Tag Archives: Mamata Banerjee

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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Indian Railways scraps Mamata Banerjee PPP medical college plan

By bappaditya paul

RAILWAYS ministry has dropped the plan for upgrade of railway hospitals into medical colleges in public private partnership (PPP) as was announced by Mamata Banerjee in the 2009-10 Railways Budget.

This after the ministry later found out that the Medical Council of India rules did not permit PPP with government hospitals anywhere in the country. Indian Railways and all its wings are owned by the Central government.

The matter came to light on Friday when the minister of state for railways, Manoj Sinha, replied to a query put forward by CPI-M Rajya Sabha MP Ritabrata Banerjee.

Ritabrata had sought to know if the Railways has set up any medical college in West Bengal as was announced by then railways minister Mamata Banerjee in her Budget speech during the UPA-II regime.

Answering the query, Sinha replied: “The then Honourable Minister of Railways during her Budget speech 2009-10 had announced ‘Medical colleges are planned to be established attached to existing railway hospitals through PPP, to give higher education facilities to new generation of railway children.”

ritabrata-rajya-sabha-reply

“As per Medical Council of India rules, Public Private Partnership (PPP) with Government (Railway) hospital is not permitted. The Ministry have, therefore, dropped the proposal of setting up of Railway Medical Colleges.”  

Ritabrata posted on his Twitter handle minister Sinha’s printed reply, and wrote: “Ministry of Railways – setting up of Med Colleges by our CM is not permitted at all! D cat is out of d bag!!”

It may be recalled that Mamata Banerjee as the Railways minister in 2009-10 announced that she had plans to upgrade a number of railway hospital in West Bengal, including the Tapan Sinha Memorial Hospital of Metro Railway in Kolkata, into medical colleges.

West Bengal has a number of super speciality railway hospitals, namely, the BR Singh Hospital at Sealdah, Railway Orthopaedic Hospital at Howrah, Central Hospital Garden Reach, NF Railway Hospital at New Jalpaiguri etc. 

(Bappaditya Paul is editor NEWSMEN. This article first appeared on NEWSMEN on 12 March 2016.)

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.)

Bengal govt sits on civic poll date

STATE GOVERNMENT AND STATE ELECTION COMMISSION HAD TOLD CALCUTTA HIGH COURT THAT POLL WOULD BE HELD BY 31 JANUARY

By bappaditya paul

West Bengal government is sitting over confirming a poll date for ten civic bodies in the state despite having agreed before the Calcutta High Court in September that the long pending elections would be held by 31 January 2015.

West Bengal State Election Commission office
West Bengal State Election Commission office

The State Election Commission (SEC) secretary Mr Osman Gani has since then written three letters to the municipal affairs department on the issue, the latest one sent last week, requesting it to confirm a poll date. But the state government has been unresponsive so far.

In its communiques, SEC has suggested that the election may be held on 18 January (Sunday), considering that in the first half of January people stay enmeshed in celebrations of new year, Makar*** Sankranti*** etc and in the later part the administration remains preoccupied with Republic Day celebrations. Though there is time for the government to formally announce a poll date, SEC needs to know about the date well in advance to make necessary preparations. Polling personnelThe ten civic bodies, elections to which are to be held by 31 January are ~ Gangarampur (South Dinajpur), Kaliagunj (Malda), Uluberia (Howrah), Egra (East Midnapore), Islampur (North Dinajpur), Mal (Jalpaiguri), Dankuni (Hooghly), Sainthia (Birbhum), Rajpur-Sonarpur (South 24-Parganas) and Haringhata (Nadia).

They are among 17 civic bodies in the state whose terms ended in July this year but the Mamata Banerjee government declined to hold the election in time citing summer and monsoon woes. Then on 26 May, the state Cabinet announced the decision to merge / upgrade seven of these 17 civic bodies into municipal corporations.

Ms Mira Pande
Ms Mira Pande

Peeved at the government’s delaying tactics, then State Election Commissioner Ms Mira Pande moved to the Calcutta High Court in June, seeking intervention. But she could not push the litigation to a conclusion as her term ended on 21 July.

The new poll commissioner Mr Sushanta Ranjan Upadhaya, the first ever West Bengal Civil Service officer to adorn the post, took a conciliatory approach and suggested holding elections to ten civic bodies leaving out the seven municipalities that were to be merged / upgraded into corporations. Subsequently, in consultation with the state government, SEC told the High Court on 10 September that polls to the ten civic bodies would be held by 31 January. The state government also told the Court that it was in agreement with SEC’s proposal.

Sushanta Ranjan Upadhyay
Sushanta Ranjan Upadhyay

“We are now waiting for the government to covey us the poll date. The statutory requirement is 35-40 day gap between the notification of election and the poll day,” the poll commissioner Mr Upadhaya said over the phone. He said that since 10 September, the Commission has not heard anything from the government on the issue.

This is even as the delay in election is causing immense difficulty, especially to the poor, in getting benefits that they are entitled to. The government has appointed administrators to run the civic bodies whose terms have expired but lack of coordination between government institutions has rendered the arrangement futile. Mamata Banerjee“On 17 October, I went for treatment at the R Ahmed Dental College in Moulali and being a BPL category person, I approached the authorities there for waiver of treatment cost. I presented them a certificate issued by the Executive Officer of Rajpur-Sonarpur Municipality but they said I must bring a certificate issued by the chairperson,” said Mrs Alima Bibi. Rajpur-Sonarpur is one of the 17 civic bodies whose terms ended in July and hence it now neither has an elected body nor a chairperson.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This is an elaborate version of a news report that first appeared in The Statesman on 7 November 2014.)

 

Municipality upgarde to take at least a year

WB GOVT’S CLAIM TO HOLD CIVIC POLLS IN NOVEMBER IS FICTITIOUS

By bappaditya paul

Trinamul Congress government wants to postpone elections to 17 municipalities in the state till November on the pretext that it will by then upgrade seven of them into corporations. But going by the West Bengal Municipal Act 1993, the upgrade process will take at least a year, making it clear that the November deadline is fictitious. Mamata Banerjee cartoon courtesy Deccan ChorinicalSection 3 to 9 of the WB Municipal Act that deals with the formation/constitution of municipal areas in the state, lay down a procedure so elaborate that it will take 12-13 months to upgrade an existing municipality or form a new one.

The process includes issuing a notification by the Governor both in the official gazette and in newspapers, declaring the intention to create / upgrade a municipality. Following this, the common public shall have to be given three months to put forward their opinions/ objections in writing and these shall have to be disposed off in another one month.

The government will then issue a notification announcing the formation / upgrade of the civic bodies for which public opinion had been sought; another notification specifying the number of wards in each of these civic bodies will follow in close succession.

West Bengal state election commissioner Ms Mira Pande
West Bengal state election commissioner Ms Mira Pande

Since the government wants to set up four new municipal corporations, in the next step it shall have to draft and enact separate legislation for each of them. Such legislation, among other matters, shall mention whether the SEC or some other body is to carry out the delimitation for the new corporations.

Once that is done, the assigned body will take up the delimitation exercise, which going by conservative estimate, will take at least four months to complete.

Next comes the task of reserving seats/wards for women and SC/ST/OBC categories. The Municipal Elections Act stipulates that the draft for the reservation shall be published at least 10 weeks before the day of polls; the final reservation shall be published at least seven weeks in advance. This in effect means it will take at least three-four months to complete the reservation process and the elections can be held only after this. Nabanna in Howrah ~ Bengal's new seat of powerThe state Cabinet had on 26 May announced the decision to create four new municipal corporations by clubbing 23 municipalities and merge another 13 municipalities with three existing corporations.

Of the municipalities to be upgraded, seven municipalities feature in the list of 17 municipalities whose term end in July. These seven municipalities are ~ Asansol, Dum Dum, South Dum Dum, Madhyamgram, Maheshtala and Rajarhat-Gopalpur.

Citing the proposed upgrade, the state municipal affairs secretary wrote to the State Election Commission (SEC) on 17 June stating that instead of now, the government wants to hold elections to the 17 municipalities in November as the upgrade would be completed by then.   Calcutta High Court

The matter is now pending before the Calcutta High Court after the SEC flied a writ petition seeking intervention to hold elections to the 17 bodies before their term expires; the next hearing is fixed for 11 July.

Keeping in mind that the state election commissioner Ms Mira Pande is due to exhaust her tenure on 21 July, she will not be able to hold the elections even if the Court rules in favour of the poll panel. “She will at best be able to issue the notification and the next commissioner will complete the poll process,” said a senior SEC official.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 28 June 2014, under a different headline.)

Trinamul is the larger victim of BJP’s Bengal surge

OF THE 20 ASSEMBLY SEATS WHERE BJP LED IN THIS LS POLLS, 14 WERE WON BY TRINAMUL CONGRESS IN 2011

By bappaditya paul     

Notwithstanding the electoral drubbing it administered to the Left parties, the ruling Trinamul Congress has emerged as the larger victim of BJP’s surge in West Bengal this Lok Sabha polls.BJPGoing by the number of votes polled in this Lok Sabha elections, BJP on its own has taken a lead in 20 Assembly seats in West Bengal. There are four more seats ~ three in Darjeeling Hills and one in Dooars ~ where the saffron party is in lead but that is primarily because of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha.

The saffron party has also secured second position in another 21 Assembly segments. This is a meager tally when compared to the 294 Assembly seats that Bengal has.Trinamul Congress symbolBut what is significant is that of the 20 seats where BJP has taken a lead, Trinamul Congress had won in a majority 14 in the 2011 Bengal Assembly election. Of the remaining six seats, four belonged to the Congress and two to the Left. The fine print of this result makes it clear that Trinamul may have snatched several new Assembly seats from the Left; it has also lost some to the BJP.

The 14 Trinamul seats that the BJP has taken a lead are ~ Bhowanipore and Jorasankho in Kolkata, Bidhannagar and Bhatpara in North 24-Parganas, Seerampore in Hooghly, Krishnanagar North in Nadia, Raniganj, Asansol North, Asansol South, Kulti and Baraboni in Burdwan, Englishbazar in Malda, Islampur in North Dinajpur and Siliguri in Darjeeling. Mamata BanerjeeBhowanipore happens to be the Assembly segment of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee; Englishbazar and Islampur are seats wherefrom two of her Cabinet colleagues Krishnandu Narayan Choudhury and Abdul Karim Chowdhury had won, respectively. Asansol North is the Assembly seat of Moloy Ghatak, whom Miss Banerjee recently forced to resign as Agriculture Minister due to the poll loss.

The four Congress seats where BJP was in lead this Lok Sabha elections are ~ Matigara-Naxalbari and Phansidewa in Darjeeling, Nagrakata in Dooars and Kharagpur Sadar in West Midnapore. Congress’ Darjeeling district president Sankar Malakar had become an MLA from the Matigara-Naxalbari seat in 2011.CPM symbolThe two seats where the BJP has pushed back the Left are Madarihat in Dooars that has an RSP MLA and Basirhat South in North 24-Parganas, which was occupied by CPI-M in 2011.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 24 May 2014.)

Outside Bengal, Trinamul candidates lose deposits

By bappaditya paul 
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s ambition to position the party as a pan-India entity has suffered a major setback as 45 out of the 46 Lok Sabha candidates that she fielded outside West Bengal have lost their security deposits.  

High ambition

Percentage wise, 99.50 per cent of the Trinamul candidates outside Bengal got their security deposit forfeited. The only Trinamul candidate to have managed to save the deposit is Chamra Linda, who contested from the Lohardaga Lok Sabha seat in Jharkhand.   

Every candidate fighting a Lok Sabha poll is required to deposit Rs 25,000 (Rs 12,500 in case of SC/ST) with the Election Commission as security. The deposit money is forfeited if a contestant fails to secure 1/6 of the total valid votes; NOTA votes are not calculated for the purpose. 

Mamata campaign poster

Barring one, none of the remaining 45 Trinamul candidates succeeded in fetching 1/6 of the valid votes in their respective constituencies. Some of them have even polled humiliatingly low votes in prestigious seats. 

Yesteryear Bengali matinee idol, Biswajit Chatterjee, tops the list; contesting from the New Delhi Lok Sabha segment on a Trinamul ticket. He secured only 909 votes. Next is leading women rights activist Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury who has polled only 803 votes in a South Delhi seat. The party candidates’ bag in the other seats in Delhi is also very low, in North East Delhi it is 784 votes, in Chandni 3531 and in East Delhi 3894. 

Biswajit Chatterjee
Biswajit Chatterjee

 The party did no better in the Left bastions of Kerala and Tripura, where the Trinamul had fielded candidates in three and two seats, respectively. In Kerala, Trinamul candidates again scored a humiliating 828 votes in Palakkad, 632 in Kasaragod and 1236 in Pathanamthitta. In Tripura East seat the party candidate has bagged 77,028 votes and in Tripura West seat a little over 1.17-lakh votes. 

In the prestigious Rae Barely seat in Uttar Pradesh where the Trinamul had pitted Ms Anju Singh against Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the party candidate has got 3507 votes. In Varanasi, fighting against giants like Mr Narendra Modi and Mr Arvind Kejriwal, the Trinamul candidate Ms Indira Tiwari has polled only 2674 votes. 

TMC

 The story is same in all the 13 states or union territories outside Bengal where the Trinamul Congress had fielded candidates this Lok Sabha polls. 
The party had fielded 13 candidates in Uttar Pradesh, nine candidates in Assam, five each in Delhi and Jharkhand, three in Kerala, two each in Tripura and Manipur, and one each in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Maharastra, Goa, Odisha and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 18 May 2014.)

Lok Sabha polls: Why Bengal babus will rather play it safe

MAMATA BANERJEE GOVT HAS UNCEREMONIOUSLY REMOVED 26 OFFICIALS IN THE PAST 3 YEARS. OFFICIALS WILL AGAIN COME UNDER HER CONTROL AFTER THE LOK SABHA POLLS

By bappaditya paul   

In the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and the district election machineries under him may be facing sharp criticisms for failure to check the Trinamul Congress’ strong-arm tactics, but several experienced bureaucrats in the state opine that the CEO and his team should not be blamed entirely.Mamata BanerjeeThey are pointing to the way the Mamata Banerjee-led state government has treated several senior civil and police officers in the past three years for trying to stick to the rule book to the disadvantage of the ruling dispensation. They maintain that this should explain why the election machineries in the state this time were “playing it safe” vis-à-vis dealing with complaints against the ruling party.

Ever since the Trinamul Congress came to power in West Bengal in May 2011, at least 26 mid and senior level bureaucrats and police officers in the state have faced unceremonious removal from their posts. While several of them were sent on Compulsory Waiting; others were shunted to less significant posts.

The most remarkable among them include the transfer of upright IPS officer, Damayanti Sen, as Kolkata Police’s CP (crime) in February 2012 for contradicting Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s claim that the Park Street rape was a “concocted incident”. Polling boothThen came the unceremonious removal of the Kolkata Police Commissioner R K Pachnanda in February 2013 for acting tough against Trinamul Congress-backed hooligans who had shot dead a policeman during a campus violence at Garden Reach.

Mr Umapada Chatterjee, the state’s director of information, was removed in mid 2013 for clearing advertisement dues to Ganashankti, a vernacular daily published by the CPI-M.

This was followed by the removal of the Siliguri Police Commissioner K Jayaraman and the state’s registrar of publications Bishmoy Roy, at close successions in December 2013.

Mr Jayaraman was removed for arresting the district magistrate of Malda, G Kiran Kumar. in multi-crore graft case at the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA); Mr Roy was shunted out for standing by a insecticide sprayer who was falsely implicated in an alleged arson bid at Writers’ Buildings that was later found to be a hoax. Both these officers are still on Compulsory Waiting.    Nabanna in Howrah ~ Bengal's new seat of power“Given the happenings of the past three years, which officer will dare take the ruling Trinamul Congress head-on, especially during a Lok Sabha poll? All the officers know, after the election, they will be again at the mercy of the state government of Miss Banerjee,” said a senior bureaucrat on conditions of anonymity.

“The 2011 Assembly election was different, as the Left Front was an outgoing government and a strong anti-incumbency blowing in the state. Hence, the bureaucrats could act without any fear and favour,” he added.

Going by the Section 28 (A) of the Representation of the People Act 1951, all government officials involved with election are deemed on deputation to the Election Commission (EC) for the entire election process and the EC can take disciplinary action against them for inaction or bias.

But once an election is over, all officers will again come under the full control of the state government, who will decide on their postings, promotions and all other employment related issues. ECI headquarters in New DelhiA senior EC official however maintained that the poll panel has powers to debar a civil or police officer from all future election duties.

“Debarring an officer from election duty means that she or he will have to be removed from posts such as DM, ADM, SDO, BDO, SP and ASP etc before every elections as these are notified positions that play a crucial role in the electoral process and this really counts,” the EC official said.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 6 April 2014.)

DGP, Home Secy to tour districts to give lessons to cops on women’s safety

By bappaditya paul
With the recent instances of police mishandling
several cases involving crime against women, the state Director General of Police (DGP) and the Home Secretary will now be touring the districts to impart to the cops a lesson on ways to handle such complaints. The state administration has chalked out the plan in consultation with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

West Bengal Home Secretary Basudev Banerjee               GMP Reddy, DGP West Bengal

 

According to sources at state secretariat Nabanna, DGP, Mr G M P Reddy and Home Secretary, Mr Basudev Banerjee will visit at least one district every fortnight and will hold a closed-door session with police officials falling in the rank of inspectors to DIG. For now, they will focus on south Bengal districts, especially the ones that are closer to Kolkata.

“The government is very clear that any complain about crime against women has to be handled sensitively and this cannot be neglected on the grounds of technicalities. The main purpose of the visit is to make district police understand that insensitive remark or behaviour by even a constable, reflects badly on the overall image of the government,” said a senior official in the Home Department.

Mamata BanerjeeDuring the session with district police personnel, the DGP and the Home Secretary will also emphasise on execution of pending non-bailable warrants (NBW) relating to all sorts of crimes.

“Such visits will hopefully keep police on their toes and the message is expected to percolate down to ground level policemen,” the officer said. The DGP and the Home Secretary have on 11 January already visited Barasat, the headquarters of North 24-Parganas notorious for crimes against women. Next in line are South 24-Parganas, Hooghly, Nadia and Murshidabad.

“There isn’t any specific date or schedule for the visits and it’s more of an open ended tour programme that the two of them will decide as per their convenience. The Chief Minister believes such visits will improve the level of policing, especially sensitise the district police on crimes against women,” said another official.

Nabanna in Howrah ~ Bengal's new seat of powerIn recent times, police in North 24-Parganas had come in for sharp criticisms for mishandling the case relating to the rape and subsequent death of a girl at Madhyamgram. Although the state Chief Secretary, Mr Sanjay Mitra, gave the police a clean-chit in public, in the private the government recognises that instead of taking the complaint seriously, police had put excessive focus on technicalities.
Murshidabad superintendent of police, Mr Humayan Kabir, was in news few months ago for a remark on the rape and murder of a housewife.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 21 January 2013).

The Curious Case of a Suspension

WEST BENGAL’S REGISTRAR OF PUBLICATIONS, BISHMOY ROY, MAY HAVE FALLEN PREY TO MAMATA BANERJEE’S PAST ANGER FOR CLEARING THREE BOOKS CRITICAL OF HER.

by Bappaditya Paul

West Bengal’s Registrar of Publications, Mr Bishmoy Roy, who was suspended from service on Tuesday (17 December 2013) for “violation of service rules”, had in 2012 cleared three books that were extremely critical of Ms Mamata Banerjee and her government.

Mamata Banerjee

Of them, Mamata Bandopadhyay Ke Jemon Dekhechi (Mamata Banerjee As I have Known Her), penned by expelled Trinamul Congress MLA and former IAS officer Dipak Kumar Ghosh,  released in June and Musalmander Unnatir Janya Ki Karte Hobe (What Should Muslims Do for Their Betterment) and Musalmander Karaniyo (What Should Muslims Do), written by IPS officer Nazrul Islam, released in July and August 2012 , respectively. Mr Ghosh’s book was published by Kolkata Prakashani; Mr Islam’s books were published by Mitra and Ghosh Publishers.

Mr Roy, who joined as the Registrar of Publications in 2004 through the Public Service Commission, was responsible for cataloging books published from West Bengal and report to the state government if there was anything objectionable in a publication. But even as Miss Banerjee and her government were red-faced at the alleged “indecent, inciting and derogatory” contents of the books, the Registrar of Publications wing led by Mr Roy found nothing wrong in the book.

Musalmander Karaniyo cover“The state government had banned Musalmander Karaniyo on the pretext that it will incite communal disharmony. But following a directive from the state home department, the Registrar of Publications had in the month of October 2012 prepared an internal report about the book. Mr Roy cleared the book stating that he found nothing inciting in the book and that the arguments in it were logical,” recalled a senior Home Department official. “Later, someone on behalf of Mr Islam got hold of a copy of the report under the Right to Information Act and produced it before a court, which compelled the government to lift the ban.”

Writers' Buildings in KolkataA section of state government officials suggest that since then the Chief Minister has been peeved with the Registrar of Publications and the recent episode, wherein the latter came out in the media defending insecticide sprayer Mr Jyotirmoy Nandi ~ whom the police had arrested on charges of trying to set ablaze the Writers’ Buildings ~ only acted as an add-on.
“It seems he (Mr Roy) has fallen prey to the grudge that the government has been nurturing for sometime now,” said an official.

Jyotirmoy Nandi with his mother Chitra Nandi on being released from police custody on 06 December 2013.
Jyotirmoy Nandi with his mother Chitra Nandi on being released from police custody on 06 December 2013.

The insecticide sprayer, Mr Nandi, had been arrested on 30 November, a day after kerosene was found spread on the fifth floor office of the Registrar of Publications wing at Writers’ Buildings, which was shifted from Bhavani Bhawan in June. Police charged him of hatching a conspiracy to burn down the heritage building, a suspicion that was first raised in a Press conference by none other than the state home secretary, Mr Basudev Banerjee.

West Bengal Home Secretary Basudev Banerjee
West Bengal Home Secretary Basudev Banerjee

But both the police and the government were later left hugely embarrassed after the Registrar of Publications told the media that he had hired Mr Nandi on contract to spray insecticide on books and on 29 November, the latter had only carried out the job that he was doing once every month since 2004.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 20 December 2013 under a different headline.)