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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Expectations peak in the Hills.... Secretariat hope for North Bengal.... There will be no compromise on peace, says the new Chief Minister ... Bengal Secretariat bustles with activity on weekend... Madhyamik results on 27

Headlines: Ex soldiers, Bhutpurba Sainik and GLPs will take out a rally on 23rd and 26th May demanding probe in Shibsu firing and Siliguri lathicharge in 2008.
Indian national Congress observed anti terrorism day in Kalimpong
Karmapa Thai Thinley Dorjee reached Takdah.
GPTO has called closure of all educational institutions and offices of education department on 23 and 24 May.
Mamata donates Rs one crore to state govt relief fund from sale of paintings
Practically no work was done by Left Front govt in WB: Mamata

First death anniversary of Late Madan Tamang observed.
Madhyamik results
TT, Calcutta, May 21: The Madhyamik results for 2011 will be declared on May 27.
The results will be available from 11am on various websites, including,, http://results.banglarmukh. and
Students can also know their results by sending text messages. They should type WB10-(space)-roll number and send to 56505 (BSNL), 56730 (Vodafone), 543212222 (Airtel), 56506 (Reliance) and 55456 (Idea).
The heads of schools will be able to collect the mark sheets of their students from various camp offices of the board from 10am on May 26.
Expectations peak in the Hills
Deep Gazmer, TNN, May 22, 2011, DARJEELING: The CPM and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the Hills have welcomed chief minister Mamata Banerjee's plan to set up a mini secretariat for North Bengal. Expectations in the Hills are high from the new government.
"Something like this is good for the region. But the question is, what will be its power and functions," CPM district secretariat member K B Wattar said on Saturday. GJM secretary Roshan Giri said such a secretariat would be good for the people of North Bengal but emphasized that the GJM was demanding a "separate entity" for the Gorkhas. "Our demand for a separate entity for Gorkhas remains topmost in our list. We know Mamata is capable and hope she will see our demand positively," said Giri. Four GJM MLAs and Giri were present at the swearing-in ceremony of the new chief minister and met Mamata, who promised to visit Darjeeling soon. "She will come soon and we will sit for talks with our demand and after getting her views, chalk out our programme," said Giri.
The Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League, whose leader Madan Tamang was murdered last year, first wants restoration of peace and democracy in the Hills. "Introduction of a new set-up like a mini secretariat must be preceded by normalization of situation. We have the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, but how it is functioning is known to all. For people to benefit, the government must first restore peace and democracy," said ABGL secretary Laxman Pradhan.
The people of Darjeeling want the Trinamool Congress-led government to find a permanent solution to problems facing the Hills. "The new government must identify a permanent solution and not rely on temporary measures. A separate state may not be possible immediately but the new government must be ready to say what and how much it can provide," said former ADM, S B Zimba. He welcomed the announcement of Mamata about the formation of a mini secretariat for North Bengal. "As far as the Hills is concerned, establishing a separate secretariat will not have much relevance. The DGHC is already there& However, for other districts of the region, it will definitely help," said Zimba.
Secretariat hope for North Bengal
Subhro Maitra & Pinak Priya Bhattacharya, TNN, May 22, 2011, MALDA/JALPAIGURI: If appointing a minister for the development of North Bengal is the first step towards the new chief minister's thought of having a mini-secretariat in North Bengal, it has ushered in new hope among a cross-section of people, from the Himalayan foothills to the erosion-hit Malda. The hope of distance being broken and procrastination removed has elated politicians to administrators.
"Won't we have to look at Writer's Buildings for every trivial matter then? Nothing like it," said an elated Krishnendu Choudhury in his reaction to the chief minister's proposal of a mini-secretariat in North Bengal. The Congress MLA and chairman of English Bazaar Municipality welcomed Mamata Banerjee's decision as did hundreds of administrative officers in North Bengal. "We have to send files for approval to Kolkata and then keep on pursuing for them to be passed. Perhaps those days will be over," he smiled.
In her first meeting with the media on Friday, the newly elected chief minister voiced the popular demand of inhabitants of North Bengal to start a new secretariat in the area. She has also appointed Goutam Deb of Siliguri as the minister for North Bengal development. The demand for a mini-secretariat in North Bengal had been raised on a number of occasions during the Left Front regime. Even on his tour to Jalpaiguri in 2010, former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had received a request with such a demand.
It may be recalled that Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee had been mulling this idea for long. Back in 2008, she had said a separate secretariat for North Bengal could defuse tension and help pay more attention towards development in all six districts including Darjeeling.
"A new secretariat for North Bengal, besides a restructured and strengthened North Bengal Development Council can only ensure the government's commitment towards the entire region and keep at bay agitations as in the Darjeeling Hills and Dooars," she said. Even in her recent election campaign in North Bengal, the secretariat in North Bengal was an important issue.
Interestingly, Mamata's feelings were shared by the former Forward Bloc Minister Kamal Guha who advocated for the separate secretariat. With the publication of north Bengal editions of several reputable dailies, Guha had observed: "A number of local problems raised by these newspapers will remain unnoticed by the government till there is no secretariat in North Bengal." On condition of anonymity, a senior administrative officer observed: "We had Uttarbanga Unnanyan Parshad for the development of north Bengal. But the former chief minister himself being the head of the body, we suffered from lack of accessibility. Now that a separate ministry has been formed and a man from north Bengal is the minister, we can hope for the speed it required."
As observed by many, and not without justification, the distance from the state capital itself played an ordeal in the way of development of this area. From Cooch Behar it takes more than 12 hours to reach Kolkata. For Jalpaiguri or Balurghat, the story is not different. Eminent economist Manas Dasgupta had truly observed: "Can you imagine how long a man has to wait for his pension papers to arrive after retirement? A secretariat in north Bengal will certainly reduce his pain." He has more specific demand, "Let the secretariat be set up at Jalpaiguri leaving Siliguri as a business hub."
Ananda Gopal Ghosh pointed out: "During the regime of Siddhartha Shankar Ray, the cabinet used to hold meetings in Darjeeling during summer. Stopping such meetings in the course of time contributed to the sense of alienation to the people of this area. Now, a secretariat will certainly provide relief to the people.""
Merchants too welcomed it with great enthusiasm. Jayanta Kundu, secretary of Malda Merchants Chamber of Commerce, sees a ray of hope for fulfillment of their long-time demand of tax-free zone' in North Bengal. "... Our demand for tax-free zone in north Bengal for the promotion of industry will materialise soon."
Bengal Secretariat bustles with activity on weekend
Indrani Dutta, TH, Kolkata: The State Secretariat here donned a new look on Saturday as the normal languid weekend mood gave way to a day of hectic activity with new Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee returning to her office within 12 hours of leaving it past midnight on Friday night. Her Cabinet colleagues and departmental secretaries followed in tow.
The ‘mela'-like atmosphere witnessed on Friday, when the Trinamool Congress chief assumed office, prevailed for some time on Saturday too as party supporters roamed around posing for pictures in the VIP corridor of the Writers' Building, one of the most high-security places in the State.
Refused to use convoy
She refused to come to office in a regular convoy saying this inconvenienced common people. “I will use my party car and I do not want to do anything that will alienate me from my people,” she had said on Friday as she almost had to jostle her way into the Secretariat through a sea of humanity.
On Saturday, Ms. Banerjee held rounds of meetings first with her ministers and then with her department secretaries. At her maiden press meet on Friday, held within an hour of the first Cabinet meeting, she had said that as against the past practice of having a Cabinet meeting once a month, now it would be a fortnightly affair. The next Cabinet meeting would be held on Wednesday.” Work has to be hastened up,” she said. “I have asked the ministers to come on Saturday,” she said. She also announced her intent of setting up a public grievance cell.
She lamented “lack of any work-related infrastructure”, requesting journalists to give her time to set up her own. Ms. Banerjee donated to Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh a cheque for Rs.1 crore from the proceeds of her painting towards the Chief Minister's Relief Fund.
Her team worked in right earnest on its first day at work, with ministers like Firhaad Hakim, in-charge of Urban Development and Municipal Affairs, announcing decisions on merging and expanding municipalities and development agencies. However, unlike on Friday and much to everybody's relief, the Chief Minister left the Secretariat early in the evening setting the weekend mood to sink in eventually.
Mamata will review law and order situation this week
There will be no compromise on peace, says the new Chief Minister
Indrani Dutta, TH,Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Saturday that she would review the law and order situation on Tuesday and hold a meeting with all the District Magistrates and the Superintendents of Police. She had said on her first day of office that bringing peace and order to the State would be among her first tasks. “There will be no compromise on peace.”
“I have called all District Magistrates and Police Superintendents for discussing development projects as well as law and order,” she told the Press at the Secretariat. After a lull in the run-up to the polls, political violence was appearing to stage a comeback, quite a few incidents having been reported since the announcement of results on May 13.
Sources at the Secretariat said the 143 companies of Central Forces scheduled to remain in the State till May 23 would now stay on for some more time.
Ms. Banerjee said she had held detailed discussions with the secretaries of various departments, including Law and Order, Health, Power, Land and Land Reforms, and Agriculture. “No work has been done for so long, [but] nothing can be done in a day,” she said.
To a question on whether it would possible to pay salaries to the employees, she said: “How can we hold back salaries? It is their legitimate due.”
Finance Minister Amit Mitra met his department Secretary C.M. Bachhawat on Friday.
Ms. Banerjee said she believed in leading by example to bring about an improvement in the work culture. “I cannot blame either the officers or the employees for the poor work ethos. People follow examples which they have before them. No one can occupy a government post due to political affiliation. Postings have to be given on the basis of ability so as to provide good governance, efficiency and effectiveness.”
Among the Trinamool Congress' envisioned objectives in the 100-day agenda is cutting the nexus between politicians and bureaucrats.
Bureaucratic reshuffle? Trusted' officials on the list
Ajanta Chakraborty , TNN, May 22, KOLKATA: Mamata Banerjee is likely to get her own principal secretary from the central secretariat service. Gautam Sanyal, currently officer-on-special duty (OSD) to the minister of railways (MR), is tipped to be the next secretary to the chief minister.
In what is being seen as the first bureaucratic reshuffle under the new chief minister's tenure, Sanyal will be flown in from Delhi to work in tandem with Mamata.
He will replace Subesh Das, a 1982-batch IAS officer who has served former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for the past four years.
Das is secretary in the CM's secretariat.
His brother, Debesh Das, was the former information technology (IT) minister in the Left Front government.
The move to have Sanyal over to Writers' Buildings will be unprecedented as officials from the central secretariat service, a Group B service unlike the Group A IAS, IPS and IFS, have never been transferred to state governments. Central secretariat service officials are posted in Delhi.
"Sanyal has won Didi's trust, working efficiently and diligently for the past few years. He was in the railways when she was railway minister in the NDA government. Didi had him back when she took charge as the railways minister in UPA-II," said a source.
However, there is speculation over Sanyal's next position as he is due to retire in September. "The chief minister would wish to have him continue in the CMO. He might be given some other matching post that could be created for him," the source said.
Among other officials likely to be in the chief minister's office (CMO) is Barun Ray, who took a transfer from Bengal to be shipping minister Mukul Roy's private secretary. The 1992-batch IAS officer is already in Writers', working in tandem with Mamata.
The former railway minister's private secretary, Santanu Basu, a 2000-batch IAS officer, too, is back in Writers' waiting for a formal appointment in the CMO. Both Ray and Basu are serving as the new chief minister's eyes and ears in the Bengal government.
These officials were among the many who had left the state after the Left Front's debacle in the panchayat and Lok Sabha elections.
Some managed to get transferred to Delhi as the Trinamool Congress, with its 19 MPs, had got many ministerial berths in the UPA-II.
TT, 22 May, Editorial:  The wise believe that everyone has two countries — France and her own. It is a relief to realize that the chief minister of West Bengal, the redoubtable Mamata Banerjee, is not an exception to this sage generalization. Her cabinet, announced after much drama very early on Saturday morning, will bring to mind the old French saying, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.’’ (“The more things change, the more they stay the same.’’) Change is, paradoxically, the guarantee of continuity. Ms Banerjee, it may be recalled despite the euphoria, had promised a small and compact cabinet. But she announced that her government would have 44 ministers. This is exactly the number her predecessor had in his cabinet. Under the existing law, West Bengal can only have 44 ministers since the upper limit for the number of ministers is 15 per cent of the total strength of the legislative assembly. Maximum leaders thus form maximum cabinets. Ms Banerjee has kept up with her rival. At the height of the Sino-Soviet dispute, the Chinese increased the alcohol content of the local vodka by a full percentage point to keep up with the Russians. Ms Banerjee has demonstrated that she is second to none in keeping up with the comrades.
By forming a large cabinet, Ms Banerjee has violated a very elementary principle. What is good politics is not necessarily good governance. Even its critics will be forced to admit that the Left was good in politics, otherwise it could not have been elected seven times in a row. But the Left also ran an incompetent government, in fact, one of the worst in India. This resulted in West Bengal’s humiliating decline in all spheres. The point can be illustrated with a different example. The creation of numerical quotas through reservations makes for good politics as it brings electoral dividends, but it is certainly not good governance as it reduces the society’s and the country’s dependence on merit and competence.
The largeness of Ms Banerjee’s cabinet is directly related to the largeness of her electoral success. Her triumph brings with it too many winners and too many expectations. To meet these expectations, she has, like her predecessor, chosen to address the demands of her party. Her party is only one of the stakeholders in the making of West Bengal. There are other stakeholders: most notably the people of the state. She has put the interests of one group of stakeholders above the others. This is the downside of a bloated victory. It has resulted in a bloated government. She would do well to remember that both Rajiv Gandhi and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had massive mandates that led to very high expectations, even outside the party. By failing to meet these expectations through good governance, they lost in subsequent elections. If Ms Banerjee overlooks these lessons, Bengal will not emerge from darkness.

Govt to prepare special economic package for Maoist-hit region: Mamata Banerjee
PTI, Kolkata, 21 May: New West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee today said that the state government would prepare a special economic package for the people of Maoist-hit Jangalmahal and was serious about solving the problem within three months.

"We have decided to prepare a special economic package for the people of Jangalmahal envisaging hospitals, madrasas and other facilities," Banerjee told her first press conference after presiding over a cabinet meeting hours after taking oath at Raj Bhavan.
She said the state government would move the Centre for funds required for implementation of the package.
Development in the Jangalmahal areas, Banerjee said, had been neglected which needed to be given urgent attention.
Without naming any outfit or the Maoists, she said "if any organisation wants to talk to us, we are ready for it, because we want peace to return to Jangalmahal through negotiations."
Asked to comment on her demand for withdrawal of the joint forces in Jangalmahal, Banerjee said, "I will cross check and let you know. I never deviate from my commitment. I want development and negotiations should go side by side.
"We are indebted to the people of Jangalmahal for coming out in large numbers to vote," she said.
Similarly, she said, her government was keen to resolve the problem in the Darjeeling hills where the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was agitating for Gorkhaland.
Banerjee asserted that her government would endeavour to resolve Darjeeling problem within three months like the problem in Jangalmahal. "Already tripartite talks are on. We will also hold a meeting."
She also said that her government would set up a chief minister's secretariat in north Bengal where the Trinamool Congress recorded impressing showing.
Mamata: the single-woman army who crushed the mighty Left
IANS, Kolkata, May 13, 2011: There was a time when poverty forced her to become a milk vendor. That was the only way she could help her widowed mother bring up her younger siblings. Those difficult years steeled Mamata Banerjee, whose decades old one-point agenda -- of ousting the Communists from West Bengal -- finally became a related stories
Mamata promises to return 400 acres of Singur land to farmers reality on Friday.
For too long, too many people viewed the perennially shrill Mamata as a maverick and lacking in political acumen, one who could never get the winning combination right despite picking new partners and dumping old ones.
But the gritty 56-year-old lumbered on, never taking her eyes off the mission to crush the larger-than-life Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) -- one of the most successful Communist parties in the world -- even as some of her colleagues gave up exhausted.
From being her party's solitary member in the previous Lok Sabha and winning only 30 of the 294 seats in 2006, it has been a fascinating but roller coaster ride for a woman who founded the Trinamool only 13 years ago after quitting the Congress.
The daughter of a freedom fighter father who died when she was young, Banerjee could hardly enjoy her salad days as she had to fend for her family. For a while, she worked in a milk booth as a vendor-attendant.
Her baptism in politics came in the 1970s as a stormy petrel of the Congress students wing Chhatra Parishad, which played a key role in wiping out the Maoists from Kolkata then.
With a postgraduate degree in arts besides degrees in law and education, Banerjee was mentored early on in politics by Subrata Mukherjee - now ironically one of her followers in the Trinamool.
Banerjee, however, remained largely unknown outside of West Bengal until 1984 when she worsted CPI-M stalwart Somnath Chatterjee in Jadavpur -- in her maiden Lok Sabha contest.
There has been no looking back since.
In 1991, she joined prime minister PV Narasimha Rao's ministry but was unhappy because the government was indifferent to her proposal to develop sports. She lost the portfolio in 1993.
Once Banerjee realised -- and said so -- that the Congress did not really wanting to take on the Communists in West Bengal, she quit the party and formed the Trinamool Congress.
Some felt she had committed political harakiri.
She courted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from 1998 to 2001, supped with the Congress in the 2001 assembly polls, and again dated the BJP-led alliance in 2001-06 as she looked for ways to defeat the Left.
In between, she was the country's railway minister twice (1991 to 2001 and for a few months in 2004).
Despite becoming a cabinet minister, Banerjee continued to live in her single-storey house in a dingy lane close to the famed Kalighat temple in Kolkata.
Her attire was always the same: cotton saris, a 'jhola' bag and cheap rubber chappals. It was a picture that endeared the seven time MP to her sympathisers.
Outside of politics, Banerjee dabbles in painting, she is a also writer with several books to her credit. She is a good cook whose chicken and aar maachh curry have won wide praise.
Secular to the core although deeply religious, Banerjee - a Brahmin -organises an annual Kali worship at her residence and herself distributes prasad to all and sundry.
And one who plays the synthesizer deep into the night, Banerjee, who chose not to get married, is known to hit the bed only at the crack of dawn.
Her lowest moment came in 2004 when her party was crushed in the Lok Sabha election in West Bengal -- and the victorious Left decided to back the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
But only five years later, the Left and Congress divorced.
As protests erupted in West Bengal over the Left's decision to seize farmland to build factories, Banerjee plunged into the movement, virtually paralysing the state government.
Quickly, she won the support of a wide section: the civil society, the disgruntled leftists and even the Maoists.
Both in 2009 and now, Banerjee used her catchy slogan "Ma, Mati o Manush" (Mother, Earth and People) and played on the anti-incumbency factor to overcome three decades of Left rule.
From 2006 to 2011, as West Bengal was enveloped by unrest, Banerjee crippled the once mighty Communists bit by bit by usurping their slogans and issues -- and their rural vote bank aggressively.
The coming days could be tough. Banerjee has inherited an exchequer high on debt.
"Moreover the sort of promises she has made like converting Kolkata into London, the sea resort of Digha into Goa and north Bengal into Switzerland may subject her to bitter criticism if she fails to deliver," Congress leader Arunava Ghosh said.
Trinamool leader Partha Chatterjee disagreed: "Mamata Banerjee is totally clean and honest. She has dedicated her life to the people."

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