Monday, 30 June 2008


Meditation camp for jail inmates


COOCH BEHAR, June 30: A meditation camp was held yesterday inside Cooch Behar District Correctional Home (CDCH) for the inmates. Shri Jain Shwetambar Terapanthi Sabha organised the programme. Two Jain Sramanis – Sangha Pragya and Suman Pragya and Preksha Dhyan teacher Jaichand Dugar taught the jail inmates how to meditate. They emphasised on Yoga and Preksha meditation. More than two hundred inmates participated in the camp. CDCH superintendent, Mr Khagendra Nath Bir too attended the programme.


In the camp the inmates were taught to shun anger and addiction to all types of intoxication. By practicing long breathing and Jyoti Kendra Preksha a man can achieve a good character. The inmates promised that they would follow the teachings of the Sramanis, Mr Dugar said. []


Trinamul rally


COOCH BEHAR, June 30: Trinamul Congress organised a large rally at Mathabhanga on Monday afternoon. In the gathering that was organised at Post Office Morh the speakers came down heavily on the CPI-M for its alleged bid to turn Deocharai and Nakkatigachh in Tufanganj into another Nandigram. They also condemned the recent violent attacks on Trinamul Congress supporters.


State Trinamul Congress secretary Md Abdul Jalil Ahmed, district vice-president Mr Niranjan Dutta, Mr Binay Barman, Ms Kalyani Poddar, Kumar Rajib Narayan and Mr Lalit Pramanik were among the speakers.


Mr Dutta said the law and order situation is deteriorating in Cooch Behar district. The police are acting under the instructions issued by the CPI-M leadership, he alleged. []  


Sunday, 29 June 2008


CPM-Trinamul clash : 10 hurt


COOCH BEHAR, June 29: Ten persons were injured in a clash between CPI-M and Trinamul Congress supporters at Deocharai in Tufanganj on Saturday night. The injured were shifted to Tufanganj sub-divisional hospital.


District CPI-M secretariat member and Natabari MLA Mr Tamser Ali alleged that the Trinamul men attacked their supporters when they were returning back from Tufanganj after attending a rally. On the otherhand, district Trinamul Congress vice-president Mr Niranjan Dutta denied the allegation by saying that the CPI-M men were wounded following infighting between them. []


Peaceful polling at Mekhliganj and Haldibari


COOCH BEHAR, June 29: Polling was held peacefully at Mekhliganj and Haldibari municipalities in Cooch Behar district today. Additional police forces were deployed in the polling booths to maintain peace.


The percentage of polling recorded at Mekhliganj was above 93 percent and at Haldibari it was about 93 percent, according to the district magistrate of Cooch Behar, Mr Rajesh Kumar Sinha.


There are nine wards in Mekhliganj and eleven wards in Haldibari while the outgoing board of Mekhliganj Municipality is Left Front dominated and that of Haldibari Municipality is Congress dominated. []

Saturday, 28 June 2008


Teaching, writing

Ms Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee is a professor at the University of Houston's creative writing department. Although she wears many hats ~ acclaimed writer, activist, mom ~ this is the avatar in which many know her best. Sitting in a circle with graduate students in the master fiction workshop, where each student's short story collections or novel drafts are critiqued, she guides discussions, praises strengths, points out what she sees as weaknesses, and suggests changes. Most importantly, she gives advice about the ruthless world of publishing, about how to write a synopsis for an agent, how to pick a title for the novel, how to arrange stories for a collection. Invaluable advice from someone who's realised most writers' dreams ~ published over a dozen books, published in 16 languages, had two books made into movies, and is a tenured professor at a prestigious creative writing programme in the US. Ms Divakaruni's latest book, The Palace of Illusions, a retelling of the Mahabharata, from the point of view of Draupadi, is a departure from her other adult novels which deal primarily with immigration. But once again it draws attention to some of the themes and issues that Ms Divakaruni seems compelled by gender politics and women's rights, elements of mysticism and the supernatural. She speaks to Oindrila Mukherjee about her writing, teaching, and about the beliefs and ideas that inform them both.

Let's talk about Palace, your latest book. Even though some of your earlier novels dealt with mystical elements, they were primarily set in the contemporary world. This one's more in line with your children's trilogy, The Conch Bearer, set in a fantasy world. What made you choose this subject?
I have loved the Mahabharat ever since my grandfather told me the stories from it in my childhood. I was always most fascinated by the women's stories ~ but there never was enough about them ~ their inner lives, their thoughts, their motives ~ to satisfy me. So in Palace of Illusions, I have tried to imagine Panchaali's life.

What sort of research did you do?
My main sources were Kamala Subramanium's translation, Rajagopalachari's translation, and Kashiram Das's Bengali version. I also researched novels written on the subject, critical essays and information provided about the lifestyle of the period.

How much of the novel is fictionalised? Did you want to stick to the original tale as much as possible, or were there places where you deliberately wanted to embellish?
All the main actions are taken from The Mahabharat. I mostly wanted to add Panchaali's thoughts and motives. I have sometimes created characters who are close to her, such as the nurse, Dhai Ma, or embellished on things mentioned briefly, such as the close relationship with her brother, or her attraction to Karna, which has surprised many readers.

Would you call Draupadi a feminist? Is this a feminist reading of the Mahabharata?
Feminism has become such loaded word that I don't think it is useful to apply it to the novel. I wanted to write a story with a woman at its centre, with a woman's concerns. Draupadi is already, in the original, a very strong woman, so I didn't have to add anything there. I also wanted to focus on how women see war (which is in my opinion quite different from how men see it) and the impact of war on women.

Of all your books, this one perhaps might be more suited for an Indian audience? Did you think of a Western non-Indian audience when writing it? Do you think familiarity with the Mahabharata is required to enjoy this book fully?
I think familiarity certainly would enhance enjoyment. Therefore, Indian audiences would enjoy it at a deeper level. They would also be aware of the creative angles of my presentation ~ for instance, Draupadi humiliates Karna at her swayamvar. But my Draupadi does it for a clearly different motive. Overall, reviews in the West have been very positive, I think that's because the Mahabharat is such a great story ~ timeless and universal ~ and everyone can relate to it.

So the question that Indian writers writing in English are asked all the time: What's your primary audience generally? Indian or Western?

I'm greedy. I want them both. And readers in other countries, too. I believe a good book transcends borders, and that's what I'd like to aim for. We live in a global world ~ in terms of books, too.

Compared to a lot of Indian writers writing in English, your work isn't read as widely in India. Why?
Who knows why one book is more popular than another. I can only guess. It might partly be because I live abroad and don't have an Indian presence like some of the others. Also, I think the problem has been partly one of publication and distribution ~ my publisher for Indian books so far (because of contractual issues) has been British, which means the books are more expensive ~ almost twice as much as books printed in India. I've been fighting that for a long time, but I really didn't have much control. Still, with the last couple of books they were on the India Today bestseller list). That's one reason I'm very excited about my children's books being published by Indian publishers and being competitively priced. Let's see if that affects the readership.

Your critics level two charges at you: first, that you cater to Western audiences by "exoticising" India and by writing about things like arranged marriages which are stereotypica.l
It's not a matter of catering to Western audiences ~ even in the US, a large segment of my readership is Indian. Besides, as a writer you know that one has to write about things we know and are passionate about. And that's what I do. A lot of my writing is about the immigrant experience ~ and about the second generation. Mistress of Spices and Vine of Desire and Queen of Dreams are set in the US and bring up many issues and challenges that the immigrant community faces. QD deals with violence faced by our community after 9/11. Sister of My Heart is set in two continents and deals with some very realistic issues.
Second, that your depiction of India is a bit dated and not contemporary and that your books don't always reflect the changed realities of urban India today.
My books are set in the 1970s (at least the Indian parts) and this is made quite clear in the texts. This is the India I grew up in and know best and can write about authoritatively. My short stories are sometimes more contemporary. I certainly hope to write about today's India someday, after spending extensive periods there, hopefully once my children go off to college.

What projects are you working on?
I am working on a children's novel, the third and final one in the Conch Bearer series, It is titled Shadowland and is set in a futuristic India.

You have a PhD from Berkeley, and are a successful writer. You teach creative writing. You're involved with South Asian women's organisations, and you also manage to spend time with your family. How do these roles contribute to your growth as a writer?
Studying English literature gave me a strong background because I was exposed to so many good writers. But too much reading of lit criticism can actually be a negative. I find that it creates prescriptive editorial voices in my head. As for teaching creative writing, it makes me much more aware of craft and also keeps me current. Doing community work, especially with battered women, is very important for me. As of course is being a mother and wife, I think all these things enrich my life and my writing, and they give me more issues, ideas and subjects to write about. For example, I don't think I could write about mother-child relationships in quite the same way, or about women in situations of domestic violence, if I didn't have those areas in my life and I think having been involved with Pratham (an education-promoting NGO) made me much more aware of children who don't get an education ~ and that led to a scene early in The Conch Bearer.

As a professor in a creative writing faculty, do you think such programmes are useful? Should Indian students apply to these if they are interested in writing?
I feel creative writing programmes are useful. They provide community, guidance, and a lot of focused reading and writing. The students have to provide the talent.

We get advice and feedback from you and other faculty. But most new writers don't have that luxury. What practical advice would you give the growing number of people who want to be successful writers.
Read widely and carefully, as a writer would. Write regularly and join a class or a writer's group so that you can get intelligent and informed feedback. Don't give up ~ sometimes the path to publication can be slow.

(The interviewer is a doctoral
student in literature and
creative writing at
the University of Houston)

Friday, 27 June 2008


GP board formation : CPM, FB to punish rebels


COOCH BEHAR, June 27: Though they had failed to attain a total consensus in the recently held three-tier panchayat elections in Cooch Behar district, the CPI-M and the Forward Bloc are now in favour of formation of Gram Panchayat and Panchayat Samiti boards jointly as loyal Left Front partners.


On Friday afternoon, after a bipartite meeting the district CPI-M secretary Mr Chandi Pal and the district Forward Bloc secretary Mr Udayan Guha said in 128 Gram Panchayats in this district, boards were formed in 114 Gram Panchayats till today. In a number of these Gram Panchayats the local leaders and activists of both the parties had violated the Left Front's guideline. The offenders were instructed to follow the Left Front's formula and resign from the posts that they captured by violating the guideline, Mr Pal and Mr Guha said. Otherwise, the party concerned will take strict punitive measures against them.


The CPI-M and the FB leader said they would also follow the Left Front's guideline during formation of boards of the Panchayat Samitis on 2 July.


Clarifying the decision, Mr Pal, who is also the district Left Front convenor, said, according to the Left Front's policy the party that attained majority should get the post of the Pradhan and the second ranker will get the post of Upa-pradhan. But, in many places these policy was violated.


It was learnt that in some Gram Panchayats the elected rebel FB candidates formed boards with non-leftists to resist the CPI-M to stage come back to power. Disobeying of post-poll official guideline was also observed in some areas where they fought against the CPI-M by making alliance with anti-CPI-M parties.


The FB leader, Mr Guha admitted that a tendency grew up at many areas to disobey the leaderships of the parties. This issue was also discussed in today's meeting, he said. []


'Greater Cooch Behar' case hearing


COOCH BEHAR, June 27: First phase of the hearing of a case (no. 118/2006) related to the murder of two police constables that began on 23 June ended today. The next phase of the hearing will be held on 18-22 August. The hearing is being conducted at the court of the district and sessions judge Mr KYS Manhas inside the district correctional home.


Forty-four accused including the top-ranking leader of the 'Greater Cooch Behar' movement Mr Bangshi Badan Barman were produced in the court today.


In the forty-five witnesses in the case, only twelve were appeared in the court and were questioned since Monday. A deputy magistrate Mr Sanjay Mukherjee was also among them. Today, the Public Prosecutor Mr Ganesh Chandra Roy Karmakar appeared on the government side. The lawyer of the defence side, Mr Shibendra Nath Roy said, hearing of another case (no. 119/2006) related to the murder of an ASP will be held on 7-11 July.


Mentionworthy, on 20 September 2005, a large number of people associated with 'Greater Cooch Behar' movement had tried to enter Cooch Behar town violating Section 144 CrPC to start fast-unto-death programme demanding formation of a separate state and recognition of their mother tongue. Following large-scale violence three policemen including an ASP and two agitators were killed. In connection with that incident three cases were initiated against fifty-eight proponents of 'Greater Cooch Behar' state including the then chief of the united Greater Cooch Behar People's Association (GCPA), Mr Bangshi Badan Barman. []


Limits of integration

Implications Of Ireland's Rejection Of The Lisbon Treaty

By Sushila Ramaswamy

In the theories of federalism and integration there are crucial differences over the proper balance between the centripetal and centrifugal forces. The ideal type of federalism is said to be dual federalism with equal status for both the Centre and the state units. This was practised in the US from the inception of the constitution till the era of the New Deal.
There is no such "ideal type" in the integration theory though there has been an interesting debate between the "deepeners" and the "broadeners" in the context of European integration. The "deepeners" want more powers for the centralising authority and curtailment of the residuary powers of the integrating units both in terms of fiscal policies and such issues as a comprehensive and coordinated foreign policy. On the other hand, the "broadeners" have a minimalist attitude and propose a functionalist union limiting the function of the centralising authority and leaving most of the powers to the sovereign states which comprise the larger integrated whole.

The Euro zone

In this assumption, integration assumes a purely functionalist arrangement which is mutually arrived at in the context of the economic situation modelled after the economics of scale and comparative advantage of each unit. For instance, in the present financial crisis, Brussels cannot penalise Britain though its inflation is likely to surpass 3 per cent beyond the limit imposed in the Euro-zone countries.
This debate will be heard more frequently and with greater intensity after the rejection of the Lisbon treaty, also known as the European Union Reform Treaty, by Ireland in last week's referendum which followed the rejection of the European constitution in both France and Holland in 2005. In the UK, both the opposition Conservative and 25 Labour backbenchers had demanded a referendum, which was defeated by 311 to 148 votes in the House of Commons on 5 March 2008. Gordon Brown's refusal to support a referendum reversed the government's 2005 manifesto pledge to hold a plebiscite on the European constitution. In the Czech Republic, the ratification is delayed as the top court is to decide whether the treaty complies with the constitution. Hungary was the first to ratify the treaty.
It is interesting to note that all the three important political parties in Ireland supported the treaty and the top decision-makers in Brussels expected a cakewalk in a situation when already 18 out of the 27 nations comprising the European Union have already endorsed the treaty. However, a tiny state like Ireland, which has greatly benefited from the EU largesse in economic matters and consisting of less than one per cent of the population of the EU, has halted successfully this march towards a more integrated European Union.
The question that the integration theorists and practitioners will have to address is the issue that has become the focal point in Ireland after the rejection of the EU constitution, namely the limit to integration involving well established nation states with a long historical lineage.
The vote against the treaty is not against the idea of a united Europe, which from the days of de Gaulle has become popular. Indeed, the dream of a unified Europe till the Urals has been made possible after the collapse of communism, with integration and expansion of the central and eastern European nations within the EU. The contentious issue is the nature and content of an integration involving sovereign nations.
The Lisbon Treaty was signed in the Portuguese capital by the leaders of the 27 European member-states in December 2007, and governments were expected to ratify it by 2008 for it to come into effect in January 2009. Drafted in 2004, the treaty consists of 448 articles, and conceives of a first supranational super-state, a huge step towards the evolution of what is referred to as the European project. There already exists a unified European foreign and security policy as well as supranational legal structure. In 1999, the Euro, the single European currency was introduced with a European central bank. The Lisbon Treaty paves the way for the creation of a European foreign minister at the head of the European Foreign Service (with its own diplomatic corps) and a European president of the European council chosen for two years, replacing the current practice where countries take turns at being president for six months, both these positions having the trappings of a fledgling super-state.
Daniel Hannan, a European parliament member points out that the treaty with provisions for a pan-European magistracy (Eurojust), a European Public Prosecutor and a federal EU police force (Europol), an European criminal code and removal of national vetoes in a number of areas will erode the legal sovereignty of European nation states. In addition, in about 40 policy areas, Britain would have to sacrifice its veto right over European decision-making.
The European constitution and its successor treaty centralise political power in the hands of the ruling elite in Brussels based on the idea that sovereignty of the nation state should be pooled together for the "greater good" of Europe. Furthermore, the people of Europe should not have a vote on the treaty thus making the European project undemocratic and opaque.
Margaret Thatcher in her seminal book Statecraft rightly wrote: "That such an unnecessary and irrational project as building a European superstate was ever embarked upon will seem in future years to be perhaps the greatest folly of the modern era".
The suspicion of the many of the small units within the EU which has become the key issue in the Irish referendum relates to the question of identity and culture and the capacity to formulate one's own economic policy protecting innovations and creativity, and also to ensure that the voices of the smaller nations are heard with respect by the larger units of the EU without compromising on their self-respect and dignity as an equal unit.


All these issues are eminently worthy of consideration for a successful federation. The integrationists will have to find a satisfactory answer to all of them if they want a united Europe to be a successful reality.
The key to this success lies in practising democracy and evolving a mechanism of power-sharing in which all the divergent views are accommodated within the national decision making-process. In Belgium and Switzerland, the problems relating to heterogeneity and minorities were resolved by grand coalitions and power-sharing with veto available to the smaller communities in the decision-making process.
The EU is facing a similar crisis of identity and suspicion in which both the more well-off nations like France and Holland do not want a closer union mainly because of their fear that they would lose their privileged status and a high standard of living which many of the new entrants to the EU can only aspire in the future.
The second category is the problem of identity and the issues of language, culture and religion. Abortion, a matter of secondary consideration to the decision-makers in Brussels, is an important issue in Ireland.
It is this intricate balancing and the capacity of the decision-makers to balance both the best-off and the worst-off within the EU and, also to reassure the smaller players of their assured position that will determine the future course of European integration. It will depend on the capacity to decentralise and create confidence in the local units of their meaningful existence in a larger body.

The writer is Reader in Political Science, Jesus and Mary College, New Delhi

Thursday, 26 June 2008



Supply-side economics

RBI has just increased its lending rate to contain inflation. But, as
Winarno Zain argues in the context of Indonesia, a strictly monetarist approach to the crisis might not be
the way forward

The central bank of Indonesia (BI) is now contemplating how to contain inflation, which has jumped after the government raised fuel prices last month. The most commonly used instrument to contain inflation is increasing interest rates. But given that inflation this time is mostly due to spikes in food commodites and oil prices caused by temporary shocks in supply and speculation, questions arise about whether monetary tightening is warranted.
Tightening monetary policy could stoke economic growth, the last thing the country expects in the midst of a global slowdown. The expectation is that prices will soften as supply responds to higher prices and commodity prices drop off their year-on-year comparison.
Food prices account for 40-50 per cent of the consumer price index in emerging countries, including Indonesia (as opposed to 15 per cent in G7 countries). Food prices weigh in heavily on inflation expectation and could easily spill over to other commodities. As inflation expectation spreads, demands for wage increases grow stronger, risking a wage-price spiral.
Inflation expectation should be firmly anchored through tighter monetary policies by the central bank. But the question is, how tight? This question is tricky because the central bank not only has to strike a balance between containing inflation and maintaining economic growth but also has to consider the monetary condition that existed prior to the spurt in inflation. This should determine the degree of the monetary tightening required.
Inflation in most emerging economies is firmly embedded because it is the result of several forces that reinforce each other. At first, it was higher income from higher economic growth in China and India that boosted demands. Then supply shock followed as more agricultural resources were diverted into non-food production and oil production lagged behind the growing demand.
But inflation in emerging economies is aggravated by the loose monetary policies they have been following for several years. Broad money supply has been growing at an average of 20 per cent per annum, almost three times the growth in G7 countries.
Since 2003, nominal GDP growth accelerated faster than interest rates. Real interest rates have been kept low for political reasons, to spur growth.
In China, the real interest rate has been kept at minus 1 per cent for several years. Central banks in emerging countries have been urged by the IMF and the World Bank to significantly tighten monetary policies to contain inflation.
But the case for Indonesia is a little different. Unlike in other emerging economies, the monetary policies in Indonesia were not overly loose despite several rate cuts by the central bank since 2006. The growth of broad money supply, although escalating from 2006 to 2007, was still roughly in line with the growth of nominal GDP.
Last year, both nominal GDP and broad money supply grew at 19 per cent. Expressed in percentage of nominal GDP, its ratio declined from 47 per cent in 2003 to 42 per cent in 2007. Although BI has cut interest rates several times since 2006, bank lending rates are still above inflation and still the highest in the region.
Because monetary conditions in Indonesia are not overly loose, a drastic interest rate hike by BI would be excessive, endangering fragile economic growth. If BI perceives that the monetary condition in Indonesia is as loose as in other emerging economies, there is the risk that BI might "overshoot" increases in interest rates. Interest rates would be increased more than what is actually required.
Given the perceived market risk, the relationship between BI's benchmark rate and the market rate is not straightforward and inelastic, as evidenced after fuel price increase in 2006-2007. Between 2005-2007, when BI slashed its benchmark rates by 475 basis points, bank lending rates only dropped by 220 basis points.
This showed that when inflation cooled off, and BI was able to cut its interest rates, banks did not cut their rates as fast as BI cuts its rates, thus preventing a quick recovery in the economy. The same cycle will repeat itself this year.
Furthermore in a situation where capital is mobile, and where the US Federal Reserve is exercising caution in increasing rates, too high a rate increase by BI could attract too much capital inflow, increasing domestic liquidity and creating inflationary pressure, the very thing BI has vowed to fight.
BI should consider taking other measures to contain inflationary pressure besides tightening monetary policies. Intervention in the foreign exchange market should be conducted more aggressively for various reasons. The rupiah has been constantly depreciating several months. What's happening with the rupiah is an anomaly. At a time when other currencies in the region like the Singapore dollar, Malaysian ringgit and Thai baht are appreciating against the US dollar, the rupiah is weakening.
This is happening at a time when BI reserves have reached a record level every month, now standing at nearly $60 billion. The traumatic experience during the crisis in 1998 has taught BI to secure its reserve by accumulating as much as possible. But accumulating reserve is not done for the sake of accumulation alone. At some point the reserve should be used for the benefit of the national economy. If BI sells more US dollars to the market, the dollar would fall against the rupiah, softening the impact of imported inflation.
Because monetary policies could adversely affect growth, relying solely on monetary policies to contain inflation is too risky. That's why BI should pursue a more appropriate policy. (The writer is an economic analyst)

The Jakarta Post/ANN

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


Bangladeshi national gunned down


COOCH BEHAR, June 25: An unidentified man (38) stated to be a Bangladeshi national, was gunned down by BSF jawans on duty at Satgachhi border outpost area under Mathabhanga police station in Cooch Behar district at about 2-20 a.m. today. The BSF reportedly opened about 24 rounds during their bid to halt a group of infiltrators.


The SDPO of Mathabhanga, Mr Ananda Roy said the man was gunned down by the BSF when he was trying to intrude crossing the international border near the Satgachhi BOP. The man was identified as a Bangladeshi national by the packet of bidis, matchbox and Bangladeshi currencies recovered from his pocket. The body was sent for post-mortem to Mathabhanga sub-divisional hospital, Mr Roy said.


On the otherhand, on behalf of Chhitmahal United Council, Mr Debabrata Chaki said there are a number of Indian chhitmahals (enclaves) on the other side of the border near the Satgachhi BOP. The residents of those enclaves very often come to the mainland of India for various needs. Before opening fire indiscriminately upon the persons near the border the BSF should think twice whether the so-called intruders are actually criminals, smugglers, infiltrators or poor residents of the Indian enclaves, Mr Chaki said. []


Students' confine teachers


COOCH BEHAR, June 25: The aggrieved students of Patlakhawa High School in Cooch Behar-II block kept their teachers locked in a room for hours today. The students were demanding for a long to provide adequate number of benches, fans and more classrooms in the school.


Today the angry students put their teachers in a room and kept them under lock and key demanding immediate solution of their needs. Soon after, the members of the managing committee, headmaster and others sat in a meeting to discuss the demands with the students. Later, on being assured, the students lifted their agitation. []


Man killed


COOCH BEHAR, June 25: The body of one Abdul Sattar (58) was found in a pool of blood in his bedroom at Madhya Kalaraiyer Kuthi village under Cooch Behar Kotowali police station on Wednesday morning. There were injury marks of some heavy weapon on the head. Soon after the incident his wife Nurjahan Bibi absconded.


Police said there was a feud between the couple for a long. The actual reason behind the murder may be revealed after arrest of the killed man's spouse. A murder case was initiated into the incident. []


Board formation of rural bodies


COOCH BEHAR, June 25: Formation of boards of 128 gram panchayats in Cooch Behar district will begin tomorrow. It will take two days to complete the task. Section 144 CrPC is being promulgated from Wednesday evening in a radius of 500-metre from the gram panchayat offices to maintain peace. The order will be in force till completion of the formation of boards, official sources said.


Meanwhile, the CPI-M and the Forward Bloc decided that they would form boards jointly as Left Front partners. Both the parties had fought against each other in many seats during the polls. In some areas the FB had entered into alliances with opposition parties to fight against the CPI-M but now the leaderships of the two parties came closer again to resist the Opposition. []


Who will bell the cat ?


The age-old building that housed the office of the district information and cultural affairs department at Sunity Road in Cooch Behar is lying in a dilapidated condition for a long. The employees have to work here with anxiety. The plasters of the roof dropped off several times but the workers are lucky enough that no one had to suffer from injury by those flying chunks.


The office of the district information and cultural affairs department is situated in a very old building. It has every right to be considered as a heritage one in this heritage town as it was erected in the regime of the Maharajas of Cooch Behar. Marks of decay are there everywhere. Electrical wires and switchboards are hanging from its colourless shabby rough walls. Flourishing parasitic plants made the roofs and outer corners of the building green. Visitors feel panicky in using the shaky narrow wooden staircase to go to the first floor. An uncared jungle grew up in front of this 'heritage building'.


The office room of the district information and cultural officer (DICO) is on the first floor. It is also a pale one. The plasters of the roof above the table of the officer dropped off at many places and the iron rods came out to greet the visitors with ugly smile. This building has almost no difference with any haunted house.


The information and cultural affairs department is under the portfolio of chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee but his office in Cooch Behar reflects nothing like his clean attire. The workers are also aggrieved.


It was learnt that proposals were submitted several times in the past to acquire the building marking it as a heritage one. But no government official took the initiative to acquire it. Reliable sources said the building and the strip of land on which it is standing beside Sunity Road changed the ownership recently. Soon after removal of the office from this building it may be dismantled to erect a multi-storeyed commercial complex.


Presently, the office needs at least eight rooms for sections like audio-visual unit, technical section, reading room and establishment section including a room for the officer. The office needs a garage too.


When asked, Dipen Bhattacharjee, the operator of the audio-visual unit, said, they always have to work with fear of dropping of roof chunks on their heads. In the event of earthquake or heavy downpour the building may cause havoc to all the employees engaged in this office, he opined.


Another staff said the office was shifted to this building in 1980 or earlier. Proposals were placed with higher authorities several times to shift the office in a specious building leaving this dilapidated rented one but all those gone to deaf ears. There is no healthy atmosphere in the existing office, he complained.


The district information and cultural officer, Cooch Behar, Tapan Kumar Sarkar said he already discussed the condition of the office building with the district magistrate Rajesh Kumar Sinha. He hoped that very soon they might get accommodation inside the old collectorate building on the west bank of Sagardighi.


But who will think about the fate of this 'heritage building'?

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


The members of the Left Front team visit a blazed CPI-M offices at Deocharai in Tufanganj on Tuesday.


Left Front team visits tensed Tufanganj


TUFANGANJ (Cooch Behar), June 24: A team of elected representatives of the Forward Bloc and the CPI-M including ministers, MPs and MLAs visited tension-gripped villages in Tufanganj today. They will submit a detailed report of their findings to the state chief minister.


In the Left Front team there were state forests minister Mr Ananta Roy, food and supplies minister Mr Paresh Adhikary, Cooch Behar MP (Lok Sabha) Mr Hiten Barman, MP (Rajya Sabha) Mr Tarini Roy, Cooch Behar (North) MLA Mr Dipak Sarkar, Tufanganj MLA Ms Aloka Barman and Natabari MLA Mr Tamser Ali.


The members of the team visited Deocharai, Nakkatigachh, Natun Bazar, Baraitola, Taltola, Sikarpur, Rajarkuthi and other areas to learn about the alleged atrocities done by the Trinamul Congress and the Mahajot (grand alliance) of opposition parties. They also witnessed the damaged and ransacked offices of the CPI-M in those areas. The offices were attacked and damaged recently during post-poll disturbances.


At Deocharai, an aged woman, Ekmala Barman (70) complained to the visiting leaders that two local Trinamul Congress men threatened her of committing rape. With tears rolling down her cheeks she said it was an unbearable insult to her at this advanced age. Hearing her complaint Mr Ananta Roy asked the Tufanganj OC Mr Jahar Jyoti Roy to take legal action into the matter.


In Rajarkuthi, local CPI-M supporters requested the leaders to arrange security to protect them from attacks of the opposition parties. Here, the LF leaders saw a flag was flying on the top of the CITU office. Following their instruction the police removed it.


Mr Ananta Roy said they would never allow anyone to bring back the dark days of 1972. He alleged that the opposition parties are trying to disrupt the formation of gram panchayat boards. They even threatening of abduction to the elected gram panchayat members of the CPI-M, he alleged. He believes that today's visit may be able to boost the morale of the local CPI-M supporters. "We will submit a report to the chief minister about the happenings going on in Tufanganj", he said.


It is interesting that the team members abstained from visiting the residence of Debabrata Pramanik who was killed recently in the clash occurred between the supporters of the Trinamul Congress and the CPI-M. At that time both the parties had claimed him as their man and called bandhs.


Mentionworthy, in the recent rural polls the Trinamul Congress won in the two Panchayat Samitis and also grabbed several gram panchayat seats in Tufanganj sub-division. Soon after declaration of results a number of violent incidents occurred there between the supporters of the two parties. []

Monday, 23 June 2008


Road mishap


COOCH BEHAR, June 23: One man was killed and fourteen others injured in a road mishap in Mathabhanga today.


Police said, when the driver of a maxi-taxi lost his control over the steering wheels of the passenger-vehicle it overturned near Baudia Bazar at about 11 a.m. A passenger, Girindra Barman (70) was killed and fourteen other passengers were injured. Two of the injured were sent to MJN Hospital in Cooch Behar in serious condition. The remaining twelve injured passengers were shifted to Mathabhanga sub-divisional hospital.


The ill-fated vehicle was coming to Mathabhanga from Sitalkuchi. []


Timber seized


COOCH BEHAR, June 23: Acting on a tip-off a team of forest officials led by Cooch Behar DFO (Social Forestry) Mr Apurba Sen and ADFO (SF) Mr Asitava Chatterjee conducted raids at Saldanga of Baxirhat from last night. They seized about five truckload forest timbers (30 cubic-metre) worth Rs 2-lakh from the riverbed of Raidak-II and adjacent areas. The raid continued till Monday noon.


It is suspected that the timbers were illegally brought from the forests in Assam rafted along the Raidak-II river.


The ADFO (SF), Mr Chatterjee said they would continue their raids in the Assam-Bengal border area to curb illegal trafficking of forest timbers. []


PHOTO : In a street in Cooch Behar after a splash of shower on Monday afternoon.

Sunday, 22 June 2008


PR Das Munsi in Cooch Behar


COOCH BEHAR, June 22: Union minister and state Congress president Mr Priya Ranjan Das Munsi made it clear that the Centre will not intervene directly into the ongoing Gorkhaland issue. There are constitutional obligations too. At the same time he said that the Centre is eager to help the state government in solving any internal problem of this state.


The Union minister said the Congress has political differences with the CPI-M but it is not in favour of any further division of Bengal. It will not hesitate to extend a helping hand to the state government to maintain the integrity of Bengal.


Mr Das Munsi came to Mekhliganj today to campaign in favour of the Congress candidates for the ensuing municipal election. He addressed a gathering there. During his address he alleged that the state government failed to use funds for different developmental schemes in the municipalities including Mekhliganj.


On his way to Alipurduar from Mekhliganj to address another election meeting, the Union minister talked with media persons in Cooch Behar at the residence of the chairman of Cooch Behar Municipality, Mr Biren Kundu. []


Blood donation


COOCH BEHAR, June 22: As a part of their commitment to the society, the state co-ordination committee organised a voluntary blood donation camp in association with MJN Hospital Blood Bank at Karmachari Bhavan in Cooch Behar on Sunday. Cooch Behar CMOH Dr Sunil Kumar Sil inaugurated the camp while superintendent of MJN Hospital Dr Kalyan Kumar Dey attended the programme as the chief guest. 105 persons donated blood at the camp, said the president of the Cooch Behar district unit of the state co-ordination committee, Mr Pulak Biswas. []




COOCH BEHAR, June 22: The Trinamul Congress was able to snatch the power in five gram panchayats in Mathabhanga-II block in Cooch Behar. They also won in several seats in other gram panchayats of the block. On Sunday, the Trinamul Congress organised a programme to felicitate the winners. Sixty-one elected members of different gram panchayats were felicitated at the ceremony organised at Ghoksadanga High School complex. Secretary of state Trinamul Congress, Md Abdul Jalil Ahmed, vice-president of district unit Mr Niranjan Dutta and other leaders spoke on the occasion. []


Friday, 20 June 2008


Flood threat in Cooch Behar


COOCH BEHAR, June 20: Residents turned panicky following the incessant rain in Cooch Behar since Wednesday night. As downpour at upper catchment areas and on the plains is continuing the water levels of all the major rivers has risen. Several wards in Cooch Behar town turned waterlogged. Normal life was also disrupted. The office goers and school goers had to face difficulties due to heavy shower today. The rain is still continuing.


Flood Control office sources said rainfall recorded in Cooch Behar in the last 24 hours till 6 a.m. today was 52.00 mm. The rainfall in Tufanganj was 31.40 mm and in Mathabhanga it was 30.60 mm during the same period. The total rainfall in this season in Cooch Behar is 1422.70 mm, in Tufanganj 1720.00 mm and in Mathabhanga it is 363.00 mm. The rain is still continuing and a forecast was there for heavier downpour in the next 48 hours.


Water levels of Torsa at Hasimara, Mansai at Mathabhanga, Raidak-I and Raidak-II at Tufanganj and Kaljani at Alipurduar are showing a rapid rising trend. These are rising rapidly towards the danger mark. Though the water levels of the rivers are still below the danger mark the residents of the villages adjacent to the rivers fear that flood may occur if downpour continues.


Owners of country boats were alerted from the district administration to keep their boats repaired and ready because these may be required for rescue operations if flood situation occurs in this district.


In Tufanganj, medical teams are kept ready for any eventuality of floods. Adequate number of tarpaulin sheets and other relief materials also kept ready.  All the officials and others concerned were alerted to get prepared to meet the flood situation, if occurs. []


PHOTO : Panicked villagers survey rising of water level of Torsa river. In Cooch Behar on Friday.

Thursday, 19 June 2008


Mekhliganj ready for civic poll


COOCH BEHAR, June 19: Mekhliganj is getting ready for the ensuing civic polls. Already all the political parties intensified their campaigns to capture the seats. Union minister Mr Priya Ranjan Das Munsi and state minister Mr Ashok Bhattacharya are expected to address separate meetings organised by the Congress and the CPI-M on 22 June to add newer dimensions in the war for power of the civic body.


Mekhliganj is a small municipal town in Cooch Behar. There are nine wards only. In the previous municipal election the FB had fielded a ghost candidate in Mekhliganj and that seat posed as a problematic one during talks over seat sharing. Recently, after a few rounds of discussions the two LF partners came out from that tangle and a consensus was attained. It was decided that the CPI-M would field candidates in four and the FB in five seats. The Forward Bloc will get the post of chairman even if they win in one seat only.


District CPI-M secretary and district Left Front convenor Mr Chandi Pal said both the CPI-M and the FB agreed to fight jointly at Mekhliganj Municipality. District Forward Bloc secretary Mr Udayan Guha pointed out that distrust was there among the Forward Bloc supporters against the CPI-M. "We should do something to draw an end to it", he said.


Though it was decided that no party would field any ghost candidate but a few ghost candidates appeared this time too. Actually, the unity was attained at the upper level but that failed to bring any change at the lower levels of both the parties. The parties concerned may withdraw such candidates prior to the poll by circulating leaflets.


In the previous municipal election in Mekhliganj it was decided that the two LF partners would share the chairmanship of the board for two-and-half-year each but the CPI-M failed to keep its promise. The chairman (CPI-M) of the outgoing civic board reportedly denied leaving the chair in favour of the Forward Bloc and that irritated the Forward Bloc in entering any fresh unity move with the CPI-M. At last, a unity was achieved between the leaderships of both the parties but the outcome will be felt only after declaration of result, political observers opined. []


River levels rising in Cooch Behar


COOCH BEHAR, June 19: Following incessant downpour at upper catchment areas and on the plains since last night the water levels of almost all the major rivers that are flowing through Cooch Behar district are rising. Several areas in Cooch Behar town turned waterlogged and made normal life disrupted. The rain is still continuing.


Rising of water levels of rivers like Mansai in Mathabhanga, Kaljani and Raidak in Tufanganj, Torsa in Cooch Behar and Teesta in Mekhliganj is causing concern of the locals. The water levels of Kaljani and Torsa are rising rapidly towards the danger marks. The water levels of the rivers are still below the danger mark but the situation may turn worse if the rain continues at upper catchment areas.


Official sources said that all the sub-divisional officers and block development officers were alerted to get ready to meet flood situation. There are plenty of relief materials in this district to meet the flood situation, but if downpour continues at the upper catchment areas on Bhutan Hills the situation may turn grave, a senior official said.


District Flood Control office sources said rainfall recorded in Cooch Behar in the last 24 hours upto 6 a.m. was 27.20 mm. The rainfall in Tufanganj was 40.60 mm and in Mathabhanga it was 4.80 mm during the same period. The rain is still continuing and a forecast was there for heavier downpour in the next 48 hours.


Vice-president of district Trinamul Congress, Mr Niranjan Dutta alleged that the swelling Torsa river might pose danger to the Cooch Behar Palace as well as entire Cooch Behar town during this monsoon. The town-saving dyke that was constructed in 1954 to save Cooch Behar town was never repaired since its construction. The government allots a huge sum of money every year to maintain the dyke but no work was done till now to maintain and renovate this dyke. Alleging misappropriation of fund he demanded a high level inquiry into the matter. []


PHOTO : Walking in the rain – In a street in Cooch Behar town on Thursday.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


Congress demonstration at lead bank


COOCH BEHAR, June 18: Activists of the Cooch Behar district Congress staged a demonstration at the office of the lead bank manager in Cooch Behar and submitted a memorandum containing seven-point charter of demands.


Welcoming the waiving of agricultural loans announced by the Central government the Cooch Behar district Congress leaders requested the manager of the lead bank (Central Bank of India) to take initiative so that no middleman can receive the relevant documents from the banks to deliver those to the beneficiaries. The bank concerned should hand over the documents related to waiving of loans to the beneficiaries.


The descendants of the deceased loan receivers should also be intimated of the Centre's loan waiving announcement, the Congress leaders demanded. The manager agreed to look into the demands.


District Congress president Mr Shyamal Choudhury, working president Mr Biren Kundu, vice-president Mr Sudhangshu Neogi, general secretary Mr Sudha Ranjan Mukherjee and AICC member Mrs Sabita Roy spoke on the occasion. []

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


Tufanganj boy left for USA


COOCH BEHAR, June 17: Mr Krishnakanto Sarkar (28) and his coach Mr Bhabesh Roy left Cooch Behar today to participate in the Mr Universe Body Building Championship to be held at Miami of Florida in the USA on 19-21 June.


Mr Sarkar, a prominent bodybuilder from Tufanganj is one of the eight competitors from India who are going to attend the championship at Miami. The American Body Building Federation is the organiser of the championship.


Mr Sarkar had won the Mr India title in 60-kg group held at Hyderabad in 2007. In 2006, he became the champion in the state level competition. He is from an ordinary peasant family. It was learnt that the state government and others extended financial assistance for his journey to the USA. []



OC, SI transferred following Tufanganj incidents


COOCH BEHAR, June 17: Following the recent clashes and disturbances occurred in Tufanganj between the CPI-M and the Trinamul Congress, two police officers are being transferred. They are being relinquished from their existing duties because of their unsatisfactory service to control the situations.


The officer-in-charge of Tufanganj police station, Mr Sanjay Dutta is going to take charge as the officer-in-charge of District Crime Records Bureau (DCRB). The present OC of the DCRB, Mr Jawahar Jyoti Roy will take charge of the Tufanganj police station. Mr Tapan Kumar Das, a sub-inspector of Tufanganj PS is also being transferred.


Admitting issuing of the transfer orders, the Cooch Behar SP Mr Anil Kumar said, the transfers are routine ones. Both the officers served for more than two years. Earlier, the OC had requested to get transferred but due to panchayat elections and the recent turmoil his transfer was delayed. Referring the transfer of the SI, the SP said a more energetic and young officer would replace him. Mr Kumar hinted that the SI's service was not satisfactory enough. At the same time, the SP said a few ASIs and constables would be transferred soon from Tufanganj and other police stations.   


On the otherhand, it is believed that the transfers were made to satisfy the district CPI-M leadership. The police failed to control the situation in favour of the CPI-M and the Trinamul Congress took the political mileage out of the violence incidents. The ruling party is also in a cornered position following its defeat in two panchayat samitis and several gram panchayats in Tufanganj. As a damage control measure the CPI-M is now playing from behind the curtains. Following their diktat the two police officers were turned into scapegoats, Trinamul Congress sources claimed. []  

Monday, 16 June 2008


TYC demonstration against CPI-M attacks


COOCH BEHAR, June 16: Activists of the Cooch Behar district unit of the Trinamul Congress staged a demonstration at the office of the superintendent of police in Cooch Behar today. They demanded unconditional withdrawal of cases against Trinamul Congress supporters who were arrested after the recently concluded panchayat elections. They also demanded steps against the CPI-M to draw an end to the atrocities on the Trinamul workers in the rural areas.


Prior to submission of a memorandum containing their demands the Trinamul Youth Congress supporters took out a slogan-shouting rally in the town.


President of the district TYC, Kumar Rajib Narayan said the CPI-M unleashed a reign of terror in association with police in rural areas after the elections. A section of the district police is working under instruction of the CPI-M leaders. This should not be allowed in any democratic system, he said.


In the memorandum a few recent examples were pointed out. The murder of Debabrata Pramanik and bullet injury of two others at Nakkatigachh in Tufanganj on 11 June, killing of Safiar Rahman of Pundibari on 11 June, murder of Abu Bakkar Siddiqi of Deocharai in Tufanganj on 13 June and armed attacks on villagers in Nakkatigachh and Deocharai villages on yesterday were mentioned in the memorandum.


Mr Narayan said they demanded the SP to initiate proper inquiry and legal steps against the offenders. Otherwise the situation may turn out of control, he warned. []


Dilapidated condition of district information office


COOCH BEHAR, June 16: The age-old building that housed the office of the district information and cultural affairs department at Sunity Road in Cooch Behar is lying in a dilapidated condition for a long. The employees have to work here with anxiety. The plasters of the roof dropped off several times but the workers are lucky enough that no one had to suffer from injury by those flying chunks.


The office of the district information and cultural affairs department is situated in a very old building. Marks of decay are there everywhere. Electrical wires and switchboards are hanging from its colourless rough walls. Flourishing parasitic plants made the roofs and outer corners of the building green. Visitors feel panicky in using the shaky narrow wooden staircase to go to the first floor. There is no difference of the situation with a haunted house.


The office room of the district information and cultural officer is on the first floor. It is also a pale one. The plasters of the roof above the table of the officer dropped off at many places and the iron rods came out to greet the visitors with ugly smile.


The information and cultural affairs department is under the portfolio of chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattarjee but his office in Cooch Behar reflects nothing like his clean attire. The workers are also aggrieved.


The office needs at least eight rooms for sections like audio-visual unit, technical section, reading room and establishment section including a room for the officer. The office needs a garage too.


When asked, Mr Dipen Bhattacharjee, an operator of the audio-visual unit, said, they always have to work with fear of dropping of roof chunks on their heads. In the event of earthquake or heavy downpour the building may cause havoc to all the employees engaged in this office, he opined.


Another staff said the office was shifted to this building in 1980 or earlier. Proposals were placed with higher authorities several times to change the office in a specious building leaving this dilapidated rented one but all those gone to deaf ears. There is no healthy atmosphere in the existing office, he complained.


The district information and cultural officer, Mr Tapan Kumar Sarkar said he already discussed the condition of the office building with the district magistrate Mr Rajesh Kumar Sinha. He hoped that very soon they might get accommodation inside the old collectorate building on the west bank of Sagardighi. []


PHOTO : The office of the district information office in Cooch Behar on Monday. – DEBASHIS BHAUMIK.