January 27, 2013

Asim Dasgupta warns of chit fund ‘crisis’

KOLKATA: Former finance minister Asim Dasgupta today warned of an impending crisis in the state because of an unprecedented rise in mobilisation of deposits by chit funds, willy nilly holding the Trinamul government responsible for pushing small savers towards a bubble that may burst.

“The chit funds that are mobilising money now will start facing repayment obligation after a few years… A crisis is awaiting as the model is unsustainable,” Dasgupta told a news conference this afternoon.

The growth of chit funds — sources said the number may not be less than 3,000 — in the state has become a political hot potato for the Mamata Banerjee government as the Opposition has blamed the ruling party for the mushrooming of these entities, which promise high returns to depositors.

Depositors are either promised high rates of interest — at times around 30 to 40 per cent a year — on their deposit or different varieties of assets like land or property at attractive places at a future date.

Sources in the state finance department said the annual collections by the chit fund companies would not be less than Rs 15,000 crore.......

Asim warns of chit fund ‘crisis’

Mumbai to miss Mamata - Business meet put off, several theories swirl

The Bengal government has “deferred” indefinitely Mamata Banerjee’s Mumbai roadshow to woo investors.

Industries minister Partha Chatterjee said the meeting, scheduled for February 13, could be put off by a “few days” but added that it had not been called off.

Mumbai to miss Mamata

January 26, 2013

Imams not keen to take Mamata Banerjee’s largesse

Indian Express, Posted online: Thu Jan 24 2013, 03:32 hrs

Kolkata: Religious angle Many feel imams and muezzins consider accepting government against Islam.

Last year, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee made a controversial announcement of giving a monthly financial aid to imams and muezzins. The Trinamool Congress government had hoped to receive a windfall of applications from the imams and muezzins across the state. However, almost nine months after the scheme was announced, the government has received only a trickle of applications from the community leaders.

Officials say the main reason behind the lukewarm response could be that a large number of imams and muezzins do not want to accept money from the government as they consider that Islam does not permit accepting financial aid from a non-religious body.

Unofficial estimates show that there are around 70,000 mosques in the state. The government, which announced Rs 2,500 monthly aid to imams and Rs 1,000 monthly aid to muezzins, had set aside Rs 126 crore — Rs 90 crore for the imams and Rs 36 crore for muezzins — for the current financial year.

A brief calculation could mean that government had set a target of enrolling 30,000 imams and 30,000 muezzins for this financial year. Till date, only 23,000 imams and 12,000 muezzins have submitted their applications to the Wakf Board.

“I have heard that a section of imams and muezzins do not want to accept money from the government since the fund does not come from a religious body. So, they consider accepting money from government as un-Islamic. At one point of time, we had expected applications from 3,000 imams of Burdwan district alone. But so far, we have received only 700 applications from that district,” said West Bengal Wakf Board Chairman Abdul Gani.

A senior official of Minority Affairs Department said imams in most of the interior parts of the state get food and other necessary material from the locals. “This may be another reason why not all the imams and muezzins have opted for the government money,” said the official.

When the government had announced the scheme, there was widespread criticisms with some alleging that Trinamool government’s bid to woo the minorities may flare up communal tensions in the state. Hindu outfits demanded that priests too be given such “honorarium”. To counter the allegation, the government said the money was being given to imams and muezzins as they help government agencies implement various social schemes like pulse polio drive and creating awareness among the community.

Mamata and her men stoke controversies as rivals ‘hiss’

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has a penchant for courting controversies, effortlessly stirred yet another when she wondered at a public meeting whether she should beat up the prime minister for getting her demands met.

As the Trinamool Congress supremo came under intense criticism for her remarks, she found an able comrade in ministerial peer Jyotipriya Mallick – now famous for bizarre prescriptions – who this time dished out a “venomous” decree.

The week began on a stormy note when Banerjee, while venting her ire on the Congress- led central government said: “What else can I do? Shall I go beat him up? Then people will call me a goon. But I don’t care. I can go to the very last mile for the people.”

She made the remarks at Canning in South 24 Parganas while stating that her repeated meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yielded no result on her demand to lower fertilizer prices.

The remarks gave the opposition – the Congress and the CPI-M led Left Front – the much needed fodder as they went ballistic in slamming her, with some of the leaders even questioning her mental health....


Vancouverdesi.com – Mamata and her men stoke controversies as rivals ‘hiss’ (West Bengal Newsletter)

West Bengal emerges as top borrower through RBI window

RBI data show state has raised Rs 17,300 crore through state development loan

Namrata Acharya / Kolkata

BUSINESS STANDARD, January 25, 2013, 13:41 IST

In continuation with the brisk borrowing spree, West Bengal has emerged as the top borrower this financial year too.

Data from Reserve Bank of India (RBI) show, West Bengal has raised Rs 17,300 crore through state development loan, so far in the financial year. This year, the state government has a market borrowing limit of Rs 22,821 crore, which leaves Rs 5,521 crore for the next two months for the present financial year.

Notably, in spite of a cushion of Rs 5,521 crore for the next two months, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, has been ruing that the state has been denied to raise debt.

“They (Centre) had allowed the Left to make so much debt, but they have been denying us the same. Why are you trying to snatch away our livelihood? The people of Bengal will have to assert their rights and demand that the centre stop taking away all the money,” Banerjee had recently said at a public meeting.

West Bengal is seeking a moratorium on interest and repayment totaling Rs 22,000 crore on its debt for the next three years, and formulation of a debt restructuring exercise over the interim period. The debt restructuring should include debt elimination, increasing repayment tenure and reducing interest rate on loans.

“Stop taking the interest. We want justice,” the chief minister had recently said.  

However, the opposition Left Front government has been quick to retort, when yesterday, Asim Dasgupta, former finance minister, West Bengal, said the burgeoning debt of the state  was on account of higher expenditure, rather than old debt.

"The new government has been making some misleading statements. If Rs 25,000 crore is spent on debt repayment and we add Rs 41,000 crore paid towards salary and pension, there would still be Rs 34,000 crore left out of the Rs 1 lakh crore receipt," said Dasgupta.

"The people of the state would like to know if there is extra-budgetary expenditure or are they unable to provide utilization certificates," he said.

West Bengal's debt burden of according to the last Budget document was Rs 2.08 lakh crore. The outstanding debt of the government is set to increase to Rs 2.26 lakh crore in the present fiscal, making it one of the most indebted state in terms of tax to GSDP ratio.

Last financial year, West Bengal availed of relaxation of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act  twice, pushing the borrowing of the state to Rs 22,423 crore.

The continual deterioration by the state of finances is also evident from a recent report on State Finances: Study of Budgets 2012-13.

In 2011-12 (RE), all states were able to contain their interest payment to revenue receipt ratio (IP-RR) to 15%, except in case of Gujarat, Kerala, West Bengal and Punjab. West Bengal had the highest IP-RR ratio at 27.20%, with Chhattisgarh recording the lowest at 4.5%.

According to the state budget document, this financial year, West Bengal's revenue receipt is projected to be  Rs 76,943 crore and expenditure is Rs 83,801 crore leaving a huge revenue deficit of  Rs 6,585 crore.  

West Bengal's expense on salaries alone is set to increase from Rs 28,899 crore to Rs 31,184 crore by the end of this fiscal, which is about 37% of the projected expenditure of the government.

Similarly, the cost of pension and other retirement benefits is projected to increase from Rs 8,385 crore to Rs 9,582 crore.

January 25, 2013

Bedtime bias in Arabul lock-up

Susanta Ghosh, who is now on bail and awaiting trial, told The Telegraph today in response to a question: “I was brought to the CID headquarters (Bhabani Bhavan in Alipore) from Midnapore around midnight on August 11. A team of officers entered my cell within half an hour. They interrogated me till around 1.30am. Just as I was falling asleep around 3.30 am, another batch of officers came and they continued questioning me for two hours.”


Bedtime bias in Arabul lock-up

January 20, 2013

Bengal realizes harm of voting for TMC: Prakash Karat

TNN | Jan 20, 2013, 04.47 AM IST

KOLKATA: Even Prakash Karat didn't expect it so early. Getting a whiff of the rising anti-incumbency in Bengal, the CPM general secretary on Saturday cited instances to showcase what he called Mamata Banerjee's poor governance.

"The state has witnessed a number of farmer suicides, hunger deaths, denial of pension to state transport employees, and above all the intra-Trinamool feuds. I think people have have realised what harm they have done to the state by voting this kind of a party," Karat said at the end of the three-day CPM central committee meeting.

Expressing concern over the continuing violence in Bengal, he said: "There is no let up in the violence unleashed on Left activists. As many as 85 CPM men have been killed since the assembly elections. Protests have been met with bullets, bombs and lathis - the latest being the attack on Abdur Rezzak Mollah. The Trinamool government is patronising all this, though more people are coming out against the terror."

Karat also broadly endorsed the Bengal CPM's land policy, saying that the government should have a role in accumulating big patches of land. However, he had a rider about the proposed compensation and rehabilitation package: "We believe that the government should acquire the land only after 80% of landowners give consent. And, the compensation and rehabilitation should stand integral to the new land bill. We are not in favour of making exceptions for certain sectors such as railways or mining."

Digressing from the projected correlation of political forces into two camps - secular and communal - as the Congress and its allies, particularly RJD chief Lalu Prasad, have been preaching, Karat preferred to stick to the formulation of the Coimbatore Party Congress that calls for fighting the Congress and the BJP as well.

"We will work for the defeat of the Congress and keep the BJP at bay. We have decided to float policy alternatives instead on food security, hike of railway fares, deregulation of diesel prices and the proposed dismantling of the drug control authority that will burden the common people," Karat said. He also ruled out chances of a Third Front.

TMC govt has failed on all fronts: Prakash Karat

Claiming that the Mamata Banerjee government had failed on all fronts, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat on Saturday said that the people of West Bengal must have realised now what harm has been done by voting into office such a party.  “This government has failed on all fronts.


TMC govt has failed on all fronts: karat | The Asian Age

Sorry, Yechury, you ain’t dais-class

The CPI(M) leader and Rajya Sabha MP, Sitaram Yechury, who is also the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture that deals with civil aviation, has been invited to the event but his name does not figure among those shortlisted to be on the dais. President Pranab Mukherjee will inaugurate the facility in the presence of chief minister Mamata Banerjee and others.

Sorry, Yechury, you ain’t dais-class

January 18, 2013

DOREMI At Leads, business sings and bears it

Haldia, Jan. 15: Never mind big business has not yet danced to Mamata Banerjee’s tune. The chief minister has made some sing — and lip-sync — her tune.
The chief minister today converted Bengal Leads into Bengal Culture Leads by getting two industrialists — C.K. Dhanuka and Sanjiv Goenka — on the dais and persuading them to perform two songs.


DOREMI At Leads, business sings and bears it

Welfare warts in Bengal

A survey conducted by the Bengal government has brought to light several loopholes in the development programmes undertaken for Jungle Mahal.....

The report has mentioned that in a significant number of villages, wells are the only source of drinking water. The survey team had visited 35 Jungle Mahal villages and found that only 23 had tubewells.

Welfare warts in Bengal

Once pro-Mamata Di, West Bengal intellectuals now turn their backs on 'lawless' Trinamool : East, News - India Today

Barely two years after Trinamool Congress came to power, most of the pro-Mamata Banerjee personalities like painter Samir Aich, academician Sunanda Sanyal, writer activist Mahasweta Devi, theatre personality Bibhas Chakraborty and Kaushik Sen, singer Indrani Sen and Protul Mukherjee are now humming a different tune.

Once pro-Mamata Di, West Bengal intellectuals now turn their backs on 'lawless' Trinamool : East, News - India Today

We won’t accept 99% work done lie: Peerzada Toha Siddique

I will request Mamata Banerjee…. You must be aware that she is saying one thing repeatedly and that is she has done 99 per cent of what had to be done for the minority communities. We will not accept such a lie,” said Peerzada Toha Siddique, the director of Furfura Darbar Sharif in Hooghly.

Read details in:

We won’t accept 99% work done lie: Minority leader

January 9, 2013

Condemn Attack on CPI(M) Leader Rezzak Mollah

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:

The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) strongly condemns the physical assault on Comrade Abdur Rezzak Mollah, member of the West Bengal State Committee of the CPI(M) and MLA.  Rezzak Mollah was assaulted by a Trinamul Congress leader Arabul Islam and others while visiting a Party office which had been burnt down  by the TMC men.  Rezzak Mollah received injuries to his face and has been hospitalized. 

This is the latest instance of the continuing violence by the Trinamul Congress against the CPI(M), the Left parties and the opposition. The CPI(M) demands that the TMC leader and others responsible for the attack be immediately arrested. 

The Polit Bureau appeals to  all democratic forces to raise their  voice of protest against the thuggish violence indulged in by the Trinamul Congress in West Bengal.  

Date:  7 January 2013 

Why Mamata puts up with Arabul Islam

By Monotosh Chakraborty, TNN | Jan 8, 2013, 01.44 AM IST

BHANGAR: The attack on CPM veteran Abdur Rezzak Mollah has bared the underbelly of the gory politics in the bheri lands (wetlands) of South 24-Parganas.

Bhangar, a mere 28km from the city, was under the writ of Mollah's party for years. Now, Trinamool Congress strongman Arabul Islam calls the shots.

Arabul, a former MLA, is the prime accused in the attack on Mollah - yet another criminal charge in a long list of pending cases, from criminal intimidation to attempt-to-murder. According to police, none of the cases have been dropped though Arabul has got bail in some.

The CPM has demanded his arrest within the next 24 hours. "We will wait for the administration to act by Tuesday noon. Else we will stage a dharna in front of the police superintendent's office," said Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra.

The condemnation of Arabul across political lines has come as a ray of hope to a woman from Bhangar, who was driven out of her home and hearth in August and forced to take shelter in New Town, Rajarhat, with her husband.

"Some men, led by Arabul, beat me up at Satulia bazar in front of everyone, tore off my sari and blouse, and attacked my private parts. They dragged me to the local dumping ground thinking I was dead. That was on August 28," she told TOI on Monday. She went to Kashipur police station to lodge a complaint but in vain. "Police did not initiate an inquiry till I moved Alipore court. On hearing my complaint, the chief judicial magistrate directed the officer-in-charge to start a case," she said.

While the traumatized woman had to wait till October for the police to start an inquiry, the man who is accused of "leading the attack" is unfazed. "I do not know of any such complaint. You can check with the local police," said Arabul.

Kashipur Police, however, recognised the complaint. "Yes, a complaint was made by (TOI is withholding the name) though her injury report doesn't confirm all the elements of the complaint, or Arabul's having a hand in it," a police officer said. But he has not sent the report to the court, saying the complaint is untrue.

The entire episode goes against the chief minister's directive to police to take a complaint as and when a victim comes to the police station.

However, the rules of the game changed when a woman known to Arabul went to Kashipur police station to complain about a family dispute. While the sub-inspector on duty took a few minutes to record the complaint, Arabul angrily stepped into the police station and slapped the officer. This was within days of the molestation complaint lodged against the Trinamool leader. As usual, the police officer bore with the assault.

The Trinamool chief - who showed "zero tolerance" to pay leaders Meer Taher Ali and the others who swayed with girls and showered money on them at the party's foundation day at Bhangar - has been bearing with Arabul for long. Is it because Mamata needs Arabul for the coming panchayat polls?

Mamata's infinite tolerance for this infamous leader from Bhangar has raised questions even among Trinamool circles. There was not a word of caution from the Trinamool leadership when Arabul, the president of Bhangar College, barged into the staff room in April last year and allegedly threw a jug full of water at lecturer Debjani Dey.

Former Union minister Saugata Roy gave vent to his disgust at a meeting of college principals held at Ashutosh College. Trinamool minister Rabi Ranjan Chattopadhyay had also spoken against Arabul. However, the CM kept mum while education minister Bratya Basu threw his weight behind Arabul.

Bhangar MLA Abdur Rezzak Mollah hospitalized after Bhangar mob violence

TNN Jan 7, 2013, 02.07AM IST

BHANGAR (SOUTH 24-PARGANAS): Political violence touched a new nadir on Sunday afternoon when former CPM minister and present Bhangar MLA Abdur Rezzak Mollah was allegedly assaulted by a mob led by ex-Trinamool Congress MLA Arabul Islam at Katatala in the Kolkata Leather Complex police station area.

As Mollah's jeep reached the spot at 12.20 pm, a large group of Trinamool men broke away from a meeting and rushed towards the vehicle with bamboo sticks. While the jeep's windscreen was smashed, Mollah was allegedly punched by Arabul. As he collapsed to the ground, the mob kicked and hit him on the stomach and chest for about seven minutes, even as his lone security guard and driver watched helplessly. A severely injured and bleeding Mollah "he has a deep gash under his eye and a cut on his lips apart from a hip injury” was rescued by two policemen. He was put into the damaged vehicle and taken to the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences.

A hospital official said some teeth on Rezzak's lower jaw have been broken and he was bleeding from his lower lip where two stitches were given. His ECG has been done and further X-rays will be carried out on Monday.

Municipal and urban development minister Firhad Hakim rubbished the charge, saying that Mollah was only pushed by some people. He denied that Trinamool supporters had attacked Mollah and his men.

The assault, coming in the wake of a series of CPM-Trinamool clashes across the state, was played down by the Trinamool leadership. The party claimed it was a drama staged by CPM to defame the state government. CPM has planned a sit-in at Alipur demanding the arrest of the culprits within 48 hours.

Mollah had gone to Katatala to inspect a party office, which was burnt down on Saturday night. CPM alleged it was done by Trinamool-backed miscreants. "I was told by the women of Katatala that Arabul and his associates have been looting and torturing them. So I assured them that I would visit them. That is why I had gone there," Mollah said in hospital.

Mollah's driver Amar Ghosh, who also suffered minor injuries, said the assault was pre-planned. "As we were close to the party office around 12.20 pm, we found a small gathering. They suddenly started running towards us. They were carrying bamboo sticks. They first smashed the glass windscreen. Rezzak Mollah opened the door and got down but before he could say anything, a blow landed on his face, leaving him bleeding," he said.

Ghosh said after Mollah fell down, they kept kicking him. His security guard made a futile attempt to save him, but was vastly outnumbered by Arabul's supporters.

In the evening, Ghosh lodged a complaint against eight persons, including Arabul Islam, Pradip and Kalu at the Kolkata Leather Complex police station. Trinamool has also planned to lodge a counter-complaint against Mollah.

At a hurriedly convened press conference at Trinamool Bhavan, Hakim said it was a drama staged by Mollah, who had gone to the spot ignoring a request from the administration to the contrary. "We had a street-corner meeting and Arabul was delivering his speech. Suddenly Rezzak Mollah reached the spot and hurled filthy abuses. It led to tension and a scuffle broke out. If there was an attack by 3,000-4,000 people we had there, Mollah might not have reached the hospital ever," Hakim said.

Hakim also alleged that the CPM party office was burnt down by its own members to malign the administration. Sauqat Mollah, once a close aide of Mollah and now a Trinamool leader in Bhangar, said: "Only on January 1, our party (Trinamool) office was ransacked and burnt down. Since then, there was tension in Katatala. Mollah went there just to add fuel to fire."

A senior police officer admitted that Mollah had informed the administration about his visit to Katatala. He also confirmed that police personnel had rescued Mollah from the irate mob.

CPM leader Kanti Ganguly said the attack was pre-planned. Before the assault, Arabul and his henchmen had asked shops to down their shutters, he said. "This is part of a game plan before the panachayet elections to unleash fear among the electorate," Ganguly said.

Amid the demand for the arrest of Arabul by senior Left Front leaders like Biman Bose, Surjya Kanta Mishra, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharjee and Subhas Naskar, Hakim said: "If Arabul Islam is arrested, then Rezzak Mollah would also be arrested for an even worse offence."

Rebel Trinamool MP Kabir Suman said he was feeling ashamed about the assault. "What is happening? I am feeling ashamed and I apologize to Rezzak Mollah. If the allegations that have been raised against him are true, Arabul Islam is out of his mind. What's wrong with him? Can't he understand what a wrong message he is sending to the grassroots Trinamool men?" 

Mamata Govt: Setbacks aplenty in honeymoon year

By Pratim Ranjan Bose

The Hindu Business Line
29th December, 2012

Kolkata, Dec 28: Ideally, 2012 should have been a honeymoon year for the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress Government in West Bengal.
For a party formed in 1998, Trinamool had not merely won the May 2011 elections with absolute majority but had also displaced a three-decade old CPI (M)-led Left Front Government.
The credit for this change in regime goes entirely to Banerjee. Ever since her victory in the 1984 General Elections (as a Congress nominee), she had emerged as the most credible face of the Opposition in the State.
She studied each and every move of her arch rival carefully and, repeated the same tactics in her favour. And, since she has not been indoctrinated with any known ideology, her doors were open to everyone, from far Left to Right, as long as they opposed the CPI (M).
So, when the former Buddhadeb Bhattacharyya Government, in its haste to industrialise the State, antagonised the party’s rural support base, Banerjee utilised it to build a strong anti-land acquisition campaign — more or less on similar lines as the Left did in the 1960s.
Careful to protect her image, she had always held extreme positions — as in declining the last ditch attempt of the Left Front Government to strike a compromise deal with the agitating farmers at Singur — but promised to have a model in store to make everyone happy.
Though there is lack of clarity in the new Act, land should be returned to unwilling farmers in Singur. Government will not acquire land but investment should come in droves. The State coffers may be empty but development will happen through PPP model and so on.

Cookie crumbles
But, the world clearly did not move the way Banerjee wanted .
The court struck down a slew of legislations ranging from the Singur Act (for taking over land from the possession of Tata Motors and redistribute it to unwilling farmers) to amendments in the cooperatives Act.
A series of Government actions, such as closing down a private medical college or disbanding police unions were reversed by the judiciary.
Investments — except those initiated during the Left regime — have largely eluded the State. On the contrary, West Bengal had lost committed investments from at least one IT major, due to Banerjee’s anti SEZ policy.
Collective investment schemes (popularly referred as ‘chit funds’), each mopping up thousands of crores of rupees a year — either illegally or using legal loopholes — have mushroomed, promising sky high returns from the investors.
The end result is that the State’s small savings inflow has taken a hit, leading to further impact on West Bengal’s dwindling finances.

On the firing line
It would be incorrect to say that Banerjee was all wrong in her actions and assumptions. But, she suffered from two major shortcomings: Intolerance to opposition or criticism and, major inadequacies in party administration.
The result: Within one and a half year in power and, another few months to go before Panchayat polls, the Trinamool is now facing allegations of widespread corruption, from within.
News of clashes between different party factions keeps pouring in. Examples of multiple Trinamool unions — owing allegiance to different leaders — in the same organisation, are aplenty.
In Singur the party leaders are now faced with angry protestors. The farmers are now left with neither money nor land. Rabindranath Bhattacharya, three-time MLA from the constituency, since 2001, has quit the State cabinet.
One MP fell out with the leadership almost a year ago . Another MLA criticised the one-upmanship in the party and was recently suspended. In-fighting is spreading even at the block levels.
And, expectation is rife in the political circles that even a slightest decline in Trinamool’s electoral fortunes in the Panchayat polls may accentuate the troubles.

Lessons not learnt
Going by the feedback on social networking sites, Trinamool’s popularity is waning especially among the urban youth. Even some party veterans admit to these concerns, albeit behind closed doors.
But, it is difficult to gauge whether Banerjee takes such concerns seriously. For the moment, she is banking on distributing bicycles to girls from minority sections or donating sickles (used in harvesting the crop) and agri tools to keep her rural vote bank intact.
Though the fiscal strain has intensified, she recently announced more jobs as well as higher pay (DA) to Government employees. She could have offered more if the Centre had allowed the State to pile up more debt disregarding the fiscal responsibility pact.
And, every embarrassment to her Government — be it rape incidents or tribal protest against land acquisition by a coal miner — are readily described as “conspiracy” of the CPI (M) or “sections of media” to malign the Government.