BENGAL POLITICS: Bengal babus abandoning ship ?

Abandoning Ship - Oh, that lonely sinking feeling ?!!

BENGAL POLITICS: Bengal babus abandoning ship ? – Oh, that sinking, sinking feeling ?!!

From The Statesman
By Anindita Chowdhury

KOLKATA, 17 AUG 2010: Even the principal secretary of the chief minister, Mr Subesh Das is trying to shift out of the state government and opt for a post with the Centre ahead of the Assembly elections, next year.

He has applied for the post of chairman, Tea Board of India which will be rendered vacant in coming months, once the tenure of the present incumbent, Mr Basudeb Banerjee, comes to an end.

Mr Das is the latest entry in the list of IAS officers belonging to the Bengal cadre to seek Central posting after the writing on the wall of a Left debacle became quite clear and distinct, following the ruling party suffering a series of electoral defeats in recent times.

The chairman of the Tea Board is one of the few  posts belonging to the Central government that is based in the city. Albeit, Mr Das has competition in the form of Mr HK Dwivedi, the secretary of  excise, who has also applied for the same post. Mr Debashis Sen, the urban development secretary had also applied for the post in the past.

According to sources at Writers’ Buildings, Mr Das’s decision to go for central deputation has the approval of the chief minister and his application has been forwarded to the ministry of personnel.

A prime reason for his discomfiture with the powers-to-be is because his younger brother, Mr Debesh Das is a minister in the CPI-M led ministry. Mr Das, a 1982 batch IAS officer was posted as the principal secretary to the chief minister two years back after Mr Dipankar Mukherjee, who held the post was transferred as a secretary in the finance ministry.

Another senior IAS officer, Mr AK Chanda, is also likely to get the post of secretary in the central government. Mr Chanda a 1972 batch IAS officer who had enjoyed a long stint at Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT), is presently the secretary of medium and small scale industries and textile department (MSSET). A reshuffle of district magistrates are also on the cards, once the work for the 2010 electoral roll revision comes to an end.

State seeks assistance from Centre with eye on elections
– scrambling for cash ?!!

Hei Ho, hei ho - off this Bengal's ship we go ... to come again and win some more - on another rainy day, hei ho ?!!

From The Statesman

KOLKATA, 17 Aug, 2010: With the 2011 Assembly polls approaching nearer, the state government has now started putting pressure on the Centre seeking financial or other assistance over the issues that have left the state in trouble.

Chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Sigh seeking more money under NREGA saying the project needs to be implemented properly for the benefit of agricultural labourers who are facing trouble due to drought like situation in 11 districts.

The chief minister also pointed out that in the drought-hit districts there is a shortage in availability of agriculture jobs and in such a desperate situation, most of the districts are unable to make payments under NREGA due to non-availability of funds. Mr Bhattacharjee is apprehensive of a serious threat of social unrest in these drought-hit areas. It may be recalled that the Centre informed the state a couple of days ago that it would sanction a sum of Rs 170 crore against its demand of Rs 1400 crore in the second installment.

But the chief minister pointed out that only a meagre amount of Rs 170 crore would not be enough for the state to handle the situation especially when the state requires an amount of Rs 1400 crore. The chief minister requested the Prime Minister to instruct the concerned ministry to release more funds under the project so that the state can meet its legal obligation to provide employment and disburse wages as per provisions of the Act.

Mr Bhattacherjee also wrote a letter to the Union agriculture minister, Mr Sharad Pawar apprising him of the current agricultural situation in the state. Informing that eleven districts in the state so far recorded 30 per cent or more deficit in rainfall, the chief minister demanded that Central experts should visit the state as early as possible so that they can prepare a plan for alternative crops and other relief measures for the drought-hit areas which can be undertaken to meet the crisis.

The chief minister also informed that the state has already sanctioned a sum of Rs 50 crore from its calamity relief fund to combat the situation and the state may require funds from the National Calamity Contingency Funds to handle the situation in an efficient way. In an another letter to the Union urban development minister, Mr Jaypal Reddy, Mr Bhattacharjee sought his assistance to divert a sum of Rs 500 crore from the funds released for the mission cities under JnNURM to the non-mission cities as the Centre has failed to sanction projects meant for the non-mission cities. sns

CPM resorts to “Keep Mamata in Delhi” strategy for polls – and wish that Mamata would only comply ?!!

From The Statesman
By Uday Basu

KOLKATA, 17 AUG, 2010: Unable to take the wind out of the Trinamul Congress chief Miss Mamata Banerjee’s sail despite frantic efforts, the CPI-M has now adopted the strategy of trying to keep her confined in Delhi as a last-ditch attempt to stave off defeat in the Assembly elections only a few months away.

Its success in mobilising the BJP to rock the Parliament over Miss Banerjee’s overtures to the Maoists at Lalgarh has emboldened the CPI-M to use the same tactic and corner her over her style of functioning as railway minister.

Mr Basudeb Acharya, former chairman of the railway standing committee, has been asked to lodge a complaint with the Prime Minister that the railway minister’s continual absence from Delhi has been seriously impeding proper functioning the  railways, especially railway safety and recruitment.

“The country needs to know from the railway minister why train accidents have been taking place at regular intervals during her tenure and what steps she is taking to plug the loopholes in the railway administration callously handling railway safety and security,” a CPI-M leader said. The railway’s response, according to the CPI-M, to accidents has been to find scapegoats among lower level employees, while top officials who are responsible for looking after passenger safety are being allowed to go scot free.

The railway minister, the CPI-M will complain to the Prime Minister, is yet to entrust with her ministers of state various responsibilities of the ministry because of which they are in no position to answer queries on different aspects of railway functioning. The disconnect between Miss Banerjee and her deputies became glaring during the raucous in the Parliament over her exhortation to the Maoists at Lalgarh to abjure the politics of killing and come to the negotiation table. Her observation that the killing of the Maoist key leader Azad in a “fake” encounter with the security personnel in Andhra Pradesh provided the much needed ammunition to the Left and the BJP to train their guns at her.

The CPI-M hopes to put pressure on the Prime Minister and the Congress central leadership to force Miss Banerjee to spend more time in Delhi and discharge her responsibilities as railway minister so that it can carry out its strategy of regrouping in areas wrested by the Trinamul through successive electoral victories since the 2008 rural poll.

Left gets the politics of Singur, finally – just like it did with all the Tri-shed land in all areas of Darjeeling, scorched earth policy extended ?!!

From The Statesman

KOLKATA, 17 Aug, 2010: Ahead of the 2011 Assembly poll, the state government is gearing up to take possession the vacant land at Singur which it had acquired for Tata Motors’ Nano plant which was eventually relocated to Sanand.

State land and land reforms minister Mr Abdur Rezzak Mollah asked his officials to prepare the groundwork for the possession of land just a few days after the Union railway minister promised at the recent Lalgarh rally that she would give back land to the farmers in Singur if the Trinamul Congress comes to power in the state.

Tata Motors has not come up with the proposed small-car plant on the 600 acres of land it got in 2006 and the lease deed allows the state to take back the land after a period of three years. The state industries minister Mr Nirupam Sen had recently said that he has already written to Tata Motors asking them what they planned to do with the land and was awaiting its response before taking the next step.

The Marxist administration’s moves, after having taken repeated political blows from the Opposition, seems to be backed by a large dollop of political sense ~ ministers know that the moment they announce the state was taking possession of the land Tata Motors is likely to move court. Hence, the political calculation is that the land would most likely be caught up in a legal web and this would thwart the Trinamul chief’s ability to deliver on her promise.

But it’s not just a negative game for the CPI-M. Mr Mollah also has a few cards up his sleeve to woo the farmers of Singur. Once possession is resumed, the land will be vested to the state. Officials who are looking into the legalities of the deal say that if the state can lease out the land at a nominal rate to Tata Motors then it can also lease out the vested land to the land-losers on a notional payment of Re one…

Though the state government burnt its fingers in Singur, it is trying to make sure it’s no easy ride for Miss Mamata Banerjee from now on.

Talks fail, another tripartite meet on 7 Sept – a longing of control not yet fulfilled ?!!

From The Statesman

KOLKATA/DARJEELING/NEW DELHI, 17 Aug 2010: Another tripartite meeting will be held on 7 September after talks failed today as the state government and Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJMM) disagreed on several issues pertaining to the setting up of the interim council at the Hills.

The chief secretary, Mr Ardhendu Sen, said at Writers’ Buildings today that the GJMM had demanded that the interim council would be set up with member of their outfit while the state government said that it would be an elected body.

The state government also rejected the GJMM’s stand of including Dooars in the council sticking to its earlier stand that the territorial limits of the Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council (DGAHC) will be kept intact.

The GJMM also demanded that the district magistrate (DM) and the superintendent of police (SP) would be functioning under the council but the state government did not agree to this demand.

“It was decided that another meeting will be held at the official level on 7 September,” Mr Sen said. The seventh round of tripartite talks  was held in New Delhi today between the Union Home Secretary Mr GK Pillai , State Home Secretary Mr Samar Ghosh and the GJMM leaders led by Mr Roshan Giri.

Mr Roshan Giri general secretary of GJMM has termed the talks successful as most of the points put forth by the GJMM during the talks were conceded by the government but consensus could not be reached on certain issues.

However talks on the long drawn issues of territory and the holding election in the GAA failed to come to an agreement. The interim draft  had contradictions over the term of elected members of the Gorkhaland Autonomous Authority(GAA).  The other issues that could not be solved in today’s meeting were the establishment of a police commissionerate on the lines of Kolkata Police for the Darjeeling Hills and the proposal to have a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker for the legislative assembly that would come up in the proposed interim council.

The Morcha has proposed a police body that would solely come under the GAA. This proposal of the Morcha has not gone down well with the other parties in the meeting. The interim draft that was prepared by the central government had placed the office of the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Darjeeling police outside the authority of the GAA. sns

Siliguri Bandh observed in peace – solely on communal lines, sponsored by the CPM ?!!

From The Statesman

SILIGURI 17 AUG, 2010: A partial bandh was observed in Siliguri today, protesting the tripartite talks, held in New Delhi on the Darjeeling imbroglio.

Two anti-Gorkhaland bodies, the Bangla O Bangla Bhasa Bachao Committee (BOBBBC) and the Aamra Bangali convened the bandh.

The bandh was peaceful, although the bandh supporters staged a demonstration at some places in the town.

Most of the offices, both government and private, educational institutions, markets and shops remained closed. A few cycle rickshaws were found plying in the nearly deserted streets, given the bandh supporters allegedly deflating rickshaw tyres to boost their cause. sns

Gorkhaland authority before state elections, assures Centre – with an obdurate Bengal still at the helm ?!!

From Indian Express

Wednesday, 18 August 2010 02:18: The Centre on Tuesday assured Gorkhaland leaders that it will set up an interim regional authority with a large degree of autonomy for Gorkha people before the Assembly elections in West Bengal next year.

At a tripartite meeting of the Centre, West Bengal government and Gorkha leaders, Home Ministry officials said a consultation between the Centre and state government was on to identify the subjects that can be given under the jurisdiction of this interim authority.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Gorkhaland Janmukti Morcha (GJM) Roshan Giri said a consensus had already been built on handing over at least 22 subjects and 54 departments to the interim authority.

However, he agreed that differences persisted on the territorial jurisdiction of this authority as well as issues like moving the police commissionerate from Kolkata to Darjeeling. These issues would be discussed at the next round of tripartite meeting.

Interim body in Hills before assembly polls? – anxiety telling, but are Gorkhas of Darjeeling mature enough ?!!

From The Times of India

NEW DELHI, Aug 18, 2010, 02.39am IST, (TNN): As both the Centre and the state wish to put in place an interim regional authority for Gorkhas in Darjeeling ahead of next year’s assembly polls in West Bengal, representatives of the Union home ministry, state government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on Tuesday discussed about the subjects and departments, which are expected to be handed over to the proposed body.

“There has been near consensus on the 22 subjects and 54 departments that would be handed over to the authority by the state government,” GJMgeneral secretaryRoshan Giri told reporters here after the meeting.

However, Giri admitted that there was no consensus in the meeting on the issues of territorial jurisdiction of the authority, electioneering process and the proposed authority’s composition.

The next round of talks will take place on September 7.

Giri said the situation in Darjeeling hills was peaceful as promised by his party, and it was now the duty of the government to fulfil the demands of the GJM.

Sources said both the Central and the state government were for limiting the proposed Darjeeling Regional Authority to just the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.

The GJM has been demanding a separate Gorkhaland state that includes the Siliguri sub-division of Darjeeling district in the plains and contiguous Nepali-speaking areas in neighbouring Jalpaiguri district.

In Darjeeling, meanwhile, hundreds of people thronged the streets and took out a procession for the “fruitful talks”.

The procession started from Chowk Bazaar and wound its way through the town, gathering at Chowrasta for a public meeting. Though GJM president Bimal Gurung was conspicuous by his absence, central committee leaders, including Asha Gurung (Gurung’s wife and Nari Morcha president), addressed the huge gathering.

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