July 25, 2012

Trinamool opposition to Bill due to Left stand: Biman Basu

KOLKATA, July 20: The Trinamool Congress claims to be against pushing through the Forward Contract Regulation Act (Amendment) Bill only because the Left parties are opposing forward trading in food items and essential commodities, said Biman Basu, Chairman of the Left Front Committee in the State, here on Thursday.

“Forward trading was accepted as a policy when the National Democratic Alliance was in power at the Centre and the Trinamool Congress was one of its constituents. We had never heard of the party opposing it then. Neither did it oppose it as a part of the United Progressive Alliance II Government. The Trinamool Congress is only opposing it in the State because the Left parties are against it,” Basu said.

“The Left parties, however, have no difficulty with this (the opposition of the Trinamool Congress to forward trading)” he said, adding that the Left Front is “totally opposed to both forward trading in commodities and foreign participation in commodity markets”.

The Left Front is engaged in a sustained campaign against forward trading on food items and essential commodities as it is on several other issues, said Biman Basu, who is also the State Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), after a meeting of the Left Front Committee.

As part of its agitation programme in protest against rising prices of essential commodities as well as the Centre’s proposed Food Security Bill in its present form, the Left parties will hold a 48-hour sit-in demonstration from August 1 in Kolkata and the districts, he said.

The Left Front will also take out a “grand procession” against imperialism in Kolkata and in Siliguri on September 1– the day Germany had invaded Poland in 1939 and one which is observed as “Anti-Imperialism” and “Anti-War” Day. This time round the day will hold special significance in view of the U.S. designs to extend its military presence in Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, said Basu.

The Left Front also expressed concern at the manner in which the Mamata Government was dismantling the panchayat system by getting district officials to take over their functioning. A deputation of members of panchayats run by the Left parties will submit a memorandum in protest against attempts to undermine the three-tier system, he added.


KOLKATA: In a show of political vendetta of the worst kind, the TMC government of West Bengal created obstacles in commemoration of the 98th birth anniversary of communist leader and former chief minister Jyoti Basu, as former Left Front MLAs and ministers were barred from entering the West Bengal assembly on Sunday, July 8, to observe the occasion. This was despite the leader of opposition, Suryakanta Mishra’s request to the speaker, Biman Bandyopadhyay, in this regard. Basu’s birthday falls on July 8.

Surprisingly, the Trinamul-led government had ‘observed’ Basu’s birth anniversary on Friday, July 6 --- two days before the date, even after strong reactions from different quarters. The Left Front MLAs had therefore chosen to stay away from the July 6 event, arguing that the ruling party was dishonouring the departed leader by observing the occasion two days in advance.

What happened on Sunday afternoon was that when Left leaders reached the north gate of the assembly building, the Marshalls said former MLAs could not enter the house without permission. Leader of opposition Suryakanta Mishta then called up the speaker, Biman Bandyopadhyay, and asked him to allow the former MLAs to go inside the assembly building.

“Are the former MLAs criminals?” Mishra asked the speaker over phone while informing him that some of those who had assembled were elected way back in 1971. But when the speaker denied to entertain Mishra’s request, the Left leaders decided to garland a portrait of Basu outside the assembly building’s north gate.

This was because Left Front MLAs and former MLAs chose to pay their tributes to Jyoti Basu on the pavement outside the gates of the assembly building where a photo of him was placed. Misra stood on a chair and spoke in the occasion. He said, “Jyoti Basu was the voice of democracy. The ruling party in West Bengal is afraid of this very democracy. But we will take the ideas of Jyoti Basu to the people.” 

Describing the developments as “unparliamentary,” former speaker Hasim Abdul Halim, who also stood outside the assembly buiding, said that it was “disrespectful to the democratic norms of the house.” Halim recalled that it was here that millions had paid their last tributes to Comrade Jyoti Basu after his demise.

Subhash Naskar, RSP MLA, expressed his strong displeasure against the attitude of the ruling party.

Denied entry, Left pays tribute to Basu at House gates

TNN, Jul 9, 2012, 04.29AM IST

KOLKATA: Two days after chief minister Mamata Banerjee prematurely celebrated former chief minister and CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu's birthday in the assembly, his comrades had to garland him outside its gates on the actual day of celebration.

The Left parties had planned to offer flowers to the painting of Basu in the assembly. Accordingly, around 15 leaders gathered at the assembly gates at 10.30 am on Sunday. After leader of the opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra arrived, they tried to enter the house. But the securitymen stopped them, saying only sitting MLAs would be allowed entry.

A heated exchange followed, with the securitymen pleading that they were "following instructions" of the Marshall. Among those who were not allowed in were former ministers Debes Das and Manab Mukherjee and former MLAs Rabin Deb, Rajdeo Goala and Sudhangshu Sil. Former speaker Hashim Abdul Halim was allowed in with the sitting MLAs.

When Mishra failed to convince the Marshall, he called Speaker Biman Bandyopadhyay and pleaded with him. "I am requesting you to instruct the Marshall to let us in. As former MLAs, they have been given identity cards and enjoy the privilege of entering the house just like sitting members. I had taken verbal permission from you for this morning's programme that we had planned in memory of Jyoti Basu. Why should we submit a list of people entering the Assembly? They are all former MLAs," Mishra said on the phone.

But permission was not granted. The "insult" was obviously not taken kindly by the former MLAs and ministers who decided to register their protest against such "unconstitutional" behaviour by the ruling party. A framed photograph of Basu was brought from the 'Ganashakti' office, placed on a chair and the Left leaders offered their respects at the gate of the assembly house.

"This is absolutely shameful. We have been forced to offer flowers to Jyoti Basu on his birthday at the gates of the assembly. The speaker simply refused to listen to reason. The government celebrated Basu's birthday two days in advance and has now prevented us from offering our respects on the day itself. No one could imagine that things would come to such a humiliating pass," fumed Mishra.

Speaker Biman Bandyopadhyay justified himself, saying Mishra had not submitted a formal application seeking permission for the programme. "We had asked for a list of names. Why could he not provide us with that?"

Former Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim, however, was not impressed. "How can a speaker prevent former ministers and MLAs from entering the assembly? They bear identity cards that allow them this privilege," he said.

West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya, too, called the act "shameful". "They should have been allowed to go in and offer their respects. The ruling party has not behaved properly," he said.

Congress leader and Behrampore MP Adhir Chowdhury called it a "farce". "I won't be surprised if tomorrow they say that since Jyoti Basu is a former chief minister, we should take his painting out of the House!" was his snide remark.

On the other hand, state panchayat and PHE minister Subrata Mukherjee criticized Mishra for not taking prior permission. He explained that since the assembly is closed on Sundays, the state government had organized the programme to pay tribute to Basu on Friday at the behest of chief minister Mamata Banerjee. "CPM MLAs refused to participate in it. They just sat there and sipped tea," he complained.

According to him, "Mishra is seeking cheap publicity through media attention."

"By paying their tribute outside the assembly, the Left leaders have dishonoured Basu," he said. "When Basu was alive, no CPM leader would go to Indira Bhavan with flowers to wish him on his birthday. It was only Subhas Chakraborty and his wife Ramala who celebrated it. The other CPM leaders would say that communists do not celebrate birth or death anniversaries," Mukherjee reminded.He claimed the Left leaders organized this event only to counter Friday's state-backed programme at the assembly.

"Former Speaker Hasim Abdul Halim is also well aware that prior permission of the speaker is needed to keep the assembly open on a holiday. Moreover, certain security measures have been installed decision for which was taken in an all-party meeting. So entry has been restricted now," Mukherjee said.

"It's just drama. If Mishra had any respect for Basu, he would have visited Indira Bhavan where the CPM patriarch stayed till his last days. But how could Mishra have got publicity had he not enacted the drama in front of the assembly gates," Mukherjee lashed out.

Meanwhile, CPM state secretary Biman Bose said that chief minister Mamata Banerjee, immediately after the government was formed, had said that the Assembly would be for the Opposition - a spirit that reflects democracy. "However, there is no reflection of that," Bose said, reacting to Sunday's incident. "Whatever happened today was shameful, and it is not clear which way the government is going."

He said birth anniversary celebrations could "begin" a few days ahead, but to observe the actual date of birth has always been the custom. "What are the students learning from all this? This is disrespectful", Bose said.

Massive Response to Court Arrest Call

Trinamool Govt. has failed to check rising prices, says Biman Basu

KOLKATA, July 18: On July 16 and 17, thousands of people participated in civil disobedience in West Bengal against the unprecedented price rises. While the programme was observed in districts on July 16, the Left Front observed it in Kolkata centrally on July 17. 

The Left Front initiated a campaign against price rise and continuing attack on democracy from the 4th of this month. A village and area level intensive campaign was organised, followed by block and subdivision level deputations and demonstrations. The civil disobedience marked the peak of this campaign. The discontent among people against the spiralling price rise was evident in their truly mass participation in the programme. Huge rallies and public meetings took place in Burdwan, Berhampore, Balurghat, Chuchura, Siuri and other district headquarters on July 16. 

In Kolkata, State Left Front chairman & CPI(M) state secretary Biman Basu and veteran Forward Bloc leader Ashok Ghosh, Manjukumar Majumdar (CPI), Khiti Goswami (RSP) and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Surjyakanta Misra were among those who courted arrest, followed by streams of Left Front activists from Kolkata, North and South 24 Parganas. In the public meeting just before the court arrest, Left leaders called for a wider movement. Biman Basu sharply criticised the inaction of the state government in controlling the price rise. Ashoke Ghosh said the state was now heading for a disaster; this should be prevented through struggle. 

The Left Front has announced that there will be a continuous movement against price rise. There will be dharnas from July 30. Throughout the month of August a massive campaign will be unleashed on the question of food security.

In the meantime, Left peasant organisations have started a signature campaign on their 14-point charter of demands which include fair prices for farmers and reduction of the prices of fertilisers and other agricultural inputs.

Left Front chairman Biman Basu said at the Kolkata programme, the Trinamool Congress-led government has failed to initiate any measures to check rising prices of essential commodities and had only set up a task force which had failed to deliver results.

“A year ago the State Government had set up a task force to check escalating prices. After this task force did nothing for an entire year, another task force has been set up,” Biman Basu said at the rally where leaders of the Left Front courted arrest in protest against the government’s inaction on rising prices.

He said the prices of essential commodities were spiralling out of control, but the State Government had failed to initiate any measures.

During the day, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed satisfaction with the work done by the task force although hoarding in certain commodities continues to be a problem. Referring to her remarks, Basu said: “There is a vast difference in the government making announcements and actually taking measures to reduce prices.”

As large crowds of supporters thronged the venue of the rally, Biman Basu urged them to maintain discipline and only those who had been designated to court arrest should do so.

“This government has violated many rights of the people. You will get several opportunities to participate in protests where we shall court arrest,” Biman Basu told the supporters gathered there.

He said the State Government had failed to protect the rights of the people, to ensure the safety of women, curbed the freedom of Panchayats and caused their bureaucratization.

Biman Basu also said the Food Security Bill proposed by the Centre has several shortcomings and the four Left parties have sought amendments to the Bill.

Trinamool to vote for Pranab, says ‘no option’


THE HINDU, July 18, 2012

It is not right to waste our vote by not casting it, hence the painful decision: Mamata

KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee said here on Tuesday that her party would vote for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) nominee Pranab Mukherjee in the July 19 Presidential election.

 She , however, made it clear that the decision to vote for Mr. Mukherjee was a painful one. “Taking it was difficult…It is not right to waste our vote by not casting it; so we have decided to vote for Pranab Mukherjee. Not that we have accepted the choice wholeheartedly; but we had no option,” she told journalists at the Secretariat after a meeting with some leaders of the Trinamool.

 Shortly therafter, Mr. Mukherjee called on Ms. Banerjee to thank her.

 A decision on the Vice-Presidential election would be taken later, Ms. Banerjee added.

‘Not to please anyone’

 The decision to vote for Mr. Mukherjee was taken because of the “compulsions of coalition politics and our commitment to democracy, not to please anyone,” she said, adding that it did not bring any cheer to her. “It is not about supporting any individual, but concerns the greater good.”

She had “not bowed to any pressure” while taking the decision.

With the former President, Abdul Kalam, whose name the Trinamool had proposed, “unfortunately”’ declining to contest, the party could have decided to abstain from voting “but that would have been wasting our vote and I think it would not have been right” she said.

Ms. Banerjee said that she had informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of her party’s decision. “I told him that he will be happy to know of our support [to Mr. Mukherjee] though we do not want anything.”

“Old chapter”

 As for her earlier reservations about Mr. Mukherjee’s candidature, Ms. Banerjee said it was “an old chapter” that one should “forget.”  

•  ‘We were not under pressure while taking decision’

•  ‘It is not about supporting any individual but done for the greater good’

A twist in the tale by Kaushik Sen

Zinia Sen, TNN, Jun 17, 2012, 12.00AM IST

Kaushik Sen's tryst with “Macbeth" left him with a dilemma of Shakespearean proportions. The play that debuted to a full house on May 29, had its second show on June 14. But theatre lovers, who attended both, were in for a surprise. After becoming the king, Malcolm who addresses his coterie of men with "Dosh bochhorer kaj dosh diney kore felte hobe" — a line that's similar to the latest political punchline — was left out of the second stage act. Is political pressure to be blamed for this?

Filmmaker Sharon Dutta, who attended both shows, says, "When Malcolm uttered the dialogue, I remember the audience breaking into a huge round of applause. I was thoroughly disappointed to watch the second show. More so, because the play comes from the stable of Swapnasandhani. From "Winkle Twinkle" to "Ruddhasangeet", political criticism has found its way on stage. I sincerely want this tradition to continue."

Ask Kaushik if political pressure made him change the climax of "Macbeth" and he explains that it was more of a well-thought out decision. "We got a huge response for "Macbeth". And the line was much talked about. But after the first show, playwright Ujjal Chattopadhyay expressed serious concern," says Kaushik.

A government employee, Ujjal reportedly feared his job might be at stake and that made Kaushik rethink his decision on carrying the line. "It has not been penned by Ujjal. It was something I incorporated. But it's not possible for me to clarify that at every show. At the same time, I do not want to make Ujjal the scapegoat. That he fears losing his job is itself nothing short of alarming."
Fair is foul, didn't the Bard mention already?

Massive Protest In Kolkata Against Rape of Disabled Girl

KOLKATA, July 7: Around 2500 people assembled at the Rani Rashmoni Road, in the heart of Kolkata to protest against the rape of a young athlete with speech and hearing impairments at Uttar Dinajpur in West Bengal. The protest was called by the Paschim Banga Rajya Pratibandi Sammelani, an affiliate of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD). 

The widespread indignation that this crime and subsequent reaction of the state administration has evoked is reflected in the wide spectrum of people who had gathered to condemn the crime in unequivocal terms.

Joining the large number of persons with disabilities who had come from different parts of West Bengal were film personalities and sportspersons. Brushing shoulders with them were representatives from a host of NGOs, rights activists, academicians and civil society organisations. 

At the outset, a disabled folk-singer from Bankura rendered songs specially composed for the occasion.

Speaking on the occasion, Kanti Ganguly, Convenor of the NPRD and General Secretary of the Sammelani recounted his visit to the victim’s residence and assured that the organisation will take the responsibility of rehabilitating the girl. However, he underlined that it is the responsibility of the state government to rehabilitate the victim. He was unsparing in his criticism of the role of the government agencies.

Speaker after speaker condemned the increase in the number of cases of sexual violence reported in West Bengal and sought action against insensitive officials like the police and the disability commissioner who instead of initiating action were seen as siding with the perpetrators. While educationist Subhankar Chakrobarty pledged all help for the girl, writer Azijul Haque called for broader unity to foil such crimes in the future.  

Ramola Chakroborty, womens rights activist was scathing in her remarks on the role of state Government. Prof Ishita Mukhopadhyay, Director, Womens Studies, Calcutta University felt that the women’s movement itself feels threatened as no laws or court directives are being implemented in the state anymore. 

Distinguished sports personalities Jyotirmoyee Sikdar and Bula Chowdhury cautioned against the casual manner in which crimes against disabled athlete were treated.  Commonwealth Games medal winner, Prasant Karmakar, a disabled swimmer, pointed out that overcoming disability and becoming an achiever in sports is no mean feat. Eminent lawyer Bharati Mukherjee expressed shock at the total silence of the State Women’s Commission. 

Film maker Anindita Sarbadhikari vehemently criticised the state administration for being unable to protect women. Film actor Badshah Moitra underscored the importance of people from diverse fields coming together to condemn and protest such crimes.  Lina Bardhan, Director, Special Olympics and Pankaj Das, ex-Principal, Loius Braille Memorial School expressed their solidarity. Also present on the occasion to express her solidarity was Malini Bhattacharjee, former Chairperson of the state Women’s Commission. Several speakers drew attention to the fact that in the recent period Bengal has earned the dubious distinction of topping the list in crimes against women and lamented that even the suggestions made by National commission for Women have been totally ignored by the state.

The inaction and insensitivity on the part of the state administration came in for sharp criticism from all quarters. 

The meeting was presided over by Sailen Chowdhury, President of the Sammelini. 

The meeting unanimously resolved to meet the Governor in a delegation on August 9, with the following demands:

·         Security measures for all women with disabilities
·         Exemplary punishment to be given to the accused.
·         Rehabilitation of the victim girl by the state.