BENGAL POLITICS: CPM digital war on ‘evil’ – still getting it all wrong, when the vote banks are in rural poor, and when once Jyoti Basu (the butcher of the Darjeeling Gorkhas) banned Computers & English ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY ANINDYA SENGUPTA
Calcutta, Oct. 19: Tech-savvy comrades are relying on new tools — text messages and social networking sites — to attack Mamata Banerjee this festive season.
“Asubher sathe aposhbiheen dwando chai (Let there be an uncompromising struggle with evil),” read a text message a CPM whole-timer sent out with his Shubha Vijaya greetings.
The message did not identify the “evil” but it is common knowledge that comrades describe Mamata as “asubho ar protikriyashil shakti” (evil and reactionary force).
The political establishment in Bengal has a tradition of unofficially pressing a pause button on political programmes and rallies in the festive season — between Mahalaya and Lakshmi Puja. But as the chant for change gets louder across the state, the comrades are working round the clock to stem the slide in CPM’s support base.
The SMS salvo — also spotted as the Facebook status message of the CPM wholetimer — assumes significance after a Sharodiya greeting card, designed by Mamata and sent to her friends, highlighted how the goddess was aiming a trident at an “invisible evil”.
With the Trinamul Congress and CPM heading for the ballot battle a few months from now, the meaning of “evil” is a no-brainer — the CPM in case Trinamul leaders are using the word, and Trinamul when CPM leaders have the expression on their lips.
“Yes, we do describe her (Mamata) as an evil force in our exchanges over text messages or social networking sites. The wide reach of these mediums make them (the messages) more effective,” said a young CPM leader.
Smiling comrades in kurta-pyjama selling party literature from neatly done-up stalls, draped in red and decorated with giant photographs of Marx-Lenin-Stalin, is a common scene across Bengal during the festive season. But this time, as the barb-laced messages suggest, the comrades are also active in the virtual world.
Through this festive season, many young turks of the CPM have not missed any opportunity to poke fun at Mamata and her performance as railway minister, filling the virtual world, for instance, with updates on delays in Metro.
“Tollygunge station-e metro-r darja 15 minute dhore bondho roilo, automatic locking system collapse hoye jaoay. Political gimmick dite giye Kolkatar gorber Metro-ke kothai niye jachchen? (The doors of Metro remained closed for 15 minutes at Tollygunge station because of the collapse of the automatic locking system. Look where Metro, Calcutta’s pride, is being taken as someone is busy in political gimmicks…) reads the Facebook message of the CPM whole-timer.
Several people commented on the message, producing a lively discussion board even as Mamata was busy pandal-hopping and wishing people with Tagore’s poem, Anandalokey mangalalokey birajo satya sundaro.
A CPM state secretariat member saw nothing wrong in the practice. “It’s not a case of using or abusing the festive season… these are disturbing times and people are being killed every second day. Our work is to make the people aware of such happenings through constant interaction. SMS or Facebook can be an engine to take us forward,” he said.
Trinamul leaders shrugged off the attacks, saying such campaigns would not affect the party’s prospects.
“Let the CPM and its men do all this. Public opinion has gone against them and that’s irreversible now. A loaded Facebook status message or a twisted text message won’t help the CPM anymore,” said a senior Trinamul MLA who is also a party general secretary.
Trinamul poll countdown – already planning and acting well ahead ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Calcutta, Oct. 19: Mamata Banerjee will tomorrow hold the first meeting on her party’s preparations for the Assembly polls next summer, taking updates from senior leaders on the political situation and even discussing probable candidates.
All district presidents of the Trinamul Congress, heads of frontal organisations and key office-bearers will attend the extended core committee meeting of the party at Maharashtra Nivas.
The venue of the session was shifted from Trinamul Bhavan on Topsia Road to the Hazra Road address because it has more space and is closer to Mamata’s Kalighat home.
Trinamul sources said the discussions would be Mamata’s first interaction with party functionaries on the poll preparations.
Senior Trinamul leader and Union minister of state for rural development Sisir Adhikari outlined the possible agenda and the thrust of the discussions. “The district presidents are expected to update Mamata on the probable candidates. This would be our first initiative to make preparations for the polls,” said Adhikari.
Adhikari, who heads Trinamul in home district East Midnapore, felt tomorrow’s meeting would send a message to party managers across the state that “our preparedness for the elections” was far ahead of rivals.
Gautam Deb, the Darjeeling Trinamul president who is attending tomorrow’s session, said he would tell the leadership that the party was organisationally strong to take on the ruling Left in the six north Bengal districts.
“This time, there will be 54 Assembly seats (an increase from 49 last time because of delimitation) in the north Bengal districts. We are organisationally strong in all of them,” Deb, who oversees Trinamul in the entire region apart from Darjeeling, said.
Trinamul sources said district presidents would be told to send the names of probable candidates by the first week of January so that the leadership could initiate discussions with the Congress to firm up the alliance.
“A seat-sharing deal with the Congress has to be struck before choosing our party nominees. First, it has to be decided how many seats we are going to offer to our alliance partner,” said a Trinamul vice-president.
An AICC leader from Delhi said Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and the AICC general secretary in charge of Bengal, K. Keshava Rao, would meet the Trinamul chief next month on the seat-sharing deal.
According to Trinamul sources, Mamata is expected to finalise plans for a series of protest programmes and rallies at tomorrow’s meeting. “Saturday’s (October 23) padayatra by Mamata from Salt Lake to Beliaghata in support of our demand for the withdrawal of the joint forces will be taken to the districts,” said Trinamul state chief Subrata Bakshi.
Helpline follows Congress job jab – just a band-aid for much deeper wounds of the corruption culture in Bengal ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, Oct. 19: The Jalpaiguri district administration has come up with a toll-free helpline number for prospective beneficiaries of the Centre’s 100-days job scheme, a move apparently aimed at discounting the Congress’s charge that the state government is not implementing the programme properly to help tea garden owners.
The helpline has been functional at the MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) cell in the district magistrate’s office in Jalpaiguri since October 12.
“Our district is the first in north Bengal to offer such a facility. Anybody can call free of cost and speak about their grievances and get their doubts regarding the scheme cleared,” said Samir Das, the district nodal officer of the scheme. “We plan to carry out an intensive campaign at the grassroots level to popularise the number and make people aware of its benefits. All panchayats in 13 blocks of the district have been intimated about the facility and added to this, we will soon publish advertisements in newspapers.”
People can dial the number, 1800-3453215, during the day. Sudip Bhadra, the co-ordinator of social audit and grievance wing of the district NREGS cell, said: “We are yet to finalise the time. As of now, I am attending the calls and keeping necessary records in this regard.” He added that grievances would be redressed through proper channels immediately.
Observers said the helpline had been introduced to counter allegations levelled by the Congress that the scheme was not implemented in its totality in Jalpaiguri district to prevent garden workers from joining “better-paid” projects taken up under the Central programme.
Rahul Gandhi had said the state government and the district administration had failed to utilise the NREGS funds. “If the scheme is implemented to the maximum extent, there would be shortage of workers in tea estates as their daily wages are less than what is paid under the scheme,” the Congress general secretary had told youths in Jalpaiguri on September 15.
PCC chief Manas Bhuniya had also raised similar charges. He said although the district administration had received Rs 72,81,19,000 for the scheme, only Rs 42,59,39,000 had been utilised till September this year. “Instead of making efforts to utilise the funds productively and to bring in more unemployed people under the scheme, state ministers are alleging that the Centre is not releasing money,” he said.
However, district officials are confident that more people would be covered under the scheme in the coming months of the current fiscal. “Several projects are being taken up across the district and we hope that more people would be provided with jobs,” said an official.
Doctors’ leave hits healthcare – and so is Colonial Bengal revealed ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Raiganj, Oct. 19: Absence of doctors from the Raiganj District Hospital has crippled the functioning of the outpatients department, depriving hundreds of patients of treatment at nominal cost.
Of the 34 doctors at the hospital, 13 are on leave.
The situation is not likely to improve till the doctors, who are on leave for the Puja, resume their duties after a few days. The absence of surgeons has also stalled normal operations. Currently, only emergency cases are being attended to.
“I had come to hospital before Durga Puja with my son, who was suffering from stomach pain. The doctors at the OPD told me to get an ultra sonography done. Today I came to show the report to the doctor but was told that the doctor is out of station,” said Nikunjbihari Pal, a resident of Subhashganj on the outskirts of the town.
Subhashganj is 4km from the town and Pal came with his son in a hired auto-rickshaw. But when he reached the hospital, he was behind more than 200 patients.
“Now I have to visit a surgeon in a private clinic, paying more money,” Pal said.
Anxious patients swarmed the surgical and ENT rooms at the OPD, which were locked till 12 noon. The units are supposed to open by 10am everyday.
After 12 noon, a hospital staff hung two notice boards on the closed doors of the units and left the spot. One notice said the surgical OPD would remain closed from October 19 to 21 because of the absence of surgeons. The other notice said the ENT unit would remain closed till October 20 as ENT specialist S.P. Das was on leave.
This infuriated the patients who demonstrated in front of the OPD. However, no untoward incident was reported.
Arvind Tantri, the superintendent of the hospital, admitted that the patients were facing inconveniences because of the absence of doctors. “Of the total 34 doctors, 13 are on leave, which has created inconveniences to the patients. Things will be normal in the next couple of days as we have requested the doctors not to extend their leaves,” he said.
In the absence of any rule on how many doctors can take leave simultaneously, Tantri said he could not deny anybody leave.
Chief medical officer of health of North Dinajpur Parthasarathi Bhattacharya said such a situation could hardly be avoided as “the doctors are also human beings”. “But the problem should be managed by those on duty, sharing some extra responsibilities.”