Malda, Dec. 1: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee stepped in today to nip in the bud agriculture minister Kamal Guha’s movement to blockade central offices in this district to protest against Delhi’s inaction in tackling river erosion.
The Forward Bloc leader was asked to call off the blockade, which began this morning, and leave the town. District magistrate Ashok Bala carried the missive from Calcutta to the minister. Superintendent of police Pankaj Dutta had to ensure that the climbdown was without trouble.
The police called a news conference on behalf of Guha and Bala sent his deputy to confirm his ticket to Calcutta on the Kanchenjungha Express. The big two of the district administration virtually paced the circuit house lawns till Guha headed for station.
The high drama became apparent around 7.30 this morning when the district police control room and the Englishbazar police station began frantically calling media personnel with the information that Guha wanted to hold a news conference at 9.
That the administration wanted Guha to make a statement as soon as possible was evident. “Why are you late' Kamal Guha wants to meet you, go in right away,” said Dutta, standing near the circuit house entrance.
Inside, Guha asked the district magistrate to speak first.
“We received a message this morning from Writers’ Buildings stating that the chief minister had taken full responsibility in taking up the issue of the Ganga erosion with the Centre. This message had to be communicated to Guha with the chief minister’s request that he withdraw the blockade,” Bala said.
Sources said the message was conveyed to Guha immediately after it arrived but the blockade had begun. The district magistrate and the police chief convinced Guha that they would tackle the situation and all he had to do was make an official statement.
“I have total faith in the chief minister, I am withdrawing the movement on his request. But if our demands on erosion are not fulfilled, we will launch a militant movement,” Guha said at the press meet.
He added that the chief minister had made the Bloc’s task easier. “We stand to gain if we have Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as our leader. The only way out is a movement against the Centre and that is why we had decided to stop work in its offices,” Guha said.
The Bloc had its plans set for the agitation. Supporters were supposed to block the offices of the Life Insurance Corporation, banks, post offices, railway stations and Union public sector undertakings. Protesters had begun arriving here from various north Bengal districts yesterday.
Early in the morning, some of them prevented postal employees from taking out bags of mail at Foara More.
Caught in the fracas was Ashok Maity, who had just arrived by train on transfer as post office superintendent from Daltonganj in Jharkhand. He had to stand outside the office complex with bags and baggage till 1 pm, when he finally made it to his quarters.