Thursday, 29 July 2010


Incidents of boat capsizing feared

Without offering a diversion facility the construction of a concrete bridge over Sutunga river has commenced in Mathabhanga. The new bridge is to replace the old wooden bridge. Now, many have no other option than crossing the river by country boats.

According to norms a diversion facility should be constructed prior to the renovation or construction of a new bridge to replace the old one, locals said. But in case of the bridge over Sutunga river in Mathabhanga Municipality area the norms have been violated. The passengers have been compelled to cross the river by country boats by risking their lives. The question is: Who will shoulder the responsibility if any boat capsizes and that claims life of any citizen? Many senior citizens demanded construction of a temporary bridge as diversion till completion of the new concrete bridge.  

Criticising the matter, the opposition leader of Mathabhanga Municipality Ms Kalyani Poddar (Trinamul Congress) said the CPI-M dominated civic body and the PWD would have to bear the responsibility if any mishap occurs. Replacing of the old wooden bridge by a concrete bridge may take about four years so the authorities should take measures to minimise the problems of the citizens. They should immediately start construction of a diversion bridge- she demanded.

It was learnt that when the wooden bridge turned out-of-order the civic body introduced ferry service free of cost for the people. The sub-divisional administration too admitted the risk of crossing the river during the monsoon by country boats. They are to take up the matter with the PWD officials, a senior officer said.

Chairperson of Mathabhanga Municipality Ms Kokila Singha said they arranged ferry service to help the citizens. Another plan is under consideration to provide bus services for the school students as a substitute for boat service, she added. - Debashis Bhaumik

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


Brickyards blamed for massive soil erosion by Dimdima

Massive erosion of Dimdima river in Dooars is posing a threat to a few brickyards and the nearby villages. Locals alleged that indiscriminate and unsystematic earth lifting from the areas adjacent to the river and large-scale collections of sands from the riverbed is the main reason of worsening of the situation. Also, a local road between Shisujhumra and Dangapara turned unusable due to unsystematic digging. The owners of the brick-kilns however denied the allegation rose against them.

Recently, Dimdima river has posed fearsome to the residents of Ethelbari and Shisujumra gram panchayat areas under Madarihat-Birpara block in Dooars. Now, existence of at least nine brickfields is in danger. The swelling river may gobble up a few within a few days, the local workers fear.

There exist about ten brick-kilns along the bank of Dimdima at Ethelbari. According to the owners there are about five thousand workers engaged in these brickfields. If the river grabs these, the workers might be jobless. Smelling danger the owners and also others demanded erection of an embankment to protect the brickfields from massive river erosion.

Madarihat-Birpara Panchayat Samity sources said that the brickyard owners used to lift earth in unsystematic way without considering the future consequences. The situation aggravates during the monsoon when erosion also commences in the adjacent areas of the riverbank. Regular lifting of huge sands from the river is also a reason of the worsening situation. The department concerned never makes any inquiry into the matter, as they receive no complaints. On the otherhand, the owners of the brick-kilns denied of lifting of indiscriminate earth for their units.

Sources in Madarihat-Birpara Panchayat Samity said there was not enough fund with them to take up construction of an embankment or making facility to stop river erosion. They are to convey the situation to the Jalpaiguri Zilla Parishad. A report was sought from the local Gram Panchayat body on the actual position of erosion caused by Dimdima river, the sources added. Locals opined that the MBPS and the JZP should take immediate measures to stop erosion to save the brickyards in the interest of the workers engaged in those units. If necessary, the authorities should consider launching of schemes under NREGS to protect the area, they suggested. - Debashis Bhaumik.

Monday, 26 July 2010


Maj. Gen. Jenkins and Jenkins School, Cooch Behar Nirmalendu Chakraborty

Major General Francis Jenkins was the longest serving commissioner of Assam and Agent to the Governor General for the North Eastern Frontier of India as Guwahati was its headquarters. He served in this NEFA as 5th Chief Commissioner of Assam in 1828 commissioner and Agent from 1834 to 1861. He is still remembered for his versatile ability, genius and great administrator, social works and spreading education in this area including Dooars, Cooch Behar and of course North Eastern Zone.


He was born in Cornwall, UK on August 4, 1793 at the picturesque village of St. Clement. A brilliant graduate of Oxford University he left his native place Cornwall in the year 1808 and joined as an officer in the mercantile marine in October 1810 under Admiral Lord Exmouth, who later in 1811 transferred his services to the government of Lord William Bentick and inducted in the Indian military. He was injured in a war in Egypt. In 1828 he was appointed as the 5th Chief Commissioner of Assam stationed at Guwahati where he began to show his activities in different ways like business, potentiality of tea, export resources, viability and discovery of coal, oil and above all progress of education in the Eastern Zone. In 1832 along with Captain Charlton and Mr Charles Alexander Bruce, Maj. Gen Jenkins also credited as the discoverer of tea plant in Assam known as Thea Assamica. This was the great significant share of vast potentiality as a commercial commodity of International value. For which the Agricultural Society of Calcutta presented to Jenkins a Gold Medal. 


As a pioneer regard to establish educational activities in this NE Zone Maj. Gen. Jenkins started to establish schools. In 1834 with his able efforts a school was established collecting subscriptions from the public and founded Guwahati Seminary, 3 rd school of such set up by the British. Now, new name was given, Guwahati Cotton Collegiate School by Sir Henry John Stademan Cotton.


Like this way on his visit to Dooars and Cooch Behar he enquired about education in the then Cooch Behar State ruled by the Maharajas of Narayan Dynasty, which was founded by the Koch Kings in the year 1510 AD. In the reign of Maharaja Narendra Narayan Maj. Gen. Jenkins apart from all administrative activities spread education in this state by his good services. In the year 1857 – the year when the University of Calcutta established and on the minority of Maharaja Narendra Narayan and with the instruction of Queen Mother Brindeswari Devi a vernacular school was established for teaching the Princess and other kinsmen of the royal family, in a thatched in the south western of Sagar Dighi. In 1859 English began to teach in this school. Few years later, the school had to shift near the stable inside the royal palace due to devastating fire damage the thatched. In 1861 when Maj. Gen. Jenkins was offered a purse by the Maharaja Narendra Narayan (1841-1863) in recognition of the good services done by Maj. Gen. Jenkins during the minority of the Maharaja. The worthy Major General actually avoided accepting reward and suggested that the money would be spent for good causes if an English school were founded with that money. Accordingly to pay honour to the Maj. Gen the school was named after him as Jenkins School. There were no tuition fees for the students till 1865-66, later a uniform of 8-Annas was fixed as tuition fees for all. In 1883 first eleven students were sent for Entrance Examination and all of them came out successfully. In 1879 a beautiful and commodious building was constructed at the eastern bank of Sagar Dighi Square (now Treasury Buildings), which was damaged by a heavy earthquake in 1897, and finally the school was housed in its present premises in 1905. Now, the school is one of the best schools in West Bengal, going to celebrate its 150 glorious years in the year 2011.


Maj. Gen. Francis Jenkins who loved Assam and its people so much that he settled down in Guwahati after his retirement and never returned to his native place in UK. He died in Guwahati of fever on August 28, 1866. He is not only remembered by the people of Assam but also people of Cooch Behar and thousands of thousands students who got their education in this school that bears his name.  

-- Nirmalendu Chakraborty,

(Founder-member, Cooch Behar Heritage Society and secretary, Cooch Behar Philatelic Association),

180, Ashram Road, Cooch Behar-736101.

Mobile : 9775408172.

Chhatra Parishad

Plan to refurbish Chhatra Parishad

State Chhatra Parishad president Mr Saurav Chakraborty has appointed Mr Rakesh Chaudhury as the chief of the cooch Behar district unit of the Chhatra Parishad. Earlier, Mr Chaudhury has served the organisation as its district unit president for years.

Talking over phone, Mr Chakraborty said he selected Mr Chaudhury as he is a dynamic student leader and proved his excellence several times. "Now, we are preparing for a grand celebration of our organisation that is to be held at Mahajati Sadan in Kolkata on 28 August. A student convention would be organised in Cooch Behar in the first week of August to make the celebration a success. I believe Mr Chaudhury would organise the convention by attracting huge students into it", he said.

It was learnt that the state CP president has instructed Mr Chaudhury to submit a list of office bearers and executive members of the newly formed district committee of the CP by 1 August. He also appointed Mr Rabin Bahadur as the observer to Cooch Behar CP.

When asked about his newly achieved responsibility Mr Chaudhury said, "I was the district unit president for years. Now the state president once again selected me for the post and I shall try my best to serve the organisation."

Mr Chaudhury said he would discuss with the observer Mr Bahadur over the formation of new district committee on 28 July during his Cooch Behar visit. After consultation with him the list of office bearers and executive members would be submitted to him, Mr Chaudhury said.

The CP leader also said that he would also refurbish the block level units of the CP to strengthen the organisation. Chhatra Parishad has a golden history of successful student movements and they would follow that tradition with all efforts, Mr Chaudhury promised.

Sunday, 25 July 2010


Allegation over violation of RBI guidelines in banks

In almost all branches of the banks in Cooch Behar the customers are being denied to obtain a receipt against their deposits by cheques. If they ask for receipts they are being told that such facility was not available anymore. They are being asked to drop the cheques in the drop-box and keep the counterfoils of the pay-in slips as the receipts. Refusal to receive a cheque over the counter and giving a receipt as acknowledgement is nothing but an act of violation of the instructions issued by the Reserve Bank of India, said the secretary of the Cooch Behar Consumers Protection Society Mr Ganesh Chandra Bhattacharya.

Referring a circular (No. RBI/2006-2007/214 DBOD.No.Leg.BC. that was issued on 18 December 2006 by the chief general manager-in-charge of the RBI Mr Prashant Saran the CCPS secretary said the banks were advised to invariably display on the cheque drop-box that "customers can also tender the cheques at the counter and obtain acknowledgement on the pay-in-slips". "The message may be displayed in English, Hindi, and the concerned regional language of the state", the circular said.

Mr Bhattacharya said by that circular the banks were advised "both the drop-box facility and the facility for acknowledgement of the cheques at the regular collection counters should be available to customers and no branch should refuse to give an acknowledgement if the customer tenders the cheque at the counters".

In the circular it was also mentioned that "Reserve Bank of India/ Banking Ombudsmen have been receiving complaints that many bank branches are not accepting cheques at the counters and are compelling the customers to drop the cheques in the cheque drop-box. Banks are therefore advised to strictly adhere to the instructions contained in the circular and ensure that customers are not compelled to drop the cheques in the drop-box".

The CCPS secretary said by dropping a cheque into a drop-box a customer couldn't be sure of realisation of the money and deposit of the amount in his account. "We know a few cases where the customers had to suffer. Now, we are preparing to take up the issue to the RBI authorities for the benefit of bank customers", he said.

The members of the business community are also unhappy over the bank's attitude. The secretary of the district merchants chamber of commerce Mr Rajendra Kumar Baid alleged that a major section of bank personnel are interested in harassing the customers instead of extending them the justified service. They should obey the RBI instructions. The traders' body is also to take up the matter with the RBI authorities very soon, Mr Baid added. - DEBASHIS BHAUMIK 

Friday, 23 July 2010


FB to demonstrate demanding repair of town saving dyke

BJP wants all-party meeting

 The demand for regular maintenance and immediate repair of the embankment that is saving the town is getting momentum in Cooch Behar. Leaders of all major political parties agreed that the embankment should be protected at any cost to save the heritage town from the clutch of Torsa.

General secretary of the Cooch Behar district unit of the BJP, Mr Nikhil Ranjan Dey demanded the district administration to convene an all-party meeting to discuss the issue. As encroachers are to be removed from the embankment before commencement of renovation the administration should gather opinions from the political parties over issues like rehabilitation and compensation, he said. "We conveyed the matter to the irrigation division and the district administration on several occasions but to no avail. On Wednesday seepage of river water into the town caused panic among the citizens but the authorities are still taking no steps to repair the dyke. We do not believe in the irrigation division's assurance that no harm would be done by the seepage because the town had to experience a disaster many years ago when Torsa gobbled up a large section of the town", he recalled.

Chairman of Cooch Behar Municipality and also the president of the district unit of the Congress, Mr Biren Kundu opined that the seepage of river water through the sluice gates was an alarming matter. As the civic body has no authority to repair the embankment the administration should take the initiative. "I shall talk with the district magistrate Ms Smaraki Mahapatra over the matter", he said.

A senior citizen and also a member of the All India Congress Committee, Mrs Sabita Roy questioned that why the citizens should have to raise their voices over the issue. It is the government's duty to save the people and maintain the embankment regularly that was constructed following the instruction of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. About the proposed all-party meeting she said at first the irrigation division should start their work to renovate the embankment. It should be identified who are opposing the repair of the town saving dyke, she said.

Cooch Behar (West) MLA and also a secretariat member of the Forward Bloc, Mr Akshay Thakur said demands were raised several times in the past but the administration and the irrigation division did nothing to maintain the embankment. He alleged that government funds have not been used for actual jobs. The 'no fear' assurance of the irrigation division is worthless, he commented. He demanded an immediate survey to identify: why the river water seeped into the town on Wednesday, why there is no arrangement to drain out the additional water, which parts of the embankment are weak and the reasons of it. An all-party meet was held at Mekhliganj over renovation of Teesta embankment and eviction of encroachers, but no similar initiative was taken in Cooch Behar.

Mr Thakur announced that the Forward Bloc would stage a 32-hour sit-in demonstration on 30-31 August demanding renovation of the Torsa dyke. He also demanded a survey on the existing condition of the embankment to identify its weak parts.

President of district Trinamul Congress, Mr Rabindranath Ghosh alleged that the irrigation division and district administration do nothing to maintain the embankment. It is decaying due to lack of regular maintenance. Funds are being misused and it is only inflating the pockets of some unscrupulous contractors and a section of dishonest officials, he alleged. No one saw ever any work to repair the embankment, he said. 

Thursday, 22 July 2010


Rail engine derailed at Bamanhat

The engine of the Alipurduar Junction-Bamanhat passenger train has been derailed at Bamanhat on Thursday. No railway staff or passenger however was wounded in the incident. A probe has been started into the incident.

The Alipurduar Junction-Bamanhat train arrived at Bamanhat at about 11-10 a.m. on Thursday. It was late by about 3 hours. Leaving the compartments at the station the driver, Mr DK Toppo was trying to make the engine ready for the back journey. During his effort the engine struck the buffer post and got derailed. Luckily, no one was injured. Later, another engine was sent there to bring the train back to Alipurduar. However, following the incident the train services were not disrupted in the section.

The divisional railway manager of Alipurduar division of Northeast Frontier Railway Mr Sachchidananda Singh has ordered an enquiry into the matter. 


Bid to repair a dyke to save a town

Different political parties reached in a consensus to evict about two hundred families from the embankment of Teesta river to save Mekhliganj town. Accordingly the sub-divisional administration started evicting the families. Similar measure has been demanded in Cooch Behar too to save the heritage town from the rage of Torsa river.

At the first phase, the sub-divisional administration of Mekhliganj took the initiative. They convened an all-party meeting to discuss the problem of erosion of Teesta as the river was posing danger to the town. On Tuesday the meeting was held where the leaders of several political parties reached in a consensus to shift the dwellers that were living on the embankment. They felt that eviction was necessary to pave the way to repair the embankment. It was decided that about 200 families would be evicted from a stretch of about 2300-metre area of the embankment. The evicted families are to get permission to take shelter at a flood rescue shelter and a building of the local regulated market committee.

Though the leaders of the political parties agreed over eviction drive they want adequate compensation to the affected families. However, no decision has been taken at the meeting about extending any compensation to the evicted families.

A senior Forward Bloc leader and also the Mekhliganj MLA, Mr Paresh Adhikary said the town was in danger as the Teesta was approaching towards the town. Several thousands of people reside in Mekhliganj town and it is necessary to take steps to save them. For this reason the eviction plan was adopted and all the parties agreed to it. Rehabilitation and compensation issues may be considered later, he said.

A Congress leader Mr Maya Sankar Singha said they demanded Rs 6,000 as compensation per evicted family.

Mentionworthy, the Teesta is flowing along the Mekhliganj town. A few decades ago an embankment was erected to save the town from the river but it was not regularly maintained and renovated. Now, the condition of the embankment is poor. The problem turned worse as a few hundred families started residing along the embankment. Recently, considering the weak condition of the town saving dyke the irrigation division officials have decided to initiate repairing of the embankment. Following that development the sub-divisional administration had convened an all-party meeting.

In Cooch Behar, the condition of the old dyke along Torsa that is engaged in saving the town is also precarious. On Wednesday afternoon the river water started seeping into the town causing panic among the citizens. On behalf of 'Concern for Cooch Behar' Mr Amal Deb demanded measures to save the town by renovating the dyke. He demanded the district administration to follow the footsteps of Mekhliganj to adopt required measures to save the town from the swelling Torsa. 

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


Rice and wheat for APL cardholders

The state government has taken a measure to provide rice and wheat from modified ration shops to the above poverty line (APL) cardholders. The APL cardholders would get rice and wheat at the rate of Rs 12.70 and Rs 9.70 respectively. The APL cardholders are to get 500-gram of rice and wheat per head in a week. The facility is going to be extended to them from the ongoing week according to the state food and supply minister Mr Paresh Adhikary.

The minister said the Centre has allotted 6975 metric-ton rice and that are being disbursed at the hills, tea gardens and tribal dominated areas (Jangal Mahal) at the rate of Rs 9. They have asked the Centre to continue the facility in those areas. The state also received an additional allotment of 81,063 MT of rice and 1,65,828 MT of wheat from the Centre. These would be disbursed through the MR shops to the APL cardholders. The APL cardholders were receiving less quantity of rice till now and from now on the situation would be improved, he hoped. He however admitted that the allotted quantity of rice and wheat was not enough to meet the actual demand. Mr Adhikary assured that they would try to extend all promised facilities to the APL cardholders and every effort would be taken to maintain it.

Warning the dishonest owners of the rice mills the food minister said they would take stern measures against the mill owners who were taking out rice to outer states without submitting their stipulated levies. The state government already lodged complaints against 12 defaulters and one was also arrested. All the district magistrates were being asked to take strict steps against the offenders, the minister said.

Mr Adhikary claimed that the government already acquired 11 MT of rice during the ongoing year. The target of collection is 18 MT. In the last year they were able to acquire 16 MT of rice, he added.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


Some of the collections in the still unrecognised PWD museum in Cooch Behar. – Debashis Bhaumik.

A museum awaits recognition in Cooch Behar

A museum awaits recognition in Cooch Behar

A 'museum' that came up in Cooch Behar is still to be recognised. Officially, it is not possible for the citizens to get a chance to see the historic articles kept in the museum. For some undisclosed reasons the state government is not issuing the required approval to the museum and making it open to all.

Sometime ago, in the house journal of the public works department, 'Purta-Katha', the opening of the 'museum' in Cooch Behar was mentioned in the editorial.

Different organisations like Cooch Behar Heritage Society and Concern for Cooch Behar have conveyed appeals to the state government on several occasions to declare the collection of rare articles as a museum. But, the required approval is yet to be issued.

It may be mentioned here that the erstwhile public works department of Cooch Behar State initiated the railway service in Cooch Behar. But, in October 2009 the Union railway minister inaugurated a separate Railway Heritage Museum at Cooch Behar railway station. It consists of the artefacts of the then Cooch Behar State Railway. The PWD's museum might be more enriched if any initiative is taken to bring that collection here.

A number of eminent citizens opined that the authorities of the PWD should come forward to take an initiative to get the official recognition for the museum. Here the citizens and especially the students and others who are interested in history would be able to see the historic articles of the regimes of the Maharajas of Cooch Behar.

PWD (Roads), Highway division sources in Cooch Behar said it is up to the PWD minister to decide the fate of the museum. At present, the rich collection of rare historic articles is being kept in a room in the office of the PWD (Roads), Highway division, in Cooch Behar near the Madan Mohan temple. There are two such museums of the PWD in the state – in Kolkata and in Darjeeling. 

It may be recalled that a few years ago, replying a letter the Chief Engineer (Roads) requested the executive engineer of Cooch Behar Highway Division to keep the historical articles and documents in a selected room in the office building with proper care till declaration of a museum by the government.

The public works unit was set up in Cooch Behar in 1864 during the Raj-days for construction of buildings, bridges and roads. Before that the jobs were done under Baxikhana. This department also constructed the railroad from Mogulhat (now in Bangladesh) to Buxa.

Among the collections in the 'museum' there are age-old tools and instruments, mileposts, books on architecture, maps, ledgers, documents, drafts and designs of various buildings and bridges. A few copies of gazettes printed from Cooch Behar State Press in those Raj-days are also there. When Cooch Behar was a princely state, lampposts and water stand-posts were brought from England. A few of those are also in the museum.

Specimens of royal emblems, furniture made with Burma-teak, bricks made by royal PW unit and documents of Cooch Behar Airport during Second World War are also collected for the museum. Samples of concrete water-tubs installed along the roadsides for cattle in those good-old days are also here. Citizens believe if these historic objects were displayed properly in a gallery it would help attracting tourists to this heritage town.

Saturday, 17 July 2010


Forward Bloc calls roadblock stir at Dinhata

The Forward Bloc called a three-hour road blockade programme at Dinhata on 22 July. On that day FB activists would stage roadblock at Chaupathi at the centre of the town, on the main road in front of the office of the sub-divisional officer and at the crossing of the bypass road from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. They called the programme in support of a few issues of public interest. As Dinhata was their stronghold for years they are eager to regain their power of influence over the sub-division again. It may be recalled here that the Trinamul Congress captured the Dinhata Assembly seat in the last election. The FB had to surrender the Sitai Assembly seat too in this sub-division to the Congress in that election.

Secretary of Cooch Behar district unit of the Forward Bloc Mr Udayan Guha said the population of Dinhata town rose significantly in the past years. The vehicular traffic too rose but the main road of the town (Dinhata-Cooch Behar road) was still narrow as it was before. The proposal for expansion of the road is pending for a long. The public works department is paying no heed to the demand. "We have drew attention of the PWD officials on several times but they took no visible measure to widen the street. At last, we had to decide of a road blockade programme to highlight the issue", Mr Guha said.

At Baro-nachina an important bridge is lying in an awkward position for a long. The PWD is taking no initiative to repair it. Mr Guha alleged that villages like Petla and Matalhat were got disconnected due to the precarious condition of the much-needed bridge. In case of any incident of fire in the area it will be hard for fire-servicemen to enter in those villages to douse fire. "We want this bridge to be repaired immediately", Mr Guha said.

He also mentioned the rural electrification scheme named after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Power transformers in at least 48 villages in Dinhata are lying out-of-order. According to the promise all the residences in each village are to get power connection but it is still to be translated into reality, he alleged. The Forward Bloc would not allow such things anymore, Mr Guha announced. 

Monday, 12 July 2010


Stamp on Cooch Behar Head Post Office

The stamp depicting the photograph of the heritage building of Cooch Behar Head Post Office is now available in that post office too. Though the stamp was released on 13 May of this year it was not available here till last week.

The Indian postal department had decided to release six special postal stamps of denomination of Rs 5 on six heritage post offices of India. The decision was adopted to mark the weeklong International Philatelic Exhibition 2011 that is to be held at Pragati Maidan in Delhi on 12-18 February 2011. These heritage post offices are : Cooch Behar HPO, Delhi GPO, Lucknow GPO, Nagpur GPO, Simla GPO and Udhagamandalam HPO. Accordingly the stamps have been released on 13 May.

Secretary of Cooch Behar Philatelic Association Mr Nirmalendu Chakraborty said though the building of the head post office of Darjeeling was a very old one it was not selected for the heritage post office status.

Mr Chakraborty said the Cooch Behar HPO was built in the regime of Maharaja Jitendra Narayan in 1921-1924. It is situated along Sunity Road at the central place of the heritage town. There are Chandan Dighi and MJN Hospital in its vicinity. The commemorative stamp was not available at the HPO till last week but from today it is available at the sales counter of the Cooch Behar Head Post Office, Mr Chakraborty said. 

PHOTO : The commemorative stamps on six heritage post offices of India. – Debashis Bhaumik


Rebel Trinamul councillor revokes decision

The rebel Trinamul Congress councillor of Cooch Behar Municipality Mr Dilip Saha has revoked his earlier decision of resignation from the post of councillor. Today, he announced that he would stay as the councillor and abide by decisions of the party to continue his efforts to serve the citizens of his ward.

In the recent municipal election Trinamul Congress got six seats and the Congress got eight seats. In a bid to form the civic board the two parties joined hands. Mr Biren Kundu became the chairman once again but dispute aroused in Trinamul Congress over the post of vice-chairperson. Mr Dilip Saha of Ward No. 5 was elected in the previous election too. Naturally, according to seniority he claimed the post but the state leadership of the party recommended Mrs Amina Ahmed as the vice-chairperson as she is the sole minority woman councillor of the party in North Bengal. An offended Mr Saha announced that he would submit his resignation from the councillorship on the day of Mrs Ammed's oath taking. District Trinamul Congress president Mr Rabindranath Ghosh however said that he received no such letter from Mr Saha. He claimed that Mr Saha was absent on the oath-taking ceremony of the vice-chairperson due to personal reasons.

On Sunday evening, Mr Saha convened a meeting of the party's ward committee. On Monday, Mr Saha said the residents of his ward praised his activities as councillor during the past five years. They suggested him not to submit resignation and continue his work to improve the civic services. Honouring their wish he decided to stay as councillor, Mr Saha said. "I shall convey my decision to the district president today", he added.

Welcoming Mr Saha's stand, District Trinamul Congress president Mr Rabindranath Ghosh hoped that no one of the three Trinamul councillors would do anything against the party's decision, as no one was greater than the party. State Trinamul secretary Mr Abdul Jalil Ahmed too sighed relief over the development. 

Sunday, 11 July 2010


Double-taxation on jute products still persists

Violating the memo issued by the district magistrate to the Regulated Market Committee (RMC) requesting them not to collect market fee over jute products the latter are still trying to collect the fee from the lorries of jute units. On Thursday they detained three lorries at Ghoksadanga and Akrahat and demanded fees. The lorries were going to Raigarh, Khurja and Kolar from two factories situated at Chakchaka Industrial Growth Centre in Cooch Behar. The local managements of the Essem Jute Industries Limited and Kamakshi Jute Industries Limited reported the matter to the district magistrate on Friday.

When asked, the additional district magistrate (development) Mr Sudip Mitra said on Saturday that following the complaints received they issued instruction to set the detained lorries free. The problem will be officially sorted out in a meeting that to be held on Monday, Mr Mitra said.

Secretary of Cooch Behar District Merchants' Chamber of Commerce (CDMCC) Mr Rajendra Kumar Baid submitted a memorandum to the DM protesting the detention of the lorries at the RMC tollgates by violating the DM's order. If the managements of the two jute units decide to stop production and close down their units then the RMC will be responsible for the unfortunate matter. Who will take the responsibility of the 3,000 jobless workers, he questioned.

Condemning RMC's role the president of Cooch Behar District Trinamul Congress Mr Rabindranath Ghosh demanded winding up of all the tollgates of the RMC. The gates are nothing but centres of unscrupulous collection of money, he said. As result of collection of taxes on agricultural produces the cultivators are the actual sufferers, he said. Taxes are being paid for three times on jute, he believes.

It may be recalled here that in April, the managements of Essem and Kamakshi jute units had sent memorandums to the state chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. They conveyed him that they buy raw jute by paying regulated marketing tax but during transportation of finished products outside of the district they have to pay tax for the second time. The authorities of the two jute units appealed the CM to save them from paying of double-tax. Receiving no positive response against their appeal they had to announce that they might stop production in their units at Chakchaka.

Secretary of CDMCC too conveyed the problem to the CM, the state industries minister and even to the Union railway minister Miss Mamata Banerjee. Mr Baid argued that forcing the units to pay double-tax was illegal.

On 1 July, issuing a memo bearing memo no. Dev/470(2) the DM of Cooch Behar Ms Smaraki Mahapatra asked the chairman and the secretary of the Cooch Behar RMC to temporarily stop the collection of market fee over jute products that are being manufactured by the Essem and other manufacturing units of jute products situated in Cooch Behar regulated market area. Explaining the reason the DM mentioned that it appeared to her that 'there remains some prima-facie reason to believe that such type of realisation of fees may not be proper as per the West Bengal Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act 1972.'

The memo failed to evoke positive response from the RMC and detention of lorries loaded with jute products continued at RMC tollgates for want of taxes. About 3,000 workers of the two jute units are once again suffering from fear of being jobless if the discontent managements actually close their manufacturing units. 

SFI observes 45th anniversary of Chhatra Sangram

The Students' Federation of India observed the 45-th anniversary of its Bengali mouthpiece Chhatra Sangram at a convention organised at Rabindra Bhavan in Cooch Behar on Saturday. Student-delegates from all the six districts of North Bengal attended the programme. Earlier, a similar programme was held for students from south Bengal districts at Kolkata on 15 June.

State industries minister Mr Nirupam Sen was the chief speaker at the convention. He called upon the students and all others to come forward to protest the bid to make education a mere commodity. It is time to change the aim of education to make the world better. The students should dedicate them for the welfare of the society leaving the recent-growing self-centric attitude among the people, he said. Forest minister Mr Ananta Roy, general secretary of the SFI Mr Writabrata Bannerjee, state unit secretary Mr Kaustuv Chatterjee and editor of Chhatra Sangram Mr Anirban Hazra were among the other speakers in the convention.

Friday, 9 July 2010


Demonstration over schoolboy's death

Local residents and guardians demonstrated at Kalabagan High School premises in Cooch Behar on Friday. They were expressing their anger over the death of a Class-V student of that school. Later, police appeared to pacify the demonstrators. The situation came under control after a meeting among the school authority, guardians and locals.

Sources said, a student of Class-V, Moni Jaswara (10) reportedly appealed for leave during school time due to sudden illness on Thursday. The teachers allegedly denied him from leaving school. In the afternoon he returned home with heavy fever and was shifted to a local hospital. As his condition worsened he was referred to a Siliguri hospital for treatment. On way to Siliguri he died at Jalpaiguri at about 3 a.m. in the ambulance.

The news of the boy's death turned the guardians and the locals angry. They started demonstrating at the school from Friday morning demanding punishment to the teachers concerned who denied the ailing boy to leave school.

Thursday, 8 July 2010


Locals demand facelift of Jaigaon town

Local residents are aggrieved over the shabby state of Jaigaon. This town is situated on the Indian side of India-Bhutan border. On the other side there is Phuentsholing. Hundreds of people including tourists from foreign countries pass through this town everyday, as Jaigaon is the gateway of Bhutan.

Aiming beautification of the town the authorities removed the earlier road-divider of MS Road. Also, digging of holes has been done to erect lampposts. The work was initiated a few months ago but no one saw any visible progress. The road is fast becoming a garbage dumping ground. The monsoon turned the situation worse. The Jaigaon Merchants' Association (JMA) conveyed the matter to the Jaigaon Development Authority (JDA) several times but that yielded no result.

JMA sources alleged that they made appeals on several occasions to improve the condition of the town. The beautification drive proved a failure but no initiative was taken to change the scenario. The members of the local business community collect Rs 50 per month from every trader and handover about Rs 20,000 per month to the local Gram Panchayat to make the town clean. A member of Kalchini Panchayat Samiti said the adjacent town in Bhutan (that is Phuentsholing) is a clean and beautiful town but its neighbour Jaigaon is an ugly one due to mismanagement.

Local businessmen complained that the situation turned so grave that it became hard for them to run business in the town. Residents too are suffering from discontent due to the unhealthy situation.

Alipurduar MLA Mr Nirmal Das said Jaigaon was suffering from many problems. They were demanding Jaigaon to be uplifted to a municipality for years but the state government did nothing to make it a municipality, he alleged. The municipal affairs minister Mr Ashok Bhattacharya too promised to the effect but he failed to keep that promise, Mr Das said. The existing Jaigaon Development Authority is kept as a defunct body and it has no power to do anything, Mr Das alleged.

Jaigaon-II Gram Panchayat sources said the subscription given by the merchants was not enough to complete all the work. There is a requirement of a separate fund. Otherwise, the town should be declared as a municipal town, the GP sources said.

Sub-divisional office sources at Alipurduar said that the Alipurduar MP Manohar Tirkey already approved a fund of Rs 7-lakh for the beautification of Jaigaon town. But, to complete the whole work they need about Rs 25-lakh. Fund crunch is one of the main reasons behind delaying of implementation of the beautification drive. But, the problem may be sorted out by about three months, the sources hoped.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


Bid to gear up morale of TYC activists

In a bid to make the 'change of wind' stronger the Trinamul Youth Congress is now revamping its organisation in the districts.

State unit president of the TYC Mr Suvendu Adhikary would visit Cooch Behar district on 13 July. On that day he will address a gathering of TYC activists at Netaji Subhas Indoor Stadium in Cooch Behar town. During his visit here he is expected to advise the local TYC leaders and activists to make the organisational base of the TYC wider and stronger. As they believe that the Trinamul Congress is going to pull down the Left Front from the seat of power in the next state Assembly election it is necessary to gear up the youth wing to make the process speedy, said the district TYC president Kumar Rajib Narayan.

Mr Narayan said the CPI-M was engaged in tyrannical activities especially in the rural areas of Cooch Behar district. At many areas the lower level Trinamul supporters are suffering from fear psychosis. Taking this as advantage they are to intensify their campaign against the Leftists. Mr Adhikary's visit may act as a booster to restore the morale of the Trinamul activists, Mr Narayan said.

TYC sources said Mr Adhikary, who is also a member of the Parliament, would ask the Trinamul Youth Congress supporters to attend the Martyrs Day rally that is to be organised in Kolkata on 12 July as in previous years. Mr Narayan believes that a record number of their supporters from Cooch Behar district may attend the programme in Kolkata this year.


Vice-chairperson of Cooch Behar Municipality

Mrs Amina Ahmed of the Trinamul Congress is going to take oath as vice-chairperson of Cooch Behar Municipality on 8 July. Her party recommended her name to the chairman of the civic body Mr Biren Kundu and he would nominate her to the post on that day.

On Tuesday, Mr Kundu, who is also the president of district Congress, said that Mrs Ahmed's name was recommended to him on behalf of the Trinamul Congress and according to the alliance-formula adopted by the leaderships of both parties he would nominate her to the post of vice-chairperson. A special session of the civic board will be held on the occasion on 8 July, Mr Kundu said.

District Trinamul Congress president Mr Rabindranath Ghosh said the state leadership selected Mrs Ahmed's name for the post of vice-chairperson. Accordingly he recommended her name to the chairman of the civic body. After her swearing-in the alliance-led board would gear-up its civic services drive and initiate newer schemes for development of the town, he said.

It may be mentioned here that in the recently held municipal election the Congress bagged only eight seats out of twenty wards in Cooch Behar Municipality. The Trinamul Congress progressed from one seat to three seats in the election. The CPI-M got five seats and the Forward Bloc four seats. Naturally, to retain the power of the civic body the Congress approached the Trinamul Congress and sought support from them. Though in the election the parties fought against each other they agreed to come closer in the perspective of post-poll scenario. They agreed to form the civic board jointly. It was decided that the Congress will get the post of chairman as earlier, and the Trinamul Congress will get the post of vice-chairman. Accordingly, Mr Biren Kundu became the chairman once again.

In the Trinamul Congress there were differences over the post of vice-chairperson. Mr Dilip Saha's supporters argued that as Mr Saha won in the previous election too he should be offered with the post considering his seniority as a two-time councillor of the party. Smelling trouble over the issue, the district leadership of the party pushed the ball to the court of the state leadership and sought their opinion. After much deliberation the state leadership recommended Mrs Ammed's name. The argument behind her selection was that she is the lone minority woman councillor in North Bengal. It may be noted that her husband Mr Abdul Jalil Ahmed is a secretary of the state unit of the party. It is feared that Mr Saha may submit his resignation from the councillor's post on the oath-taking day of Mrs Ahmed.

Monday, 5 July 2010


Salbagan still a den of miscreants

Salbagan at the outskirt of Cooch Behar town is going to be recognised as a nature observation centre. Earlier, the area was known as a den of antisocial elements. It is still a place for many of them to run their regime without any resistance.

The Bengali word 'Salbagan' means a garden of Sal trees. It came up in the days of Maharajas of Cooch Behar. Though the garden was named after Sal trees the garden is mostly of Teak trees. It is believed that saplings of the world famous Burma Teaks were planted here in those days.

On 22 April, state tourism minister Mr Manabendra Mukherjee laid the foundation of a nature observation centre here. State forest minister Mr Ananta Roy and many other senior forest department officials attended the programme. It was announced that the state tourism department approved a Rupees one-crore plan to make the place an eco-tourism centre. Weaving a beautiful picture of future the speakers told that Salbagan would turn into a charming place of tourist attraction after a facelift. They also said that arrangements would be made here to conserve different species of butterflies and birds. Pedal boating facility will be added after renovating the almost dry canal of Mara-torsa river.

But, the ambitious plan exerted no influence on the ruffians. Many of them are still active in the area. Salbagan is a popular place to the picnickers but many families go there to spend a few hours in the very own abode of nature. Taking this as advantage the hooligans very often snatch ornaments and valuables from the visitors. Armed with daggers and other arms they even molested young girls and housewives. Seldom the ashamed victims lodge complaints to the police only to keep their identities secret. Locals said after a few years of absence the hoodlums started appearing once again at Salbagan and disturbing the peace loving people. The police should keep watch on the area to maintain peace, they opined.

Secretary of Salbagan Development Committee Mr Mahananda Saha said they constituted the committee to develop the area to promote tourism. They would never allow any disruptive activity there. They will appeal to the police and administration to take steps against the antisocial persons, he promised. On the otherhand, state forest minister Mr Roy said that security measures and vigilance at the area would be enhanced once the area promoted as a tourist spot. He opined that local residents should come up to resist and drive away the miscreants. 


BJP plans to strengthen party base in Cooch Behar

The BJP is getting ready for the ensuing Assembly elections. In a bid to strengthen the organisational base of the party in North Bengal to fight against the Left Front and the Trinamul Congress the party's state unit president Mr Rahul Sinha already started visiting North Bengal.

Recently, Mr Sinha visited Falakata, Dhupguri and Jalpaiguri. He talked with party activists and local leaders and sought their opinions and proposals to make the party a stronger one. In August he will come again in North Bengal to visit areas in Cooch Behar district.

General secretary of the BJP's Cooch Behar district unit Mr Nikhil Ranjan Dey claimed that their organisational strength was rising in different areas in Cooch Behar district.    

Many deserted members and supporters who had joined other parties started to come back again to the BJP's fold. Right approach and right leadership made them feel that the BJP is the only party that can save them from the tyrannical rule of the Left Front, Mr Dey said.

The BJP leader said the common people were suffering from the excessive price hike of essential commodities. To stage protest against price hike of food items, household commodities and petroleum products they would organise a law-violation programme at the district magistrate's office on 8 July. On 14 July they will stage a demonstration at the offices of the sub-divisional officers in all the five sub-divisions of the district. Another programme will be held on 28 July. On that day they will submit memorandums to the block development officers at all the twelve blocks in the district. In Cooch Behar the trafficking out of cattle is a menace in bordering areas. The BJP will organise stir in villages near the Indo-Bangladesh border areas to stop cattle trafficking and infiltration of Bangladeshi people.

BJP sources said that they were preparing to field candidates in all the 294 seats in the next state Assembly elections. They believe that they may win in at least 30 seats. Mr Dey is confident about winning of two seats in Cooch Behar district.

Sunday, 4 July 2010


Dishonest MR dealers cautioned in Cooch Behar

The recent price hike of fuels prompted a section of modified ration dealers to turn more dishonest. They are taking hiked price for kerosene though they lifted the item prior to the price hike. District controller of food and supplies department cautioned the dishonest dealers that strict steps would be taken against them if they take higher price than the stipulated price.

On Sunday, a number of ration-card holders staged demonstration at a MR shop at Takagachh in Cooch Behar. The locals alleged that the dealer was taking higher price for kerosene. They allegedly never get cash memos against the commodities they buy from the shop. They are even denied of the changes in return of the money they submit during buying of commodities. Smelling danger, the owner of the shop fled away. The agitated locals confined the shop assistant and the demonstration was held for a few hours.

Local people said the shop was of one Hena Talukdar but after her death one Satyaranjan Ghosh took charge of it. He is running the shop for about 15 years. On Sunday, after his escape the agitated locals confined the shop assistant Bachchu Das. They forced him to open the shop only to find that there was huge quantity of ration commodities inside the shop though they were denied of buying these. The Upa-pradhan of Takagachh Rajarhat Gram Panchayat Ms Surodhani Das said she got no complaints against the dealer so far. She assured of inquiring into the allegations.

When contacted today, the Controller of district Food and Supplies department Mr Shyamal Shil said he will make a probe into the Takagachh incident and if found guilty necessary steps will also be taken. There was a standing instruction that the dealers must give cash memos to the ration-card holders against the commodities they buy. Taking of higher price than the scheduled price will never be allowed. The recent disturbances in the oil companies created problems in smooth supply of kerosene but that problem was over. Now, the buyers can get kerosene from the MR shops without any trouble, he said. The difference of rates against the kerosene lifted by the dealers before and after the price hike may have brought an opportunity among a section of MR dealers to practice dishonesty, he admitted.

It may be mentioned here that in many MR shops in Cooch Behar the consumers never get cash memos and non-returning of small changes is also a regular practice. Complaints do not attract any action by the authorities, consumers allege. The agitation at Takagachh may act as a caution to the dishonest MR dealers, they believe. 

Saturday, 3 July 2010


Deadlock ends at two jute units in Cooch Behar

Intervention of the district administration prompted two jute units from not closing down their units. It saved about three thousand workers from being jobless. The entrepreneurs and members of the business community too welcomed the move.

In April, the managements of the Essem Jute Industries Limited and the Kamakshi Jute Industries Limited had sent memorandums to the state chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee describing a peculiar problem they were facing from. They said they established their units at Chakchaka Industrial Growth Centre in Cooch Behar district a few years back. The district was a backward one from the viewpoint of industrial development. About three thousand workers got jobs in these two units. But, from the very beginning they had to face many problems. They conveyed the chief minister that they buy raw materials (raw jute) by paying regulated marketing tax but when they send their produces outside of the district for sell they have to pay similar tax for the second time. The authorities of the two jute units appealed the chief minister to save them from paying of double-tax. They also conveyed the matter to the state industries minister Mr Nirupam Sen and administrative officials. But, as they received no positive response against their appeal they announced that they might stop production in their units and close down their units at Chakchaka. This news turned the workers of the two jute units panicky.

Secretary of Cooch Behar District Merchants Chamber of Commerce Mr Rajendra Kumar Baid and senior officials of the mills met the additional district magistrate (development) Mr Sudip Mitra several times and explained him that forcing them to pay double-tax was illegal. Mr Baid also mentioned that if the jute mills pull their shutters down the jobless workers might be a headache of the district administration as the jobless tea garden workers of Dooars. The ADM (D) assured them that the Cooch Behar Sadar SDO will probe into the matter and after considering the SDO's report the DM will take a decision over the issue.

Due to the municipal elections the inquiry process has been delayed. On 1 July, the district magistrate of Cooch Behar Ms Smaraki Mahapatra issued a letter bearing memo no. Dev/470(2). In the letter the DM asked the chairman and the secretary of the Cooch Behar Regulated Market Committee to 'temporarily stop the collection of market fee over jute products which are being manufactured by the Essem Jute Industries Limited and other manufacturing units of jute products' situated in Cooch Behar regulated market area. Explaining the reason the DM mentioned that it appeared to her that 'there remains some prima-facie reason to believe that such type of realisation of fees may not be proper as per the West Bengal Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act 1972.' 'However, you are free to collect market fees on raw jute as per the provisions of the said Act', she wrote. The RMC chairman and the secretary were advised to seek 'necessary clarification from appropriate authority over this issue' and to place the same before the DM for 'perusal and further necessary action'.

Expressing their pleasure over issuing of the instruction to stop collection of the alleged double-tax Mr Baid thanked the district administration for ending the stalemate and saving the workers from being jobless.