The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bottle backlash in front
- RSP, Bloc cry foul over govt’s liberal liquor policy

Calcutta, Nov. 10: Key coalition partners today piled pressure on the government to revoke the excise department’s recent decision to open about 3,000 liquor off-shops across the state.

Left Front chairman Biman Bose promised to take up the allies’ demand to scrap the policy with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at a meeting to be held at the state CPM headquarters tomorrow.

“The opening of off-shops was not on the agenda for today’s meeting. But after the way two front partners resented the government’s decision, it merits a discussion with the chief minister,” Bose said at a media briefing later.

Like the Opposition Trinamul Congress, front partners RSP and Forward Bloc voiced their protest against rampant clearance to liquor off-shops.

Yesterday, Trinamul legislators tore cut-outs of finance minister Asim Dasgupta inside the Assembly in protest against the government’s excise policy. They held Dasgupta responsible for the plan designed to maximise revenue earnings by opening liquor outlets.

Today’s front meeting turned stormy with both the RSP and the Bloc threatening to take to the streets as a mark of protest against the excise department’s decision. “We are left with no option but to mobilise our party’s youth wing and other frontal organisations against the move if the government sticks to its stand. We cannot allow this to happen, come what may,” Kshiti Goswami, the former PWD minister and senior RSP leader, told the meeting.

Goswami was joined by Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh, who said: “We cannot accept the decision to open new liquor shops at this rate. I feel this will tarnish the front’s image.”

As Goswami and Ghosh took on the government, Bose tried to pacify them with the promise of a meeting with Bhattacharjee.

The front partners also took the opportunity to corner the government led by the Big Brother in the coalition, CPM, on issues like the crises in the tea gardens in the north. They called upon the government to be more “pro-active” in addressing the ills plaguing the gardens.

“We are all very concerned about the condition of the workers of the closed tea gardens. Though the government has taken measures like introducing food-for-work programmes and installing makeshift medical camps on a war footing, more needs to be done to improve the quality of life in Dooars and many other parts of north Bengal,” said Bose.

The front chairman, also a CPM politburo member, said he would raise the issue of the tea gardens as well at his meeting with the chief minister.

“We have information that people are still dying of hunger and malnutrition in the tea gardens. More mobile medical vans should be pressed into service for the ailing in north Bengal,” said Goswami.

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