Posts Tagged ‘trinamool’

Mamata’s Al-Qaida Link

October 5, 2014

IM men killed making IEDs in Trinamool leader’s house

BURDWAN, Oct 2, 2014: Two suspected Indian Mujahideen militants were killed and a third injured critically in West Bengal’s Burdwan town when an IED they were allegedly making exploded in the house of a Trinamool Congress leader which also doubles as the local party office.

The blast took place on Thursday afternoon.

Locals say that when police arrived, two women held them off at gunpoint threatening to blow up the house and delaying them long enough to burn several documents and evidence. Among the half burnt papers found later were leaflets of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Indian Mujahideen. Only a month ago, Zawahiri had warned of ‘jihad’ in India.

Police sources said 55 IEDs were seized along with RDX, several wrist watch dials, maps and SIM cards. Some half-burnt books were in Arabic, say police sources. Security agencies believe that since the militants were already assembling IEDs, they had planned to hit an Indian city in a few days.

NIA, IB and other central agencies are already in Burdwan but say they are getting no cooperation from the state police. Local cops are accused of trying to hush up the blast. They destroyed the seized IEDs, bombs and explosives on Friday before central investigators could arrive. SP SMH Meerza claimed those dead did not have any criminal antecedents and that the bombs were crude socket-bombs. But CID inspector Amar Kumar Mondal, who led the bomb squad, said he defused 55 IEDs and RDX.

While Shakeel Ahmed from Nadia was killed on the spot, East Midnapore’s Shobhan Mondal died in hospital. Hasan Saheb of Murshidabad is in critical condition. Shakeel’s widow Rumi Biwi and Hasan’s wife Amina Biwi have been detained along with landlord and Trinamool leader Nurul Hasan Choudhury. The Opposition BJP and CPM demand a probe into the “Trinamool-terror nexus”.

The blast took place around noon on Thursday. Fire brigade and police believed they were responding to a domestic fire and were shocked to see two women brandishing revolvers and threatening to blow up the house if they dared enter.

In an instant, a ‘cylinder blast’ had transformed into a national security issue. Locals say they saw the two women burn several documents before they let police enter after an hour. Police took away the IEDs in sand-laden trucks. It took seven hours for a CID team from Kolkata to destroy them in controlled detonation the next morning.

When central agencies arrived on Friday afternoon, they were stunned to learn that the IEDs and RDX had been destroyed.

A four-member IB team was the first to arrive from New Delhi. An IB inspector alleged that Burdwan sadar police were not cooperating with them. “Neither the Burdwan SP nor the thana is helping us. They have destroyed all the bombs and explosives instead of retaining them for examination. The case will now become useless because of lack of evidence. The seized explosives would have been crucial in the case,” he said.

An NIA team arrived on Saturday, followed by a Central Forensic Science Laboratory team from Hyderabad. CFSL’s P D Ganesh said that the sand samples collected from the detonation site on the riverbank point to Indian Mujahideen. He said that police should have kept the explosives, and waited for them instead of destroying them. NIA and CFSL experts entered the house for the first time around 12pm on Saturday, two days after the blast.

The ruling Trinamool Congress is in a tight spot because the house served as its local party office. Trinamool leader Nurul Hasan has told police that he had given the first floor on rent to Shakeel Ahmed for Rs 18,000 three months ago and claims he does not know the others.

BJP district secretary Sandeep Nandy has demanded a CBI probe. “NIA and CBI should interrogate the three detainees and the injured person. The house is the local party office of Trinamool and you can see its flags even today. Burdwan SP SMH Meerza is trying to hush up the incident, claiming police have seized 15 crude bombs. He is trying to save the Trinamool leader. The Trinamool-terrorism link should be probed. This is a very serious matter,” Nandy said.

CPM leader Amal Haldar said burnt papers posters of Indian Mujahideen have been found. “The Trinamool-terror link has now been proved. We demand an NIA probe,” said Haldar.

Shakeel was in Mumbai for a long time before coming to Burdwan, sources say. IGP-CID R Shiva Kumar and IGP-western zone Siddhinath Gupta are interrogating the three detainees. “We have told the women to call their guardians. All 55 crude socket bombs have been destroyed by CID yesterday. The victims have no criminal background. The condition of the third victim is serious,” Meerza said.

Courtesy: TOI

Advertisements

Singur Set to Switch Loyalties Again?

April 22, 2012

 

Singur set to switch loyalties again?The closed site of Tata’s Nano project in Singur

    SINGUR: TNN Apr 23, 2012: Singur has always been a harbinger of political change in Bengal. This was once a Congress bastion, but turned its back on the party after police firing led to deaths of a few farmers agitating for land rights in the early 1970s. It then became one of the first CPM citadels in Bengal and heralded the victory of the CPM-led Left Front in 1977. For two decades, Singur remained loyal to the CPM, but the forcible land acquisition in May 2006 changed all that.

    Singur switched loyalty to the Trinamool, bringing it to power in the 2008 panchayat polls that were a curtain raiser to the Trinamool’s rousing capture of power in Bengal last year. If she had not been swept by the swell of support, Mamata Banerjee might have been wary of the Singur legacy. But she has, in less than a year, managed to turn this administrative block about 45km from Kolkata against herself.

    Those who were willing to let go of their lands, of course, never forgave her for driving Tata out but even those who were unwilling – they formed the backbone of her support base – are now furious with her. She has not visited Singur since she came to power; and she hasn’t kept her promise of restoring the land back to those who signed it off.

    Beraberi Purbapara, one of the hamlets where the anti-acquisition stir started, is enraged. "We were the first to protest the takeover of our farmlands. Mamata then took over the agitation. None of us accepted the compensation cheques. We participated in Mamata’s dharnas, blockades and agitation. But while she became the CM, we gained nothing," says Malati Das, 51, who lost six bighas of land to the car project.

    This now-desolate swathe of land along the Durgapur Expressway was supposed to have kick-started Bengal’s industrial and economic turnaround. Instead, it has now come to symbolise all that has gone wrong with Bengal. Singur is today a depressing picture of acute despair and deprivation.

    Six years ago, all scorn and vitriol had been reserved for (then CM) Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was seen as the architect of the forcible land acquisition, and for Tata Motors. Today, Mamata has replaced Bhattacharjee. So intense is the anger that Singur MLA Becharam Manna hasn’t managed to find the nerve to visit the villages whose residents’ farmlands were taken over for the car plant.

    Even though Mamata acted on her promise to return 400 acres (?) of farmland to the ‘unwilling’ farmers immediately after coming to power and enacted a Bill – this was challenged in the Calcutta high court by Tata Motors – to pave way for the return, the people here are unimpressed. Says Angurbala Das, 63, who was beaten up by police thrice for protesting: "We had total faith in Mamata and believed her promise to return our farmlands. Now we feel we were fools to have been taken in by her promises. She simply used us to ascend to power."

    Ashtu Das who does odd jobs to make both ends meet regrets turning down the enhanced compensation that the agitation had resulted in. "We lost out lands and didn’t accept any compensation at Mamata’s behest," he says.

    Robin Das, 45, of Gopalnagar Modhyo-Ghoshpara, who lost four bighas, feels the same way. "We all feel we should have accepted the compensation and allowed the factory. We now realise that the factory could have changed the face of Singur and Bengal. The locals would have got jobs and a lot of development would have taken place here. Tata Motors had promised to set up a hospital, a school, build roads and sponsor other development projects. They had initiated some such projects too. In hindsight, we all feel that we should have reposed faith in Tata rather than Mamata," says Das, a carpenter’s assistant now.

    That Mamata has not visited Singur after coming to power is seen by people of all the 16 gram panchayats – the Trinamool bagged 15 in the 2008 panchayat polls – as betrayal. "Till the (assembly) elections, there used to be a steady stream of Trinamool leaders. They used to provide rations and any help we asked for. They arranged for medical help and even private tuitions for our kids. But it all stopped as soon as they came to power," says Das. His sentiments find wide and easy resonance across Joymalla, Beraberi, Gopalnagar, Bajemelia, Kamarkundu, Doloigachi and all other villages in this area.

    The anger against Mamata Banerjee is more intense among those who accepted the compensation.

    "A lot would have happened here if Mamata didn’t drive Tata away. We counseled our fellow farmers who were agitating, hoping to get them to accept the cheques and allow the plant to come up. But they didn’t listen and all of us are suffering now," says Gayaram Pakhira, 50, of Joymalla village who gave up 16 bighas of farmland.

    Bikash Pakhira, 35, of the same village, would have been working as a machinist at the plant today for at least Rs 12,000 a month. "Tata sponsored my training as a machinist for 18 months and I worked for nearly a year as an apprentice at the project. Now I am a security guard at Rs 4,000 a month," he says.

    Narayanchandra Pakhira of Joymalla says Mamata should now give Singur the kind of development Tata would have ensured. "But is she capable of doing all that? Does she even have the will and the vision?" he asks.

    People accept that they were foolish to have fallen for her promises. "She knew very well that her attempt to return land would run into legal wrangles. But she misled us. She’ll have to pay a heavy price for this," says Nakibuddin Ahmed of Joymalla.

    The next panchayat polls are slated for April 2013, but Mamata has been talking of bringing them forward to this year-end. But no matter when they’re held, Singur says it has a few nasty surprises up its sleeves for her.

Courtesy: TOI, Kolkata

Mischief Minister

April 21, 2012

 

West Bengal’s populist chief minister is doing badly. Yet she typifies shifts in power in India

    April 21st, 2012: BUYER’S remorse is common enough in the dusty markets of Kolkata, a delightful if crumbling great city, once known as Calcutta and still  capital of the state of West Bengal. Those who buy cheap plastic goods or plaster-of-Paris busts of Rabindranath Tagore, Bengal’s cultural hero, may come to regret their haste. Likewise, many who voted in last year’s state election. Sickened by 34 years of  Communist rule, they handed power to Mamata Banerjee and her party, the Trinamool Congress. The sense of regret is palpable.

    Her faults are not the usual ones. She appears honest; home remains a two-storey whitewashed box in a humble bit of Kolkata, wedged between a fetid river and a tumbledown bakery. Her passions are not accumulating Ferraris but landscape painting and poetry. A prominent Bengali businessman praises her energy and direct manner, forgiving her much as she struggles with a dire legacy. The state is India’s most indebted, and, despite a little spurt in the Communists’ relatively reformist final years, enjoys little development beyond Kolkata, which has sprouted a property boom and outposts of India’s outsourcing empires.

    One set of complaints is over her style. “Mindset of a Hitler”, a journalist concludes. Cabinet colleagues “live in mortal terror”, a senior party figure says. Her rule is “a one-man army”, a young critic jeers. An autocratic bent leads to grotesque blunders. She claimed that a victim of gang rape was conspiring to discredit her rule, and punished a bright policewoman who caught the assailants. Then this month she failed to disavow the arrest of two academics, one of whom was beaten. He had merely shared a cartoon about her on Facebook and by e-mail. This suggested that she cannot take even mild criticism. So does the alleged banning of newspapers she dislikes from public libraries. Aveek Sarkar, a tycoon whose media group is critical, expects her to order his arrest: he has lodged “anticipatory bail” in eight as yet imaginary cases.

    Defenders claim she is growing in the job, for which a few years as a minister in Delhi running the railways (badly) failed to prepare her. Derek O’Brien, her Anglo-Indian spokesman, claims somewhat limply that “you haven’t seen the best of Mamata yet”. Complaints about her style seem mainly confined to the urban elite. A bigger concern is what she does with power. She has notched up one success to some degree: cracking down on Maoist insurgents in their rural base. Otherwise, things look grim. Most worrying, her economic policies outflank even the Communists on the left. Trinamool, which means grassroots, won after she led a campaign against plans by Tata, India’s biggest firm, to build a car factory on land she claimed was taken unfairly from farmers. Tata fled to a friendlier state, Gujarat, taking jobs, but voters cheered.

    A populist not an ideologue, Ms Banerjee’s success reflects a long-term trend across India: the rise of regional parties at the expense of the national ones. Poorer, less educated, rural people (“the Lumpen! the Luddites!” an educated Bengali sighs, in his plush office), who vote in greater numbers than the wealthier minority, seem increasingly to prefer local parties, often, at least in the north, with a statist bent. Ms Banerjee’s political approach is to dish out public jobs and welfare and protect small farmers, and to duck reforms that might lure investors to the state. Her government did recently pass a law allowing business to lease modest plots of public land. Yet she vows loudly never to help industry buy it. And with land titles a confused mess of fragmented ownership, it is likely that land-hungry firms will stay away.

    More energy is devoted to symbols and aesthetics. The state has a new name, “Paschim Banga”. And Ms Banerjee seems to think the way to lure tourists to Kolkata is to paint every railing, kerbside, public urinal, roundabout and bridge in blue-and-white stripes. She has also ordered that loudspeakers blast Tagore’s music at junctions in the city, while Karl Marx is purged from the school curriculum. Yet she will not go to business forums, and rejects meetings with ambassadors hoping to promote industry ties. The state’s budget last month re-imposed a barmy entry tax on goods from elsewhere in India. That will distort trade but raise almost no revenue. Then this week Infosys, a big software firm, put on hold a development centre that would have created over 10,000 jobs. Ms Banerjee refused to allow a special economic zone offering tax relief.

    All this will prove costly, in time. Farmers alone produce too little tax revenue to pay for planned roads, electricity, schools and hospitals. All her government’s revenue goes to pay salaries and interest on its 2 trillion-rupee ($40 billion) debt. That leaves Ms Banerjee with a single destructive strategy: begging and threatening the central government in Delhi in order to secure debt relief. As a crucial ally of the ruling Congress party, she is in a strong position. But the finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, her main Bengali rival, refuses special help. The result is paralysis for West Bengal and India. She helps block the government’s reforms—on foreign investment in supermarkets; cutting fuel subsidies; the railways budget; a water-sharing deal with Bangladesh; an anti-graft bill. But she gets no relief.

Follow the blue-and-white brick road

    The stand-off will continue. Congress wants its candidate elected as India’s president in July, and will need her help. She and some other state leaders want to wrest more powers from the centre, notably by scuppering a planned national counter-terrorism body. As the ruling coalition’s spoiler-in-chief, she typifies rising regional clout at a time when the centre is weakly led. Her party talks grandly of a concept of “operative federalism”, meaning that states should get more control of public funds. So the tensions with Congress will rise. But nobody expects her to fly away from its coalition soon. She may be seen as a mischief-maker; but, at least as yet, not quite as the wicked witch of the East.

Courtesy: The Economist

Trinamool’s Vandalism in College Campus

January 6, 2012

 

Trinamool tramples campus promise

OUR CORRESPONDENT

Principal Dilip Dey Sarkar being dragged out of the college on Thursday.

Raiganj, Uttar Dinajpur; Jan. 5: A college principal was caught by his lapel and beaten repeatedly by prominent Trinamool leaders and activists here in the latest manifestation of the turf battle with ally Congress and a resurrection of the campus curse Mamata Banerjee had vowed to exorcise.

    The immediate flashpoint was the rejection of a demand made by Trinamool activists to scrap and reschedule students’ union elections in Raiganj College, saying their supporters were prevented from filing nomination papers by the Chhatra Parishad, the student wing of the Congress.

    But the underlying cause was the tussle for political space between the allies, now playing itself out in many parts of Bengal over issues as diverse as the renaming of Indira Bhawan and paddy prices.

    The assault at the government college coincided with a blunt Trinamool reminder to the Congress that the government in Delhi exists “because of us”, not the other way round.

    The location of today’s flare-up was significant because Raiganj is considered the backyard of Congress MP and Mamata-baiter Deepa Das Munshi. Having gained a foothold in north Bengal, long considered a Congress stronghold, in the last Assembly elections, Trinamool is trying to widen its presence there, which the Congress is resisting.

    The assault at the college, well known in North Dinajpur, also brought under stress the new government’s promise to free education from the grip of politics, a legacy of the Left, though today’s incident had little to do with the current Opposition.

    Education minister Bratya Basu renewed the pledge and ordered action irrespective of political affiliations. But till late this evening, the main accused — Trinamool’s acting district chief (Tilak Chowdhury) — had not been arrested.

    “The incident at the Raiganj college is deplorable. At a time the state government is trying to de-politicise education institutes, such incidents won’t be tolerated. We have told the administration to take action against the offenders, irrespective of their political affiliation. Thirty-four years of Left rule have developed a culture of political interference in education institutes,” Basu said.

    Yesterday afternoon, members of the Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad had turned up at the Raigunj College to pick up nomination forms. But they were allegedly blocked by the Chhatra Parishad, which now runs the union.

    A fight broke out and each side lodged an FIR against the other at the local police station. By closing time, the Trinamool members could pick up only 16 forms for the 56 seats.

    A police picket was posted at the college but neither the force nor the officer-in-charge present there could foil the rampage that erupted this morning.

    Trinamool activists, led by the party’s district working president Tilak Chowdhury, held a protest march, following which a group kicked open the locked main gate and stormed the room of principal Dilip Dey Sarkar.

    Around 40 intruders burst into the first-floor room of Dey Sarkar, pushed aside the inspector in charge of Raiganj police station, Madhab Das, overturned the table on the principal and rained blows on him.

    Subrata Saha, a teacher who came to the principal’s rescue, was also beaten up, a teacher said. The vandals then caught Dey Sarkar by his lapel and dragged him down.

    The beating continued till some policemen posted near the gate rushed in and rescued Dey Sarkar. The principal filed an FIR stating that Chowdhury had led the attack.

    Dey Sarkar told the media persons: “The police should have stopped Chowdhury and the others from invading the college. When they were breaking down the college gate the police should have stopped them. I have resigned from my post in protest. I have also informed the vice-chancellor to keep the election process in suspension. The college will also be shut from tomorrow for a few days.”

    To save his face, Chowdhury alleged that the attack on the principal was the handiwork of the Chhatra Parishad.

    “We had marched to the college to register our protest with the principal for not being allowed to collect the nomination forms,” Chowdhury said. “But the principal refused to meet us. So, some of our supporters got agitated and tried to enter the principal’s office. Taking advantage of this, the Chhatra Parishad supporters mingled with us and beat up the principal to malign us.”

    Das Munshi said the incident was “shameful”. “Trinamool is getting involved in all kinds of vandalism and giving a bad name to the government. Let us see if any Trinamool supporters are arrested,” she said.

Courtesy: The Telegraph, Kolkata

Trinamool Showing its Naked Face…

August 22, 2011

 

ভর্তুকি কমানো হচ্ছে সমস্ত খাতে – পরিবহন, সড়কব্যবস্থা, স্বাস্থ্য, বস্তি উন্নয়ন।

মা-মাটি-মানুষের মুখোশ খুলে তৃণমুল আসল চেহারা দেখাচ্ছে।

    পরিবহন ব্যবস্থা, যা সাধারন মানুষের দৈনন্দিন প্রয়োজনীয় তার মধ্যে পড়ে, তার থেকে ভর্তুকি তুলে নিতে চায় নতুন সরকার। পরিবহন সংস্থাগুলিকে ডেকে এমনই বার্তা দিলেন অর্থমন্ত্রী অমিতমিত্র।

    এছাড়াও এবারের কলকাতা পুরসভার বাজেটে বেশ কিছু প্রয়োজনীয় খাতে খরচা কমানোর কথা বলা হয়েছে। এগুলি হচ্ছে স্বাস্থ্য, বস্তি উন্নয়ন, সড়ক ব্যবস্থা এবং আরও কিছু খাতে।খরচা বাড়ানো হয়েছে কলকাতার সৌন্দর্য্যকরন প্রক্রিয়ার খাতে।

    এর থেকেই স্পষ্ট হয়ে উঠেছে নতুন সরকারের জনবিরোধী চেহারা। বামপন্থীদের এই সময়ে সজাগ থাকতে হবে, এবং এই সমস্ত প্রক্রিয়ার বিরোধিতা করতে হবে। সাধারণ গরীব মধ্যবিত্ত মানুষের স্বার্থে, তাদের নিয়ে, সরকারের এই সমস্ত কাজের বিরুদ্ধে আন্দোলন গড়ে তোলবার কাজ করবে বামপন্থীরা আগামীদিনে।

KMC slashes funds for roads, health & parks

    KOLKATA: The roads in Kolkata might get worse but you will at least have better lights to avoid the potholes. This seems to be Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s way to balance out things at a time when it is severely strapped for funds.

    In its first budget, the Trinamool Congress-Congress KMC board slashed its estimate by Rs 300 crore and settled for Rs 3,500 crore for this fiscal. The funds cut comes at a time when KMC has a wider jurisdiction and additional responsibilities taken over from other government agencies such as PWD, KMDA and KMWSA that will cost it Rs 200 crore at least.

    Key departments that have faced a cut include road maintenance, slum development, health and parks and squares. Even the disaster management programme has taken a hit. Allocations have been increased on electricity charges, security arrangements and modernization of KMC-maintained auditoriums.

    While the budget allocation for maintenance of roads has gone down from Rs 276 crore in 2010-2011 to 180 crore in 2011-12, the amount of slum development has dropped sharply from Rs 129 crore to Rs 84 crore. Funds for disaster management have gone down from Rs 12 crore to Rs 10 crore. Allocation for the health department – which has ambitious reform plans to tackle malaria, dengue and TB – has been cut down from Rs 114 crore to Rs 95 crore.

    However, there is in an increase in allocation for the renovation of Sarat Sadan in Behala, the mayor’s home turf and also a place from where chief minister Mamata Banerjee is likely to contest the assembly bypolls.

    But there is no mention or allocation of funds for the city’s infrastructure that the KMC is likely to oversee. According to an agreement between the state government and KMC, the civic body will take over maintenance of roads, flyovers, street lighting, sewerage treatment and water supply plants from government agencies. KMC estimates say that it needs at least Rs 200 crore a year for these new responsibilities.

    While the allocation for parks and water bodies has gone down from Rs 30 crore to Rs 26 crore, funds for illumination of parks and streets has been increased from Rs 150 crore to Rs 240 crore.

    Questions are being asked whether KMC will be able to shoulder the responsibility of maintaining the city’s infrastructure when revenue generation is shrinking steadily. Going by KMC budget estimates, it has a Rs 93 crore revenue shortfall than the projection in 2010-11.

    "Given such a crisis, the KMC should not take over maintenance of infrastructure from government agencies or take newer areas like Joka panchayat under its jurisdiction," said Mala Roy, leader of the Congress municipal party in KMC. Dipankar De, the KMC accounts committee chairman, felt that civic services were bound to deteriorate due to the financial crisis.

Courtesy: TOI

Journalism In Mamata’s Regime

June 22, 2011

 

ajitha-menon-webIt is not clear whether ‘Didi’, who had portrayed herself as a champion of democracy, approves of such behavior but it is obvious to the field reporters in Kolkata that the media is on its knees.

Here is AJITHA MENON’s tales of the new media regime.

    West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently opened a new chapter in the media-government relationship when she publicly declared that she will “compensate” a news channel with a substitute story if they miss something. This was her official response to a question on why the State Higher Secondary Examination results were leaked by the concerned government department to a private news channel (Star Ananda), known for its close affiliation to the Trinamool Congress, ahead of the formal announcement.

    The entire media fraternity gathered at Writers’ Buildings, the state secretariat, responded to the statement with scattered laughter, almost condoning the fact that the government will play favourites with the media on official matters – even at the cost of institutional breach of trust – and in case of objection from someone, there will be “compensation” in the form of another story. First your turn, then my turn – wait for the handouts.

    The more serious issue of betrayal of trust by an institution reposed with the charge of conducting these examinations without bias and ensuring formal publication of results to the satisfaction of lakhs of students, their teachers and guardians, was ignored by the mainstream media almost as one.

    As any professional journalist will vouch – an exclusive will be carried if the source is credible and the facts verifiable. So, the channel which carried the results ahead of schedule can hardly be blamed for “scooping” their rivals. However, the responsibility for the leak should have been fixed on the government department responsible for the examinations – in this case the Bengal Higher Secondary Education Council. Not because the results were handed out ahead of time – though one doubts that a similar media compliance would be witnessed if the UPSC results were given to one particular channel before the merit list is officially posted – but because of the breach in security of the entire process of conducting exams, correcting answer sheets, tallying the marks, preparing the merit list and publishing the results.

    Interestingly, the Council President, Omkarsadhan Adhikary, when pushed to the wall on the issue admitted, “everything was done in accordance with the instructions of the state government”. He was mum on who in the state government ordered the disclosure.

    If a breach can happen in this case, why then not for influencing results, adding or deducting marks of certain candidates, for even changing the merit list? Since the weak link in the department is already exposed – a link which is susceptible to media glamour or political interference, whatever it maybe in this case – why can’t the weak link be exploited for perpetration of more nefarious designs? Or for that matter, why should this remain restricted to one government department only? After all, the Chief Minister herself has sanctioned the weak link now, refusing to order an enquiry into the matter!

    A pro-Left channel (Choubis Ghanta – Bengali) picked up the issue only to be categorically dismissed by the Chief Minister in the following words – “What can I do if a certain channel gets information. I can’t order an enquiry into what channels are doing. Choubis Ghanta is CPI(M)’ s channel. They are always saying bad things about me. Maybe they are sad that they missed the story. Don’t worry, I will give them another story to ‘compensate’.”

    A case of missing the forest, as well as the trees and offering bribes to media to boot? The denizens of the fourth pillar of democracy in Bengal seemed extremely subdued on the matter. ‘The Bengal Post’ story with the headline “HS council ‘fails’ as channel leaks results”, had some teeth, while the Kolkata edition of ‘The Hindu’ had a small paragraph on the matter. The CPI(M) mouthpiece ‘Ganashakti’ of course went to town about it and the Bengali ‘Bartaman’ also had a story stating the Chief Minister had refused to order an enquiry into the leak.

    It may be recalled that a similar leak of Secondary Board exam results ahead of the formal announcement had occurred in 2007 and the then government was forced to order an enquiry which led to the dismissal of the then President of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, Ujjwal Basu.

    The low key response from mainstream media this time is worrying in the context that a new era of total media obeisance to both the Chief Minister and her council of ministers has been ushered into the state post Assembly elections.

    That Mamata Banerjee has a select coterie of favourite journalists is common knowledge and acceptable in India where most politicians cultivate media persons to suit their ends, where journalists are more often than not “cultivable” and where “paid news” is norm. However, it is dangerous territory for democracy when journalists outside this coterie are not even allowed to ask questions – not just to any politician but even to the democratically elected Chief Minister in office.

    A young agency reporter, who had the “temerity” to ask Bimal Gurung, the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) leader “Have you dropped the demand for a separate Gorkhaland?”, after his first meeting with the new Chief Minister, was shot down by the Chief Minister who did not allow Gurung to reply and instead said “don’t insist, that may deteriorate the situation”! However, the matter was tolerable till after the press conference, when a trio of senior reporters converged on the rookie and demanded to know “why did you ask such a question? ‘Didi’ was offended”.

    The message was, don’t ask unpleasant questions, only ask what ‘didi’ wants to be asked, please her and her ministers at any cost. The media should in no way anger ‘didi’. Its not clear whether ‘didi’, who had portrayed herself as a champion of democracy, approves of such behavior but its obvious to the field reporters in Kolkata that the media is on its knees.

    Notably, when Mamata Banerjee finally announced a tentative agreement with the GJMM on Tuesday (June 7), she repeatedly said the “Darjeeling” problem has been settled. The media obliged, and the word “Gorkhaland” was not even whispered, and the GJMM representatives were not asked anything about their long pending demand for a separate state – it was as though it never existed!

    While giving an interview, Partha Chatterjee, the new industry minister, took it upon himself to order the ETV cameraman in the Assembly, “Keep us in two-frame” (meaning the newly elected Speaker Biman Banerjee and himself). When he realised that the cameraman had not kept a “two-frame”, zooming in to his own face alone, Chatterjee actually threatened “you think just because you hold the camera in your hand, you also hold your job? You think Hyderabad is far away? Don’t think that its that far”.

    In another instance, a young reporter with NE Bangla channel angered the Mayor Shovan Chattopadhyay, who was criticizing the condition of Subhas Sarovar Lake a few days after the new government took charge, by asking “but this lake comes under Kolkata Corporation, which has been with TMC for over two years now, so why hasn’t something been done yet?” . The Mayor walked off in a huff without replying, while other journalists from R Plus Channel and Mahua TV charged her with, “why do you ask such things? You angered him and we lost our chance. Because of you we could not ask our questions”.

    As the angry young reporter said, “their questions were, of course, of paramount importance as usual – how many bulbs will be put up to light the lake area and which other lake will you visit? This is what journalism has come to in Kolkata”!

    Television viewers across the country saw the lead anchor of a Bengali news channel sitting behind Mamata Banerjee on the day the election results were announced, while she was giving an interview to Barkha Dutt of NDTV. Even, Dutt, a journalist of some stature, had not dared to ask the “in-coterie celebrity anchor” to move out of her frame!

    For young reporters working for the pro-Trinamool Channel 10, a nightmare is unfolding. One of them asked a question to the Mayor, which the latter did not like. He picked up the phone and called the channel editor and complained. It was made clear to the hapless scribe, by his boss, that asking difficult questions to Trinamool leaders or ministers was a strict no-no. “Keep them happy. Anyway such stories will not be carried on our channel and you will surely lose your job”, the young reporter quoted his boss as saying. Most reporters of this channel admit that they are afraid of losing their jobs if Trinamool leaders complain to the editor.

    Mamata’s coterie journalists belonging to Star Ananda, The Telegraph, etc., also interface between her and other media persons. A reporter from IndiaVision Channel, Kerala details his experience outside Mamata Banerjee’s house – “I waited for six hours for a sound bite from her. She came out and called one journalist inside. He came out after sometime and showed us all an SMS on his mobile from her which said “I will not talk to any reporters today, please ask them all to leave!”.

    A Sahara TV reporter, who was desperately trying for a one-to-one interview with Mamata Banerjee on the day of the election results but categorically refused was told by a Star Ananda reporter, “You should have come to me. I would have fixed it up with her for you”. A broker?

 

    The IndiaVision reporter’s final comment on the matter – “I had also tried for an interview when she visited West Midnapore. I waited outside for almost four hours and sent in messages through the security personnel and other Trinamool leaders. She refused to talk to us but journalists from Star Ananda and some Bengali papers were with her throughout. How can a politician be selectively accessible? Aren’t we part of a democracy? If it is like this now, I wonder what will be situation when she becomes Chief Minister” – is currently echoing down the powers of corridor in Bengal!

    Besides interference in free and fair discharge of journalistic duties, stories of political leaders filling petrol/diesel for the cars owned by reporters, throwing parties for them and even paying EMI for their flats are doing the rounds now. A whole lot of journalists are also flexing their muscle now – showing off their closeness to ministers and the ability to save one from traffic fines, get a railway reservation at the nth hour, arrange school and college admissions, sanction the plan for a new house or extension, a government/railway job, a transfer to the preferred place of posting, a place on a committee etc – all with a mere telephone call.

    This culture is new to Bengal. Is it more power to journalists at the cost of democracy?

The writer is the West Bengal Bureau Chief of the Asian News International (ANI). This column was published in www.thehoot.org on Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011.

A Nefarious Game: Trinamool Activists Planting Arms…

May 24, 2011

 

image

    It is a part of a nefarious game to malign the CPI(M). The weapons which were being recovered allegedly from the houses of CPI(M) leaders and party offices in rural Bengal, particularly in areas under Jangalmahal of Midnapore and Bankura districts and which were being publicized by a section of media houses actually belong to Trinamool activists. They collected the arms supplied by Maoists before elections and now after the elections are over want to get rid of them.

    The nature of recovery itself clearly indicates that the weapons are being dumped in ponds and paddy fields by Trinamool activists in the vicinity of houses of CPI(M) leaders and party offices in the night under the cover of darkness and the spots are later located by them to the police, escorted by them.

    Asked about the allegation regarding recovery of arms from places close to party leaders and party offices CPI(M) State secretary Biman Basu accused Trinamool supporters of planting weapons in party offices and homes of local leaders of Left parties which is the reason for the haul of arms that have been recovered over the past few days.

Linking CPI(M) with arms haul is a political conspiracy:     Nirupam Sen

    It is nothing but a political conspiracy against the CPI(M). Surprisingly, after more than one year the CPI(M) is being linked with Silda incident in West Midnapore in which 24 members of the Eastern Frontier Rifles were killed by Maoists. Immediately after the incident in February 2010 top Maoist leaders admitted that the action squad of their party attacked the Silda EFR camp, killed 24 jawans and looted a large quantity of arms and ammunition. When CID inquiry into the incident clearly revealed that the Silda incident was the handiwork of Maoists and charge sheet was framed against Maoist leaders Kishenji and Sasadhar Mahato how the CPI(M) could be held responsible for what had happened in Silda.

    The CPI(M) polit bureau member Nirupam Sen alleged that the police were being pressurized by the administration of the newly elected government to link the CPI(M) with arms haul from different parts of rural Bengal.

Who called the DG Naparajit Mukherjee while he was press briefing on 22nd afternoon at the Writers.

    Today the police has recovered a large cache of arms from Parulia village in West Midnapore district. Police informed that there was an INSAS assault rifle among the arms haul, which was looted during Silda EFR camp attack by the Maoists.

    Next scene in the Writers Buildings: At the instruction of the new state govt. the DG called a press conference and declared that a large cache of arms has been recovered in West Midnapore district. At this point of time, in full view of the reporters assembled there, his mobile rang, he received the call, his face and mood changed. After the call he said, a new angle has been known from the caller. What is that?

    The new angle is: since the arms haul has been found within 2 kilometers of the local CPI-M party office and since there is one INSAS rifle which was looted from EFR camp in Silda on 15th February, 2010, so we have to investigate if CPI-M is responsible for Silda attack.

    Do you understand what they are dragging all these things! A news has been published that in the Midnapore central jail, Sasadhar Mahato, Prasun, Raja Sarkhel (latter two are maoists while the former is leader of PCPA, a maoist outfit according to Chidambaram) distributed sweets after Mamata’s sworn-in hoping that now they will be set free!

    And the new CM Mamata Banerjee is plotting to implicate CPI-M in Silda case to get her Maoist friends out of jail.

Mamata: From Rabble Rouser to Chief Minister

May 20, 2011

News Bureau

Kolkata, May 20, 2011: Today at 1:01 pm Mamata Banerjee has sworn in as the first woman Chief Minister of West Bengal. In her nearly 30 years in politics, Trinamool Congress leader and ex Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has cut a constant figure with her humble lifestyle, exemplary personal honesty and fiery oratory. She has been termed as ‘Agni Kanya’ or the firebrand leader by the local press.

From the time Banerjee was first elected as a Congress party MP in 1984 at the age of 29, she has had a meteoric rise in a career that has seen many ups and downs. She has held a number of ministerial portfolios before splitting from Congress to form Trinamool in 1998.

As the Congress’s most important but volatile partner, Mamata’s Trinamool Congress has played a central role in helping the party get its foothold back in a state ruled for 34 years by the communist party.

clip_image002

Banerjee, who sustained life-threatening injuries during a 1989 protest, triumphed on Friday, the 13th May at the ballot box after more than three decades of leading strikes and protests against the Communist party-led Left Front government in West Bengal.

Banerjee started her political career with the Congress in the 1970s. Her aggressive and fiery persona soon helped her rise in the party ranks and she held the post of the General Secretary of the women’s wing of the party in West Bengal between 1976 and 1980.

Banerjee first made headlines when she was sent by the party to battle one of the communists’ safest seats in Kolkata in 1984. Against the odds, Banerjee delivered a shocker by beating veteran Communist party leader Somnath Chatterjee from the Jadavpur Constituency.

She lost her seat in 1989 but turned her fortune in the South Kolkata constituency seat in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009 General Elections.

Often temperamental, the 1990s shaped Banerjee’s political personality who, as the Sports Minister in 1992, announced her resignation led a rally at the Parade Ground in Kolkata, against the Government’s indifference towards her policies.

In the late 90s her often stormy relationship with the Congress party escalated in a full blown war and she alleged that the party leaders were colluding with the Marxists for personal gains. It was at the same time that she protested the economic stagnation in the state, slammed corruption and accused the world’s longest-serving democratically-elected communist government of perpetrating political violence.

Herself, a victim of political violence, Banerjee has survived attacks on her life on several occasions – both in Kolkata and in its suburbs during her many visits to the hinterland to test the pulse of the people.

She had many run-ins with political leaders, and often in Parliament. She famously dragged an MP by his collar out of parliament to stop him protesting against a women’s affirmative action bill.

Banerjee, 56, however has always claimed that she is a career politician who has never spent money on cosmetics or jewellery.

In 1997, Banerjee came out of the Congress Party and established the All India Trinamool Congress. It quickly became the fulcrum of rising power in the state with many crossing over from the communist party to join its file.

Banerjee’s alliance with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in 1999, that led to her being allotted the Railways Ministry, made the Congress uneasy and raises doubts on her reliability as a partner.

During her career as a politician, she has been known for many a tantrum. Once she entered a police station in Kolkata suburb and painted coal-tar on the face of the officer-in-charge. Once during the Singur movement, when she was not allowed to proceed towards Singur, she furiously came back to the Assembly House and with her MLAs ransacked the lobby and broke into pieces century-old teak wood furniture.

She has had to confront two roadblocks — traditional Congress stalwarts scared of any threat to the Nehru-Gandhi family dynasty who tried to marginalise her, and Congress’s attempts to reach out to the communists as a national coalition partner.

The woman affectionately known as ‘didi’ (elder sister), and born to a poor teacher’s family, rose to become the first person capable of uniting an opposition against 34 years of communist rule in West Bengal and of leading a party, the Trinamool Congress, that could make or break Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s reform agenda.

In her effort to do this, she has got the patronage of all the anti-communist forces in India and abroad including corporate media. With the help of the media she has been succeeded in hate campaign against the left front government saying ‘this Govt. has done nothing in the past 34 years’, though there is enormous success to the credit of the last Govt. in sectors like panchayat, rural poverty,  child health, mother’s health, education, self-sufficiency in food production, distribution of khas land among the rural poor farmers, maintaining democratic and peaceful social condition, etc.

After seven consecutive election wins, the communists have stumbled, mainly due to a badly-implemented plan to seize farming land for industry to help the state’s moribund economy and provide needed manufacturing jobs. Voters saw them as stuck in a Cold War time warp and their exasperation over red tape and Marxist sloganeering has grown.

Her campaign against the communists has come to symbolize the political battles that define India today – conflicts over appropriating land for industry and infrastructure, the power of regional charismatic leaders, a growing disgust with corruption, and the push for economic reform in a country of 1.2 billion people that often resists change.

Banerjee’s tale is also one of how a single woman from a humble background can succeed in this traditional society. She joins other regional leaders in India who have emerged with the decline in popularity of national parties seen as out of touch. Their populist agenda has become more influential at the centre, where national coalitions must accommodate their views as they forge India’s path in a global economy.

Her manifesto is sparse, but includes introducing cruises on the Ganges River "in line with River Thames of London" and converting West Bengal’s tea-growing Darjeeling district into the "Switzerland of the East".

The 56-year-old Banerjee won a landslide vote when ballots were counted on Friday to become the next leader of this state of 90 million, a population equivalent to Germany.

Unmarried, she still lives with her mother in a small bungalow with a corrugated iron roof and over time has become something of a feminist icon.

Banerjee won 19 parliamentary seats in the 2009 general election, to become the biggest party in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s coalition government — huge clout given the government has a parliamentary majority of just 18.

Banerjee’s popularity in the suburbs rose at the time of the decline in popularity of the communists which can be traced back to political violence against people and the heavy-handed push for industrialisation that pitted the Left Front against its once fervent grassroots supporters, the farmers.

In 2007, Tata Motors, a unit of Indian conglomerate Tata group, made a deal with the Communist government to start rolling out thousands of Nanos — billed as the world’s cheapest car — from a new state-of-the-art factory complex in Singur.

Land was acquisitioned as per law with more than adequate compensation. 82% of farmers gladly accepted cheques and factory buildings started to come up. The Nano itself had become a nationalist symbol and a prestigious industrial project. A small place like Singur soon became a hub of all sorts of activities for 4-5 thousand people. Many a Commercial Bank put up their branches, many hotels started to function, many jobless youth of the region started to earn good money through various supply jobs to the factory.

Banerjee thought, if the factory really come up and start churning out the surprise car Nano, if 30-35 ancillary industries start their factories to supply various parts to the Tatas & other similar factories in future, she should have no chance to defeat the Left in her life time. So she started agitation from nowhere. But despite her sporadic protests the work on the site continued in full swing.

It was when the Tatas announced the date of launch of their dream car (October, 2008), Mamata started roadblocks and street protests at the gate of the factory with the help of Maoists. They even assaulted the engineers at the gate and threatened them of dire consequences if they return next morning. This forced the Tatas to retreat. Though the factory was ready to churn out its first batch of cars in a month, the project was called off and later it moved to Gujarat in 2008.

Her party won local village elections in 2008. After the communists withdrew support from Singh’s coalition government, her party filled the void in the coalition and she became railway minister in Singh’s second term.

Her all but certain victory in the May 13 state elections will cap a remarkable political journey, but the road ahead poses huge challenges.

Her two-year record as railway minister has been heavily criticized for running the network into more debt to pay for populist measures such as more passenger trains and spending unnecessary money in railway functions including flagging off new trains, opening of computerised booking counters, laying foundation stone for such projects for which there is neither sanction in budget, nor by the planning commission. She has made a record of sorts by laying 176 stones of such projects in West Bengal alone.

While she has drafted in some respected advisors, including the former secretary-general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, she is still basically a one-woman-show.

Trinamool Using Anti-socials For Electoral Gains

February 19, 2011

 

13-01

        With Assembly elections drawing near anti-socials and disruptive forces are evidently getting help and encouragement from the Trinamool Congress to destabilize social as well political order with an eye for electoral gains. It is a time particularly advantageous for the scum of the society to take refuge in a party like Trinamool which have no defined ideology, social commitment and declared economic programme. The absence of political discipline and organizational control readily invite anti-socials and criminals to such a party, the sole objective of which is to capture power bringing about large scale disorder and chaos.
       

        Going by the way of the style of functioning of West Bengal’s main Opposition party, Trinamool Congress, one gets an impression that it is now frantically trying to cash in political advantage indulging in widespread lawlessness on the eve of the upcoming elections. Beside its nexus with the trigger-happy Maoists-turned killers, criminals of all kinds have flocked together around Mamata Banerjee who gives an impression to them that she is coming to power, no matter whether the verdict of the people goes in favour or not.

        Emboldened by Mamata Banerjee’s thoroughly arrogant statement her over-zealous party workers have already become pro-active. With them have surfaced anti-socials and hooligans who have been marginalized in West Bengal under the Left Front government.

        It is admitted by all section of the people that the brutal killing of a 16-year old student, Rajib Das, by three young drunkards at Barasat was an act of crime, again a part of a bigger conspiracy to discredit the Left Front government on the eve of upcoming Assembly polls.

        It is with this nasty objective of creating unrest and lawlessness that Trinamool Congress with the help of anti-socials and criminals have been attacking police stations at various places, letting loose a reign of terror in college campuses and making attempts on the lives of even CPI(M) Ministers.

        With the same aim in mind, the TMC is hand in gloves with the separatist movement in the Darjeeling Hills where the GJMM hooligans are making every effort to keep alive the unrest in social life of the people of the Hills and Dooars till the ensuing Assembly Poll is over.

Chitthi Ayee Re……..The Letter has finally reached…

December 29, 2010

           At last came that letter on Monday, the 27th of December, 2010 content of which was leaked willfully to national press on 24th to gain political mileage. This incident of publishing a communication addressed to a Chief Minister by a Minister of the Central Cabinet is unparalleled and devoid of all decorum & decency of the parliamentary democracy.

            On the other side of the story, CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya replied to that infamous letter within 24 hours on 28th morning and did not disclose the contents to the curious press untill the addressee, the Union Home Minister in this case, receives it, showing courtesy and democratic decorum at its highest.

            Why there was such rumbles over this letter? Reason number one was mentioned earlier. Reason number two is, use of unparliamentary word like “Harmad” in that letter. Can a Central Minister in his official letter to a Chief Minister use such words? Do Mr Palanikkam Chidambaram know the actual meaning of that word? If not, then who taught him the meaning?

            In his sharp reaction, Mr Somnath Chatterjee, the erstwhile Speaker of the lower house of Indian Parliament, the LOKSABHA, raised the above questions and many more, saying that the Central Govt. has no constitutional right to write such letters to the Chief Ministers. Please read on what he said.