Thursday, 31 December 2009


SSDC leaders to meet Divisional Commissioner

Mr AK Singh, Divisional Commissioner, Jalpaiguri Division, has agreed to meet a delegation of the Separate State Demand Committee on 2 January at Jalpaiguri. It is expected that the dialogue may break the stalemate that started on 12 December following an indefinite hunger strike programme.

Sub-divisional Officer of Dinhata Mr Chiranjib Ghosh told the PTI that the Divisional Commissioner has agreed to meet a delegation of the SSDC and accordingly it has been conveyed to the leaders on Thursday morning.

President of Greater Cooch Behar Democratic Party (a major constituent organisation of the SSDC), Mr Ashutosh Barma told the PTI that they would send a group of senior leaders to meet the Divisional Commissioner on 2 January. "We will request the Divisional Commissioner to take an initiative for holding of tripartite talks over our long standing demand of formation of a separate state – Kamtapur or Greater Cooch Behar. If we feel satisfied with the dialogue with the DC we may lift the indefinite hunger strike that started on 12 December."

Mentionworthy, ten SSDC activists are on an indefinite hunger strike at Prantik Bazar of Dinhata since 12 December demanding tripartite talks over formation of a separate state comprising of six North Bengal districts of West Bengal and 15 districts of Assam.

The Special Inspector General of Police, North Bengal, Mr DT Lepcha, who is now on leave, said, the lifting of the hunger strike was needed for maintaining peace and tranquillity in the region. 

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


Panchayat Mela in Cooch Behar

Aiming to highlight the progress and achievements in different developmental schemes run by the Panchayat system, a two-day Panchayat Mela (Panchayat and Rural Development Fair) will be held at Bhetaguri in Cooch Behar on 2-3 January.

Sate forest minister Mr Ananta Roy will inaugurate the fair. Backward classes welfare minister Mr Jogesh Barman, Cooch Behar MP (Rajya Sabha) Mr Tarini Roy, Cooch Behar MP (Lok Sabha) Mr Nripendra Nath Roy and seven MLAs will attend the inaugural ceremony.

Sabhadhipati of Cooch Behar Zilla Parishad, Mr Dilip Biswas said the Panchayat Samitis would post stalls in the fair. 29 Gram Panchayats of the district that earned Nirmal Gram Awards (total sanitised village) are to be felicitated at the fair. The Self Help Groups (SHG) under all the twelve Panchayat Samitis of the district will also be awarded for their extraordinary activities and initiatives. Elected persons associated with the Panchayat system for more than 25 years (including the CZP Sabhadhipati himself) will also be felicitated.

Cultural programmes highlighting regional folk song, dance and drama will be added attractions in the two-day fair. An eminent and veteran folk performer, Ms Foolti Barman, who is popularly known as Foolti Gidali, will be felicitated in the fair, the Sabhadhipati said.

The CZP Sabhadhipati claimed that all the MLAs of the district agreed to attend the Panchayat Mela. Replying a question he said that the Trinamul Congress MLA of Dinhata Mr Ashok Mandal and the Congress MLA of Sitai Dr Md Fozle Haque too agreed to attend the fair. He said he had no knowledge that the Trinamul Congress would boycott the fair terming it a propaganda-festival of the CPI-M.

Thursday, 24 December 2009


GCDP women stir for separate state

The activists of the Cooch Behar Naree Mancha, the women wing of the Greater Cooch Behar Democratic Party (GCDP), organised a sit-in demonstration at Shahid Baag in Cooch Behar on Thursday. Later, they submitted a memorandum to the District Magistrate of Cooch Behar.

Ms Sikta Barman, the secretary of Cooch Behar Naree Mancha said they organised the agitational programme demanding formation of a separate state – Greater Cooch Behar or Kamtapur. 10 persons of the GCDP are on indefinite hunger strike at Prantik Bazar of Dinhata since 12 December but the state administration is yet to take any initiative to reach for an amicable solution, she alleged. She also demanded a tripartite meeting to consider the demand for a separate state comprising of 6 North Bengal districts of West Bengal and 15 districts of Assam.

GCDP president Mr Ashutosh Barma said on 29 December they would organise a 'gherao' demonstration at the Divisional Commissioner's office at Jalpaiguri. "We are going to start fast-unto-death programme at all the twelve blocks of Cooch Behar district if the government stays inactive over the issue for a long," the GCDP leader threatened.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


Wife's suicide : Court punishes husband

Additional District and Sessions Judge, First Track Third Court, Cooch Behar, Mr Sribas Chandra Das sentenced a man to ten years of rigorous imprisonment following suicide of his wife.

Mr Shibendra Nath Roy, the lawyer on the government side, said one Upen Roy of Baikunthapur under Kotowali police station married Saraswati Das of Pestarjhar about eight years ago. The housewife was suffering from atrocities at her in-law's house since her marriage as she failed to bring a huge sum of money from her father's house. Till her death, her husband, Upen Roy regularly tortured her demanding her to bring Rs 50,000 from her father's house.

On 18 April 2008 Saraswati committed suicide by hanging herself. She left a suicide note written on her palm alleging her husband for the death.

On the next day an FIR was lodged at Kotowali police station against her husband, her father-in-law, her mother-in-law and a neighbour. During the legal procedure 13 witnesses were cross-examined in the court. Considering all aspects the judge convicted the husband, Upen Roy, for the death of his wife. He had been convicted under Section 498A and 306 IPC.

Today, the Additional District and Sessions Judge, First Track Third Court, Cooch Behar, Mr Sribas Chandra Das sentenced the convicted husband ten years of rigorous imprisonment under Section 306 IPC and slapped a fine of Rs 2,000 on him in default he will have to suffer an additional four months of imprisonment. The judge also ordered three years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000 under Section 498 IPC. Both the punishments would run concurrently.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009


Kamtapur : Hunger strike at all blocks in Cooch Behar

Demanding formation of a new state – Kamtapur or Greater Cooch Behar – the supporters of the Separate State Demand Committee (SSDC) observed a daylong hunger strike at all the twelve blocks in Cooch Behar district on Tuesday. They also demanded the government to initiate tripartite talks over the issue.

President of Greater Cooch Behar Democratic Party (a constituent organisation of the SSDC, Mr Ashutosh Barma said they observed today's hunger strike as the district administration failed to take any initiative for the proposed tripartite talks. On the otherhand, ten of their activists are on indefinite hunger strike at Prantik Bazar of Dinhata since 12 December. On 24 December the women supporters of the GCDP will stage demonstration at the District Magistrate's office in Cooch Behar.  And, on 29 December they are going to organise a demonstration at the Divisional Commissioner's office at Jalpaiguri. "We may start fast-unto-death programme at all the twelve blocks of Cooch Behar district if the government stays inactive over the issue for a long," the GCDP leader threatened.

Monday, 21 December 2009


Kamtapur state demand : Hunger strike on 10-th day

The indefinite hunger strike demanding formation of a separate state stepped into its tenth day on Monday. Supporters of the three of the nine constituent organisations of the Separate State Demand Committee (SSDC) – Greater Cooch Behar Democratic Party (GCDP), The Greater Cooch Behar People's Association (GCPA) and Kamtapur People's Party (KPP) have organised the hunger strike that started on 12 December. They are demanding formation of a separate state – Kamtapur or Greater Cooch Behar - consisting 15 districts of Assam and six North Bengal districts of West Bengal.

GCDP president Mr Ashutosh Barma told the PTI on Monday evening that initially 13 persons started the indefinite hunger strike at Prantik Bazar of Dinhata. Ten persons (including one at hospital) are still continuing the hunger. Among the ten, eight are of GCDP and two are of KPP.

Mr Barma alleged that the state government or the district administration still to take any initiative to consider their demand. As a mark of protest they will organise daylong hunger strike at all the 12 blocks in Cooch Behar district on Tuesday. A similar programme will be held at Raiganj too. On 29 December they are going to organise a demonstration at the Divisional Commissioner's office at Jalpaiguri.

The GCDP leader said the District Magistrate of Cooch Behar talked with them on 17 December where they demanded holding of tripartite meeting to discuss their separate state demand. Requesting them to lift the hunger strike the DM told them that she would convey the matter to the home secretary. Seeing no development they are continuing the indefinite hunger strike, he said.

When contacted, the Additional District Magistrate of Cooch Behar, Mr Pannalal Mahapatra said the sub-divisional officer of Dinhata already talked with the agitators. It was also conveyed to the higher authorities. The Chief Secretary and the Home Secretary are now at Siliguri where leaders of the KPP have drawn their attention to the matter. On Tuesday a development may occur to melt down the stalemate, he said. 


Aamra Bangalee's strike in Cooch Behar

The Aamra Bangalee sponsored strike received a mixed response in Cooch Behar district on Monday. Police said the bandh passed off peacefully.

No passenger bus of private operators plied but a few buses of North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) were found plying with fewer passengers. Bandh supporters staged roadblocks at different places. The trains however plied without any disruption. Government offices and banks were found opened but several schools were found closed.

District Aamra Bangalee secretary Mr Haribala Roy claimed that the people of the region today came out spontaneously to make the bandh successful. It proved that the people are against any further division of Bengal, he said.

Friday, 18 December 2009


Kshiti Goswami at RYF state meet in Cooch Behar

The three-day state conference of the Revolutionary Youth Front (RYF), the youth wing of the RSP, started at Rabindra Bhavan in Cooch Behar on Friday.

The open session of the eleventh state conference has been held at Shahid Baag in Cooch Behar on Friday afternoon.

Organising of movements on demands like launching of National Youth Policy and job guarantee for all unemployed youths are likely to be adopted at the three-day state conference, RYF leaders said.

Two central committee members of the RSP – Mr Kshiti Goswami and Mr Biswanath Chaudhury, Alipurduar MP Mr Manohar Tirkey, Alipurduar MLA Mr Nirmal Das and other senior RSP and RYF leaders spoke at the gathering that was organised on the occasion.

Mr Kshiti Goswami, who is also the Public Works Department minister, slammed at Trinamul Congress chief Miss Mamata Banerjee without naming her. He said, "We also want change but inauguration of a railway station or a ticket booking counter should not be judged as a change. The decaying values and corrupt system should be changed. The youths have every right to question the elders on what they did during their time."

Mildly criticising the Left Front government's policies, Mr Goswami raised the issues like Singur, Nandigram, SEZ and Nayachar and commented that those initiatives were taken without thinking about the future effect. A number of Primary Teachers Training Institutes were launched but there were irregularities. Now, the offenders should face punishment because the primary schools and its students are suffering due to lack of teachers, as there are many vacant posts of teachers in many schools.

The Left Front came to power with many promises but many of those promises are yet to be implemented and so the youths turned disillusioned. Youths of the new generation should rectify the errors committed by the seniors, he opined.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


'Kamtapur' bandh peaceful

The strike called by the Separate State Demand Committee (SSDC) has passed off peacefully in Cooch Behar district on Wednesday. The bandh received partial response. Police arrested 33 bandh supporters from Mathabhanga and Dinhata during the day.

The SSDC called the strike demanding formation of a separate state – Kamtapur or Greater Cooch Behar.

Passenger vehicles of private operators were off the roads but buses of North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) were found plying with fewer passengers. Government offices were found opened but many schools were found closed. Branches of the banks however found closed due to another strike called by the employees.

President of Greater Cooch Behar Democratic Party (GCDP), Mr Ashutosh Barma claimed that the people of the region today came out spontaneously to make the bandh successful. It proved that the people wholeheartedly want a separate state – Kamtapur or Greater Cooch Behar, he said.
It may be recalled here that the SSDC was formed a few months ago at a meeting that was held at Bongaigaon in Assam. The proponents of the separate state want formation of the proposed state with fifteen districts of Assam and six North Bengal districts of West Bengal.

The SSDC was formed comprising of nine like-minded organisations - The Greater Cooch Behar Peoples' Association (GCPA), Greater Cooch Behar Democratic Party (GCDP), All Koch Rajbonshi Students' Union (AKRASU), Kamtapur Peoples' Party (KPP), All Kamtapur Students' Union (AKSU), All Koch Rajbonshi Sahitya Sabha (AKRSS), All Assam Koch Rajbonshi Sanmilani (AAKRS), Chilarai Sena and All Koch Rajbonshi Mahila Samiti (AKRMS). 

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Ex-Bangladesh Prez in Cooch Behar

Ershad arrives Dinhata

Former president of Bangladesh, Hussain Mohammad Ershad arrived Dinhata in Cooch Behar on Sunday. He came here on a four-day visit. Earlier, he visited Dinhata in June 1975. His family sources said Ershad's visit is merely a personal visit.

The 79-year-old ex-president of Bangladeh, Ershad stepped into India through the International Check Post at Changrabandha in Mekhliganj sub-division of Cooch Behar at about 12-noon. He drove to Dinhata by his own Toyata car and arrived there at about 2 p.m. His younger son Eriq (11) and a few other associates accompanied him.

At Dinhata town, a large number of curious people and his relatives welcomed him. Policemen were also there to maintain peace.

Dinhata was Ershad's hometown where he spent many years in his childhood. He was a student of Dinhata High School. During his address to the gathering, Ershad recalled the memory of late Kamal Guha who was his friend and classmate. He also recalled the name of recently demised Forward Bloc leader Dipak Sengupta. Udayan Guha, the son of late Kamal Guha and a state secretariat member of the Forward Bloc greeted him and offered flower bouquet.

Replying questions from media persons, the ex-Bangladesh president expressed the need of reintroduction of train service between India and Bangladesh through Gitaldaha. He also admitted the need to exchange Chhitmahals (enclaves) of India and Bangladesh.

A poet and author of nine books, Ershad will stay at his old residence at Dinhata till 9 December, said his cousin-brother Tojammel Hossain. 

Saturday, 5 December 2009


30 days work done under NREGS : Minister

Minister of state for Panchayat and Rural Development, Mr Bankim Ghosh visited Cooch Behar on Saturday to review the progress of implementation of different rural development schemes like 100-day job guarantee scheme and pro-people services offered under the Panchayat system. He visited two Gram Panchayats - Panisala and Chilkirhat and two Panchayat Samitis – Cooch Behar-I and Mathabhanga-II.

Talking with reporters at Cooch Behar Circuit House, the minister claimed that 30 days of work have been done in the district under NREGA scheme till November. He hoped that 50 days of work would be done by March 2010.

The minister admitted that work under the NREGA schemes was not done satisfactorily at everywhere in the state. At some places fund is lying unspent while at some places no fund was extended, as bills have not been submitted in time. Mr Ghosh said they received Rs 200-crore from the Centre and it is being disbursed to the districts as per requirements. Fund will not be a problem to run the NREGA schemes, he assured.

The members of the Gram Panchayats and the Pradhans should be more active and aware to implement the NREGA schemes, he opined.

The minister said that Panchayat Week is being celebrated in the state for the first time. After completion of the 3-day state level celebration at Murshidabad (to be started from 6 December) it will be held at Zilla Parishad, Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat levels and it will be concluded by 20 December, he said.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Special Article

The food court 

Security Can't Be Left To Imports 

By Bharat Jhunjhunwala

THE Centre has initiated a policy of reducing domestic agricultural prices and allowing the domestic production to decline. The rationale is that the country's food security can be ensured through imports. Hitherto, sugarcane prices were decided by the state governments and the rates hovered between Rs 160 and Rs 180 per quintal. The Centre has now abolished this system and fixed an all-India price of Rs 130 per quintal. In a parallel move, a nominal increase of Rs 20 per quintal has been made in the Minimum Support Price of wheat against Rs 80-100 in the previous years. 
This increase is deceptive. A larger increase in the price of inputs means that the real price obtained by farmers is less than previous years. This reduction in prices is likely to lead to a decline in production. The union agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, has indicated that the government may resort to imports to meet any shortage that ensues. 
Why do the developed countries, who are great votaries of free trade, maintain high-cost domestic production and not rely on cheaper imports for meeting their food requirements? Almost all of them, notably the United States, the European Union and Japan provide huge subsidies to their farmers to maintain the domestic high-cost production instead of importing cheap food. 
The cost of production of wheat in the United States is about Rs 20 per kg, but the domestic price is less because of the subsidies. The United States is a major exporter not because it produces wheat competitively but because it provides subsidies to its farmers. It seems the developed countries do not want to depend on the global market for their food security. They provide subsidies to their farmers, produce more than their requirements, export the excess production and make other countries dependent upon their exports. 
The wheat trade
THE USA is not willing to import wheat from Australia because it values its food security more than the economic gains from cheap food. We can see a strange convergence of interests between the governments of India and the US. India is keen to import cheap wheat from the US and the latter is keen to export cheap wheat to India. 
Is food security important only for the developed countries and not for developing countries? The Government of India does not answer this question. Instead, it behaves as if the international markets will provide food security to our people. This is the reason why the Centre has embarked upon a policy of reducing domestic farm prices and inviting a reduction in production. The British had made our country dependent upon imports of cheap cloth made in Manchester. Similarly, the UPA government is making the country dependent upon the import of cheap wheat produced in the US. It seems that North Block's policies are being dictated by the White House. 
The argument advanced by the government is that availability of cheap imported food will enhance the welfare of our consumers. A higher price will have to be paid to the farmers to increase domestic production and this will lead to unrest. This argument is valid. But one has to examine the overall impact of high domestic prices on different sections of our society. 
The maximum benefit of high prices accrues to the big farmers. But a part of it also trickles down to the farm workers. The wages of unskilled workers in parts of the country rose from Rs 200 to Rs 300 per day in the last harvesting season because the price of foodgrain was high. The high prices are, therefore, a mixed bag for the farm workers. They stand to lose because they have to pay high prices for the food they buy from the market; but they stand to gain because of the higher wages that landowners are willing to pay buoyed by the same high prices of farm produce. 
The impact on urban workers is more complicated. They are directly hit by the high price of food they buy from the market. But there is a close connection between the wages of rural and urban workers. People migrate from rural areas to Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai in search of higher wages. They calculate the earning by staying at home in relation to what they will make by migrating. If the wage rate for farm workers increases in Bihar because of the high price of wheat, then the attraction for remaining in the village will be all the greater. They will migrate only if they receive higher wages in the city. 
Migration largely takes place through contractors who promise higher wages in order to get the workers to leave their homes. Workers will be unwilling to migrate in view of higher local wages. This will lead to less availability of workers in the cities and translate into higher urban wages. Therefore, high prices of foodgrain will be a mixed bag for urban workers as well. They will have to pay a higher price for foodgrain but also get higher wages. The continuation of rural to urban migration despite increase in food prices is proof that the workers still find it profitable to work in the cities despite rising food costs. Therefore, we should not worry too much about the impact of high food prices upon the poor. 
Higher prices
There is another beneficial impact of higher food prices on the poor. Higher prices provide an incentive to the big farmers to increase production. More land is brought into cultivation or extensive irrigation is made through diesel pumps. This leads to an increase in demand for farm workers and again pushes up their wages.
The truth is that higher prices of foodgrain pose a problem only for the urban middle class. They have to buy food at a higher price, but their wages do not rise in the same proportion. It seems the government is wholly focused on the interests of the urban middle class. Government employees were, for example, given a 40 per cent increase in salaries over and above the dearness allowance by the Sixth Pay Commission. An employee getting a salary of Rs 8,000 per month was given an increase of about Rs 3,000. His total monthly expenditure on food would be, say, Rs 4,000. The increase in the cost of food would be, say, fifty per cent or about Rs 2,000. He will be partly compensated for this increase in price in the increased dearness allowance. The net burden on the family will be approximately Rs 1,000. Against this, they have already been given an increase of Rs 3,000. 
But they are not satisfied and they also want cheap foodgrain in addition to the increase in salaries. The government is reducing the price of food items to satisfy this very strong lobby. And this has endangered the country's food security. The poor are the shield behind which the Government is serving the urban middle class. 
(The writer is former Professor of Economics,
Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.) - THE STATESMAN.


Winged beauties

Of around 1,400 species of butterflies in the Indian subcontinent, almost half are to be found in Sikkim. And they make a pretty sight, says Subrata Chowdhury

IMAGINE a world without butterflies. It would be much like looking upon feminine beauty marred by the lack of eyebrows. Indeed, these winged harbingers of beauty are choosy about their habitat and can be found among flowering bushes and in and around aromatic orchards, but never in deserts.
There are around 1,400 species of butterflies in the Indian subcontinent and almost half of these are to be found in Sikkim. The state's 700-odd species are classified into various types according to shape and colour and most are found at a height of between 600-6,000 feet above sea level in the high stretches of mountainous terrain — but never above this limit because temperature and snowfall are unfavourable for this delicate diurnal insect. The wonders of nature are manifest in butterflies because they paint a pretty picture after starting out as not-so-agreeable looking caterpillars.
Joseph Dalton Hooker, an Englishman, first brought the Sikkimese butterflies to light in an article published in the Himalayan Journal in 1855, wherein he wrote, "Leaving the forest, the path led along the river (Rangeet) bank, and over the great masses of rock which strewed its course. The beautiful India rubber Fig was common, as was Bassia butyracea the 'Yelpote' o f the Lepchas, from the seeds they express a concrete oil, which is received and hardens in bamboo vessels. On the forest skirts, parasitical orchids and ferns bounded, the Chaulmoogra, whose fruit is used to intoxicate fish, was very common; as was an immense mulberry tree, that yields a milky juice and produces a long green sweet fruit. Large fish, chiefly Cyprinoid, were abundant in the beautifully clear water of the river. But by far the most striking feature consisted in the amazing quantity of superb butterflies, large tropical swallowtails, black, with scarlet or yellow eyes on their wings. They were seen everywhere, sailing majestically through the still hot air, or fluttering from one scorching rock to another, and especially loving to settle on the damp sand of the river edge; where they sat by the thousands, with erect wings, balancing themselves with a rocking motion, as their heavy sails inclined them to one side or the other; resembling a crowded fleet of yachts on a calm day. Such an entomological display cannot be surpassed."
He mentioned finding "Swallowtail butterflies", "Sphinx", "Painted Lady", "Sulphurs", "Marbles", "Whites", "Blues" and "Thecla" butterflies, which were common to their cousins found in the British Isles, save and except for a very rare species of "Black Swallowtail". This, he wrote, was a wonderful sight to see as it danced in the air and waltzed from flower to flower in eternal delight.
In 1880, HJ Elwes wrote an exhaustive article on Sikkimese butterflies that came out in The Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London in the same year. In 1888, he wrote another piece jointly with Otto Moller on Sikkimese butterflies which was published in The Transactions of the Entomological Society of London. 
More or less during the same period, ND Niceville of the natural history section of the Indian Museum, Calcutta, was simply fascinated by these beauties of Sikkim. He undertook several trips to this wondrous stretch of alpine heights to study these enchanting species over and over again. The accounts of his probe appeared in a series of absorbing write-ups in the Journal of Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal over half a decade that followed.
In the Gazetteer of Sikkim, released around 1890, DA Gammie and Niceville together described in detail the discerning features of as many as 631 species of butterflies they had scrutinised in the Sikkim hills. They mentioned having found the same species in neighbouring Darjeeling and Bhutan as well, obviously because of the contiguity in topography and likeness in vegetation. Many renowned naturalists have taken a deep interest in Sikkimese butterflies and penned interesting articles since then, with the ones by DF Sanders, printed in the Journal of Bombay Natural History Society in 1947 deserving special mention. Major museums around the world have collections of Sikkimese butterflies, but the biggest collection can be seen in the Natural History Museum, London, besides Indian museums.
So the next time you visit Sikkim, keep an eye out for the live show these beauties stage. It's so much better than stepping into a museum.(THE STATESMAN)


Crisis & response

Swaati Chaudhury on what needs to be done to save North Bengal's precious wetlands from slow but sure destruction

RASIK Beel, a well-known eco-tourist resort in Cooch Behar, holds tremendous potential as far as wetland conservation is concerned. The complex serves as a haven for scores of migratory winged visitors that visit from far-off places during winter.
Wetland complexes form significant habitat for a wide range of faunal and avian species including resident, migratory and rare birds. Conservation of the wetland ecosystem is of prime significance for the preservation of biodiversity of the region. It is extremely worrying to note that different avian species these days are bearing the brunt of rapid urbanisation.
With a view to determining the status of avian diversity in Rasik Beel, a research project called "Diversity of bird life in the Rasik Beel wetland complex of Cooch Behar" was sponsored by Cooch Behar Social Forestry in 2006. For Debashis Das, a senior lecturer in the department of zoology at Toofanganj College, the project has been his single-handed endeavour and remains one of his most cherished works till date. 
West Bengal has 0.345 million hectares of land declared as wetland complex that comprises marshes, flood plains, shallow ponds and water bodies. There is a central lake in the shape of an ox-bow at the Rasik Beel wetland complex. The wetland eco-system has a number of water bodies like Rasik Beel, Neeldoba Beel, Raichangmari Beel and Boachamari Beel. Lying between the Bura Raidhak and Ghoramara rivers, the wetland complex has a protected forest area that is categorised into tropical swamp forests. The wetland complex comprises eight hamlets and locals are mostly tribal people. The wetland complex along with the forest area constitutes the Raidhak-II riverine system that boasts a well-developed watershed area and drainage network. 
Says Das, "The wetland complex harbours a huge population of as many as 10,000 avian species, of which some are local while others are migratory visitors. Nearly 165 avian species belonging to 110 genera have been recorded from the wetland complex during our project period. There are 75 varieties of migratory birds of which 35 are exclusively migratory and the remaining 41 varieties are local migratory birds that fly down from one topography to another. There are resident birds like cormorants, egrets, herons, kingfishers and raptors that are seen round the year.
During winter, there are migratory visitors like the Brahmini duck, widgeon, lesser whistling teals and pochards coming from faraway lands." He avers that the district of Cooch Behar lying in the Terai region of the eastern Himalayas is home to many vertically migrant avian species. Around 67 avian species have been sighted at the lake area of which 19 varieties make use of the open water area for collecting food while the rest forage on the banks of the lake. 
Sound preservation of the wetland complex can transform it into a reputed waterfowl paradise. Locals need to be sensitised on the importance of maintaining the wetland complex and preserving biodiversity. 
"Locals need to be made aware of the harmful effects of fishing as well the use of chemicals for cultivation. Alternate sources of livelihood have to be provided to the fishermen without disturbing the wetland complex. There must be a complete ban on cultivation and grazing activities that affect the nesting habitat of birds.
Other human activities like motor driving, disposal of plastic bags and sound pollution should also be checked. Bio fencing of the lake area and scientific plantation of trees need to be promoted. Big trees make an ideal nesting ground and the fruit-bearing ones will serve the foragers," adds Das. 
The buildings and recreational centres in and around the wetland complex are posing a 
major threat to its eco-system. If the local administration finally wakes up and creates awareness among locals only then can the Beel be saved from slow but sure destruction. (THE STATESMAN)