Category Archives: Politics

LEGACY OF DENIAL  

By BAPPADITYA PAUL  

IN April through early May, Naxalbari was in news for BJP president Amit Shah’s visit and an adivasi couple joining Trinamool within a week of having hosted lunch for Shah in their hutment.

Irony, this happened close to the 50th anniversary of Naxal Movement on 24 May. Fifty springs ago, it was an uprising of the working class in hitherto unknown Naxalbari village that stemmed from an unflinching belief in Communist ideology to bring about social and economic equity.

This time it has been about drawing media attention for injecting a religion centric politics that has historically failed to make headway in Bengal, and a counter tactic for grabbing people’s allegiance by hook or by crook.

That, over the past near one month, Naxalbari has been in the news more for Amit Shah episode than the Naxal Movement turning 50, is ironic but not surprising! Such thing happens when the proponents of a landmark uprising hesitate to claim ownership of its history and hesitate to tell people the real story, leaving it to the ruling class to concoct a propaganda by publicising half-truth.

In all these years since its birth in 1967, Naxal Movement has been riddled by state suppression, factionalism, and the branching into Maoist Struggle that considers guerrilla warfare the only means to achieve social and economic equity, as against the core Naxal ideology of dependence on mass movement and using arms only as an enabler.

Factionalism and the Maoist deviation robbed the proponents of Naxal Movement an opportunity to tell people that the uprising did make some remarkable achievements for the exploited and the toiling masses.

These include putting an end to a cruelty named Hattabahar wherein tea garden managements in northern Bengal used to literally out throw ‘disobedient’ workers and their family anytime of the day or night without notice; abolishing Zamindari wherein a handful of wealthy individuals used to own huge tracts of cultivable land, and effecting land reforms that gave ownership of farmland to the peasants who tilled them.

In contrast, an overzealous ruling class kept on feeding the media about the collateral bloodshed of Naxal Movement. There has been a conscious design to bury every single piece of history that has got anything to do with Naxal uprising, and rather portray it as a misguided venture by some savage populace.

The net result: by and large the people in India, especially those in urban areas, consider Naxal Movement to be anti-development and anti-India. The perception gets reaffirmed every time the Maoists carryout a guerrilla attack on State forces, which get huge publicity in the media, while the issues that they fight for take a backseat.

The moderate Communist parties ~ CPI and CPI-M are equally responsible for the legacy of Naxal Movement getting overcast by relentless misinformation campaign by the ruling class and for being overtaken by the Maoist deviation.

This is despite that the foundation for CPI-M’s coming to power in Bengal and then ruling the state for 34 years was laid by the Naxalbari uprising and the years of struggle preceding that.

Until coming to power, both CPI and then CPI-M used to talk of a people’s revolution and made the Communist foot soldiers in northern Bengal strive hard to achieve the goal. Once in power, they watered down the idea of a revolution, leaving the foot soldiers in a state of disgruntlement and confusion.

It was almost akin to Mamata Banerjee distancing herself from Chhatradhar Mahato and Maoist leader Kishenji as soon as she assumed Bengal’s power seat in 2011. In the preceding 4-5 years, she had shared dais with Mahato and participated in protest against the killing of Maoist leader Azad in a 2010 police encounter in Andhra Pradesh.

The only difference between CPI-M’s stance during Naxalbari uprising and Mamata’s in 2011, is that she has been quicker in making the volte-face. The ‘politically conscious’ people of Bengal neither spoke out then nor they are speaking out now.

Given that Mamata Banerjee has consolidated her grip on Bengal’s vote bank, and BJP is gradually taking over the slot of the main opposition, CPI-M and its allies in disarray are now desperately looking for shortcuts to reinstall the politics of status quo that they practised for better part of the 34-years.

Even on the 50th anniversary of Naxal Movement, there is no sign of getting into introspection. There is hardly any effort at claiming the legacy of what had been the first “spring thunder” over India.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN and author of The First Naxal: An Authorised Biography of Kanu Sanyal (2014) and Pehla Naxali (2017) published by Sage Publications. This piece first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 25 May 2017)

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In head-on fight with dev plank, Gorkhaland sentiment wins again in Darjeeling Hills

By BAPPADITYA PAUL

NOTWITHSTANDING the extensive campaign for months by several ministers, Darjeeling Hills have remained out of bound for Trinamool in the civic polls, the counting votes for which took place today, 17 May.

The results have reaffirmed that when it comes to choosing between development and Gorkhaland statehood sentiment, people in the Hills prefer to be emotive than clever.

This is despite the fact that Trinamool government had pumped in crores of rupees through 15 development boards formed for various ethnic groups in the Hills, and also contested the municipal elections in alliance with Gorkha National Liberation Front that had waged the first bout of Gorkhaland Movement between 1986 and 1988.

Mamata Banerjee’s party has, however, succeeded to germinate its seed by capturing the Mirik civic body that was part of Siliguri Assembly constituency until 2011 when delimitation relocated it under the Kurseong Assembly segment.

Trinamool has also won a handful of seats in Darjeeling, Kurseong, and Kalimpong municipalities. In that sense, it is for the first time in 28 years since 1989 that a political party from the plains has managed to get a toehold in the Hills. Before the first Gorkhaland Movement breaking out in 1986, CPI-M and Congress used to have a sound electoral presence in the Hills.

Going by the overall results of the civic polls, out of the 32 seats in Darjeeling Municipality, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has won 31 and Trinamool 1. In Kurseong out of the 20 seats, GJM has won 17 and Trinamool 3; and at Kalimpong, out of the 23 seats, GJM has captured 19, Trinamool 2, and Jan Andolan Party of ex-GJM leader Harka Bahadur Chhetri 2.

As regards Mirik civic body, out of the 9 seats, Trinamool has wrested 6, and GJM 3. When civic elections were held in Darjeeling Hills last time in 2012, GJM had pocketed Darjeeling, Kurseong, and Kalimpong municipalities uncontested, but in Mirik it had to suffer defeat to Independent candidates backed by the CPI-M in two seats.

In this civic election, a combination of factors has acted in favour of Trinamool in Mirik. First, Trinamool government made Mirik a sub-division only about a month before the elections. Second, in as many as 7 wards, the government gave land rights to hundreds of landless families.

Last but not the least, due to being part of Siliguri Assembly segment until 2011, CPI-M used to give a special attention on Mirik and maintain a sound organisation keeping the practice of political fight alive. This made Mirik not to succumb to the monopoly of GJM in 2012, and now in 2017, it has make Mirik align with the Trinamool.

(Author is editor, NEWSMEN, Kolkata. This report first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 17 May 2017.)

 

Rare scene in Bengal: RSS frontal organisations hold armed rallies on Ram Navami

By Bappaditya Paul

WEST Bengal today (05 April 2017) remained witness to something that it has rarely seen before and which might be an indication to the days that are in store for the state, so far widely believed to be liberal in nature!

Various frontal organisations of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP today took out armed processions in different parts of the state to commemorate Ram Navami that celebrates the birthday of Hindu god Lord Ram.

Not only adult men, teenage boys and girls also took part in such processions, unfurling saffron flags in one hand and brandishing swords or similar weapons in the other. They shouted slogans like Jai Shri Ram, Bharat Mata Ki Jai, etc glorifying Lord Ram and the country.

Until now, such armed rallies could only be witnessed in Bengal during the annual Muharram processions by the Muslims. Albeit for the past few years, instead of brandishing actual weapons, participants in Muharram processions have been gradually switching over to wooden or plastic replicas of the same.

The armed Ram Navami processions that RSS and BJP frontal organisations today took out included one at Paddapukur (Bhowanipore) in the heart of Kolkata, at Kada Road in Durgapur, and Karidhya in Birbhum district.

Bhowanipore happens to be the home constituency of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Participants in the procession there included several BJP leaders and many of them moved at the front in motorbikes, wielding swords in hand.

Participants in the Durgapur procession were mainly teenage and college-going girls, sporting white salwar and saffron dhupatta, and had swords in their hand. Asansol, which is a neighbouring town of Durgapur, has a BJP MP and Union minister in Babul Supriyo.

But of all the processions taken out today, the one at Karidhya in Birbhum was the largest one comprising a few hundred youths and teenage boys. Almost all of them were brandishing swords or similar weapons. Birbhum has a sizeable number of Adivasi tribal population and has been witnessing occasional communal flareups for the past two years.

Upbeat by the turnout in the processions, Bengal BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said that it was “a good sign that Hindu population in Bengal has gained courage and was trying to unite by taking up arms.” Only such weapons that were used by Lord Ram have been brandished in the processions today, he added.

Apprehensive that BJP will gain political mileage by organising Ram Navami processions, Trinamool took out counter rallies in some parts of the state such as Howrah, Siliguri, and Birbhum. In Birbhum, Trinamool workers organised pujas of Lord Ram’s disciple Hanuman all over the district.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who addressed an administrative public meeting at Bankura today, hit out at the BJP accusing them of misusing Ram Navami. “This is a solemn festival celebrated in Bengal for ages. Don’t hijack Ram Navami and do not try to incite communal tension,” she cautioned the saffron party.

(Author is editor, NEWSMEN, Kolkata. This report first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 5 April 2017.)

 

First time in Manipur’s electoral history, a Bengali wins Assembly poll

By Bappaditya Paul

IN Manipur’s electoral history, a Bengali candidate has for the first time won in an Assembly poll in the tiny state dominated by Manipuris and tribal communities.

Ashab Uddin (51), a full-time social worker who survives on his family’s agricultural income, has won from the Jiribam Assembly constituency bordering the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley in Assam.

Ashab has defeated outgoing Congress MLA and former minister T Debendra Singh by 1,650 votes. In the constituency of 28,140 voters, Ashab has secured 8,189 votes to register victory. The results of the Assembly elections, held in Manipur in two phases on 04 and 08 March, were declared today.

What is more important is that, this man of medium built and moderate height contested the elections as an Independent candidate and practically on donations from common Bengalis living in Jiribam.

Jiribam is the only Assembly segment, out of the total 60 in Manipur, which is inhabited by Bengalis and the sizeable amongst them are Muslim by religion. Despite this, no mainstream political parties ever gave nomination to a Bengali to contest the Assembly poll there.

This is because of an undercurrent of anti-Bengali sentiment that is widespread in Manipur. Thus, for years, the Bengalis in Jiribim rallied behind the Congress whom they found a little sympathising, notwithstanding the overt jingoism that has been in play in Manipur.

But alleging that they have been a neglected lot despite extending support to Congress year after year, the Bengalis of Jiribam this time decided to take a plunge into the election and fielded Ashab Uddin as their unanimous Independent candidate.

A local voluntary organisation, Bengali Samaj Unnyan Sangstha, played crucial role in unifying the community for the elections. But it has not been a smooth sail. During the campaign, a public meeting was planned for Ashab at a playground in Jiribam and was scheduled to be addressed by Bengali leaders from Silchar and other parts of Barak Valley.

Manipur administration declined permission for the same citing law and order issues. This made Ashab and his supporters to fall back on street corner meetings and door to door to campaign. Now, these seems to have worked more for him than the public gathering could have.

(Author is editor, NEWSMEN, Kolkata. This report first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 11 March 2017.)

 

‘Trinamool can never be an alternative to progressive Left movement in Bengal’

By bappaditya paul

THE alliance of CPI-M’s Students’ Federation of India and CPI-ML Liberation’s All India Students’ Association on Saturday swept the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) elections by winning all the four top seats.

Among the winners is a Bong ~ Satarupa Chakraborty ~ who has been elected the new general secretary of JNUSU. She defeated Vijay Kumar of BJP’s Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad by 1,094 votes.

There is an added dimension to Satarupa’s identity: she hails from Karimganj town in Barak Valley, where people became martyrs in the 1961 and after in opposing the imposition of Assamese language on them and upholding the right to study their mother tongue Bengali.

There is another aspect that needs a mention. Satarupa comes from Barak Valley where Left politics have been elbowed to a marginal corner for over three decades now.

No wonder, Satarupa’s father Sankarjyoti Chakraborty, is far from being jubilant by the fact that his daughter from remote Karimganj has travelled this far to get elected a JNUSU office bearer.

“We are happy that she has won but I believe her focus should be on studies. We did not object to her getting into election as she told us that at JNU, student politics is part of education,” Sankarjyoti said over the phone.

NEWSMEN caught up with Satarupa on a telephonic interview for her reaction to the big win, the anxiety of her parents, and her future plans. Here are the excerpts:

How does it feel having got elected the general secretary of JNUSU?

There is nothing individual about it. It is the collective victory of the people who stood up against the #ShutDownJNU campaign of the BJP and joined the fight for #StandWithJNU.

But getting elected to the student union of India’s topmost university and that too when you belong to Barak Valley where Left has no strength, is remarkable. Isn’t that?  

Once the Left, in particular the CPI-M, used to have a robust presence in Barak Valley. Over time, the party has become frail there and after the demise of Nurul Huda last year; there is a crisis of leadership. But the Left politics there is not over.

How did you get drawn into Left politics?

I became a member of SFI in 2006 when I was studying XII at Karimganj College. But my association with Left politics became strengthened while I was pursuing masters at Hyderabad University in 2010-12.

Subsequently, I joined JNU in 2013 to pursue MPhil in philosophy and got elected the student convenor of School of Social Sciences at JNU last year. I learned a lot from the tumultuous days at JNU campus last winter; we were the ones who took lead in the protests when our fellow students were being branded “anti-nationals” and were being slapped with sedition charges.

Has your family been associated with Left politics?

Not exactly! My father was employed with LICI and had an inclination towards CPI-M but he never took part in active politics. This holds true for my homemaker mom, who is a native of Tripura where the party has been in power for over two decades now.

However, my elder brother Subhankar, who is pursuing research at National Institute of Advance Studies in Bangalore, is an active member of CPI-M and is into progressive movements.

What was your parents’ reaction to you participating in JNUSU polls?

They have been in anxiety ever since the turmoil broke out at the campus last year but they never stopped me from joining student movement. All they wanted me to is focus on studies alongside the campus politics.

Bengal, till the other day, was the strength of Left politics in India, and now even CPI-M MLA is switching over to Trinamool. Do you think, you people sweeping JNUSU polls will infuse some energy into Left politics there?

See, liberal thoughts and democratic movements across India is under attack from authoritarian power mongers, and West Bengal is not any better. In fact, Bengal has been ruined in the past few years: education sector has been ruined completely and people’s democratic rights are under suppression.

There have been mistakes on the part of the Left (in Bengal) but these can be rectified and will be rectified. Trinamool can never be an alternative to progressive Left movement that has been a tradition in Bengal.

What would be the focus of JNUSU now? Would it be any different from the policies that Kanhaiya Kumar pursued?

Despite some ideological differences, Kanhaiya Kumar and we belong to the same Left liberal politics. Hence, there will not be much change as far as the broad politics is concerned. However, as regards the campus politics, we would like to focus more on issues that students face at JNU day to day, such as hostel facilities, funds cut by the BJP-led Centre etc.

Outside the campus, we would continue to raise our voice against the way Centre is appointing ill-qualified people in academic institutes all over India, as has been in the case with FTTII Pune.

On the personal front, any plans to join active politics?

I am in the middle of my PhD in philosophy and would like to complete it first. At this point in time I am not sure about joining fulltime politics, but whatever I do and wherever I stay in future, I would continue to take part in progressive movements.

Would you like to pass on any message to the students in Barak Valley?

The people in Barak Valley are not getting exposed to the kind of student politics that are vibrant in the campuses all over India. There students are largely discouraged by parents and others from taking part in politics. This is even as the education scenario and the state of the campuses there are really pathetic.

Look at the Assam University in Silchar: it is plagued by so many problems. There is an inadequate hostel facility, frequent power cuts, and above all the quality of studies is deteriorating. Yet, students are not speaking up, they are not taking stands.

People in Barak Valley must recognise the fact that if students do not speak up for their rights, the region will continue to get neglected as always.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor NEWSMEN. This interview first appeared on NEWSMEN on 11 September 2016.)

EC for lab test of Trinamool Naradanews sting video

By bappaditya paul

ELECTION Commission of India (EC) has decided to get examined the video footage of the naradanews.com sting operation wherein several Trinamool Congress leaders are seen taking bribe.

“This (CD of the sting video) has been given to us and this will be passed on to an appropriate authority for examination,” Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi told a news conference in Kolkata this afternoon when reporters asked if the EC was contemplating any action on the exposé.

Zaidi’s colleague in the three member EC bench, Election Commissioner A K Jyoti explained that the bench had very little time to pursue the CD that was handed over to them by the Opposition political parties last evening.

“We cannot immediately react because we have not seen anything yet. The Commission will get it examined,” Jyoti said.

Neither Jyoti nor Zaidi clarified as to which is the “appropriate authority” that the EC would send the sting video for examination and what would be the deadline. They were also silent on the Opposition’s demand that those captured in the video as accepting bribe be barred from contesting the Bengal Assembly elections.

Highly placed sources in the EC said that the Commission was first likely to send the video to a Central forensic laboratory to verify the genuineness of the footages. If the footages are found genuine, the matter would then be referred to the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and the Income Tax (I-T) department to trace the money trail of the bribe received.

EC, on its own, does not have any plan to refer the investigation to the CBI. But the DRI and the I-T department can subsequently rope in the CBI into the investigation.

This was on a day the BJP took out a protest march from its state headquarters to Dorina Crossing at Esplanade where the party activists jostled with police. Later a BJP delegation called on Governor K N Tripathi at Raj Bhavan and served him a memorandum demanding strict action against the Trinamool leaders shown in the sting video.  

The Left and the Congress too today hit the streets of Kolkata demanding immediate arrest of the Trinamool leaders captured in the sting operation.   

(Bappaditya Paul is editor NEWSMEN. This report first appeared on NEWSMEN on 15 March 2016.)

CPM revives Singur dream at mammoth Brigade rally

CPM Yechuri at Brigade plenum rally
CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury addressing the rally at Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata on 27 December.

By bappaditya paul

WITH party activists filling Brigade Parade Ground to the brim, the CPI-M leadership on Sunday (27 December) revived the dream of industry at Singur, a move that had thrown the Left Front out of power about five years ago.

Singur now lies trapped in a legal battle between the Mamata Banerjee government and the Tata group, and the 1,000-odd acre land there now lay idle with neither industry having come up nor farming taking place.

Addressing the mammoth rally organised on Sunday at the start of the CPI-M’s third plenum since inception, CPI-M leadership made it clear that their main plank for the 2016 West Bengal Assembly polls would be “restoration of democracy” in the state by throwing out the Trinamool Congress, and creation of jobs for the unemployed through industrialisation.

All the leaders ~ from Biman Bose to Brinda Karat, Md Selim to Sitaram Yechury, Manik Sarkar to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Surjya Kanta Mishra, launched a scathing attack on the Trinamool and BJP in the same breath.

But significantly, barring the Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, none uttered a word against the Congress, the Left’s one-time favourite punching bag. Rather they spoke of “broadening” the Left-democratic front to take on the “Trinamool-BJP combine.”

CPI-M Bengal state secretary and Polit Bureau member Surjya Kanta Mishra was more direct about the focus of the CPI-M in the next Assembly polls.

“It is us who can again take up industrialisation in Singur. It is us who can set up industry in Nayachar, in Purulia’s Raghunathpur to Salboni in Midnapore. We need to create jobs, jobs and jobs for lakhs of unemployed youths in Bengal,” Mishra said.

Giving another specific direction, he urged CPI-M workers to “sharpen the sickles.”

“The sickle that is there on our flags, the sickle that is there at your homes, is our strength, our weapon. If the sickles have acquired rust, sharpen them once again and get prepared for the fight,” Mishra said.

Brinda Karat said that those who had thought the red flag had faded away should come and have a look at the mammoth Brigade rally today. “The fight now is to out throw the undemocratic and anti-women, anti-people Trinamool government from Bengal, and we would do it.”

CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury maintained that the enthusiasm of the crowd he witnessed today has been unforeseen. “I have attended many Brigade rallies before, but the enthusiasm that I am witnessing today is extremely encouraging. The crowd has given the right feedback, and now the only slogan is Trinamool Hatao, Bengal BachaoBJP Hatao Desh Bachao.”

Upbeat by the huge turnout, Md Selim announced amidst huge applause, that today’s rally was “not a show of strength, rather, this rally is to challenge the Trinamool.”

(Bappaditya Paul is editor, NEWSMEN This report first appeared in the NEWSMEN on 27 December 2015.)

No NOTA for 3 Oct civic polls in Bengal but EVMs first time for rural elections

Featured Image: The official NOTA symbol designed by National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and released on 18 September 2015. Photo courtesy: Nizil Shah on wikipedia
Featured Image: The official NOTA symbol designed by National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and released on 18 September 2015. Photo courtesy: Nizil Shah on wikipedia

By bappaditya paul

Kolkata, 23 September: VOTERS in Bengal will once again miss out on the option to press the None of the Above (NOTA) button during the 3 October civic polls in three urban bodies and the Siliguri rural polls.

This is because Mamata Banerjee-led state government has not amended the related legislations to allow the state election commission (SEC) to introduce NOTA for local body polls. This is despite a brief session of the Bengal Assembly presently being underway since 18 September.

The SEC will however, for the first time, put to use electronic voting machines (EVM) for rural polls in the state during Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad elections and the panchayat by-polls elsewhere. Till now, the use of EVM was limited to Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

“In response to our latest reminder, state panchayat department wrote to us about 20 days ago saying, the government was unable to amend the Panchayat Election Rules and hence NOTA option would not be available for the coming polls,” said Bengal state election commissioner Sushanta Ranjan Upadhyay.

“We had sent a similar reminder to the municipal affairs department but are yet to get a reply.”

Upadhayay added that in response to a query, Election Commission of India has replied that it had introduced NOTA from the 2014 Lok Sabha polls following a Supreme Court order in 2013 and it did not require an amendment to Central election laws because of the SC ruling.

“But we cannot do so without the panchayat and municipal election rules being amended. Not only Bengal, several other states have failed to do this so far,” he said.

To bring in NOTA option, amendments are necessary to the West Bengal Municipalities (Conduct of Elections) Rules, 1995, and the West Bengal Panchayat Elections Rules, 2006.

Thus, the civic polls voters at Bidhannagar-Rajarhat, Bally, Asansol and the rural poll voters in Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad on 3 October will either have to choose a candidate or abstain from voting altogether.

Notwithstanding the upset over NOTA, SEC’s move to use EVMs for rural polls will be a big relief for voters in 520 booths in Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad elections and in another 1,111 booths for the panchayat by-polls elsewhere in the state. This will reducing the time taken in casting a vote and also expedite the vote counting scheduled for 7 October.

SEC has around 25,000 EVMs and a part of them will be used for the 3 October polls.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN, West Bengal, India. This article first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 23 September 2015.) 

Mamata govt to have discretion over chit fund prosecution

AMENDED CHIT FUND BILL TO BE INTRODUCED IN BENGAL ASSEMBLY ON 18 JUNE

Saradha Scam

By bappaditya paul 

The West Bengal Protection of Interest of Depositors in Financial Establishments (Amendment) Bill, known as the chit fund bill in popular parlance, and scheduled to be introduced in the state Assembly on 18 June, proposes to give the state government the discretion on whether to prosecute a fraudulent financial institution / person.

The principal legislation, mooted in the aftermath of Saradha scam and which the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been touting as the panacea to curb fraudulent financial institutions, was cleared by the state Assembly in 2013.

But its becoming a law has been hanging fire for want of a Presidential assent, which finally came this March on the condition that the clause in the legislation that empowered it to override all existing laws would have to be amended.

Chit fund bill

Conforming to the advice, the state government has drafted an amendment to Section 22 (1) and (2) making it clear that the legislation will be implemented “in addition to, and not in derogation of any other law for the time being in force.”

But in drafting the amended version of the legislation, the state government has inserted a sub-clause in Section 9 (2) that gives an officer appointed by the state government the discretion on whether to grant permission to law enforcing agencies to prosecute an accused individual or group.

The officer, in this case, is identified as the Competent Authority and will be designated as the Director of Economic Offices. The newly inserted sub-clause Section 9 (2) (aa) empowers him / her: “to grant or withhold previous sanction for prosecution of an offence under Section 3.”

Section 3 pertains to irregularities such as failing to re-pay deposits, bonus, profit etc that constitute an offence under the chit fund law.

Asked to comment on this, senior high court advocate Arunava Ghosh said over the phone this evening: “The sub-clause in effect means that the state government will have the discretion on whether to prosecute a fraudulent financial company or individual instead of the law enforcing agencies. Prima facie this appears to me to be against the spirit of the Constitution.”

Arunavo Ghosh
Arunavo Ghosh

Mr Ghosh added that the amended bill, if and when it is passed by the state Assembly, should again have to be sent to the President for assent.

More so because, the state government has not accepted a suggestion by the Centre’s Department of Financial Services pertaining to compounding of offences for prosecuting a fraudulent financial group or individual.

“The suggestion of inclusion of a provision for compounding of offences has however not been considered for amendment on the ground that it will severely dilute the stringent provision of the principal Act,” reads a point in the statement of objectives and reasons in the amended bill that was circulated among the MLAs earlier last week.

(This report first appeared in The Statesman, India on 15 June 2015.)

Assemblies struggle to meet minimum sittings prescription

LIKE SEVERAL OTHER LEGISLATURES, BENGAL ASSEMBLY TOO FAILING TO HOLD SESSION FOR 70 DAYS A YEAR
West Bengal Assembly
West Bengal Assembly

By bappaditya paul  

WEST BENGAL ASSEMBLY, like several of its counterparts, is failing to hold the minimum number of sittings in a year as had been recommended by a parliamentary panel.

According to the West Bengal Assembly secretariat, the House sat for 48 days in 2014 as against the 70 days sitting recommended for state legislatures having more than 40 MLAs by the 16th All India Whips’ Conference. The Bengal Assembly has 294 MLAs.

The scene is not looking any better this year either: while the House

was in session for 11 days in February-March; in case of the on-going extended Budget Session that is scheduled to last until 18 June, the actual days of business would be 26 days.

Prior to this, in 2011 the West Bengal Assembly was in session for 42 days, in 2012 for 41 days and in 2013 the figure came down to 30 days. But it is not that the Bengal Assembly alone is lagging behind when it comes to holding number of sittings in accordance with the recommendation.

HOUSE IN BUSINESS

“Gujarat Assembly sat for 32 days in 2011, for 30 days in 2012 and 33 days in 2013. In case of Tamil Nadu Assembly it was 33, 42 and 47 days; while the Bihar Assembly was in session for 34, 38 and 39 days, respectively,” said the Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee.

The Trinamul Congress ruled Bengal could probably take solace in the fact that the Left ruled Tripura Assembly too is failing to hold sittings for 70 days a year.

“Tripura Assembly sat for 13 days each in 2011 and 2012, and for 11 days in 2013,” Mr Banerjee said. Tripura Assembly has 60 MLAs.

The Bengal Assembly Speaker said that they had been working on to adhere to the parliamentary panel’s recommendation and the 48 days session in 2014 as compared to the 30 days held in 2013 was a testimony to that end.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 09 June 2015.)