State seeks saviour in CII
Hot words at CMC over cooling kit
Legislative lessons for students
A day too few for matters green
CM talks tough to unions
Sikdar terms for Trinamul
Mamata in rejig meet
Falling off the bird map

 
 
STATE SEEKS SAVIOUR IN CII 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 12: 
The state government has turned to the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) to showcase West Bengal as a possible destination for investments.

Industry minister Nirupam Sen met CII secretary-general and Haldia Petrochemicals Limited chairman Tarun Das in this regard at Writers’ Buildings on Saturday.

“I have held discussions on a CII proposal to visit other states and meet industrialists with a view to project Bengal as a potential business destination,” Sen said.

“We would like the industry minister to concentrate on attracting investments from other states,” Das added.

The CII secretary-general indicated that the probable stops on the tour would be Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore. The travel plans will be chalked out beginning March this year.

“We want the minister to interact with industrialists on a one-on-one basis,” Das added.

The CII would prepare a presentation for prospective investors. The publicity package of the industrial scheme will soon be forwarded to Sen for his approval.

The minister said he was willing to accompany the CII representatives wherever they needed his assistance.

Two areas which the CII has suggested Sen to lay emphasis on are biotechnology and information technology.

“We will present the viable projects in the state through various media avenues,” said Das, describing the scheme as a “roadshow” for West Bengal’s industrial prospect.

Sen skipped a series of programmes in his home district, Burdwan, as he was not keeping well. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee attended the functions in Durgapur and Burdwan along with other ministers.

   

 
 
HOT WORDS AT CMC OVER COOLING KIT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 12: 
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s decision to instal air-conditioners in the rooms of all his 10 mayor-in-council (MIC) members has run into opposition from his own colleague.

Though most MICs are eager to have their chambers renovated and the machines installed, MIC (roads and engineering) Anup Chatterjee has struck a dissenting note. Installing the machines would run up huge expenses for the CMC, Chatterjee has argued.

“We should not allow the misuse of public money as the CMC is already facing a serious financial crisis,” he said. The move will send a wrong signal to the people, he pointed out, adding that the money required to instal the machines should be used to provide more civic amenities instead.

Chatterjee also felt that the board should have sought the permission of the party (Trinamul Congress) before implementing the mayor’s decision. “The mayor has the right to instal AC machines in his chamber, but I can’t instruct the engineering department to carry out the order without obtaining permission from the party,” he added.

The other civic board members are unwilling to buy Chatterjee’s argument. “It was he (Chatterjee) who wanted to renovate the chambers of the MICs and instal AC machines. Now he is opposing the mayor’s decision. This is nothing but hypocrisy,” MIC, drainage, Rajib Deb said.

“I am not bothered about having my chamber air-conditioned. But I can’t accept Chatterjee’s statement as I know that it was he who had urged the mayor to renovate the chambers. He had even signed a proposal in this regard along with three other MICs,” Deb claimed.

Asked to comment on the issue, MIC, conservancy, Mala Roy steered clear of controversy. “I start my day at 7 am, travelling in the city to supervise garbage clearance. I reach office at 11 am and work till evening. It is immaterial for me whether my chamber is air-conditioned or not.”

Mukherjee, incidentally, had faced criticism from the Opposition in the CMC after he had installed air-conditioners in his chamber within a few months of assuming office.

   

 
 
LEGISLATIVE LESSONS FOR STUDENTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 12: 
In a bid to familiarise students with present-day politics, the state government is planning to make it mandatory for all the 7,000 state-funded secondary schools to organise mock Parliament sessions.

The decision comes as a revival of a scheme mooted by the Centre five years ago. The Centre had then sent a directive to the state, asking it to introduce mock Parliament sessions in schools. The state had ignored the order at the time.

Sources in the state Parliamentary affairs depart-ment said ignorance among politicians about the principles of legislation has forced the government to start the scheme.

“We hope to produce better politicians. That’s why we are in the process of training students,” said a Parliamentary affairs department official. “We have already sent circulars to schools across the state,” said the official.

Tushar Panchanan, leader of the CPM-controlled All Bengal Teachers’ Association, welcomed the move. “Our association is ready to extend any kind of help to make the scheme successful,” he said. Prithwis Basu, general secretary of West Bengal Headmasters’ Association criti-cised the government for taking long to re-implement the Centre’s directive.

The Centre had organised workshops to orient teachers on the fundamentals of legislation. The state government has decided to make such training a continuous process. The mock sessions will have to be self-funded, according to a state directive.

   

 
 
A DAY TOO FEW FOR MATTERS GREEN 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 12: 
With the green bench of Calcutta High Court now hearing pollution cases only on Fridays — that, too, along with other public interest litigations — environmentalists feel the city might just slip back to the pre-green bench days.

The bench, constituted on the basis of a Supreme Court directive in 1997, was asked by the apex court to hear environment-related cases at least twice a week following a plea by the Howrah Ganatantrik Nagarik Samiti.

But for the past two years, following an order from the high court, the bench has been meeting only on Fridays. “Even that day is not reserved exclusively for environmental issues. This defeats the very purpose of the court,” said advocate Kallol Guha Thakurata. “Judgements are delayed since the same bench hears all types of cases,” he explained.

Lawyers and activists say the importance of the bench cannot be overlooked. It is because of the bench that the city has become greener, the decibel limits are within control during Kali Puja, morgues have been renovated, some of the markets are cleaner and Tolly’s Nullah, an integral part of the city’s sewerage system, has been rid of encroachments.

“The efforts of the previous green benches have paid so much dividends. The present bench should keep up the good work of its predecessors,” said environmentalist Rebati Ranjan Chakraborty, whose petition to the bench led to the clean-up drive along Tolly’s Nullah.

Environmentalists are of the view that the high court should at least arrange for a division bench to sit twice a week to hear pollution issues.

Two killed in mishaps

Two persons, including a boy, were killed in separate accidents on Saturday. Uday Mandal, 14, was knocked down by a private bus when he was crossing Brabourne Road around 8.15 am. The boy died on the way to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. In another incident, Ranjit Chowdhury, 48, was killed after a truck hit him on Hyde Road, in the South Port police station area. A roadblock was put up in protest.

   

 
 
CM TALKS TOUGH TO UNIONS 
 
 
FROM UTPAL BANERJEE
 
Durgapur, Jan. 12: 
Barely two days after an SUCI-called bandh crippled most of Bengal on Thursday, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee sent out a strong message that the days of militant trade unionism were over.

“Workers should keep in mind that productivity is a joint responsibility of both workers and the management,” Bhattacharjee said, but added on a softer note: “(However,) it does not mean that they will have to forgo the rights for democratic movements for justified causes.”

The chief minister was here to lay the foundation stone of a commercial complex at the City Centre of Bengal Shristi Infrastructure Development and Asansol-Durgapur Development Authority. He also inaugurated a Rs 252-crore cement factory of Larsen and Toubro, a sponge-iron factory of the SPS Group and a private engineering college. Later, he inaugurated a private housing complex in Burdwan town.

Bengal, said Bhattacharjee, was “now an ideal place for investment”. “Had it not been so, industrialists would not have shown that much interest. They invested nearly Rs 3,000 crore in the last financial year. They are no fools.”

Claiming that there was an improved work culture in government offices, he said efforts were being made to bring back discipline in every sphere of the administration. “We cannot say that we have achieved 100 per cent success, but we are serious to get things done,” he said. The failure of Thursday’s bandh, he added, was indicative of the people’s seriousness. “You must have seen workers reported for duty rejecting the unjust bandh,” he said.

Without naming Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, Bhattacharjee said some vested interests were trying to oppose the government’s recent ban on road and rail blockades. “But we have already enacted the law preventing whimsical blockades by political parties on one plea or the other,” he said.

In a veiled attack on the Jyoti Basu government, the chief minister said urban development had so far been confined to Calcutta alone. “But gone are those days when people used to think that if Calcutta developed, other parts of Bengal would develop too. Today, we have decentralised the policy of urban development. We are giving priority for developing other district towns across the state,” he said while inaugurating a housing complex by Bengal Ambuja near G.T. Road.

The administration took unprecedented security measures for Bhattacharjee’s visit to the district. Inspector-general of police, western range, J.R. Bhagat, was in the town to supervise the arrangements.

While inaugurating the college, he rued that students were leaving Bengal to study in other states. But he added that the state was “fast overcoming its shortcomings”.

   

 
 
SIKDAR TERMS FOR TRINAMUL 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Behrampore, Jan. 12: 
The state BJP will forge an alliance with the Trinamul Congress to fight the next panchayat polls only if it receives an “honourable seat-sharing offer” from Mamata Banerjee, Union minister of state for telecommunication and information technology Tapan Sikdar said here today.

“We are not prepared to accept any kind of joke in the name of electoral alliance at the time of the panchayat polls. Mamata cannot expect an alliance by simply offering us a few seats of her choice. She must show a political will to forge unity and stop her practice of outright rejecting our party’s claims for seats,” he told reporters.

   

 
 
MAMATA IN REJIG MEET 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 12: 
Concerned over her growing isolation from the masses and rising dissent in the party, Mamata Banerjee has for the first time lined up a two-day general council meeting of the Trinamul Congress beginning January 20 in Digha.

A revamp in the organisation and its political strategy for the coming days is on top of the agenda.

“This will be our first serious effort to overhaul the party since it was formed in 1999,” said state unit president Subrata Bakshi, also party MLA from South 24-Parganas. He said the “brainstorming session” will not only give “fresh directions” to party managers on how to mobilise public opinion by undertaking a sustained agitational programme but also help them rein in dissidents.

According to Bakshi, the two-day marathon session will be concluded with a public rally where Mamata and mayor Subrata Mukherjee will be the main speakers. Besides, nearly 650 party delegates from across the state will attend the programme.

Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, Trinamul chief whip in the Assembly, said an emergency secretariat meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow at Nizam Palace to prepare a blueprint for the “grand conference”. “We are attaching much importance to the proposed session as this will give us an opportunity to restructure the organisation right from the grassroots level,” he said.

   

 
 
FALLING OFF THE BIRD MAP 
 
 
FROM SANJUKTA DUBEY
 
Asansol, Jan. 12: 
They used to come in thousands. From Europe, America, Siberia, the Arctic — thousands of birds fleeing the cruel winters of their homes to catch the sunshine by the lakes of Chittaranjan.

About a decade ago, the birds numbered around 25,000. But now this has dropped to a poor 10,000.

What drew the birds — and still does, but in much less numbers — are the four lakes of the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works. These were the birds’ main feeding source.

“We are trying to analyse why the number is decreasing. Experts from the Bombay Natural History Society have also tested the waters of the lakes to find out if it was the reason why fewer birds are coming every year,” said Krishanu Bhattacharya, a member of the society.

Concern is also growing at the local level. Some people here got together in 1998 to launch the Nature and Environment Study Troops (NEST). Recently, the Salem Ali Centre for Ornithology and Nature selected this organisation to conduct the official census of migratory birds in the area.

Bhattacharya claimed that nearly 150 types of wetland birds come to this region. The few species of birds from Europe and the other side of the Himalayas and North America like the lesser whistling teal, cotton teal, yellow wagtail and great crested grebe are common here in winter.

The organisation is trying to include the region in the Important Bird Area category. “We need at least 10,000 birds to get it declared a bird sanctuary. This might be possible in the next few years as poaching has been curbed and restoration of the habitat is on in full swing,” Bhattacharya said.

The organisation members have proposed that Chittaranjan Locomotive authorities make special arrangements for the birds. They have also requested the authorities to ban picnic on the dams across the lakes, which pose a threat to the environment, and urged them to construct a watch-tower for bird-lovers.

Deputy general manager of CLW Ashim Majumder said: “The railway authorities have banned the use of polythene bags from January 1 to prevent pollution. We have also directed our employees’ cooperative society to clean the lakes on a regular basis.”

   
 

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