Tag Archives: West Bengal



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)


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.)




By Bappaditya Paul

“When the news rang in, it felt like the earth beneath my feet had vanished, and I was falling into a bottomless abyss of darkness,” says Mon, from the ancestral house of noted folk singer Kalika Prasad Bhattacharya at Silchar in Barak Valley.

Mon, in her mid-20’s, is the cousin sister of Kalika, who passed away today morning in a terrible road accident at Gurap in Hooghly in West Bengal. They grew up under the same roof of the illustrious Bhattacharya family located at Silchar’s Central Road: albeit when Kalika was in college, Mon was barely a toddler.

Like Mon, no member of the large joint family could at first believe that Prasad (family and friends called him by this name) was actually no more.

“How could one come to terms with a crude reality like this? He was only 47, and yet had to take leave in such a terrible way,” wailed Prasad’s octogenarian uncle Madhusudhan Bhattacharya.

“He has been the brightest star of our family,” he adds. The statement could not have been more apt, given that the Bhattacharya family has a legacy to boast of. Silchar Sangeet Vidyalaya, one of the oldest institutes of Barak Valley, was set up by this family before Independence.

Kalika’s father Ram Bhattacharya was a known cultural organiser of Silchar; his uncle Mukundadas Bhattacharya was a famous danseur mostly known for his rendering of Sukanta Bhattacharya’s Ranar, and another uncle Ananta Bhattacharya had dedicated his entire life to collect and preserve the folk music of Barak Valley.

Kalika was born in Silchar in 1970, and just about the time he had started to drift away from breast milk to solid food, his mother gave birth to a daughter. This robbed him of the care that a kid is entitled to get from his mother as she was now engrossed in taking care of the new-born.

“But this, turned out to be a blessing for Prasad. His spinster paternal aunt, Anandamoyee Bhattacharya, took charge of him. She has all along been a very good singer (has been the principal of Silchar Sangeet Vidyalaya) and thus, started imparting music lessons to Prasad from a very tender age,” recalls Madhusudhan.

By the time, Kalika enrolled at Narsing Higher Secondary School in the town, his uncle Mukundadas Bhattacharya, had earned kudos as a danseur. Kalika would often play tabla as his uncle performed in Silchar and elsewhere.

Mukundadas was also an activist of the Communist Party’s Indian People’s Theatre Association, and this made several Communist leaders visit the family quite often. This introduced Kalika to the Left politics.

It did not take long for him to become an active member of CPI-M’s student wing SFI and in due course, its unit secretary in Silchar. At Guru Charan College, where Kalika studied BA, he was elected the general secretary of the SFI-led student union in 1989.

Just as Kalika was finishing college, his folk music collector uncle, Ananta Bhattacharya, passed away, leaving behind a treasure trove that he had accumulated over two decades. Kalika eventually took charge of the collection and started dusting them off. Until then, he was hardly into singing.

In 1996, Kalika came over to Kolkata to study master’s in Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University. He found accommodation at his elder cousin sister Bhabhani Chakraborty’s house at Santoshpur in south Kolkata.

By 1999, when Kalika completed his master’s by securing a gold medal, the popular music in Bengal had been taken over by music bands. With music in his blood, how could he not become a party to this? He did, but with a difference.

“Prasad decided to form a group to take the Bengali folk music from the periphery like Barak Valley to the centre stage in Bengal. He gathered a few others hailing from Barak Valley who lived in Kolkata due to professional obligations, and then went to a teacher of his at Jadavpur University requesting him to suggest a name for the group. Thus was born Dohar in 1999,” Madhusudhan tells.

Over the next few years, Kalika went on performing folk music in different parts of Bengal, many a times in fusion with other singing forms. In this, he largely benefited from the collection he had inherited from uncle Ananta Bhattacharya.

Dohar was yet to click the way it did a few years later, that in 2006, Kalika married Ritacheta Goswami, a JU junior from the Bengali department. Ritacheta, a native of Raiganj in north Bengal, is a school teacher by profession.

To run the family, Kalika took job with an FM radio channel in Kolkata in 2007. He quit the job in 2010, as this was affecting his music. Subsequently, he dedicated himself completely for Dohar, not only ending up earning the legendary status as a proponent of Bengali folk music in the recent times, but also got some commercial success.

He bought a flat at Santoshpur and lived there with wife and five-year-old daughter Ashabhari until today morning. Around 07 this morning, he went out in a hired Innova car  with his team to perform at a college in Birbhum’s Suri.

Around 08.50 am, the speeding car hit the railing of Durgapur Expressway at Gurap in Hooghly and then onto a culvert. The car was then flung into the air several feet below into a ditch and got almost twisted. Apart from Kalika, his team members Rajib Das, Sudipto Chakraborty (Kalika’s nephew), Niladri Roy, Sandipan Pal, and driver Arnab Rao were in the car.

Residents of the area rescued them and with the help of cops from Gurap police station, rushed to the Burdwan Medical College and Hospital. Kalika was declared brought dead; others are still under treatment.

Kalika’s demise has brought down a pall of gloom over Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee paid her last tribute at Nabanna when his mortal remains were transported to Kolkata from Burdwan around 4 pm.

The mortal remains were then kept at Rabindra Sadan, where, who’s who of Bengal’s music fraternity, offered their tribute. From there, the body has been taken to Keoratola Crematorium in the city for cremation with full state honours this evening.

Kalika’s younger singer Indrani Bhattacharya has flown down from Silchar to attend the cremation far away from his place of birth ~ a land that has given blood for Bengali language, more than once.

(Author is editor, NEWSMEN, Kolkata. This report first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 7 March 2017.)


Grab one last copy as Hindustan Times shuts Kolkata edition from Monday

By Bappaditya Paul

COME Monday, 09 January, India’s leading English daily, Hindustan Times, would discontinue its edition from Kolkata after a stint of about 16 years in the City of Joy.

Employees at the Kolkata office of the second most widely read English news daily in India received an e-mail from their Delhi headquarters on 04 January informing about management’s decision to stop publishing from the city.

This, the management wrote, was being done with the aim of investing into “Digital Future” which the company thinks would be more rewarding. Independent web portal Newslaundry reports that the company would also stop publishing the editions from Ranchi, Bhopal, and Indore from the same day.

The move comes about a year since the company started imparting training to its Kolkata editorial staff into producing and publishing news on digital platforms. For the past near two months or so, Hindustan Times Kolkata edition began to publish more news online and made reporters and copy editors to publicise the same on social media.

An editorial staff with the Kolkata edition said that ever since getting the e-mail, the 120-odd employees here were in utter anxiety, fearing that they might be sacked.

“We hear that the company would barely retain three to five reporters in Kolkata,” he said on conditions of anonymity. On Monday, an executive editor of the newspaper from Mumbai is scheduled to visit Kolkata to announce the downsizing and the next course of action.

The strength of the editorial team of Kolkata edition ~ including reporters and copy editors ~ is around 40. Some of them have already started approaching other English dailies published from the city for opportunities.

This is the first instance in India of any major newspaper stopping to publish print editions as the media world marches into a digital era where news is consumed more on the Internet.

Hindustan Times had started its edition from Kolkata in early 2000 and this was followed by a satellite edition from Siliguri the next year. The Siliguri edition, however, was discontinued within a year or so, but the Kolkata edition continued despite making losses year after year.

Until the announcement on 04 January, everyone associated with Hindustan Times in Kolkata used to believe that the company would never stop publishing from here as the city was once the base of the Birlas, who own the newspaper.

The unforeseen move probably also indicates at the dying ad revenue market in Bengal due to the absence of major industries in the state.

(Author is editor, NEWSMEN, Kolkata. This report first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 7 January 2017.)


Ashok Model costs Left Front dearly in Bengal Assembly polls

By bappaditya paul

HE is the one who by forging an informal tie-up with the Congress had turned the electoral tide against the Trinamool in two subsequent local body elections in Siliguri.

The experiment was such a runway hit that popular media lost no time in naming it Asok Model, and eventually the state level leadership of the Left Front replicated the same for this Assembly polls by entering into a state-wide electoral understanding with the Congress.

But notwithstanding the fact that CPI-M heavyweight Asok Bhattacharya has won from the Siliguri Assembly seat, the Asok Model has failed to leave a mark in this state Assembly polls.

It is not only that the Left-Congress alliance has failed miserably in south Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress has been on a strong wicket since 2008. In north Bengal too, which has been traditionally the stronghold for the Left and the Congress, Asok Model has failed to yield the desired result.

So much so that the out of the 76 seats that are there in the seven north Bengal districts along with Murshidabad, the Left has won only in 13 seats. The Left has been electorally wiped out in the districts of Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri districts.

In contrast, Congress has been able to win as many as 29 seats, emerging as the strongest party in north Bengal-Musrshidabad region. Trinamool has come out close second by winning 28 seats, albeit the ruling party has failed to open an account in Malda.

Moreover, BJP too seems to have made the most of the situation by winning two seats in north Bengal ~ Madarihat in Alipurduar and Baishabnagar in Malda.

Thus the region has greatly contributed to the BJP overall state tally of three wins; the saffron party’s third win has come from Kharagpur Sadar in West Midnapore where its state president Dilip Ghosh has won. Overall, BJP’s vote share in the state stands at 10.2 per cent as compared to the 17 per cent votes that it had managed in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

BJP’s ally, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has retained the control over the Darjeeling Hills by retaining all the three Assembly seats there. Notably, Harka Bahadur Chhetri, who had rebelled out from Morcha, has lost at Kalimpong Assembly segment.

The setback for the Left this election is very acute: its overall tally has come down to 33 seats (including one Independent that it had backed at English Bazar in Malda) from the 62 seats that it had managed during the Parivartan storm in 2011. Left’s vote share now stands reduced to 25.9 per cent.

This apart, most of the senior leaders of the Left Front, including state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra has lost the election. The notable exceptions, other than Ashok Bhattacharya is Siliguri, are Anisur Rehman at Domkal in Murshidabad, Biswanath Choudhury at Balurghat in South Dinajpur, and Sujan Chakraborty at Jadavpur in Kolkata.

Congress, on the other hand, has improved its tally to 44 seats in the state from the 42 seats that it had won in the 2011 Assembly polls. Congress vote share this Assembly polls stands at 12.3 per cent.

Thanks to the active support of Left cadres, several senior Congress leaders such as Manas Bhuniya, Abdul Mannan, Manoj Chakraborty, Shankar Malakar, Sukhbilas Burma and others have registered a victory despite the state-wide landslide victory for the Trinamool.

Contesting the polls alone, Trinamool has won 211 seats out of the 294 Assembly seats that are there in the state. Its vote share now stands at 44.9 per cent, which is about 5 per cent jump than what the party had got in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Against this, the cumulative vote share of the Left-Congress alliance stands at 38.2 per cent.

Notwithstanding the corruption charges brought forth by the Naradanews Sting Operation, Vivekananda Road Flyover collapse, and the links with real-estate syndicates, Trinamool has won all the 11 Assembly seats that are there in the Kolkata administrative district.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN. This report fist appeared on NEWSMEN on 20 May 2016.) 


Coast Guard to build hovercraft base for Sunderbans

By bappaditya paul 

The Indian Coast Guard will build a state-of-the-art forward operating base for hovercrafts at Frazerganj in South 24-Parganas district in West Bengal for surveillance over the Sunderbans ~ more than two-third of which lies in Bangladesh. The hovercraft base will come up on a 7.5 acre piece of land being provided by the West Bengal government free of cost.

Sunderbans 1

The project is part of the integrated Coastal Security Scheme (CSS) that the Government of India formulated post the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai. Estimated to be spread over 4,110 square km, water bodies occupy some 1,700 square km, Sundarbans is considered an easy transit route for seaborne terrorists as dense forests in Bangladesh surrounds it on the south, east and west.

At present, the surveillance over Sunderbans is carried out using hovercrafts that are based at the Coast Guard Station at Haldia in East Midnapore. But due to low endurance of the hovercrafts, they often face difficulties in covering such a long distance and this reduces the effectiveness of the surveillance.

Sunderbans 2

The proposed hovercraft forward operating base will come up at Lakhipur Abad mouza under Namkhana police station in Frazerganj, which was named after Andrew Frazer, a lieutenant governor of Bengal in British India. West Bengal government is providing the Coast Guard free of cost a 7.5 acre plot worth Rs 32 crore for the purpose. The identified plot belongs to the state Land and Land Reforms Department (L & LR).

“Both the Finance and L & LR Department have cleared the land allotment and the matter is now awaiting a customary nod from the state Cabinet. Hopefully, this will come through by the first half of November,” said a senior official in the West Bengal Home Department. “The state government is keen to see the hovercraft base at Frazerganj operational as we too recognise the threat emanating from the Sunderbans.”

Sunderbans 3

Once the Bengal Cabinet okays the allotment, the Home Department will issue a notification, and transfer the ownership of the land to the Coast Guard. “There is no encroachment on the plot and hence the Coast Guard will be able to start work at once,” the official said.

After coming into being, the hovercraft forward operating base at Frazerganj will in particular maintain surveillance over Frazerganj, Jambudeep and other swallow areas around the sand heads in Sunderbans. It will also supplement the Coast Guard’s air surveillance capabilities based at Haldia.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 31 October 2013.)


18,000 ICDS centres in Bengal running without shelter

By bappaditya paul

About 18,000 Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) centres in West Bengal are functioning under open sky as they lack a shelter of their own. The total number of ICDS centres in the state is, 112,432.

According to figures of the state child development department, most of the ICDS centres in the state are operating either out of rented premises or from primary / high school buildings in their respective localities.

“Of the near 1.12-lakh ICDS centres that are at present functional in Bengal, only 27,656 have their own buildings. Of the rest, while a vast majority are housed in local schools or at rented premises; about 18,000 of them do not even have a shelter at all,” said a senior official in the state child development department.

Lack of funds is the main constraints in constructing permanent buildings for the ICDS centres, he explained.

What’s worse, half of the total ICDS centres in the state do not have drinking water facilities and again about 75 per cent of them lack a lavatory.

The  child development minister Shyamapada Mukherjee blamed the state pof affairs  on the previous Left Front government.

“For decades they did not pay any heed to the ICDS centres and also lacked the vision to improve their infrastructure. But now we have taken up intuitive to construct permanent buildings for all the ICDS centres in phases. This year alone, with funds from the 13th Finance Commission, we will construct buildings for 2,174 ICDS centres. Lands for 1,500 of them have already been identified,” he said.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece first appeared in The Statesman on 24 July 2012.)


Centre to revamp smaller airports in Bengal

By bappaditya paul    

The Centre has begun a fresh move to develop the existing smaller airports in West Bengal after chief minister Mamata Banerjee recently made a strong pitch for it. A comprehensive plan is being worked out.

Union civil aviation secretary Nasim Zaidi will hold a meeting with top officials of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in New Delhi tomorrow to discuss the matter.

According to AAI sources, the agenda of the meeting is development of airports in West Bengal and infrastructure development of three smaller airports ~ Cooch Behar, Malda and Behala ~ is likely to figure prominently.

The AAI chairman, Mr VP Agarwal, and all the four whole-time board members of AAI ~ Mr S Raheja (planning), Mr V Somasundaram (air navigation system and finance), Mr G K Chaukiyal (operations) and Mr K K Jha (human resources), will attend the meeting.

West Bengal, at present, has seven airports ~ Cooch Behar, Malda, Behala Kolkata, Bagdogra, Balurghat and Asansol. But other than Kolkata, Bagdogra and Cooch Behar, none of the remaining four is operational at the moment for lack of necessary infrastructure for flight operations.

The chief minister during a meeting with Union civil aviation minister Ajit Singh in the city on 30 April had requested him to take steps for reviving the smaller airports.

Cooch Behar airport was renovated last year at a cost of Rs 32 crore, but it witnessed operations of an 18-seater Dronier aircraft to Kolkata only for a brief period from September to October 2011.

With operations of smaller aircrafts being found unviable, the state government now wants the AAI to augment the infrastructure at Cooch Behar for running of medium sized aircrafts such as the ATR 72.

“This can be done only after expanding the runway at Cooch Behar which at present is 1070 metre and also by upgrading the ground navigation facilities. For the runway expansion, a large culvert will have to be built over the river Mora Torsha. For this and other necessary infrastructure, we have prepared a Rs 35-crore project proposal and viability of the same will be discussed in tomorrow’s meet,” said a senior official attached to AAI’s Eastern Region.

It likely, the AAI board will approve the project and then forward the same to the Planning Commission for its clearance, the officer said. Apart from Cooch Behar, there is an Rs 80-100-crore revival plan for Malda and a Rs 40-crore over-all development plan for the Behala Airport, which are also likely to come up for discussion.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 10 May 2012.)


CEO reaches out to new voters

By bappaditya paul

In an innovative step, the election authority in West Bengal has started writing letters to young electors asking them to enroll their names in the voters’ list.

The letter in Bengali  is signed by the state’s chief electoral officer (CEO). The letter is designed in an attractive multicolour format and is being delivered to 18-year-olds by name.

Most importantly, along with the CEO’s letter, the newly eligible electors are being given two copies of “Form-6” ~ a pre-designed application form required for enrolment of names in the voters’ list.

“After holding the latest special summary roll revision in the state with 1 January 2012 as the reference date, the number of 18-19 year ones whose names have featured in the voters’ list now stands at 1.5 per cent of the total population.”

“This is despite the total number of individuals in this age group being a little over three per cent. Hence, to bridge this critical gap, we decided to do something to reach out to the youths and that’s how the idea of the letter came up,” said the state CEO, Mr Sunil Kumar Gupta.

The CEO’s office in Kolkata has already sent a master copy of the letter to all the district magistrates (DMs), who in turn are getting those printed as per requirement.

“At the local level it is the block level officers (BLO) who are delivering the letter to the targeted individuals. To give it a personal touch, the letter carries the name of the particular youth for whom it is meant.”

“The BLOs are also assigning teachers in higher secondary schools and colleges in their locality as nodal officers and are handing over to them bulk copies of the letter with the request that those be delivered to the students attaining 18 years of age,” elaborated Mr Joydip Mukherjee, the OSD (IT) in the CEO’s office handling the matter.
By submitting to the BLO’s office two copies of the filled up “Form-6” (being provided with the letter) along with necessary supporting documents and photographs, an eligible youth can get his/her name enrolled in the voters’ list round the year, the CEO added.

He said after the present exam season is over, they will take stock of the progress achieved through the new measure.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 31 March 2012.)


CEO to challenge High Court order on college poll

by bappaditya paul

The state’s chief electoral officer (CEO) is planning to file a petition challenging Calcutta High Court’s 7 March order that asked it to supervise college union polls in the state. The petition is likely to be filed in two-three days from now.
The CEO’s office has taken the decision following a 15 March directive from the Election Commission of India (EC), which clearly stated the CEO has no constitutional mandate to get involved in college union polls. In the directive, the EC also advised the CEO’s office to seek adequate redress to the High Court order through a proper legal procedure.

This after the CEO had sought direction from the Election Commission over the court order forwarded to it on 13 March by the state higher education department, along with a “request for taking necessary steps”. The CEO’s establishment comes under the direct purview and control of the EC.

“We have received a directive from the Commission stating that the Constitution mandates us only to conduct elections for the state Assemblies, the Lok Sabha and for the posts of the President and the Vice-President. Thus, we have been advised to seek an adequate redress to the High Court order. We are now in consultation with our empanelled counsels for the same,” the state CEO, Mr Sunil Kumar Gupta, said.

Other sources in the CEO’s office said that since their office was not a party to the original Writ Petition that led to the High Court’s order, they have now appealed the court to provide it copies of the original petition and a certified copy of the 7 March order.

“One of our empanelled High Court counsels, Mr Dipayan Choudhury, is collecting all necessary documents relating to the case. Once the documents are gathered, we will decide on the appropriate mode of challenging the order ~ be it seeking a modification, revision or a recall,” said a senior official.

In challenging the order, the basic argument of the CEO’s office will be that it conducts the Assembly, Lok Sabha, President and Vice-President polls under the EC’s preview as per the Constitutional mandate entrusted on it by the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

It may be recalled, hearing a Writ Petition filed over the alleged irregularities in college union polls in the state, Mr Justice Tapen Sen of Calcutta High Court had on 7 March ruled: “This court directs that all elections in colleges be held under the strict supervision of the chief electoral officer, West Bengal, till guidelines are framed…”
The guidelines referred to by the court were a set of uniform election codes for college union polls that the state higher education department is presently formulating in consultation with the State Election Commission (SEC).

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 20 March 2012.)