Assembly, saying that the choice of “Pashchimbanga” (which she admitted was already in vogue even in administrative use) was a politically unanimous one and was final. The upshot of the whole exercise, which reportedly took just 10 minutes, was simply to drop the English version of “Pashchimbanga”. “In the past we have had endless arguments around the choice of a name, but till now there was no change and the name West Bengal remained. This time we were all determined to change it,” said Mishra.

100 days of 'Paribartan'

KOLKATA: WHAT are the high points of the first 100 days of the TMC-Congress government in West Bengal? 

Organised terror against the opposition, which has claimed lives of 33 Left Front activists, injured hundreds; 684 women were assaulted physically, 508 molested and 23 raped; nearly 40,000 had to leave their homes under threat. An unprecedented extortion campaign is going on in villages.

Campaign of political vendetta, using state police forces for that purpose. More than 1500 false cases have been registered against the CPI(M) leaders and activists. CPI(M) leaders, including MLA and former minister Sushanto Ghosh, have been put in prison. CPI(M) state committee members have been targeted too.

Land grabbing and comprehensive attack on panchayats.

A unique budget without budgeting, without finalisation of sources of revenue and expenditure.

Refusal to discuss budgets of important ministries, including home, in the assembly. The chief minister herself is in-charge of these ministries.

Reversal of decisions, hastily announced by the chief minister and other ministers. One of the more important one is retarding on the re-establishment of the legislative council in the state.

Lots of nominated committees with the TMC and pro-TMC people, presiding over the jeopardising of normal governmental functions.

May 20, 2011

Mamata Banerjee sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state at 1.01 pm on 20.05.2011 (not at 1 pm!). It was propagated earlier by Mamata that their cabinet would be smaller in size. But the reality was absolutely different. The cabinet was as big as it can be. Even Anandabazar Patrika's editorial dated 21.05.2011 expressed discontented note on that.

 The Chief Secretary called the name of Kashinath Mishra, TMC MLA from Bankura, when he was calling the names of the ministers for taking oath. Mishra didn't move. Some media carried the news that Mishra has been dropped from the probable list. But the official list was not corrected. First instance of maintaining liaison.

Chief Minister's Office Decorated at Her Own Cost?

It was propagated that Mamata Banerjee has paid Rs. 2 lac for the decoration of her office at Writers' Building. But according to the Public Works Department only the electrical renovation of CM's office cost Rs. 13 lacs 95 thousand. It is clear that Rs.2 lac is too insufficient for the cause but enough to get the media hype.

Treasury is Empty. But…

It was a constant campaign of TMC that the treasury of the state has become empty during Left Front's tenure. Let's look into some developments:

a) CM announced on 24 May that the teachers will get their salary on 1st day of each month. How could she manage the  money?

b) Cabinet took decision on 8 June that they would recruit 46000 teachers. How their salary can be managed?

c)  The Higher Education Minister announced on 21 June that 300 new colleges and 5 new Universities will be formed in the next five years. Did he mean that the financial infrastructure of the state is strong enough to carry on the  associated financial liability?

d) The new Government is taking initiation for creating Bidhan Parisad, which would involve extra expenditure of Rs. 100 crores. How can this fund be managed?

e) A project of Rs. 10 crores on beautification of the city has been taken. Then the treasury is certainly not empty.

Whatever they have campaigned all are blatant lie.


The document, celebrating 90 days, published by the new government has proclaimed that it has already provided jobs for 2,79,286 people in its first months. The break up shows that out of those jobs 2 lakh jobs have been given in the private sector and the 79,286 have been provided in the government offices. The government did not bother to disclose the names of the private sector where the jobs have been given and the government sector break up reveals that most of the posts have been proposed and created. So, as yet the government has not provided any jobs.


Most of the works cited in the book released by the TMC-led government are the repetition of the projects and works undertaken by the government of West Bengal during the tenure of the Left Front.

The modernisation of the Coochbihar Airport and the commencement of Kolkata-Coochbihar flight - in reality, the whole infrastructural work, was done during the time of the Left Front government and the project was waiting for its official inauguration.

The draft policy for the street vendors was also introduced during the time of the Left Front government, although it is falsely cited as a success of the new government.

A project of Rs 500 crore for job generation and a project of Rs 800 crore for building urban houses, has been falsely claimed by the TMC government as its success. They were also the projects taken up by the Left Front government.

Educational Sector is Under Attack

This small period can be related with the semi-fascist terror in West Bengal during 1970's. The Governor, with his capacity of Chancellor, wrote a letter (dated June 15) to all the Universities not to take any policy decision and not to do anything beyond routine work. The direction of the Governor was in anticipation of policy change by the newly constituted committee in the education sector. It has made all the process stalemate. Several-elected Students' Union were attacked. Many SFI supporters were prevented from collecting admit cards of University examination. A Professor was heckled by the TMC goons in Burdwan University for citing Karl Marx in a lecture.

Gorkhaland instead of 'Switzerland'

Left Front Government controlled the demand of separate state by extending autonomy. With the creation of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) Left Front Government solved the movement for separate state 'Gorkhaland'. It was an instance for entire country to solve separatist demand. But the new Government legitimized the demand of separate state raised by their supporter Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) by signing the agreement on Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). The pact was signed on 18 July between the State Government and GJM. The agreement was not even discussed in the assembly. Many maujas of Tarai and Doors were included under GTA. Bimal Gurung, the GJM chief, therefore said afterwards that this pact is the first step towards 'Gorkhaland'. In the election manifesto Mamata said in her own populist tone that why North Bengal cannot be Switzerland? But after becoming the Chief Minister she could only ensure the 'Gorkhaland'.

Reversal of Land Reform

The class interest of TMC has become unmasked. The rank and file of TMC is taking stance for the interest of landowners. Only in this short period 508 peasants were evicted from 830 acres of land; 4707 legal patta-holders (vested land given to landless) were evicted from 1529 acres of land and 3511 bargadars or sharecroppers were evicted from 1522 acres of land. 124 incidents of looting the crops from total 1486 acres of land happened in this period. In total 68 incidents 165 acres of land were destroyed to teach CPI(M) supporters a lesson.

In Haroa of North 24-Parganas, landlords with the help of TMC land-grabbers were trying to drive away poor farmers from their land and prevent them from cultivation have organized attacks. The police and the administration were offering full support to the attackers. On July 9, when evicted peasants assembled at a place called Gazitala in Haroa to reestablish their right to cultivate in their own land to resist forcible eviction, TMC land-grabbers armed with deadly weapons attacked them from different direction. Even the police opened fire on the assemblage of those poor cultivators without any provocation. Four persons, all tribal, were injured in this joint attack of TMC and police. 12 rounds of firing by the police marked barbaric act of terrorism. The joint attack of TMC and police also took place in Dwipkhanda village of South Dinajpur where they opened fire on an assemblage of peasants, patta-holders and sharecroppers.

The peasants of the state are now resisting the attack and holding the red flag tight.

Joyous Recall of Their 'Martyrs' by TMC

On 21 July of 1992, Mamata Banerjee went to capture the Writers' Building forcibly. Left no way out police opened fire and 13 persons of that rally died. It was a matter of grief but an outcome of irresponsible and undisciplined political movement. TMC claimed these people as their martyrs and used to observe the day every year. But this year the observation turned into celebration. The film star public representatives of TMC presented show of entertainment in memory of those martyrs. The other film personalities even danced with their popular film songs. The joyous event left one clear message that using dead bodies for narrow and dirty political purpose is no more required in this changed context.

Media are also Under Threat

Even the fundamental right is under threat. You have to be faithful to Mamata Banerjee even you are a journalist in the Mamataland.

 The Chief Minister shouted at the reporters of 24 Ghanta television channel on 30th June at Writers' Building when they asked her about the causes of child death in Government Hospital. A pro-TMC Bengali newspaper 'Bartaman' also expressed their concern on this autocratic attitude in a report dated 1 July. They wrote, today the CM has shown red eye to the journalists of one house. If there is no protest same will be the situation of the reporters of the other  houses. For writing such thing 'Bartaman' was cautioned by TMC. In two successive issues (8 July & 15 July) of 'Jago  Bangla', their organ, this opinion of the said vernacular daily was criticized openly.

 The Associate Editor of 'Sambad Protidin' was present in the dais of the party program of TMC on 21 July. The Editor  of the same newspaper got place in the Rajya Sabha for extending political support to TMC.
 When the reporters asked Bimal Gurung about their stand on Gorkhaland', the CM stopped the reports from asking  such questions. The incident happened on 30 May at Writers' Building.

Voice of Autocracy

 The voice of the opposition was gagged for two years during emergency but the CM of West Bengal said on 21 July  that the opposition should not speak for next ten years.
 The Governor uttered 'maa-mati-manush', the slogan of TMC, in his address in the Assembly on 13 June. Even the  Governor had to synchronize his voice with the political slogan of TMC. Just after a few days Left Front observed the  35-year completion of emergency. How well the present and the flash back converge!
 The CM visited Bangur Institute of Neurology in Kolkata on 26 May. The program was not known to the Director of the Institute but her pet media were well aware of the schedule. CM entered into the wards with the media personnel.
   The Director expressed his concern that it can invite infection to the patients. CM was furious and asked the Director to meet her at the Writers' Building. The Director expressed his prefixed schedule of many surgery cases. A notice of  suspension was served to the Director on that very day without any show cause notice.

Kolkata will be London!

Please don't laugh. Just look at the first step of this process initiated by Kolkata Municipal Corporation. Introspection towards the budget of KMC would reveal that the allocations in all priority sectors have decreased in this financial year. In 2010-11 Rs. 276 crores was allocated in road maintenance whereas the budget allocation of 2011-12 in the same sector read Rs. 180 crores. In 2010-11 Rs. 129 crores was allocated in slum development whereas the budget allocation of 2011-12 in the same sector read Rs. 84 crores. In 2010-11 Rs. 114 crores was allocated in health sector whereas the budget allocation of 2011-12 in the same sector read Rs. 95 crores. The allocations on disaster management and conservation of parks & water bodies have also reduced to Rs 2 crores and Rs 4 crores respectively. Only illumination on parks and roads got higher allocation in this year. From previous year's Rs. 150 crores it raised to Rs. 240 crores. One can easily understand the policy of exterior decoration and curbing the fundamental needs. This is the first chapter of Kolkata's transformation into London!

'Spit' Ranjan in The Court of North Bengal University

Ranjan Silsharma was nominated to the Court of North Bengal University. Who is the person and what was the reason of upsurge after his nomination? This person was involved in spitting to the District Education Inspector when he was leading a demonstration of TMC. TMC expelled him but he rejoined the party after winning the Siliguri Municipal Election as an independent candidate. The same person is now the Deputy Mayor of Siliguri Municipality. One can easily understand how cosmetic the expulsion was. This person with such background was nominated to the Court, the highest decision making body of the North Bengal University by the new Government. The reaction was very bad from all the corners. Ranjan was forced to resign. But his selection was an ominous indication and his promotion as the Deputy Mayor of Siliguri Municipality in further substantiates that.

Purchasing Laptops Without Tender

The State Government felicitated 62 top students who passed Madhyamik and Higher Secondary in the month of June. All of them were presented a laptop made by one local company, which supported TMC in different issues. The Government did not invite any tender for purchasing laptops. This resulted criticism from concerned corners. The unofficial organ of TMC 'Sambad Protidin' wrote that the laptops were gifted by the concerned company. But 'Anandabazar Patrika' wrote that those laptops were bought by the CM and it was her personal gift. The two media houses eager to guard this illegal transaction could have discussed between themselves! One should also not forget that the successful students of Madrasahs were not felicitated by the Government, which was a departure from the activities of the Left Front Government.

Mamata's 'Daharbabu'

She was not CM then. Mamata said in an interview with Star Ananda television channel that Rabindranath Tagore offered fruit juice to Mahatma Gandhi when he broke fast in Beleghata, Kolkata. Shocking it was! Actually Rabindranath died six years before Gandhiji's fast at Beleghata. So what? When Mamata speaks press can't question. Now what she did after becoming the CM? She was addressing a Government program to observe Hul Revolution of 1855 and to commemorate the death of legendary tribal leaders Sidhu and Kanhu in the said Revolution. The program was organized at Sidhu Kanu Dahar at Esplanade, Kolkata. Dahar means street and the Left Front Government named the adjacent road of Curzon Park by the name of Sidhu Murmu and Kanhu Murmu. Mamata mistook "Dahar" to be the name of a third tribal leader. She kept on saying "Dahar babu" (Mr. Dahar) without realising her mistake even once. As the programme went on, "Dahar babu" kept cropping up now and then.

Issue of Appointment Letter Stopped in Education Sector

Sishu and Madhyamik Sikshakendras are the centers, which impart education up to class VIII standard, and generally the under-privileged children come in these centers. The TMC Government stopped issuing appointment letters to the teachers of those centers on 28 July. The 7th Left Front Government took initiation to acknowledge the service of those teachers by increasing their salary. The extension of the scheme was to make them permanent. Issuing appointment letters were also initiated in the tenure of the 7th Left Front Government. Now said order of the TMC Government has put the future of 68000 teachers of these centers before a question mark. Near about 19 lacs students are connected with these centers. Their future too is under a threat.

Soumitra Chatterjee's Play Stopped!

The legendary Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee, aged 76 years, still is tireless in stage. The Left Front Government launched Repertory at Minerva Theater and sanctioned the play King Lear. Soumitra performed the lead role in the play. Its first performance was held in November 2010. After that all shows of the play was house full. But the TMC Government dissolved all repertory committees and stalled all shows. The play has not been staged, as the theatre group is not being given bookings either in Minerva or in Rabindra Sadan, the two auditoria where the play was being staged before. The obvious question is being raised that even Soumitra Chatterjee is being subjected to political vendetta?

West Bengal to Follow The Ruinous Path of Rail?

Mamata Banerjee, in her tenure as Railway Minister, only promoted populism and gimmick. Even the Minister of State for Railway Bharat Singh Solanki told in question-answer session in Rajya Sabha on 13 August that they need 1 lac 25 thousand crores of rupees to complete the projects of setting up new tracks, change of gauge and double lining. But the department's financial condition was not congenial to finish these projects. In 2008-09, total excess fund with the Railways was Rs. 4457 crore, which decreased to less than 1 crore in 2009-10. Safety and security of the passengers were also under serious question.

On 5 August, CAG reports on railway was published and discussed in Parliament. The report showed that on one hand the income of the department decreased and on the other hand the expenditure increased heavily. Railway Development Fund is almost empty. The report further said that during 2007-08 total excess fund with the Railways was Rs. 13431 crore, in 2008-09 it came down to Rs. 4457 crore and in 2009-10 it read as Rs. 75 Lac. Reserve Fund and Depreciation Reserve Fund also has been hugely reduced. Maintenance of tracks, buying of new engine, coach and wagons are therefore being affected.

The said scenario has happened only due to ignoring fundamental aspects of Railway and using the service solely for electoral dividend. Should our State follow the same ruinous path?

'Dalatantra', The Party Rule

The word 'Dalatantra' (party rule) was used to defame Left Front especially CPI(M). It was created by media as a part of hate campaign against CPI(M). But the boasting of party rule is now becoming prevalent in every step the TMC led Government is initiating. Every committee constituted in this brief period unquestionably speaks of 'Dalatantra'. Same sort of committees Mamata formed in her tenure as Railway Minister and placed her pet intellectuals in those committees. Now we can see the Bengal model of that misdeed. The Government nominees in Governing Bodies of Government Aided Colleges were asked to step down before their term is over. It was initiated to provide berth for the TMC minded intellectuals. The elected Chairmen of District Primary Education Councils were advised (?) by the School Education Minister to resign. The incident happened on 3rd June. The chairmen of West Bengal Council for Primary Education, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education and School Service Commission were replaced by known pro-TMC faces before their term are over.

Bank had to issue Notification against TMC Leader

The Sabhadhipati of South 24 Parganas Zilla Parisad Samima Bibi and her husband Rahman Ali Sheikh were accused of not repaying the loan taken from Vijaya Bank. Even the bank authority had to issue a notification with the photograph of them stating that they are going to start legal action against them as the couple had outstanding of 15 lacs 80 Thousand 809 rupees. The notification was also issued for public interest. Rahman Ali Sheikh took the loan and Samima Bibi was his guaranteer. Mamata claimed South 24 Parganas Zilla Parisad as the best one in the state. The performance of the Sabhadhipati very well speaks of the standard…

'Unwilling Farmers Demand Only 40 Acres in Singur!

The Singur problem has not removed but has become much complicated when the new Government had decided to return the lands to the 'unwilling farmers' by the force of the special legislation. The Government stipulated one month time for the 'unwilling farmers' to apply for returning their land. After end of that period on 22 July only 310 'unwilling farmers' claimed as minimum as 40 acres of land. It is becoming amply clear that the demand of TMC to return 400 acres of land was a sinister political motive.

Result of Higher Secondary Examination Leaked

The result of Higher Secondary Examination was leaked in Star Ananda television channel well before the official press conference. The incident happened on 4th June. Chief Minister not only defended the incident but openly said in the Writer's Building that she would compensate the loss of other channels by giving some scoops. This unethical and illegal thing was only designed to favor the channel that has almost become spokesperson of TMC.


The chief minister had earlier declared that there will be 23 new ration shops in jangal mahal area to ensure food distribution. Unfortunately, not a single one has been established in West Midnapore district, where 11 of 23 blocks of jangal mahal are situated.

The government has a proposal for the creation of 10,000 Special Police Officers to tackle the 'Maoist' situation in jangal mahal like the Chhattisgarh government. In this context the government has completely dumped the Supreme Court’s order against the creation of SPOs to tackle the 'Maoist' problems.

Meanwhile, the 'Maoists' have started to regroup.


The performance of TMC-led government in the specific sectors like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is not only poor but also much lower than the performance made during the tenure of the Left Front government. The contrast with the tenure of the Left Front government can be easily seen. The government has claimed that a total number of 1 crore 59 lakh working days have been created whereas the same was 15 crore at the time of the Left Front government.

Abundant of Country Loquor Factories

The source is a report published in Bartaman, a hardcore anti Left newspaper. It said that the State Government has issued license for 12 new country liquor factories. 20 such factories are in the waiting line. The State had 15 country liquor factories before this initiative. Getting the application form @Rs. 25000 and deposition of license fee of Rs. 5 Lacs is the requisition. The intention of the new Government is pretty clear…

Even Congress is Under Trouble

Krishnendu Choudhuri, Congress MLA of Englishbazar was assaulted by some TMC hooligans. The speakers in a rally of INTUC in Kolkata on 23 June said that the working class of the state is under attack since the new Government has taken charge. Sanjib Reddy, the All India President of INTUC wrote a letter to the new CM Mamata Banerjee to take steps against the attack on the working class of the state. Pradip Bhattacharya, the President of Congress State Committee, also wrote letter to the CM requesting her to take action against the increasing incidents of Congress workers being harassed by TMC-backed musclemen. Such poor is the condition of Congress who is an ally of this new Government.

MLA, Ex-Ministers are Under Attack

On 21 May, the TMC hoodlums ransacked the house of Basudeb Mete who is the Left Front MLA of Ausgram. Gauranga Chatterjee, CPI(M) MLA of Pandebaswar was beaten by Police and TMC goons when he was leading a procession against forcibly land acquisition for extension of coal mine on 21 June. On 22 July Abdus Sattar, the former Minister, was assaulted by the TMC hoodlums when he went to Amdanga to stand beside the invaded CPI(M) workers. Subhra Parui, the CPI(M) candidate in Khanakul, was assaulted and molested by the TMC goons.

'Silent Terror'

'Silent Terror' is being organized in many panchayats. TMC goons are threatening Left Front panchayat members. In some places they have forced the sabhadhipati of some Zilla Parisads. In some incidents after moving no confidence motion they are not allowing the elected Left Front panchayat members to attend the meeting. By this way they are capturing some panchayats. In some incidents they are threatening Left Front panchayat members to sign any paper on their demand and ultimately connecting them in false cases.

Political Vendetta Against Susanta Ghosh

Former Minister, present MLA and CPI(M) leader Susanta Ghosh is facing an incident of political vendetta by Mamata Banerjee Government. The police have acted on a nine-year-old case against Susanta Ghosh. Shyamal Archarya, the complainant in the case, also has a case registered against him. About a year-and-a-half ago a huge cache of arms was recovered from his residence. His photographs in combatant uniforms were also recovered. CID could not produce any substantial evidence against him. Susanta Ghosh even had to be hospitalized after constant interrogation by CID for 30 long hours. Now CID is also filing other cases against Susanta Ghosh. The direction of CID's action is unprecedentedly controlled by the Writers' Building.

Tortured People are Forced to Suicide

Sadhan Samadder of Burdwan, Brishaketu Khamari of East Medinipur, Gagan Digar of West Medinipur, Tapan Deb of Siliguri, Sarit Josh of Burdwan, Abdul Matin of West Medinipur and Sital Maity of West Medinipur had to commit suicide after being terribly assaulted by the TMC hoodlums. Many of them had directly mentioned the names of TMC goons as responsible in their suicide notes. Police is not taking any initiative to arrest the culprits.

Rampant extortions of  TMC Goons

The trend is becoming open secret especially in rural Bengal. The TMC goons are imposing hefty fines on the workers and supporters of Left Front. The common people are also facing the problem in many areas. 1911 people of 12 districts have been fined. The amount is huge - 11 Crores 45 Lacs 50 Thousand rupees. The minimum amount was Rs. 1000 per head and the maximum amount was Rs. 33 Lacs on a single person. He was allowed to pay in easy installments.

Heinous Conspiracy of Arms Seizure

The newly elected Government is using the administration to conspire against CPI(M) in the name of 'seizure of illegal arms'. This is being carried out to give legitimacy to those heinous attacks. TMC has taken recourse to a campaign of 'arms search' in CPI(M) offices. A section of media are also playing dangerous part in this hate campaign. TMC gangs are attacking or cordoning Party offices and houses of Party leaders by raising false allegations of 'storing of arms'. In most cases, they themselves are taking responsibility of such a 'search'. In some cases, when the police reached the place, ransacking had already been completed. The nature of recovery itself clearly indicates that the weapons are being dumped in ponds and paddy fields by TMC activists in the vicinity of houses of CPI(M) leaders and party offices in the night and they themselves call the police and identify those spots.

Flood and Inaction of Government

40 people died due to flood in West Bengal. But the Government was not ready even to declare that as flood. Previously when the Left Front Government asked central assistance to combat flood situation, the then opposition supremo Mamata Banerjee called that 'man made flood'. Now in power, she is not ready to acknowledge the fundamental problem of the common people.

The Reign of Terror

 30 Left Front activists, leaders and supporters were killed

 12 women were raped

 7 women were molested

 157 women were severely injured due to attack

 1622 Left Front activists, leaders and supporters were hospitalized

 1681 Left Front activists, leaders and supporters' house were ransacked

 750 offices of CPI(M) in all over the State were forcibly captured

 84 offices of different Left mass organizations and trade unions were ransacked and captured

 In 69 colleges of the State elected Students' Union were forcibly captured by the TMC goons from SFI

 17 boards of 'Ganashakti', the organ of CPI(M) West Bengal State Committee, were either captured or demolished

 293 Left Front activists, leaders and supporters were arrested in false and fabricated cases

 11 Crores 45 Lacs 50 Thousand rupees was collected as 'fine' imposed by TMC hoodlums from 1911 people of 12 districts.

September 7, 2011

Blackout days to be back, govt can't afford coal

TNN Sep 6, 2011, 06.22am IST

KOLKATA: Brace for regular, or shall we say "rotational", power cuts in the city. West Bengal Power Development Corporation Ltd (WBPDCL) has drawn up a roster for shutting down its three power stations as coal companies have cut down supply to the state agency. They have threatened to reduce it even further unless the Mamata Banerjee government pays up Rs 590 crore in dues immediately.

This roster will be sent to Writers' Buildings soon. But more importantly, WBPDCL's decision will force state power utility West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (WBSEDCL) to prepare its load-shedding schedule because the shortage of coal supply will directly hit power generation.

The ultimatum sounded by WBPDCL has reached Writers' Buildings already, but no respite has been offered by the Mamata Banerjee government as the state finance department has thrown in the towel, saying it can't shell out anything for the moment.

Coal companies have cut down on supply over the past two months because WBPDCL, which is the major power supplier to the state utility, has been unable to pay for the coal. The supply has come down from 18 rakes a day to 10. Things have come to such a head that WBPDCL will now have to shut down the power stations. All five - Kolaghat, Bakreswar, Bandel, Santaldih and Sagardighi thermal power stations - will be shut down during various parts of the day, thus supplying less power every day.

The 'shutdown' roster will directly impact power supply and, in turn, make WBSEDCL draw up its own load-shedding schedule.

Power utilities have been going through an abject funds crunch from the beginning of the current financial year as the state government refused to revise power tariff in accordance with the coal price hike from April 1. This alone has led to a loss of Rs 500 crore for WBSEDCL.

Moreover, chief minister Mamata Banerjee - who recently gave up the power portfolio to Manish Gupta - refused to allow the power utility to apply to West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission (WBERC) for the standard annual tariff revision. This would entail another Rs 2,500 crore subsidy for the power utility. But the state finance department, to which the power department has applied for the required subsidy, has already thrown in the towel, saying it doesn't even have anything to spare.

So, brace for acute power cuts like in the 1970s and early-'80s. After becoming a power surplus state by the mid-'80s, West Bengal is now walking backwards on the power front.