December 21, 2013


The Trinamool Congress Government has been running the State Government in West Bengal since May 2011. At the very outset, the Chief Minister’s strange instruction to the main opposition parties was to paste leucoplast on the mouth to keep mum for the next 10 years. However, during the months followed, what has been aptly revealed is that the  undemocratic highhandedness of the present ruling regime is not targeted only to the political Opposition, but also directed to other sections of the society in the state. None is spared-- from talented girl students of Presidency University to innocent farmers of Junglemahal, not even school teachers, or college/ university professors, even celebrated artists who once  took pro-‘Paribortan’ stand –-- are experiencing the same humiliation in one or another pretext. ‘If you are not with me you are against me’ – the ruling party in West Bengal seems to say.

The State of West Bengal is now a land of government-sponsored carnivals. But such jamborees are failing to suppress the sound of weeping of hungry workers of closed North Bengal tea gardens, increasing problems of hard-pressed transport workers or distress of  hapless families of the  farmers  committing suicide. When asked about the priority of the TMC government  the blunt response from the top is typically insensitive : ‘If we won’t organise festivals should we perform funeral rites”.

The state is now leading the country as per the record of crime against women. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data  reveals that the state  also tops the list of increasing rate of criminal cases in the whole country. Even the judge of the High Court has said that the state is burning. The Government is not paying any heed to the recommendations of statutory bodies like the State Election Commission or the State Human Rights Commission.

Anarchy in Education
What is happening in the field of education in West Bengal is nothing but an ‘improvised’ version of the semi-fascist terror tactics of the days during the 1970’s. The unfortunate practice of mass-copying in public examinations has once relapsed. The State Government has already  imposed  an ordinance was to dismantle the positive developments achieved in higher education during the days of the Left Front government. Now even the Vice- Chancellors in a number of State  Universities were either removed or forced to resign by the TMC government in their own autocratic fashion. The pre-poll cry for de-politicization in education has turned truly into de-democratization drive. The experience of the one-year of the TMC-led Government has shown that the entire education system is under tremendous threat. On the one hand we have TMC miscreants in the campus beating up college professors and principals and student activists of opposition organizations, on the other hand we have the entire Government machinery acting in unison the destroy the democratic education system in the state. In the name of establishing democracy and doing away with party-rule, what the Mamata Banerjee Government has done is to try and capture the education sector by brazen nepotism and hooliganism at any cost.

The democratically elected administrative bodies of the Universities have been dismissed by the ordinance. Even the neutrality of the Government-nominated expert committee members in the fields of higher education has been contested by different stake holders. The TMC activists took part in poll campaigns have been picked up as ‘experts’. The elected Chairmen of District Primary Education Councils were compelled to resign to give way for the known TMC dadas. Known pro-TMC faces are posted to run bodies like West Bengal Council for Primary Education, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education and School Service Commission. The ruling party-sponsored musclemen are nominated by the state government to head the College Governing Bodies.

Educational institutions are prime targets of TMC-sponsored hooligans. Professors, teachers, students, non-teaching members of the staff are openly manhandled. The student organization of the present ruling party is desperate to put pressure on the teachers in schools and colleges to ensure promotion of students unable to qualify in the final examinations. A state of total misrule is prevailing. The CM announced that approval will be given to ten thousand new madrasahs. But in reality the Government has cancelled license of 40 running madrasahs. The scope in technical and vocational education  has also shrunk. The Government has cancelled license of more than 40 vocational training institutes.

Security of women disappearing
The gang rape and killing of a college student in Kamduni village, barely 20 kilometres from Kolkata, is already known across the country. But instead of taking any substantive step against the  culprits, the State Government is bent upon harassing the  protesters. Even the ministers are hurling on filthy languages against the innocent villagers who are ready to bow down to the pressures from the ruling party leaders. In the Park Street rape case, in which Chief Minister had infamously declared the accusation to be “concocted”, the main accused is still at large, more than a year-and-a-half after the crime. The victim is yet to get any  justice,  but the lady police officer concerned in charge of investigation initially had to leave office soon after receiving a “routine” transfer order. The raped woman of Katwa had to give evidence that her husband had passed away 11 years ago.

A TMC MLA, himself a silver screen star passed ugly remarks about a girl  molested in Barasat, the district headquarters in South 24 Parganas. The police officers in Jhargram asked about the character of the lady who wanted to lodge a complaint of molestation. In Kanaidighi village of Kanthi, Purba Medinipur district, a woman attempted suicide by consuming poison after she molested in front of her daughter. But no step was taken to in her favour. A national champion deaf and dumb athlete was raped in Hemtabad, in North Dinajpur district. The main accused here also is a TMC activist.

The leaders of Left women organizations in the state sought appointment of Home Secretary of the state government and the DG of the State Police force four times. But they are not finding any time to meet the women organizations. The state administration though led by the woman CM is reluctant to receive any deputation even to discuss issues related to incidents of gang rape.

The state administration is absolutely incompetent. In terms of population, the state of  West Bengal accounts for 7.5% of India’s population. But the 12.7% of total incidents of atrocities against women took  place in West Bengal. The data reveals that the police do not receive complaint or fail to file chargesheets in most of the cases. Recently, it is found that in 50 such cases, the police has  deliberately conducted wrong investigations to ensure dismissal of the cases in courts. The latest NCRB record reveals that the number of cases of atrocities against women in West Bengal is more than any other state in the country.  The Government is not even  sending proper reports of such cases, though the rate of punishment is much low in comparison with other states.  But to the West Bengal CM, the real cases of atrocities against women are ‘fake’ or ‘cooked up’ stories! The Ministers of the State Government are also continuing to pass  filthy remarks targeting the victims. This only is emboldening the criminals and anti-social elements.

Don’t ask questions …
Shiladitya Chowdhury, a farmer from Belpahari, Paschim Medinipur district, was arrested for asking a simple question about the rising price of fertilizers in a meeting of the Chief Minister. Readily, the angry boss of the state administration identified  Shiladitya as a  ‘Maoist’ and ordered the police force from the stage to arrest the poor fellow. Ms. Tania Bharadwaj, a teen age student, was also termed as a ‘Maoist’ by the Chief Minister in a TV talk show. Prof. Ambikesh Mahapatra of Jadavpur University, was held by the police  only for forwarding an e-mail in good humour.

The terror is so evident
Jiten Nandi, member of Garbeta Zonal Committee of CPI (M) was brutally murdered within 24 hours after the declaration of the results of the last Assembly election. In only eight days, during the period between declaration of election results and the swearing-in ceremony of the new cabinet  (13th – 20th May, 2011), eight CPI (M) workers were brutally killed by the TMC hoodlums. The CM told in the brigade rally that one would need to use a binocular to find out incidents of violence. But.  Pradip Tah, former CPI (M) MLA and Kamal Gayen, veteran cultural activist were brutally mudered in Bardhaman in open day light by the armed goons of the ruling party. The persons accused in the murder case are now out of jail. Credit goes to the police! Dilip Sarkar, veteran CPI (M) leader and former MLA, was killed by TMC-sponsored goons in Barnpur before the Panchayat polls. But no one is arrested. In the vast areas of the state the opposition parties are not allowed to hold public meetings or rallies.  TMC-backed goons are extorting money from common people. Unable to pay hefty amount claimed by the local TMC hooligans, many people have committed suicide in fear of  facing the consequences. During the  last two and a half years 140 workers of the parties belonging to the Left Front were murdered. Among them 52 persons belonged to the Minority Communities, 9 of them belonged to Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes, and 3 of them are women. In total,7387 people were injured in the incidents of attacks by the TMC hooligans. More than 100 women were molested to take political revenge by the ruling party activists. During the period, a total of 700 women were raped. Around 2000 offices of different Left political parties/ mass organizations and trade unions were ransacked and captured. A total of 44937 Left Front activists were ousted from their residences. More than 8000 Left activists, leaders and supporters were implicated in false and fabricated cases.

Cases of Police firing, Lathi charges and false cases
The trigger- happy state police even opened fire on unarmed people during agitations, even on people assembled in social gatherings. Five people including two women and a student of class five died in such cases.  Six  such incidents happened during the period.  But in no case the  Chief Minister criticized such police action. This is only legitimizing the police atrocities.  Two women and a student of class five died in  police firing at Magrahat. The police was given clean chit from the highest authority. The Chief Minister only defended the police force after an innocent woman was killed in police firing  at Bogula in Nadia district. Police opened fire on displaced poor tribal people in Gajitala and Dewanghri of Haroa in South 24 Parganas. The police opened fire on farmers and patta holders without any provocation. Four farmers were injured and bleeding but they were not allowed to transfer to hospitals in time. The armed TMC hoodlums joined the police in  attacking the poor farmers. One person was killed in Asansol, Bardhaman in police firing when they could not control a scuffle during the immersion of idols.

Bahurupi village of Bishoepur in Siuri witnessed police atrocity at its peak as they kicked at the abdomen of a three year old girl child. The police manhandeled women in Nasik village of Bhatar in Bardhaman. The men in uniform kicked at the abdomen of a pregnant woman. The police opened fire and charged tear gas shells indiscriminately  on the villagers during their operation to bring back  a digging machine of a private company at Loba village in Dubrajpur, Birbhum. The Chief Minister appreciated the police action. The CM also openly defended the police firing at Houlia of Tehatta in Nadia killing  an innocent person.

Student leader dies in police custody
The Left student and youth organizations called for civil disobedience to protest the ban on students’ union elections in the state. Sudipta Gupta (23), leader of the SFI, also participated in the protest programme. The police started beating the agitators who were  inside the bus on their way to the Presidency Jail.  Sudipta was pushed out. He was grievously injured but was not spared by the police. Sudipta suffered a serious head injury. In fact he was  mercilessly beaten. His head and face were fractured severely. Sudipta’s comrades rescued him and brought him to the SSKM hospital. He was not even provided with proper treatment. Sudipta succumbed to injuries. The Chief Minister termed the incident as a “petty matter”. The Left Front demanded a judicial enquiry of the custodial death of Sudipto Gupta. But, the TMC Government, as usual, is interested in nothing but hoodwinking the people.

1500 Party offices vandalized within 24 hours by TMC goons
West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra was heckled on 9 April 2013 by the protesters after giving provocation in New Delhi.  The people who were gathered to register their protest against the custodial death of Sudipto Gupta. The top leaders of Left Front condemned the heckling of a minister. But the TMC hooligans in West Bengal under the instruction of their party bosses made it a point and started violent attacks on the workers of the CPI (M) and other Left parties.

 On  9th and 10th April, 2013, more than 1500 offices of CPI (M) and its mass organizations were vandalized. Even offices of other Left parties were also attacked. In some places even Congress party offices were not also spared. Attacks were unleashed against CPI (M) leaders, several of them were ousted from home. The police as usual were busy in protecting the hooligans. Thus several parts of the state were made “TMC-only Zones” before the ensuing Panchayat polls.

Reign of terror in Panchayat elections and Municipal polls
The Left Front was not allowed to file nominations in more than 6000 seats in the last Panchayat elections. They were brutally attacked almost everywhere during the time of nomination paper filing. Even after that the LF candidates were forced under gun points in some cases  to withdraw nomination papers; family members of the proposed opposition candidates were abducted, beaten brutally. There was no scope to seek security for the Opposition candidates. More than 3000 booths were captured in the five phases of the Panchayat elections. People could not cast their votes freely. The police did nothing to save 25 Left Front activists, including candidates, who were murdered during the Panchayat elections by the TMC goons. Even the election results were manipulated openly in counting stations. The State personnel were just silent spectators. The looting of votes was so severe that the State Election Commission administration has not been able to tally the record of votes till date. This is unprecedented in the history of panchayet elections in the state. The reign of terror continued even after the declaration of results. The TMC goons further threatened and unleashed attack on the elected members of the opposition even inside the government offices during the time of formation of boards. CPI (M) leader Jahangir Alam, who was elected President or Sabhapati of a Panchayat Samiti at Hasnabad in North 24-Parganas, was killed by the TMC miscreants to take control of the board.

Hasmat Sheikh, CPI (M) leader and newly elected Panchayat Samiti member in Farakka of  Murshidabad district, was also brutally killed by the TMC goons. Ranjit Mistri , CPI (M) leader and the newly winning candidate of Narayanpur-I Gram Panchayat in Karimpur-II Block under Nadia district was also murdered to take control of the Gram Panchayat. The Kolkata High Court issued an order to the BDO of Haringhata, Nadia to explain the situation that resulted in restricting forcibly the elected members to form the board freely.

Such cases of hooliganism were repeated in the Municipal polls in Bardhaman, Chakdaha, Panihati and other places.

Democracy is at stake even in Assembly
The TMC Government is not ready to give due  importance to the State Assembly. Previously, when the  Left Front government was at the helm, the State Assembly was in session for not less than 60 days in a year on an average. Now it has come down to 24-25 days per year. One can hardly recall the absence of the Chief Minister during the question –answer session during the time of the  Left Front government. But the present Chief Minister was present only once during  question –answer session. She has given reply to only one question in the assembly during the last two and a half years.

The voice of the opposition is curbed on regular basis. The Left Front MLAs wanted to move an adjourning motion demanding protection for the investors of Saradha chit fund. But it was shocking to find that the Ministers and some of the TMC MLAs retaliated violently. A woman member of CPI(M) and former Minister Deblina Hembram was beaten up mercilessly. Gouranga Chatterjee, CPI (M) MLA, received head injury. What is happening in West Bengal is once again revealed from the fact that a judge in Alipore court had been  “forced” recently by a TMC leader to change the judgment.

The State Government is forcibly enacting laws to centralize power. The democratic rights of the people guaranteed during the Left Front rule are curtailed undemocratically by the present government. This TMC-led Government is introducing laws only for privileged sections of the society. They are snatching power of the common people only to concentrate powers in the hands of the  Ministers and bureaucrats.

Chit fund scam
The name of the Chief Minister and the TMC supremo is now linked with the Saradha chit fund scam which is the biggest such scam in independent India. The money invested by not less than one crore people is now vanished. The chit fund company has evidently grown steadily under the direct patronage of the TMC leaders. Even today the State Government has not attached the property of the chit fund companies. The State Government, instead, are trying to befool the people of the state in the name of so-called enquiries. The Chief Minister has no answer why she is against a CBI probe of the scam under the supervision of the Supreme Court. Why the State Government is not attaching the Saradah properties to pay back investors? They have no answer.

Parade of farmers’ suicide
During last two and a half years of TMC rule, 90 farmers and agricultural laborers have committed suicide facing the unbearable burden of loans. This quite new in West Bengal, never happened during 34 years of Left Front government. The Left Front Government used to collect paddy through cooperatives like BENFED, CONFED and self- help groups. But the new state Government is not following the same method. The farmers are now compelled to sale their crops to the middlemen at a price much lower than the cost of production. Agricultural labourers are also under crisis now. The people in the state are suffering from price hike of essential items including foods. The TMC-led  Government is doing nothing. They are busy only with unleashing state-sponsored terror tactics to suppress popular demands and putting up big advertisements with tall claims and false statistics by wasting a huge public fund.

December 18, 2013

Demand for CBI probe into West Bengal chit fund scam

PTI,  December 18, 2013 17:06 IST
                       Left Party MPs stage a protest march demanding action in the Saradha                                          Chit Fund Scam at  Rajpath in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy
NEW DELHI: A demand for a CBI inquiry into the chit fund scam in West Bengal and adjoining states was made in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday amid protest by Trinamool Congress members that the matter, which is subjudice, cannot be taken up in the House.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Prashant Chatterjee (CPI-M) said chit fund companies in West Bengal have cheated residents of the state and no action has been initiated against them.
He said a member of the House Kunal Ghosh was also arrested in this connection and demanded that a CBI inquiry be conducted on the issue, which was strongly opposed by Trinamool members Derek O’Brien and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy.
“We demand a CBI inquiry into the issue of chit fund scam. A member of this House Kunal Ghosh has also been arrested in connection with the Saradha chit fund scam,” Mr. Chatterjee said amid the din created by TMC members.
Raising a Point of Order, Mr. Roy said, “A subjudice matter cannot be taken up in the House,” while objecting to reference of TMC member’s name in the House.
Rejecting the Point of Order, Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien said it has already been permitted by the Chairman but said he will expunge any remark which is against norms or is unparliamentary.

ANHAD exposes Modi’s wrongs in West Bengal, shows film on malnutrition and graft in Gujarat

By Zaidul Haque,
14th December, 2013

Kolkata: A press conference was held by Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD) at Kolkata Press Club on December 10. It was presided over by Shabnam Hashmi and Dhruv Sangri.

The conference highlighted Narendra Modi’s miss-governance in his own state of Gujarat as he claims of bringing development to all of India. “People should know how are the people of Gujarat living now under Narendra Modi’s chief ministership. Gujarat ranks in worst position after Modi came to power. Every third day, a women is raped in Gujarat. Where is the development?” asked activist and chief functionary of ANHAD.

Shabnam Hashmi

Along with ANHAD member and Sufi singer Dhruv Sangari, Shabnam showed a short film titled `Kachcha Chittha’ an investigative series on Modi’s misdeeds. The film captures Modi’s expenditures for Sadbhavana Upvas. It also exposed the truth of Modi’s expenditure for his rallies.

Modi’s Sadbhavna Upvas cost was Rs. 50,000 excluding the costs of lightning was upto Rs. 1,80,000, Rs. 5,00,000 for hoardings, Rs. 20,00,000 for putting up tents.

While citing documentary evidence Shabnam said, “In 1995, when BJp’s government came to power in Gujarat 1995, the state loan was 10,000 cr which increased to Rs. 45,301 when Modi took office as CM in 2001. This whopping amount of loan increased to Rs. 2,00,765 cr upto 30 December 2012.”

“Out of 225 blocks in Gujarat, 57 are identified as undeveloped. In these blocks, 44.6 % infants in the category of below 5 years age are suffering due to lack of nutrition, 70 % suffer from Anemia and 40% are under weight. Moreover, out of 20 states with high anemia record Gujarat is at the top.” She is also said that the state of education is pathetic in Gujarat. In 8 districts of Gujarat vacancy of teachers has reached the number of 2494.

While quoting the census report of 2011 she also said that 29% people, which is upto Rs.1,75,00,000 of total population of Gujarat, do not get purified drinking water. Similarly, 32% of people were living under poverty line in 2001 which swelled to 39% by 2011, she said. She also mentioned the reports published by National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), Shabnam said that from 2004 to 2010 Gujarat is consistently ranking an all-time low in alleviating poverty.

“Only 12% Muslims have bank accounts in Gujarat out of which only 2.6% get loans. According to NSSO report, the percentage of Muslim employees recruitment in the last 12 years is nearly zero,” said Shabnam. She also said that 1958 cases related to Gujarat massacre are still now pending in Supreme Court, but only 117 persons are arrested. As far as attendance in state assembly is concerned, they have hardly met for 30-32 days.

ANHAD exposes Modi’s wrongs in West Bengal, shows film on malnutrition and graft in Gujarat

West Bengal: Father to marry off daughter after losing in gambling

PTI : Malda, Fri Dec 13 2013, 16:30 hrs

MALDA: In a shocking incident, a gambler has fixed his 13-year-old daughter's marriage to his neighbour after losing to him during a marathon gambling session at Krishnapur - Buritala village in Malda district.

The father, a compulsive gambler, was locked in a gambling bout with local youth Sukumar Mandal on December 1. After losing everything, he put his girl at stake, and again lost.

The two families started making wedding plans immediately after that.

The marriage has been fixed for January 22 next and the engagement ceremony on December 9 was attended by villagers and relatives.

The girl, a Class VIII student, had stopped attending school after she was engaged to the man, who is double her age.

When contacted, Habibpur BDO Arnab Roy told PTI he had sent a team to the village, bordering Bangladesh, on Thursday to get the details.

The team will meet him on Friday and he has requested members of 'Çhildline', an NGO dedicated to children's welfare, to be present at the meeting.

The BDO has also informed the district social welfare officer about it.

The BDO said all out efforts would be made to stop the marriage as early marriage is a punishable offence.

Roy said illiteracy was the reason behind the incident and efforts would be made to make both the families aware about the drawbacks of child marriage and that it was a punishable offence.

Political insensitivity followed gangrape in West Bengal

Mamata Banerjee accused the protesters as being Maoist sympathisers
  • By Archisman Dinda, Correspondent
  • Published: 21:00 December 15, 2013

Kolkata: At a time when the Nirbhaya case was reaching its logical end in Delhi, the gangrape and murder of a 20-year-old girl returning home after appearing for a university examination at Kamduni village in North 24 Parganas district on June 7 shocked the state. West Bengal held the dubious record of the highest incidents of crime against women for the second consecutive year in 2012, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
This case was similar to the Nirbhaya case in many ways: the girl’s father, a rickshaw puller, insisted on educating his daughter and had even refused marriage proposals. He forced people to wake up to the alarming crime situation in the state, demanding justice and protection for women.
However, people were stunned by the reaction of West Bengal’s first woman chief minister Mamata Banerjee. They wanted to see that Banerjee who, as leader of opposition, was always the first to reach any spot and stand by people in the hour of crisis. When she finally made that “secret visit” to the victim’s house 10 days after the incident, Banerjee lost her cool with the women there who were shouting slogans demanding security and justice. She accused them of beings Maoist and Communist sympathisers and of trying to kill her during the visit. Political appeasement followed, as the victims’ brothers were offered jobs and other compensation. But they refused, demanding justice, making the government look more pathetic in the eyes of the public.
Banerjee promised justice in 30 days, and in trying to keep with the timetable, the police filed an incomplete chargesheet earning the wrath of the court. This gave the culprits more time and denied the victim swift justice. The main accused, Saiful Mollah, and the other seven — Ansar Ali, Shamimul Ali, Amirul, Bhola Naskar, Amin Ali, Nur Ali and Gopal Naskar — were eventually tried under sections that carry life imprisonment.

November 9, 2013

Rocket, not to Mars but in pockets

THE TELEGRAPH, Wednesday, 6th November, 2013

Calcutta, Nov. 5: Vegetable prices have rocketed up to 175 per cent this Bhai Phonta compared with their rates during the festive season last year.

While the prices of onion have doubled in the past 12 months, those of brinjal have almost trebled.

Although prices tend to move northwards during the festive season — from Durga Puja to Chhat — because of a spurt in demand, sources in the agricultural marketing department termed this year’s escalation “unprecedented”.

In an attempt by The Telegraph to capture the extent of price rise, the rates of a select set of vegetables from various Calcutta markets were considered over the past two days and were compared with the prices last year.

The prices of most vegetables were found to have shot up by 80 per cent on average.(See chart)

“I spent Rs 310 on vegetables today. This is the highest I have paid in recent times…. Something must be wrong,” said Sreemoyee Banerjee in Salt Lake’s CA market today.

The chief minister has of late criticised the Centre for failing to contain price rise. Mamata Banerjee had set up a task force to keep prices of essential commodities in the state in check. She had said her government was the only one to have set up such a team.

But the prevailing vegetable prices suggest the task force has failed.

A member of the task force attributed the price rise to untimely rain and the recent floods in the two Midnapores, Howrah and Hooghly, which affected crops across hectares.

“Till a few days ago, there was hardly any harvest in the villages because of heavy rain. The supply dropped, the demand kept rising. The severe mismatch pushed up vegetable prices,” he added.

Another official said hoarding by a section of traders, who form the supply chain between the farmer and the retailer, was also responsible for the price rise.

Middlemen — known as phore in markets — operate in almost all sectors. They play a key role in the supply chain, which makes them eligible for gains from the trade.

According to an official of the agricultural marketing department, the “activism” of the task force is limited to Calcutta markets. But the hoarding usually takes place midway, between the supply of vegetables from the districts and the markets.

Lack of preparation in handling a sudden shortfall — as had happened in the case of potato — is another reason for the spiralling prices, the official said.

“During the Left rule, the government used to buy 12 per cent of the total potatoes in cold storages…. Given the annual production in the range of 90 to 100 lakh tonnes, this would have meant around 10-12 lakh tonnes with the government. A sudden shortfall could have been handled with this,” he added.

The Left government also had an agreement with other potato producers like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh to bail out Bengal during the festive season. In 2009, Bengal bought 10,000 tonnes of the tuber from Punjab.

The government yesterday had promised to provide potatoes at Rs 11 a kg to retailers in 20 Calcutta markets to be sold to consumers at Rs 13. But the potatoes arrived so late, the retailers had left by then. The Jyoti variety was not available while the Chandramukhi sold at Rs 24 a kilo.

Rocket, not to Mars but in pockets.

Rocket, not to Mars but in pockets

Cut off Congressmen's hands: Anubrata Mondal

Debajyoti Chakraborty, TNN Nov 8, 2013, 05.50AM IST

KATWA: On July 17, ahead of the panchayat polls, Trinamool Congress's Birbhum district chief Anubrata Mondal had asked people to burn the houses of independent candidates and beat up policemen if they came to their rescue. The result — large-scale arson and the alleged murder of a rebel Trinamool candidate's father, Hriday Ghosh.

On Wednesday, Anubrata stepped beyond Birbhum, and threatened in Katwa: "If Congress workers continue to tear flex and hoardings of chief minister Mamata Banerjee or beat up Trinamool supporters, our supporters will cut off the wrists of the Congress workers."

On Thursday, the party's national secretary Mukul Roy backed the formidable Trinamool boss in Birbhum. "This is symbolic. It does not mean that Trinamool will attack or kill anyone," he said. Roy also tried to draw Gandhiji's parallel, though it wasn't clear what he meant by it.

Earlier in July, the chief minister tried to defend Anubrata in the Assembly saying , "What is his fault? He has already clarified to the DM (district magistrate) that he did not mean what he said." Anubrata had then said it was a slip of tongue. The clean chit from his party supremo didn't give any succour to Anubrata then. A Birbhum court that ticked off police for not doing its job tagged non-bailable charges against him.

The script is the same this time around. Three Congress leaders of Katwa, including the Katwa Municipality vice chairman, switched ranks to Trinamool Congress in Kolkata on Thursday. In 2009, Congress had swept the Katwa municipal polls 19-0 . Trinamool has been eyeing for a toehold in the Katwa Municipality. Anubrata is also a Trinamool observer for Burdwan, and hence is steering the party's efforts here.

Katwa Municipality vice chairman Amar Ram, former councillors Samindranath Banerjee and Jony Choudhury joined Trinamool on Thursday. Amar claimed that since 1995, the Congress-run Katwa civic board didn't take up any development work. He also complained of Congress workers attacking their supporters that triggered Anubrata's sharp retort. Rabindra Nath Chatterjee, Katwa's Congress MLA, said that he is not bothered what Anubrata Mondal has said. "We have strong base here and such threats will have little effect," he claimed.

Now consider this. Minister of state for railways Adhir Chowdhury had said a near-similar statement in a public rally in Berhampore on October 27. Adhir had then said, "You (Trinamool and police) like to threaten us. But we don't care. I will smash your heads if you try to terrorize my party supporters and activists." This prompted Murshidabad district magistrate Y Ratnakar Rao to report about it to the State Election Commission ( SEC) on November 1. The police then lodged a case under section 171C of the IPC (undue influence at elections ) and Adhir had to appear in court and take bail.

Anubrata, however, is luckier.

Cut off Congressmen's hands: Anubrata

Potato vanishes from Kolkata markets

TNN Nov 5, 2013, 02.06AM IST

KOLKATA/CHINSURAH/MIDNAPORE: It's not often that you see potatoes - or any vegetable - being sold under police guard but that's what happened in Manicktala market on Monday as potatoes disappeared from Kolkata's bazaars.

Most potato traders didn't even open shop on Monday morning and the few who did had little to sell. The largest selling Jyoti variety had vanished - the government wants retailers to sell this at Rs 13/kg. Chandramukhi potato sold for Rs 20-22 and even that disappeared quickly. Buyers at very few markets had the option of newly harvested potato - at Rs 40 a kilo. Not quite the post-Diwali pre-Bhai Phonta surprise they wanted.

This was largely the picture all over the state on Monday. Potato stocks didn't move out of cold storages and major wholesale markets in Hooghly, Bankura, West Midnapore and Burdwan remained closed.

Tuesday will be just as bad. Cold storage owners say traders haven't submitted mandatory requisitions for Tuesday. The new crop from Punjab's Hoshiyarpur and Una has just started entering Kolkata but it isn't enough.

Manicktala market was witness to bizarre scenes on Monday as hundreds stood in queue in front of a truck to buy potato at the government-approved rate. A team of policemen, with an armed officer, kept watch.

A few metres away, potato shops were deserted. Some traders slept on the benches, next to stacks of empty potato baskets. "Unless we receive supplies, what can we sell," said one of them, looking sleepily at the crowd jostling in front of the truck.

The potatoes were available in packets of 3 kg and 5kg. The queue often got disrupted when someone would ask for more. Then, the police would step in. "The government is providing you potatoes at the cheapest rates. Why do you want all of it yourself?" thundered an officer, who later identified himself to be from Enforcement Branch.

Another officer, in Kolkata Police uniform and a revolver in holster, directed the queue. Even the heat of the afternoon, the queue stretched to outside the market. When asked where else they would sell the government potatoes, the man handing out the packets said: "Many markets in north Kolkata. We'll go to Salt Lake tomorrow..." He was cut short by the one taking the money: "Don't expect normalcy before Wednesday. We can't make Bhai Phonta any sweeter for you."

There is more than enough potato in cold storages but things won't improve until Wednesday when the government is expected to move in and get these stocks released to the markets. On Tuesday, the government will send two trucks, carrying 2,000kg potato each, to the KMC markets department, which will send them to municipal markets in five zones. "KMC will sell it to retailers at Rs 11/kg, allowing them a profit of Rs 2/kg," said Tarak Singh, mayoral council member, markets.

The police crackdown on black marketing continues. Seventeen traders were arrested in Midnapore and Hooghly for allegedly selling potato at higher rates.

Potato vanishes from Kolkata markets

November 6, 2013

West Bengal’s ban on vegetable exports is retrograde

ET Bureau Nov 4, 2013, 04.37AM IST

KOLKATA: Mamata Banerjee has imposed a ban on export of vegetables from Bengal, creating shortages, particularly of potatoes, in the north-east and in some neighbouring states.

This not only works to the disadvantage of farmers in her own state but also against the idea of India as one coherent economic and political entity. If Punjab were to clamp down on export of wheat and rice from the state, Maharashtra of onions and Gujarat of petrochemicals, the result would be loss and chaos. Such bans are irrational and anti-national. Banerjee should lift the ban.

This does not mean that state governments should play passive observers as artificial shortage crimps their citizens' consumption of vegetables. On the contrary. State governments can and must launch a concerted intelligence drive to locate missing onions and potatoes, crack down hard on hoarders and bring the hoarded stocks to the market swiftly. There have been minor rain-induced problems in production and transport but initial estimates are that the onion crop in the current marketing year would be as much as 15% higher than the output of 16.3 million tonnes registered in 2012-13.

The structure of the onion market is extremely skewed and amenable to abuse by a few large traders, found a study commissioned by the Competition Commission of India, published in October 2012.

Some speculate the current shortage is the result of political manipulation, in which onions have been bought up, secreted away in empty flats, to feed anti-incumbency passions in a key consuming state like Delhi. Since farmers receive as little as Rs 5 a kg, the outlay on sequestering a million tonnes for a month is the cost of financing Rs 500 crore, if the principal onion traders cooperate. The governments of Maharashtra and Karnataka should actively get to the bottom of the onion shortage.

The Centre should issue strict warnings against the tendency to play the populist card displayed by the Bengal CM. At the same time, it has to initiate action to clean up the structure of agri-marketing, which today serves middlemen at the expense of farmers and consumers.

Soon, photo I-cards must for buying acid in West Bengal

By Sabyasachi Bandopdhyay : kolkata, Indian Express, Wed Nov 06 2013, 10:42 hrs

Buyers of any kind of acid for any purpose will now have to produce photo identity cards at shops, as the government is going to introduce stringent rules to control sale and possession of acid.

The rules include providing compensation of Rs 3 lakh to an acid attack victim, free medical treatment for them and reservation of beds for them at government hospitals, to name a few.

The state is amending Poison Act of 1919 to frame these rules. The draft rules, prepared by the Home Department, are now with the law department for vetting.

The government has taken this initiative following a directive from the Union Home Ministry to all state governments in September. The MHA did this in the wake of a Supreme Court directive to the central government to control sale and possession of acid.

Though no official figures are available, according to statistics provided by various NGOs and academic institutions, more than 150 attacks took place in India in the last 10-12 years. In West Bengal, in the last 10 years, 50 such attacks took place.

"We have framed new rules to control sale of acid. Photo-identity cards will be a must while purchasing acid,'' a Home Department official told The Indian Express.

In Kolkata, acid is sold at hardware shops and hardly any enquiry is done ahead of their purchase.

While a 750-ml bottle of nitric acid is sold for Rs 60, a bottle of similar quantity of sulphuric acid costs Rs 50. And a-500 ml bottle of Hydrochloric acid costs Rs 22. First two kinds are mostly used by mischief mongers.

"We usually do not sell acid to absolutely unknown persons but sometimes it is not possible to know the identity of the buyer. If the government introduces photo ID cards, it will be good for us,'' Arun Karmakar, a shopkeeper at Dum Dum told The Indian Express.

October 29, 2013

SFI leader's death: Govt sits on rights body suggestion

TNN | Oct 29, 2013, 04.47 AM IST

KOLKATA: The Mamata Banerjee government is sitting on the West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) recommendations yet again.

The WBHRC directed the government to pay Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the bereaved family ofSFI leader Sudipto Gupta, who was killed in police custody while being taken to Alipore Jail. The government didn't take any action on the August 26 order on the plea that the matter is lying with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The SFI leader died on April 2 while being taken to the Presidency jail along with other protesters. The very next day, WBHRC took up the case suo-motu on media reports. During inquiry, the commission found that police had used a bus to take the protesters to jail and it was being driven by a driver who did not posses a driving licence. Subsequently, the commission directed the state to pay the compensation.

However section 35 (I) of Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 states: "The Commission shall not inquire into any matter which is pending before a State Commission or any other Commission duly constituted under any law for the time being in force." WBHRC members wondered how could the NHRC take up the matter when it was being probed by the state body.

According to sources from the state secretariat, the government had written to the NHRC about a month ago, asking for clarification from the commission as to whose order - NHRC or WBHRC - the government should follow as the matter was being taken up by two agencies. The NHRC took cognizance of the matter in May on the basis of two separate complaints filed by two NGOs, while WBHRC took cognizance of it suo-motu on April 3, a day after the incident. In fact, WBHRC communicated the same to NHRC on April 3 itself.

WBHRC received a communication from the government on September 12 saying that since the matter was being taken up by the NHRC, the state was in no position to implement the state human right's commission recommendations at this stage. Subsequently, this communication was placed before the full bench of the commission by registrar Rabindranath Samanta. WBHRC then wrote to NHRC saying that since it took cognizance of the incident prior to NHRC, it had no locus standi to investigate the matter fresh.