Mamata flag flies atop mini-Writers’
Statute scan on reforms
Left pricks US with pencil gift
Calcutta weather

 
 
MAMATA FLAG FLIES ATOP MINI-WRITERS’ 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, July 8 
Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress has captured the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), winning a suspense-packed mayoral election that put an end to the Left’s 15-year-old innings.

Standing awash in limelight was Subrata Mukherjee, 53, Trinamul leader and Mamata’s pointsman, as he was sworn in as the 35th mayor of Calcutta which got in him the first non-Left First Citizen in nearly 30 years.

“We have taken over the smaller red building of the Calcutta Corporation. Now we will begin our journey towards the other red citadel — Writers’ Buildings,” Mamata told reporters after Mukherjee’s victory.

“Watch us, we are going to take over Writers’ Buildings next year. Mamata willing, we will sweep the Assembly elections,” Mukherjee gushed, vowing also to rid the city of malaria.

He squeezed past the CPM led-Left Front nominee Kanti Ganguly by four votes, bagging 66 of the 128 votes cast in the 141-member corporation. The Congress made itself absent from the voting, enabling Mamata to gather the necessary support without fear of cross-voting by any of the party’s councillors.

After the announcement of the results, Ganguly walked up to Mukherjee and presented him a bouquet, a smile and a pat on the shoulder. “Go ahead, and work for the city, you will have my fullest cooperation,” Ganguly said.

Municipal commissioner Asim Barman administered the oath of office to Mukherjee who will shortly resign the Assembly seat which he had won on the Congress ticket. Mukherjee had drifted towards Trinamul after his relations with the Congress worsened.

Though Mamata’s mission was accomplished, the final scoreline at the CMC struck a jarring note for her as it showed one of the Trinamul-BJP’s councillors had cross-voted for Ganguly.

However, one consolation for her was that there was no such cross voting when Trinamul’s Anil Mukherjee was elected chairman of the CMC, winning 67 ballots as against the 61 of the Front’s Purnendu Sengupta.

Even though Mamata maintained that she would not comment on the stand of another political party, Trinamul leaders said they were “grateful” to the Congress.

The state Congress said it was happy that anti-Left forces formed the CMC board, but underscored the cross-voting to score a brownie point over Mamata.

“The cross-voting shows that the ‘B’ team of the CPM also exists within the Trinamul-BJP combine,” said PCC vice-president, Saugata Roy, referring to Mamata’s favourite definition of the Congress.

But Roy maintained that the party would closely watch the mayor’s “approach and attitude” towards the Congress and decide in the future how far it could cooperate with him.

“The present mayor does not have a clear majority and will need our support in the event of a no-confidence motion by the Left Front six months later,” said Roy.

The counting began around 3 pm amid tight security with large number of Trinamul and Left Front supporters camping outside the police cordon.

At 6 pm, at the Central Government guest house in Nizam Palace, Mamata, who has been camping there since the CMC polls, faced ecstatic party supporters arriving in trucks and matadors from all over the city. Slogans like ‘CMC for TMC’ and ‘Mamatar khamata CPM dekheja’ rent the air.

“We will do our best to serve the Calcutta Corporation. It is Calcutta where Trinamul was born,” said Mamata.

She said that her party councillors fought “physically and mentally” against “money and muscle power” of the ruling CPM. “The CPM wanted to buy some of our councillors with huge amounts of cash,” she added.

Mamata has convened a meeting with her party councillors tomorrow to decide on the future course of action. The state BJP president Asim Ghosh dubbed today’s development a “great victory”.

CPM state secretary and politburo member Anil Biswas said that the Left Front government would cooperate with the Trinamul-BJP-run corporation in the interest of the city’s development.

“But I want to point out that one councillor belonging to the Trinamul-BJP combine has supported us. The Congress stayed away from voting in order to keep away from controversy,” he added.    


 
 
STATUTE SCAN ON REFORMS 
 
 
FROM R. VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, July 8 
The Constitution Review Commission will also look into the country’s economic policy and assess whether “globalisation” had helped in poverty alleviation or “added to it”.

“Poverty is one of the major concerns and we have to see whether the new economic policy has contributed to the eradication of poverty or actually further added to it,” said Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, spokesman for the commission.

The panel, Justice Reddy added, had received “hundreds” of suggestions on the issue and would go through them before deciding “in which chapter” the subject should be included.

The commission held its third meeting at Vigyan Bhavan under chairman Justice M.N. Venkatachalaiah and decided to form yet another committee to scrutinise drafts approved by various sub-panels on the 10 key subjects.

“Initial drafts on topics ‘peace of social and economic changes in India: the question of poverty’, ‘literacy, employment and social security’ and ‘enlargement of fundamental rights’ have already been received. The initial drafts on papers on other subjects are also expected to be received shortly,” Justice Reddy added.

He said more funds would be sought from the Centre to prepare consultation papers and questionnaires, hold meetings of advisory panels and seminars and payment of professional fees.

So far, Rs 1.84 crore has been allocated for the commission’s running expenses, of which Rs 40 lakh has been earmarked for fees to professionals, NGOs and others for preparing background papers and for travel and other expenses of advisory board members.

Justice Reddy said trade union bosses, leaders of cooperative movements, jurists, journalists, academics, panchayati raj institutions and “a wide cross-section of the society” would be involved in reviewing the Constitution.

NGOs and various other institutions would be funded to hold seminars and issue questionnaires throughout the country, the spokesman said. He added that the review panel would also interact with the commissions for SCs and STs, minorities, women and human rights.    


 
 
LEFT PRICKS US WITH PENCIL GIFT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 8 
For the US, a pencil is mightier than a Scud missile if it is in the hands of Saddam Hussein. For the CPM, it offers an opportunity to let two lakh literates bloom in Saddam’s desert and teach America a lesson in the process.

The Left party is despatching two lakh pencils for the deprived children of Iraq, where literacy rates have fallen over the past decade by over 20 per cent.

As pencils contain graphite, and graphite can be used in nuclear reactors, pencils are on the UN’s embargo list on Iraq.

But the CPM, which recently received a visitor from Iraq, Dr Nasra, and heard of the West Asian country’s plight, decided to send the lot as an act of defiance.

CPM leader Brinda Karat, the driving force behind the All-India Democratic Women’s Association who met Nasra, dismissed suggestions that graphite from pencils could be used by Saddam for making a bomb. She countered any argument by saying that Iraq was fully literate before the Gulf War.

Coming at a time when India is trying to build bridges with the US, the CPM gesture might create problems. However, the Indian government has so far remained non-committal on the Left move.

Graphite, when it comes in large quantities, is a huge temptation for dictators to be used as a “moderator” for cooling and slowing down nuclear reactions.

Several Internet sites of the Federation of American Scientists and the United Nations provide a detailed history of sanctions against Iraq. Graphite is banned because it can be used in High Temperature Gas Cooled reactors or HTGRs where the reactors is fuelled with a mixture of graphite and fuel-bearing microsphere.

All Internet sites run by the US government agencies suggest that graphite in all its forms can be manipulated and used for HTGRs. The UN inspection team even agrees that graphite helps in “neutron irradiation of a solid, when atoms are dislodged from normal lattice positions and set in motion”.

It also cites the Wigner effect when “the fractional amount of energy transferred depends as in any elastic collision on the mass ratio of the neutron to that of the recoil atom”.

Though the sanctions took their toll on literacy, Saddam’s Ba’ath party had little time to solve this problem.

“You know, they don’t even allow anaesthetics to be sent over to Baghdad. As a result, women undergo Caesarean section without anaesthesia. Imagine, how painful the situation can be,” said Karat. “And now we get to hear that the children are deprived of pencils.”

The CPM has lauded this pencil collection drive among Indian citizens for Iraqis in the latest issue of the People’s Democracy, its mouthpiece.

The party feels that the people of West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh have done well to come forward with huge pencil donations. And 200,000 is not the final figure. More pencils are to be collected shortly by the party.

The Vajpayee government is somewhat bemused. It does not want to alienate Iraq completely, but would rather go the US way.

Several scientists in India believe that the graphite in pencils can never be used for nuclear purposes and that American are overreacting.

“The US may be over-methodical at times. The form of graphite you get in pencils might not be as debilitating as the Americans are suggesting,” said a scientist. Besides, he said, Pakistan had taken a lead over Iraq in producing a convincing nuclear weapon.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Max: 30.1°C (-2), Min: 27.2°C (+1) Relative Humidity: Maximum: 92% Minimum: 78% Rainfall: 1.3 mm Today: One or two spells of light rain. Sunset: 6.22 pm, Sunrise: 5.01 am    
 

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