BENGAL POLITICS: CBI takes over sabotage probe – naturally after balance of power in Bengal has shifted but not in Darjeeling ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
Calcutta, June 10: The CBI today officially took over the Jnaneswari Express derailment case from the CID with sources in the central investigating agency claiming that there was “enough evidence” of Maoist involvement in the train sabotage.
A four-member CBI team, led by joint-director Keshav Kumar Rao, went to the CID headquarters at Bhawani Bhavan today and collected evidence, CDs and documents.
The CDs contain recordings of telephone conversations of Bapi Mahato and Umakanta Mahato, the main accused in the case.
The CBI team was also handed over the statements of 25 witnesses, passengers and railway staff as well as physical evidence like Pandrol clips and ballast stones collected from the sabotage site.
The CBI also lodged an FIR in a Jhargram court today. The FIR is based on the version of the incident given by B.K. Das, the driver of the derailed Jnaneswari Express. The CBI will also seek the handover of Khagen Mahato and Samir Mahato, who were arrested by the CID for their alleged involvement in the sabotage.
Wagon wand for Mamata – Burn Standard and Braithwaite go to rail – and many more carrots to come, but can she turn them just and progressive … is the crore rupee question ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
New Delhi, June 10: Wagon makers Burn Standard and Braithwaite, monuments to the rise and ruin of industry in Bengal, have been transferred to Mamata Banerjee’s railway ministry.
The Union cabinet, which cleared the transfer and helped Mamata keep an election promise, has decided to write off Burn Standard’s accumulated loans and dues of Rs 1,139.16 crore. The dues were standing in the way of private proposals to take over the sick company that owns lucrative real estate.
Burn Standard’s profit-making refractory unit in Salem will be shifted to steelmaker SAIL.
Burn Standard had turned sick 16 years ago. Braithwaite had also slipped into the red but has now clawed its way back to profits. The twists and turns had come to symbolise not only the condition of industry in Bengal but also step-motherly attitude of some central ministers towards units in the state. ( )
“We are taking them over (Burn Standard and Braithwaite). After all, the railways need huge numbers of wagons and in-house wagon makers will be an asset,” Mamata said.
The railways are planning to buy 18,000 wagons this financial year and the demand will go up when the east-west freight corridor is commissioned. A significant part of these orders will go to the two Bengal-based wagon makers, officials said. “Cash advances for the wagons will be used for modernising the factories and expanding capacities,” a Railway Board official said.
Keeping in mind local concerns — the two companies together employ around 1,500 people in Bengal — the railways said Rs 20 crore would be pumped in immediately to bring the pay scales of the wagon makers on a par.
The pay of Burn Standard employees is lower than that of Braithwaite now. “There is no question of anyone losing their jobs,” Mamata said.
The news of the takeover sent a wave of hope surging among employees of the two public sector units. Sipra Mukherjee, wife of Swapan Mukherjee who works in the Burn Standard unit in Burnpur, said: “For 16 years, we had suffered mentally. My husband looked worried all the time. But today we are all happy.”
Sipra gave a hint of the political dividends Mamata hopes to reap. “We are all hardcore CPM supporters. But today, I must thank Mamata Banerjee for her bold decision,” Sipra said.
Trinamul leaders were quick to point to the cabinet decision as another piece of evidence of Mamata’s growing acceptance in Delhi after the civic poll triumph.
Mamata had mooted the proposal in last year’s railway budget but the clearance came today. The two companies were under the heavy industries ministry, now headed by Vilasrao Deshmukh.
CPM to seek debacle report – of misuse and failed & corrupt policies ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Calcutta, June 10: The CPM state secretariat today decided to ask party units in North 24-Parganas, Hooghly and Burdwan to list the reasons for the party’s poor show in the civic polls there.
The CPM leadership is in the process of collecting reports from all the districts where the May 30 elections were held. The Left has won just six of the 34 municipalities in the three districts, considered Left strongholds.
“These districts are of special concern for us as our party couldn’t retain 17 municipalities in North 24-Parganas, eight in Hooghly and three in Burdwan. That is alarming for us. That is why we need to give special focus on these districts,” a CPM state secretariat member said.
“Today, we had a preliminary discussion on the results in these districts. The party units there are being asked to submit detailed reports on why our results have been far below expectations,’’ the secretariat member added.
Party sources said the units were expected to file their reports by June 21-22.
After going through the reports, the CPM leadership will submit them to the party’s state committee, which will meet on June 26 to analyse the causes of the debacle. After today’s meeting, CPM state secretariat member Goutam Deb said: “We made a preliminary analysis of the results. There have been major reverses in two to three districts.”
Deb said the Trinamul Congress’s vote share had decreased by 5 per cent in the Barrackpore industrial belt, compared with what it had got in last year’s Lok Sabha polls.
In North 24-Parganas, the CPM bagged only Halisahar, Kamarhati and North Dum Dum municipalities out of the 21 that went to the polls. In Burdwan, the party lost four of the six municipalities. In Hooghly, the CPM retained the lone Arambagh civic board out of a dozen municipalities.
“The civic poll results in the three districts are the worst this time,” Benoy Konar, a CPM state secretariat member, said. Asked if he suspected a “sabotage”, Konar said: “The defeat of our party nominees in the three districts cannot simply be attributed to the people’s desire for change. We have to examine all angles behind our defeat.”
33-year bash – to celebrate defeat debacle ?!!
CPM state secretary Biman Bose today said the Left Front would organise a programme at the Netaji Indoor Stadium on June 21 to observe the 33rd anniversary of the state government.
Left saving grace in civic polls: slight minority shift, Job and budget carrot pay dividends – enough to now crow about in the Darjeeling Hills, one highly doubts ?!!
BY ANINDYA SENGUPTA
Calcutta, June 10: In a small measure, the Left has been able to woo back a section of the minorities in Calcutta in the civic polls, improving upon its performance in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
An examination of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation results show that the Left has won 10 of the 34 wards that have a minority concentration, against the five it had won in the 2009 polls by defeating the Trinamul Congress.
The Left’s improvement appears to be “significant” as it had heavily trailed behind the Opposition in these 10 wards in the Lok Sabha polls.
The vote percentage in many of these 34 wards had gone down from 75 to 80 per cent in the 2005 CMC polls to 33 to 38 per cent in the Lok Sabha elections. The Left had lost in 15 of these wards in the 2005 CMC polls while the loss went up to 29 in the Lok Sabha elections. However, in the civic polls this time, the Left lost all the five wards — mostly to the Congress — that it had won in the last Lok Sabha elections.
CPM leaders had been saying during the run-up to the CMC elections that they were expecting a “gradual drift” in the city’s minority vote bank in the favour of their party.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s announcement in election campaigns that one crore Muslims would be identified for government jobs under the 10 per cent quota scheme was aimed at wooing back a section of the minorities. Raising the minority affairs budget from Rs 180 crore to Rs 300 crore was also a step in that direction.
Asked whether the Left was satisfied with the drift in the Muslim votes towards the Left, CPM state secretariat member Mohammad Salim said: “Winning wards where we were crushed by the Trinamul Congress 12 months ago is no mean achievement. We have seen a small shift in the minority vote bank in the Calcutta elections. But that is not much of a cause for celebration. We have to keep in mind there was no Opposition alliance (in this year’s civic polls) and that helped us.’’
“However, the anger against the Left over Nandigram and Singur has subsided to a certain extent. Our announcement of a job quota for poor, backward Muslims has got a positive response from certain sections of the minorities. But though the results have improved, we cannot say all is well,” Salim said.
Unlike in the Lok Sabha elections, the Muslims had a problem of choice in the civic polls as the Opposition was a split house. In Calcutta, the majority of Urdu-speaking Muslims have traditionally been Congress voters. In the Lok Sabha elections, a chunk of them voted for Trinamul in the Calcutta North and the Calcutta South parliamentary seats.
But a look at this year’s CMC poll results show that the Left has been able to cut into Opposition votes in minority belts that had overwhelmingly voted against the Marxists in 2009.
The Left’s improvement can be seen in Rajabazar, Kalabagan, Mechhua, Burrabazar, Park Street, Topsia and Metiabruz.
Trinamul chief and railway minister Mamata Banerjee had announced before the civic polls that candidates would be allowed to take railway recruitment tests in Urdu. She had also granted train concessions to madrasah students. Even after this, the Left’s gains in some minority pockets have surprised the Trinamul leadership.
Partha Chatterjee, the leader of the Opposition, said: “The Left might have made some effort to regain the support of the minorities in Calcutta. We are a bit surprised. However, in the civic elections, a division of votes (as a result of the failure of Trinamul and the Congress to stitch an alliance) could have led to some Left gains.’’