October 23, 2011

‘Unfit to drive’, 156 fire engine drivers hired by Left told to take a retest

Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay

INDIAN EXPRESS, Posted online: Thu Oct 20 2011, 02:37 hrs

Kolkata: The West Bengal government has ordered a retest for a batch of 156 engine drivers of the Fire Service department who got their jobs about eight months ago after going through all necessary tests.

The order was issued by Indevar Pandey, Principal Secretary, Fire department, some time back after Director of Fire Services Gopal Bhattacharya wrote to the government that 27 of the 156 drivers, who were recruited during the fag end of Left Front rule, were not fit to drive fire engines and were recruited without proper tests.

Since the 27 could not be singled out, the fire department called all the 156 for a retest of their driving skills.

“The tests are going on. I will not say anything more on this,” Bhattacharya told The Indian Express.

The move, however, has not gone down well with a section of officials believing that it could lead to complications.

“If any of the drivers goes to court, the government would be in a fix as they were taken in after all the tests, including medical. Apart from that they are in service and have been receiving salary for the past eight months. How can you take a retest now? What will you do if any of them disqualifies,” asked one official.

In another mysterious development, the complaint sent by Bhattacharya to the Secretary was on Wednesday found missing from the file.

“This must have been an insider job, somebody is trying to shield the man or group of men who were responsible for those appointments during the Left Front government,” said one official.

The Fire Department is facing a leadership crisis as Pandey, who handles two other departments as well - Home (Personnel) and Disaster Management — hardly finds any time it.

“He never sits in his office in the Fire Department. Many projects and plans have fallen. The department is in doldrums,’’ an official alleged.

Coal shortfall hits steel production in West Bengal

IANS, Oct 18, 2011, 02.48pm IST

KOLKATA: Production in the secondary steel sector of West Bengal has fallen as heavy rains have prevented the state-run Coal India Limited (CIL) from supplying enough of the vital raw material.

The sector expects to be further hit because there will be no e-auction of coal for it this month. It is on hold to divert the raw material to power stations. These auctions are a 'lifeline' to the secondary steel sector.

Coal supply to power and steel plants are badly affected as the coal giant was unable to meet its target in the first half of the current fiscal, the output falling short by around 20 million tonnes (MT) due to adverse weather conditions.

Against the target of 196 MT, largely due to heavy rains the Maharatna company could produce only about 176 MT of coal from April to September.

Steelmakers said the coal crisis for the steel sector will aggravate further with CIL's recent decision to offer four million tonnes of additional coal by e-auction to the power sector in October.

"Plants in West Bengal are on the verge of closing down due to acute coal shortage," Kolkata-based Shyam Steel director Lalit Beriwala told IANS. "We have been particularly facing severe shortage of coal for the last six months because of short supply from the CIL."

Beriwala said the state was currently producing at half its installed capacity.

"No new coal linkage has been given for the last four years in the state," he said.

He said prices of coal distributed through e-auction were very high; moreover, no trader should be allowed in the e-auction because they tend to jack up prices.

The coal distribution policy in the country has to be changed, he said.

On CIL's decision to put on hold the e-auction for the month of October, Beriwala said it will aggravate the coal crisis for steel producers as they purchased a bulk of coal through this medium.

"Now 70 percent of the steel plants will be closed down in West Bengal. I do not know what will be the fate of industry in the state if the government does not take any action," he added.

Another major steelmaker in the state, Jai Balaji Group, said it had resorted to more coal import from abroad.

"For the last few months, we have been facing severe shortage of domestic coal supplied by CIL and its subsidiaries," Jai Balaji Group chairman and managing director Aditya Jajodia said.

"Due to that our coal import has been increased by 25 percent. As a result cost of steel production has soared by about 40 percent," he added.

Jajodia said CIL's decision on e-auction of coal was a "negative development". "It will hurt steel sector as a whole," he added.

Santosh Bajaj of the Merchants' Chamber of Commerce ( MCC) said the steel sector in the state was facing supply as well as demand constraints.

"Bengal steel plants are facing a raw materials crisis, more in the recent times, because of the short supply in coal. Demand for steel is low because of low spending on infrastructure. If demand was high then the base price would have been higher. It would have ensured good profit for steel makers," Bajaj said.

Moreover, according to him, steel producers are also facing a working capital crisis as interest rates are too high.

"Financially they are in a pathetic condition," he added.

Low foodgrain production in high-yielding states: Study

BUSINESS STANDARD / New Delhi October 17, 2011, 1:09 IST

Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Karnataka have shown high-growth momentum in agricultural foodgrain production during the last five years and have the potential to contribute significantly to India’s foodgrain basket.

The share of these low-foodgrain yielding states in the total foodgrain production of India have improved from 17.4 per cent to 19 per cent during 2002-06 period over 2007-11 period.

However, the contribution of the states with high-yield foodgrain production like Punjab, Kerala, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh to the national basket has declined from around 41 per cent to around 38 per cent during the same period, a study conducted by PHD Chamber Research Bureau said here today.

Jharkhand posted 40 per cent growth in the foodgrain production during the last five-year-period (2007-11) over the previous five-year period (2002-06), growing from 2.28 million tonnes (mt) (annual average) in 2002-06 to 3.20 mt (annual average) during 2007-11 period.

Similarly, Rajasthan posted a foodgrain production growth of 21.84 per cent over the same period, growing from 12.62 mt (annual average) in 2002-06 to 15.38 mt (annual average) during 2007-11.

Foodgrain productions in Karnataka and Maharashtra have also grown at impressive rates of 24.09 per cent and 22.3 per cent, respectively, the PHD Chamber study said.

The green revolution effect of high-yield agrarian states like Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh seems to be fading. The foodgrain production growth in these states has reached a saturation point, the study pointed out.

Punjab, the significant contributor to the foodgrain production of India where per hectare yield is also highest in the country (4,148 kg/hectare), has registered around eight per cent growth in the last five-year period (2007-11).

Foodgrain production in West Bengal (2,561 kg/hectare) and Uttar Pradesh (2,260 kg/hectare) have grown at modest (-)2 per cent and eight per cent, respectively, the study added. Kerala with 2,896 kg/ hectare foodgrain production has grown at a disappointing (-) 10.9 per cent.

It is a matter of concern that the states with high yield of foodgrain production like Punjab, Kerala, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh have registered a declining trend in the growth of food grains.

Their contribution to the national basket has declined from around 41 per cent in 2002-06 period to around 38 per cent during 2007-11 period. In comparison to this, the share of the low-yielding states including Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Karnataka have improved from 17.4 per cent to 19 per cent during the same period, according to the study.

On the contrary, states with low-foodgrain yield per hectare, which have not been exploited to the fullest, have registered high-growth potentials during the period, the study said.

West Bengal madrasas see conspiracy in Mamata’s affiliation offer

Submitted by admin4 on 16 October 2011 - 4:00pm

By Zaidul Haque, TwoCircles.net

Kolkata: In a setback to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s move to please Muslims, a representative body of private religious madrasas in the state has rejected Mamata’s offer of affiliation to 10,000 madrasas. West Bengal Rabeta Madaris-e-Islamia Arabia rejected the offer saying there is a conspiracy to bring religious madrasas in political fold.

“Muslim should be aware of the government recognition offer for Islamic madrasas. Most of the Islamic madrasas in West Bengal are following the syllabus of Darul Uloom Deoband and Mazahir Uloom Saharanpur. Any madrasa run by Rabeta will never take Government recognition announced by the Chief Minister of West Bengal,” said Mufti Abul Qasim Nomani, Chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband.

(L-R) Chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband Mufti Abul Qasim Nomani, Maulana Siddiqullah Chowdhury, Principal Mazahir Uloom Saharanpur Maulana Sahid, Prof of Jamia Sahi Muradabad Mufti Salman.

Addressing a press conference here on 13th October, Maulana Nomani said “If Government wants to do something leave targeting Madrasa. Madrasa should have right to go their own way, destination Islamic Education.”

“Religious Madrasa should not take any Government Assistance. In Sachar Report we have seen only 4% Madrasa students. The rest are going to school or modern education centres. Government should take care of schools not Muslim-run Islamic Madarsa. Madrasas are teaching Islamic lesson. We have right to teach Islamic Education and build Islamic Educational Institution to our choice, which stated in Indian Constituency. We will abide Indian Constituency not State run Government Rule,’ Maulana Nomani roared.

He and other leaders of West Bengal Rabeta Madaris-e-Islamia Arabia questioned the affiliation offer of the CM by raising the issue of the number of madrasas in the state. They said the largest madrasa body Rabeta is running only 700 madrasas. So how will the govt get 10,000 madrasas in West Bengal?

Maulana Siddiqullah Chowdhury said the declaration of recognition to 10000 Madrasas by Mamata Banerjee led West Bengal Government is totally fake. Because there are not 10000 madrasas in West Bengal right now. It is a conspiracy against Islamic education, he said.

In reply to a question about Mamata’s claims that 90% of Muslim development issues has been covered successfully, Chowdhury said, the people of West Bengal knows well, they are doing nothing. This is a totally fake propaganda.

Principal of Mazahir Uloom Saharanpur said: If Madrasas are willing government assistance then Islamic Lesson might be dropped. So, Muslims should keep distance from Government Affiliation.

These eminent clerics and heads of renowned madarasas in the country were speaking at a press conference called at the end of two-day conference (12-13 Oct) of madrasas called by West Bengal Rabeta Madaris-e-Islamia Arabia at Jamia Islamia Madani near Dumdum Airport in Kolkata.

The conference was attended by around 700 Madrasas from 19 districts of the state. Eminent figures who featured the conference were Mufti Abul Qasim Nomani (Chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband and president of All India Rabeta Madaris-e-Islamia Arabia) Maulana Shahid (Principal of Mazahir Uloom Saharanpur), Mufti Salman (Professor of Jamia Shahi Muradabad) and Maulana Yusuf (Gujarat Darul Uloom). The conference was presided over by Maulana Siddiqullah Chowdhury.

From deferent districts of West Bengal lots of Islamic clerics and teachers attended the conference.

Some important points discussed at the conference:

1. To make good relation among Madrasas and should take care to build up coordination.
2. Rabeta Members will have an eye on Anti-Madrasa campaign
3. To increase quality of learning system-- Madrasa concern has to be taken special care.
4. To save Islamic Culture we have to spread benefit of Islamic education in the society.
5. Darul Uloom Deoband and Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind advised to keep safe distance from Government Financial help to run the madrasa. Madrasa should follow as usual process to collect donation form Muslim Community, society.
6. Govt of West Bengal declared to give the government affiliation to the 10000 Madrasa in West Bengal. This is the conspiracy to manage the Madrasa in political outfit. So, Madrasa should not take any government recognition. 

'Mamata failed to deliver on promises to Maoists'

Last Updated: Sunday, October 16, 2011, 11:31 

Ashok Jiban, Jhargram: Spokesperson of the People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA), Ashok Jiban, has said that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has failed to deliver on the promises she made to the Maoists before the state elections.

While reacting to recent statements by Mamata Banerjee, Jiban said: "She (Banerjee) talked about peace during her visit here. We also want peace and for making the environment conducive for peace she will have to keep her promises and then the process of continuous discussions will bring back permanent peace here."
He also said that the Maoist prisoners arrested during the conflicts must be released as was promised earlier.

"First we want withdrawal of the security forces, then we want the unconditional release of all the prisoners and withdrawal of false cases. In the past, when the CPI(M) established a new government, they released prisoners without any condition. Uttar Pradesh government also released prisoners on her birthday, recently the Orissa government also released prisoners and the military junta government of Myanmar controlled by Army also released 6300 prisoners. They all didn't establish their respective governments with any promises but the Chief Minister of West Bengal made these promises before the elections," he added.

Jiban also said that Banerjee's call to the Maoists to give up arms is a farce as there are other gangs controlled by political parties, which need to be disbanded.

"The Chief Minister said that the rebels have given up arms. But the people don't have any arms. It is in the hands of the CPI(M)'s Harmad. It is in the TMC's (Trinamool Congress) Bhairab Bahini's hands. Arms are also in the Maoist's hands, but Maoists are not like the Harmad and Bhairab gangs because they have their own ideals. They should not be compared with these gangs under any circumstances. But these gangs attack villages regularly so their arms must be seized first," he asserted.


Congress says ministers not being allowed to work in Bengal

INDIAN EXPRESS, Posted online: Fri Oct 14 2011, 09:20 hrs

Malda : Congress, which runs an alliance government with the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, today alleged its ministers were not being given a free hand to work in the state and warned against "undermining" the party's importance.

"Congress party workers are not being given a free hand in the state despite being an alliance partner. This should be protested against," said senior West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee leader Abdul Mannan.

"The Trinamool Congress government should work for the betterment of the people of the state and this has to be done jointly with the Congress," he said, addressing a party panchayat function here.

Addressing the gathering, WBPCC chief Pradip Bhattacharya said, "Congress' importance as an alliance partner should not be undermined and should be judged realistically."

"Workers must learn to shed their frustration and work for the party," he added.

Don’t include Dooars, Terai in GTA: Tribal leaders

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 15:37

Chalsa (WB): Adivasi leaders of Dooars and Terai in West Bengal today met state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and said they would not allow any area from the two tribal regions to be included in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration formed recently.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had demanded at the time of the GTA agreement that some mouzas of the two adivasi regions be included in the authority. While Dooars has 98 mouzas, Terai has 123.

The Dooars lies on the foothills of the eastern Himalayas around Bhutan while Terai is the area near the Siwalik range, the lowest outer foothills of the Himalayas.

Representatives of various adivasi organisations like the Toto Kalyan Samiti, Bodo People's Forum and Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad in a meeting with the Chief Minister here put forward three alternatives. 

Either an authority on the lines of the GTA to be named as Adivasi Territorial Administration for the two regions be formed, an Adivasi Autonomous Council be created or both the regions be included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

They also submitted some memorandums containing their demands to the Chief Minister.

Mamata said she needed some time to consider their demands.


Centre committed to Katwa thermal power plant: Shinde

Farakka (West Bengal), Sep 28 (PTI): The Centre today said it is committed to setting up the Katwa thermal power project in West Bengal.

"NTPC will set up a power plant in Katwa. I also announce that we will offer 50 per cent of the capacity to the state," Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said here today.

He was speaking at the inauguration of full-load commercial operation of NTPC''s 500 MW stage III unit at Farraka.

With the addition of 500 MW, the Farraka thermal power plant''s total capacity increased to 2,100 MW.

Shinde''s assurance brought new hope to the power project, which is mired in problems of land acquisition, although he asked the state government to arrange for land and water.

State power minister Manish Gupta, who was also present at the event, said that the government would offer full cooperation and support to Centre’s power projects in the state.

The West Bengal Power Development Corporation is supposed to transfer the 1,320 MW thermal power project to the NTPC which has acquired only 458 acres out of 1,100 acres required for the project.

NTPC Chairman Arup Roy Choudhury also expressed hope, saying the new land policy favours government support of infrastructure projects.

"We are also ready to pay the land owners directly the price the WBPDCL had paid. We need the original land owners'' list from the government," he said.

Gupta called for permission for setting up hydel power projects in the northern part of the country and in Bhutan.

Meanwhile, NTPC is targeting to reduce share of imported coal for Farraka plant to 10 per cent from 20 per cent by increasing domestic coal supply.