September 3, 2011

Nothing personal in this fight: CPI(M) candidate

 | TNN, Sep 3, 2011, 03.37AM IST

KOLKATA: While some consider her to be nothing more than a sacrificial lamb, there are others who have been congratulating her on Facebook for taking up cudgels against mighty Mamata Banerjee. But Nandini Mukhopadhyay could be best described as an epitome of cool and poise. For her, contesting the forthcoming bypolls from the Bhowanipore constituency with a CPI(M) ticket is just another assignment. And she has always completed her assignments with aplomb.
Forty-five-year-old Nandini is the most loved faculty member at Jadavpur University (JU) where she has been teaching computer science engineering since 1992. She had worked in two private firms - Software Org Systems and MN Dastoor - before that. A student of Kamala Girls' High School and Patha Bhavan, Nandini was always a bright scholar with computers her first love. After clearing the joint entrance examination, she studied computer science engineering at the then Bengal Engineering College (now Bengal Engineering and Science University).

Even after joining JU's tech faculty, her quest for creating next generation computers continued. She took a break from teaching to complete her PhD at University of Manchester. "In those days, computers worked on a single processor. My research was on parallel computing or on multiple processors that would increase the speed of the computer while making it a multi-tasker," she shyly explained in layman's language. Even today, when she is not teaching, you will find Nandini working to spread computer literacy among the underprivileged with like-minded friends. You will find her imparting computer lessons to poor kids in nondescript lanes and bylanes.
"I joined a movement to create free software that can be used for spreading computer literacy among people. This will help put computers to multiple use without spending much," she explained. With 10 research scholars working under her, Nandini is trying to do something innovative on grid computing and wireless sensor network.
But isn't contesting an election a tad different from her classroom and laboratory work? "Indeed. But I will give it my best shot. I was associated with the SFI during my college days and had been in the executive council of JUTA, my university's teachers' political wing, for a long time. So I'm not as far removed from politics as you might think!" she laughed.
But is the thought of fighting Mamata Banerjee scaring her, albeit, a wee bit? "Not at all," she quips. "I don't think this is a personal battle. We who have been baptized in Left politics know how to take a detached view of such things. I think my party has given me a great opportunity to fight for a cause and to uphold the values of the Left movement at a very difficult time. I will definitely try to win," she said with conviction.
How does she rate her opponent? "She is indeed mighty and I respect her for the fact that she has single-handedly catapulted her party to power with a landslide victory. I will walk the miles at the hustings backed by this respect but will also try to uphold our point," she said.

MLAs can now earn 5K more

TNN, 3 SEPT. 2011

KOLKATA: It was a windfall for Bengal legislators on Friday. The new government, despite financial constraints, increased their daily allowances by Rs 250 for the days they attend the assembly sessions or the committee meetings. Under the new system, MLAs can earn up to Rs 32,000 (including their Rs 12,000 salary per month) - which means a hike of Rs 5,000 from what they got earlier.
State finance minister Amit Mitra also had some good news for his ministerial colleagues. They will also get the daily allowance for attending the House, on a par with MLAs. Ministers, till now, were only entitled to a monthly remuneration of less than Rs 10,000. This, for them, is an added bonus.
"There are 24 Assembly standing committees with 10 members each. In addition, there are 15 other committees with 20 members each. So roughly, almost every member of the house is a member of these committees, if not more. When they attend a committee meeting, the MLAs will be entitled to this enhanced daily allowance too. It is difficult to pinpoint the actual but Roughly for the MLAs, if they attend the twice-a-week meetings, they get allowances for all the five days in a week. The meetings are usually on a Monday and Friday. So a bare calculation indicates they can earn Rs 5000 a week or Rs 20,000 a month. However, these will purely be on their attendance," the finance minister said. The MLAs, therefore, now will earn Rs 5000 more every month only by attending the meetings.
A look at the Assembly records in the 2006-11 term show that on an average 47.8 Assembly sittings were held every year. Inspite of the bitter acrimonious prompting Trinamool Congress MLAs to boycott the session for a long time, the Assembly had 219 sittings. Even in this index, the MLAs - and ministers - can earn close to Rs 12,000 a year more. This, however, is much less compared to the Mps. The Mps, other than a Rs 50,000 a month salary, gets Rs 2,000 for every Assembly sitting.
Earlier, Mitra made a spirited defence of his revenue-generation proposals, saying by hiking taxes in IMFL, lottery and tobacco products and by simplifying the rather complicated
tax structures, he was confident of meeting the revenue targets. "West Bengal is the only state after Karnataka to have dematerialized the VAT registration process, a bottleneck that led to less compliance," he said.

Adra project in limbo as Railways, NTPC differ on land value

Sat, Sep 03, 2011

Debjoy Sengupta, ET Bureau

KOLKATA: National Thermal Power Corporation's proposed project at Adra in West Bengal, which it plans to execute with the Railways, has hit a roadblock over valuation of land on which it is to be built. The power producer now plans to approach the Railway Ministry for a resolution.

The 1,3200-mw thermal power plant is to be executed as a 26:74 joint venture between the two state-run entities. Over 1,300 acres of land identified for the project belongs to the Railways. NTPC and the Railways need to agree on its pricing for the project to take off.

"We feel the price being asked is on the higher side. The land is valued nearly at par with that in Kolkata, and NTPC executives are not too happy with the price being asked," an NTPC source said, adding, "NTPC officials are planning to take up the issue with the Railway Ministry so that it can be solved amicably."

The power producer is also waiting for the go ahead from the state government for acquiring land for another proposed 1,600mw thermal power plant at Katwa in Bardhaman district. The state government has acquired about 575 acres of land for the plant. NTPC needs another 1,000 acres to start construction.

"We cannot start construction work on this 575 acres," NTPC chairman Arup Roy Choudhury had said, adding that 0.7 acres of land was needed for every megawatt of power generation capacity.

The memorandum of understanding for the plant had been signed in December.

Gorkha leader warns of agitation if bill does not fulfill promises

Kolkata, Sep 3 (ANI): Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Harka Bahadur Chettri has said people demanding the creation of a separate Gorkhaland state would agitate if the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Bill does not fulfill its promises.
Talking to reporters here on Friday, Chettri said: “If some impediment is created, if the promised autonomy is not given, if at the end of the day people feel that there is no provision, no scope, GTA is not creating any employment, GTA is unable to create infrastructure that it aims to create, in that case, definitely people will take to streets because nobody will have control over people if you fail to deliver GTA,” said Chettri.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition, Surya Kanta Misra slammed the state government for passing the bill in haste.
“You see 54 amendments on the part of the government itself show that they have not gone through the bill properly and even after giving 54 amendments, there is one provision that has been passed in the house one of the amendments which is patently unconstitutional,” he said
“The Constitution has no provision for the district level panchayat (council) in the Darjeeling neither the state act have it. They say the central government should agree to amend it in the parliament, but unless it is amended, so long it is not amended, even it is amended, only on the verbal assurance that it will get amended you cannot pass something unconstitutional in the assembly,” he added.
A renewed demand for a separate Gorkhaland region, which would include Darjeeling and some contiguous areas of Jalpaiguri District, has created fresh turmoil over the past few months.
The Gorkha population in West Bengal is estimated to be around a million. (ANI)

Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Bill passed by Bengal Assembly

Kolkata, September 3, 2011: The West Bengal Legislative Assembly on Friday passed the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Bill with 54 amendments, overruling a demand by the Opposition to send it to a select committee for further discussions.
Amid charges by the Treasury Benches as well as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) legislators that this amounted to delaying tactics, Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra said that peace and development go hand-in-hand and there was need to further discuss matters in a peaceful environment. He said peace might have returned to Darjeeling, but there was tension in the Dooars and Terai regions. He later told reporters that the government was confused and doing things that might be ultra vires of the Constitution.

Out of 54 amendments, 53 were moved by the government, accepting the demands of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. The government also accepted an amendment moved by opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra, relating to provision for reservation of seats in the GTA Sabha for SCs and STs and women. The government, however, didn't accept the amendment for reservation of women.
The state buckled under pressures from the GJM that wanted it to transfer financial and administrative powers along with executive powers to the GTA. It was incorporated in the amended version of the Bill that GTA would strive to establish ethnic identity of the Gorkhas as well as expediting their socio-economic, educational, cultural and linguistic development. The unnecessary mentions of the word 'Sabha' (the elected body of GTA) was dropped from the draft.
The mention of a zilla parishad was incorporated in the Bill.
Speaking on the Bill, chief minister Mamata Banerjee explained that the Centre would carry out the necessary constitutional amendment to make provision for a zilla parishad in Darjeeling. GJM member Harka Bahadur Chhetri explained that earlier the zilla parishad in Darjeeling had been abolished because the outgoing DGHC was functioning as zilla parishad.
Accepting GJM's demand, the amended Bill dropped the provision of the governor nominating two members to the Executive Sabha. All the 14 members of the Executive Sabha would now be nominated by the chief executive of GTA. The presence of one-third of members of the GTA Sabha would form the quorum for holding its meetings.
The principal secretary of GTA would not be transferred for a period of two years after assumption of office without consent of GTA. While the government in the draft Bill had agreed to delegate to GTA the power to make appointments only in Group-D posts, in course of the debate the CM agreed to GJM's demand and the amended version delegated to GTA also power to make appointments in Groups-B and C posts.
In a significant step, the government accepted an amendment moved by the leader of the opposition providing for reservation of seats in GTA Sabha for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and OBCs. "The reservations will be as per constitutional norms and the provisions of the agreement with GJM," minister Partha Chatterjee told TOI later. It appeared that GJM agreed to the amendment with reluctance. "We are prepared to accept whatever is the constitutional provision," GJM leaders Roshan Giri and Harka Bahadur Chhetri told TOI.
The CM also said that the governor who could nominate five members to the GTA sabha could also give nomination to representatives from these categories. Observers said this would pave the way for reservation of seats in the GTA Sabha for smaller communities like Lepchas and Bhutias as well as for adivasis who live in Dooars and Terai, where GJM has demanded areas for inclusion in GTA.
The chief minister announced that a development board would be set up for the Lepchas of Darjeeling under the state government. Lepcha groups are agitating in the streets of Kolkata for the past one month with this demand.
She said the government was taking steps to ensure that there was no discord between Gorkhas and adivasis in the process of identification of additional areas in Dooars and Terai for inclusion in GTA. She said Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad which had held agitations against such inclusion had been misguided by vested political interests. She accused the previous Left Front government of not being serious in addressing the problem of Darjeeling.
GJM member Harka Bahadur Chhetri later explained that the process of GTA formation and the expert committee on identification of areas in Dooars and Terai submitting its report would proceed in a parallel process. "The holding of the election will not depend on the submission of report by the committee, which has six months' time," he said.

CPI(M) Alleges Model Code of Conduct Violation by CM

Kolkata | Sep 03, 2011

The opposition CPI(M) today complained to the Election Commission that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee contesting a bypoll from the Bhowanipore assembly seat had violated the Model Code of Conduct.

CPI(M) state secretary Biman Basu in a letter to Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta alleged that Banerjee, a candidate of the Trinamool Congress, had violated the Model Code of Conduct by promising  jobs to students and youths at a rally in Kolkata on August 28.

Seeking immediate intervention by the Election Commission, Basu claimed that ministers and dignitaries came to attend the programme using government vehicles which was also a violation of the model code.

The CPI(M) leader alleged that the Election Commission had failed to take proper action during last the Assembly elections in the state on a large number of violations of the model code by the Trinamool Congress and the Congress despite complaints filed by the CPI(M).

The CPI(M) leader said he had enclosed two cuttings of newspaper clippings to the EC.

Banerjee is contesting the Bhowanipore seat to enter the assembly in the stipulated six months as she is not a member of the House. The election will be held on September 25.