High command nod for skip-poll strategy
CPM swings away from machines on ballot-eve
Martyrdom Day drive by tea garden union
Gun and bombs impounded
Tribals shun militants
Cachar smuggler shot

Calcutta, July 1 
The AICC on Sunday endorsed the state Congress� move directing its 15 newly-elected councillors in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation not to be present during the mayoral election.

Prabha Rau, AICC general secretary in charge of West Bengal affairs, sent a fax to PCC working president Priya Ranjan Das Munshi on Saturday afternoon, saying the councillors should maintain equidistance from the Trinamul Congress-BJP combine and the Left Front. The development is likely to help the combine in the mayoral election, as the Left will be denied an opportunity to engineer cross-voting among Congress councillors.

In the message, Rau said: �Only after the mayor is elected can the party decide its course of action, on the basis of issues taken up by those who form the the civic board.� The message indicates that the state Congress might consider offering issue-based support to the combine.

Welcoming the AICC move, Trinamul mayoral candidate Subrata Mukherjee said: �This is a step in the right direction. The absence of the Congress councillors at the election will prevent the Left from roping them in.�

The tally in the 141-member board also indicates a Trinamul edge over the Front. While the Trinamul Congress-BJP combine has 65 councillors, including some Independents, the Front has only 61.

Mamata Banerjee has convened a meeting on Monday to discuss her party�s strategy on formation of the civic board.

Mayoral deadlock

The Left Front on Saturday failed to nominate a candidate for mayor, though it met specifically to decide on a contender to Subrata Mukherjee. CPM Politburo member Biman Bose later said the party would finalise a name by July 5.

He said, however, that the Front would definitely contest the mayoral election and �not allow the Trinamul-BJP combine to go unopposed in the CMC�.

Asked whether the Front was hopeful of winning the mayoral election, Bose replied: �We have never said so.�

Minor Front partners, like the Forward Bloc and RSP, are peeved with the CPM for announcing the decision to contest the mayoral election without consulting them.

�The CPM took a unilateral decision and convened the Left Front meeting only to endorse its stand�, alleged a state CPI leader.

All the Front partners, however, agreed to the CPM proposal of contesting the mayoral election, on condition that they would not seek Congress support officially.    

Calcutta, July 1 
With barely 24 hours to go for the repoll in one booth of the Salt Lake municipality, the CPM on Saturday recorded its displeasure with the electronic voting machine (EVM), saying it was not faultless and could be manipulated.

On Wednesday, counting in Salt Lake�s ward 16 ground to an abrupt halt after the machine developed a technical snag. Experts called in from Hyderabad failed to repair the machine on Friday.

This prompted the state election commission to order a repoll, to be held on Sunday between 7 am and 3 pm. Nearly 700 voters will recast their votes.

CPM Politburo member Biman Bose said on Saturday that the machines were not flawless, as claimed and it was not very difficult to manipulate votes in them. He called for a countrywide convention on the use of these machines, where all political parties could air with their views.

The CPM faces a crucial test in Salt Lake, as it has bagged 11 seats in the 23-member municipal board, as has the Trinamul Congress. In case Trinamul wins ward 16, it will form the Salt Lake board.

Mainline Opposition parties are surprised at the CPM�s volte face on voting machines. PCC general secretary Sougata Roy said there �is nothing basically wrong with the machine. It makes counting of votes easier. The CPM is hedging because it fears a defeat in Salt Lake.� BJP leader Muzaffar Khan said the machines were scientific and saved time.

PSU closure protest

All Left trade unions will meet Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee during his visit here on July 6 and submit a memorandum protesting the decision to close down six public sector undertakings in the state.    

Siliguri, July 1 
Apart from May Day, tea-rich Darjeeling and the Dooars may have another workers� day.

The Darjeeling-Terai-Dooars Chai Kaman Mazdoor Union, affiliated to Aituc, has initiated a move to observe June 25 as �Workers� Martyrdom Day� every year to commemorate the first martyrdom of tea workers in the country.

On June 25, 1955, four men and two women were killed at Margaret�s Hope Tea Estate, near Kurseong, when the police opened fire on a group of striking workers.

Like elsewhere in the Hills, the workers, under the leadership of the Darjeeling Zilla Chai Kaman Mazdoor Union (then controlled by the undivided CPI) and the Darjeeling Chai Kaman Shramik Sangh (run by the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League), were demanding abolition of the system of evicting workers and their families from gardens within 24 hours of termination of work; bonus; wages at par with counterparts in the Dooars and other facilities.

The Mazdoor Union was formed in 1996 by rebel CPM leaders, who floated the Communist Party of Marxist Revolutionaries (CPRM) after breaking away from their mother organisation over the Gorkhaland issue.

CPRM central committee member D.S. Bomzan said: �We will approach all unions and forces fighting for workers� rights to observe the day as Shramik Shahid Divas every year. This will further boost the workers� movement.�

Commenting on the Shahid Divas move, CPM central committee member Ananda Pathak, who is also president of the Citu-run Darjeeling Zilla Chai Kaman Mazdoor Union, said: �We will think about the proposal when we get it. We would not like any particular union to assume credit for the 1955 movement as we strongly feel that it goes to the workers only.�

Signalling the start of the Martyrdom Day drive,the Mazdoor Union organised a mass rally in Darjeeling last Sunday.

A book, The First and the New Phase of the Workers� Movement in Our Homeland, written in Nepali by R.B. Rai, was released on the occasion. More than 50 per cent of the region�s population live on tea estates.    

Calcutta, July 1 
Mohammad Babloo, 18, was arrested by the Railway Protection Force at Howrah on Saturday. A revolver and six bombs were seized from him. Later, a search team found four more bombs in bushes adjoining the station.

Found dead: Banshi Majhi, 50, a Group-D employee of Great Eastern Hotel, was found unconscious at 5:30 am in his staff quarter on Saturday. He was rushed to Calcutta Medical College, where he was pronounced dead.

Dies in hospital: Buddhadev Mondal, 20, was found unconscious in front of Birla Planetarium and rushed to Sambhunath Pandit Hospital, where he died on Saturday of high fever. Mondal was a resident of Krishnagar.

Shops gutted: A fire broke out on Titagarh Station Road at 1:30 pm on Saturday. It gutted five shops. Five fire engines fought the blaze for two hours.    

Agartala, July 1 
One person was abducted by National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) militants while eight members of the outfit were arrested in separate incidents in Tripura yesterday, police said today. The militants stopped a water tanker at Taindal village in West Tripura district and abducted the driver.

In another incident, security forces raided Kasko village in South Tripura district and arrested two insurgents in connection with the May 17 attempt to overrun a Tripura State Rifles (TSR) camp at Sarbang, sources said. A person, abducted from South Tripura�s Nabajoypara village by the NLFT on June 1, was released early this morning.

Unabated violence has alienated the tribals from the militants. In an unprecedented incident, tribals of Killa area requested officer-in-charge of the local police station Pranab Debnath to arrange for the return of Bengali families to Killa market.

Nearly 30 tribal youth met Debnath and asked him to �resettle� 50 Bengali families, which had left the area on May 28 fearing militant attacks . More than six persons were killed and 10 abducted by rebels in the area over the past month.

The tribals promised to protect the Bengali families. Police sources said efforts were on to persuade the Bengalis to return.

Sources said the tribals were disillusioned with militancy and desired peace for �practical reasons.� The Bengali families in the area were small-time traders and the tribals were their main customers.

�We can�t afford to purchase things in cash and the Bengali traders used to give us things on credit. But we do not get it now,� said Rabisadhan Jamatya, an Indigenous People�s Front of Tripura leader.

Similar incidents are being increasingly reported elsewhere in the state.    

Silchar, July 1 
A patrol unit of the Border Security Force (BSF) shot dead a notorious smuggler at Lakshibazar on the Indo-Bangladesh border in Karimganj district last night.

Official sources at Karimganj said acting on a tip-off the BSF jawans lay in waiting for an hour near a checkgate on the bank of the border river of Kushiara for the smuggler Moinul Haque, 39. When smuggler was spotted loading a boat with the contraband, the BSF unit fired in the air in warning and asked him to surrender.

But the smuggler defied the command. The BSF then fired seven rounds and shot him dead. A few sacks of sugar were seized from the boat. The boat was also confiscated.

Police transfers

The Assam government yesterday carried out a swift reshuffle in the police department, transferring two controversial district superintendents of police (SPs) of Cachar and Karimganj districts in south Assam.

While Mukesh Agarwal,the Cachar SP, was transferred as the commandant of the 4th battalion of the Assam Police task Force at Bowli, Karimganj district SP Dilip Kumar Baruah was transferred to the Assam Police Training Centre at Dergoan.

Both were embroiled in recent controversies.

P.R. Das, the security chief in Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB) and Satyen Gogoi, the commandant of 5th Battalion of the Assam Police at Sontilla near Haflong have been respectively named as the new SPs of Cachar and Karimganj districts.

Congress stalwart and Lok Sabha MP Santosh Mohan Dev hailed these transfers as the victory of �responsible public opinion over vested interests.�    


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