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West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee denies rioting in Dhulagarh, blames social media

Kolkata: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday denied any incident of rioting at Dhulagarh in Howrah district and alleged that “wrong information” was being given on social media.

“In the last 15 days, social media is running wrong information on an incident which did not take place at all,” Banerjee said at a programme in Kolkata, in an apparent refernce to the reports of violence in Dhulagarh, which is barely 20 km from the state secretariat.

“In order to break a news one must not act irresponsibly. If something has really happened then you (media) have every right to report but I think a field survey must be conducted,” she stated.

File photo of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI

File photo of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI

Her remarks came even as a senior government official had said on Thursday that strict actions were taken against those involved in the Dhulagarh violence and the process of giving compensation to the affected had started. The state government, Banerjee said on Friday, is the first to help a family when their home is damaged or they are affected.

“If there is an accident, we immediately take steps to help the family…. We do it on humanitarian grounds but we do not do any publicity.”

It was learnt from sources that the state government was paying compensation of around Rs 35,000 to families whose houses were damaged in the incident.

District police said inhabitants are wary of returning to their homes at Dhulagarh.

Delegations of BJP, CPI(M) and Congress were stopped from visiting the troubled areas of the district and police superintendent of Howrah (Rural) Sabyasachi Raman Mishra was transferred in the wake of violence in less than a fortnight of his appointment.

BJP has hit out at Banerjee over the Dhulagarh incident claiming that Hindus have been targeted in the violence. “This is height of the politics of appeasement. I want to ask those intellectuals, who cried over 2002 riots in Gujarat and then intolerant India, that when are they going to Kolkata,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 16:52 IST

Trains to and from Howrah and Sealdah diverted: Eastern Railway

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A number of mail and express trains of Eastern Railway were diverted through different routes on Wednesday owing to derailment of 15 coaches of Ajmer-Sealdah Express near Rura station in Kanpur-Tundla section. With both Up and Down lines having been blocked owing to the derailment, several trains to and from Howrah and Sealdah were diverted, Eastern Railway sources said in Kolkata.Both 12313 Up Sealdah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express and 12301 Up Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express were diverted via Kanpur Central-Jhansi-Agra Cantonment-Palwal route, the sources said. The 12308 Dn Jodhpur-Howrah Express has been diverted via Achhnera-Mathura-Kasganj-Kanpur Anwarganj-Kanpur Central, while 12260 Dn New Delhi-Sealdah Duronto Express was diverted via Khurja-Moradabad-Mughalsarai route.The 12382 Dn Poorva Express, which left New Delhi on Tuesday, would run via Palwal, while 12312 Dn Kalka Mail of Tuesday would travel towards Howrah via Moradabad. ER has opened helpline numbers at important stations of the zonal railway to provide information to the relatives of the passengers travelling by the ill-fated Sealdah-Ajmer Express that met with the accident this morning.The helpline numbers are — Howrah: 10724, Sealdah: 033-23503535, 033-23503537, Asansol: 0341-2306131, 0341-2304614, Barddhaman: 0342-2662535, 0342-2550705, 0342-2662534, Raniganj: 0341-2444022, 0341- 2442630, Durgapur: 0343-2557251, 0343-2557253.

BJP delegation to visit Dhulagarh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Following communal tension at Dhulagarh in Howrah district of West Bengal since last week, a team of three BJP Central leaders will visit the violence affected area and meet the families of victims.The team will comprise of Lok Sabha MPs Jagdambika Pal and Satyapal Singh. Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly was supposed to be the third member of the team but had been excluded because of her health conditions. She had fallen sick suddenly and had been admitted to AMRI Hospital. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh will also accompany them. “There had been serious communal disturbances in the area which the Centre has been apprised of and now the party national president Amit Shah wants a team to visit the place and take stock of the situation.Members of the team will visit the place, meet family members of the affected and later prepare a report and send it to the Centre. “We had earlier met the Governor regarding this and told him about the violence there. He had summoned the Director General of Police Surajit Kar Purkayastha on Thursday and questioned him regarding the instance of violence,” Ghosh said talking to DNA.A statement released on Thursday by the governor house said that the governor had asked the DGP to ensure peace in the area and to take strict action against offenders.He also added over 150 families have been rendered homeless owing to the violence. Criticising the role of the state and administration he said, “The votebank policy of Mamata Banerjee has led the police and administration to be mere spectators of the massacre. She tries to derive political dividend out of almost everything.” He added that media has been kept away from the place and that people were furious at the role of the government. “Those who have lost lakhs were given Rs 35,000 as compensation cheques. They had protested against it,” Ghosh added. The team would reach Dhulagarh on Saturday at about 1 pm.BJP leaders had alleged that instances of violence have risen during the reign of Mamata-led government.The Dhulagarh violence had sparked off last week when members of two communities had clashed when a procession by members of one community was taken out. Sources said that they started hurling bombs at each other and Howrah Police had to resort to lathi charge, fire tear gas shells and use water canon to bring the situation under control.

ED conducts inquiries against co-op banks, jewellers in WB, irregularities detected

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Enforcement Directorate on Friday conducted multiple enquiry operations at cooperative banks in three districts of West Bengal and detected alleged irregularities in deposits worth crores.In the first instance in the Hooghly district, a four-member team of the agency visited the Chinsurah Central Cooperative Bank and asked bank authorities to send them the identities of some account holders.Official sources said the agency suspects irregularities in various accounts and it also examined papers of the bank’s 19 branches in the said district. Later, the officials asked the bank to send them the Know Your Customer (KYC) details of account holders, who had deposited at least Rs 49 crore.The Chinsurah Central Cooperative Bank has no elected chairman for the past two years. Similar operations were carried out by the agency in the Howrah and Nadia districts in order to check activities in suspected accounts including those which have been dormant for sometime now. The sleuths also also visited at least half-a-dozen jewellers in the state capital yesterday and recovered some documents from these traders, especially of sales just before and after November 8 when the note scrap was announced by the government.”Records of the jewellers show some back dated sales were made and even entries of sale and purchase was made in the name of fictitious customers. The investigations are going on,” they said.The Enforcement Directorate (ED) along with the I-T department and other agencies has been carrying out operations against black money hoarders in the wake of the demonetization of two high value currencies of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500.

Jaish-e-Mohammad ‘member’ sends letter to Eastern Railway HQ, threatens to kill Bengal CM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The Eastern Railway headquarter has received a letter demanding Rs 50 crore, non-payment of which it said would harm the passengers in Howrah division, officials said here in Kolkata on Monday. Security has been beefed up at important stations and railways installations, they said. “A handwritten letter was received at the headquarter and it has been given to the police to investigate,” Divisional Railway Manager (Howrah) R Badrinarayan said. “It says Rs 50 crore should be paid. There is a mobile number given. It said if the demand was not met, there would be threat to lives in Howrah division,” he said.Eastern Railway officials said security has been beefed up at important stations, including at Howrah and other installations of the Railways. The police confirmed that the letter on a plain paper demanding the amount was received by the Eastern Railway authorities at its headquarter at Fairlie Place. An investigation is on to find out the source of the letter, they said.With PTI inputs

Manohar Parrikar writes to Mamata Banerjee, says her coup allegations ‘adversely impacting’ armed forces’ morale

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has written a letter to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, expressing pain over dragging of the army into controversy. In his letter, Parrikar said political parties and the politicians may have the luxury of making wild and unsubstantiated allegation against each other but one needs to be extremely careful while referring to the armed forces.”Your allegation, in this regard run the risk of adversely impacting the morale of the country’s armed forces and the same were not expected from a person of your standing and experience in public life,” he said.He further asserted that the army authorities were forces to put the record straight in the matter by presenting evidence of their communication with the concerned state agencies including rescheduling of the date collection, operation on their request.Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s letter to CM Mamata Banerjee:”I have been deeply pained by her allegation as reported in the media, if only you had enquired with the concerned agencies of the state government, you would have come to know of the extensive correspondence between the army and the state agencies including the joint inspection of sites carried out by them,” he added.He further said that such exercise is being carried out by all formation of the army throughout the country for many years as par the dates convenient to them in consultation with concerned agencies of the state governments. Banerjee had earlier demanded “withdrawal of the army” from the state, alleging it has been done by keeping her government “in the dark”.Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien said, “Letter has not reached the CM and it’s already leaked to media. We will give a befitting reply when it comes.”On December 2, presence of army personnel at toll plazas in West Bengal triggered a row with Banerjee remaining at the state secretariat overnight in protest, asking was it an “army coup”, drawing a stinging condemnation from the Centre which said the remark showed her “political frustration”.Accusing the central government of “deploying the army” along a highway toll plaza at the second Hooghly Bridge, about 500 metres from the secretariat ‘Nabanna’ in neighbouring Howrah district, Banerjee had said she would not leave the secretariat till the army was withdrawn from there. With inputs from ANI.

West Bengal: Two fires break out in Howrah, no casualties

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two fires broke out at Shibpur in Howrah district today.A senior fire brigade official said that five fire tenders put off the flames at Fort William Jute Mill which broke out in the morning.In the second major fire incident, some distance away under Shibpur police station area, 15 fire tenders fought off the blaze at Sri Krishna Garment factory this noon. The same official said, “Our men are at work and the situation is under control.” West Bengal Minister Arup Roy was at the spot along with senior district and police officials.The cause of the twin blazes was also not yet clear.

Goods train derails in Madhya Pradesh; rail traffic hit

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A goods train derailed between Manjhouli and Devgram stations on Singrauli-Jabalpur railway line in Madhya Pradesh on Friday, disrupting rail traffic on the route, but nobody was injured in the incident.The incident took place around 8.20 AM. A total of 31 box wagons of the goods train derailed damaging rail tracks and affecting the running of a number of trains, a railway official said.Soon after getting information about the incident, senior railway officials rushed to the spot.Because of the derailment, 11448 Howrah-Jabalpur Shaktipunj Express is being diverted via Mirzapur-Choupan- Manikpur-Satna-Katni route, he said, adding a number of passenger trains are being short terminated.

At Howrah station, Bollywood posters have a ‘Swachh Bharat’ message

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Howrah division of Eastern Railways has adopted a Bollywood approach to drive home the message of cleanliness. As part of the ‘Swachh Rail Swachh Bharat’ campaign, posters from famous Bollywood movies have been put up on the walls of Howrah station. These posters have famous dialogues from the films, but with a twist.One of the posters with Amitabh Bachchan’s dialogue reads, ‘Deewar par mat thukna’ – which urges people not to spit on walls. Another poster reads, ‘Arey o Samba, kitna jurmana rakhe hai Sarkar, gandagi felane par? 500 rupey’ – highlighting the fine for littering. Passengers seemed to be welcoming the move by the Railway Ministry. “The posters have a great sense of humour and it’s a terrific idea to spread the message of cleanliness among the passengers in this way. An initiative of this sort will help the railway station remain cleaner,” said Pralay Laha, a passenger.

After TMC leader’s complaint, blogger Tarak Biswas arrested in Bengal for mocking Islam

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A freethinker blogger from Bengal, Tarak Biswas was arrested on Thursday for posting updates on the social media for criticising Islam religion. On Thursday, minutes after Biswas posted a message on the social media, one Sanaullah Khan registered a complaint with the Cyber Police Station of the Howrah Police Commissionerate demanding his arrest. According to the locals, Khan is a local leader from the ruling- Trinamool Congress party. Locals allege that the police picked up Biswas from his residence in the wee hours of Thursday night. According to the police, Tarak was arrested on charges of 295 A, 298 of the Indian Penal Code (hurting religious sentiments and hate speech), besides 66, 67 and 67A of the IT Act (posting, sending offensive messages through communication services). Later, he was produced before the local court, where he was remanded to seven days of police custody. “Sanaullah Khan had registered an FIR against Biswas for hurting religious sentiments. Based on the complaint filed, we arrested him. Presently he is in police custody,” said a senior police officer of the Howrah Police Commissionerate. Meanwhile, rights group APDR has demanded his immediate release and withdrawal of all cases against him. “We do not support the comments posted by him on the social media. But, at the same time, a person has every right to express himself. The sections imposed on him is nothing but blasphemous. We demand his immediate release and withdrawal of all sections slapped on him,” said vice president of the rights group, APDR, Ranjit Sur. While the state government representatives refused a comment on this issue, rights activists took a dig at the government for allegedly putting him behind the bars for the hate speech on the social media. “The state government’s tendency has always remained to put freethinkers behind the bars. Few years back, a professor was jailed for circulating a cartoon of the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. We can’t expect the state government to allow its people the privileges of free speech,” added Sur. On the other hand, protests are fast gathering in the cyber space to show solidarity with the victim after he was arrested on Thursday for allegedly hurting religious sentiments on social media. “Freedom of speech is of utmost importance… Someone can’t be arrested for criticising a religion… Be it whichever religion…. We demand Tarak Biswas’s release immediately,” said one Shreyasi Roy on social media. Another user on the social media, Supriyo Lahiri wrote, “Utter shame and outrage in Didir Shonar Bangla. An independent blogger Tarak Das was crusading against all kinds of blind faith, religious malpractice of all religions, for some time. Now police has arrested him! Within a short time the administration will bring the situation where atheists and independent thinkers will be butchered at will by fundamentalists, like they have been doing in Bangladesh.”

Suresh Prabhu stresses on Railways infrastructure development in West Bengal

Kolkata: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday stressed on increasing Railways infrastructure in West Bengal and said his ministry has increased investment for that purpose.

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. AFPUnion Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. AFP

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. AFP

“I had a detailed comprehensive discussion with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. She herself was a very successful railway minister. The state government has extended all cooperation. The idea is how to redevelop the existing infrastructure and increase it in the state. We have already increased the share of investment in the state,” Prabhu said.

“The idea is to create a Integrated transport system for the city of Kolkata,” he noted.

Banerjee who held a joint press conference with Suresh Prabhu at state secretariat Nabanna requested him to send a central team to expedite the on going railway projects in the state.

Banerjee said the state government will extend all help for the railway projects. “I would request Prabhuji to send a team to see the on going projects so that the work gets expedited.”

When asked about the status of the East West Metro project and Joka-BBD Bag project, a senior railway official accompanying Prabhu said the first one would be completed in two parts – one is sector 5 to Sealdah and the other is Howrah Maidan to Sealdah.

“The work of tunnelling under the river from the Howrah Maidan part has already started,” he added.

West Bengal polls: Over 67% voter turnout till 3 pm in fourth phase

Kolkata: Over 67 percent voter turnout was recorded till 3 pm in the polling in 49 constituencies under the fourth phase of the West Bengal Assembly election on Monday, while more than 230 people were arrested in various poll- related incidents.

Till 3 pm, 67.27 percent voters cast their votes in North 24-Parganas district while the corresponding figure in Howrah was 67.31 percent.

Overall, 67.28 percent voter turnout was recorded for 49 seats in the two districts after polling began at 7 am, officials said.

Voters at a polling booth in Barasat on the outskirts of Kolkata on Monday. Reuters

Voters at a polling booth in Barasat on the outskirts of Kolkata on Monday. Reuters

In North 24-Parganas district, Barrackpore Police Commissioner Niraj Singh told PTI that so far at least 231 persons have been arrested in different poll-related incidents like violation of Section 144, intimidation of voters or booth jamming.

In Howrah, police commissioner DP Singh said there had been no arrests so far but a complaint was lodged against BJP leader Roopa Ganguly who was caught on TV cameras pushing a lady outside a booth at Bamangachi.

She was also seen entering booths, talking to voters and even got involved in heated exchange of words with polling personnel and alleged that Trinamool workers were jamming booth.

Ganguly, who had shot to fame as the Draupadi of Mahabharat TV series on Doordarshan, is fighting from Howrah North seat.

Trinamool candidate and cricketer Laxmi Ratan Shukla has also lodged a complaint against his co-contestant with the Election Commission.

In Dum Dum North constituency, CPM candidate Tanmay Bhattacharya suffered injuries on his hand after stones were hurled at his car.

Four persons were arrested and an FIR has been filed against seven persons, Singh said.

In Beejpur seat, a family of CPM supporters alleged that their three-and-half-year-old girl was beaten up last night following which two were arrested, he said.

West Bengal CPM secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra said, “Unnerved TMC goons targeting all. From the 3.5-year-old child to the Left candidate. Even women were not spared. People will give a rebuff by ousting TMC.”

BJP candidate Locket Chatterjee was seen engaging in a war of words with a polling agent in Ariadaha where she went to cast her vote.

In this crucial phase of election, fate of several state ministers will be decided, including those of Finance Minister Amit Mitra, Agriculture Minister Purnendu Basu, Law Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya, Tourism Minister Bratya Basu, Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriyo Mullick and Agriculture Marketing Minister Aroop Roy.

Former minister Madan Mitra, who has no voting rights as he is in judicial custody in connection with the Saradha chit fund scam, is defending his Kamarhati constituency on a Trinamool ticket.

Other heavyweights include former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya’s daughter Vaishali, former Bengal cricket captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla, footballer Dipendu Biswas and Bidhannagar Mayor Sabyasachi Dutta.

An estimated 1.08 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the polls that will decide the fate of 345 candidates, including 40 women.

In Sundarban islands of North 24 Parganas district, ham radio is the only mode of communication for polling and security personnel with the rest of the country in some of the
remotest corners.

Hundreds of monks of the Ramakrishna Mission and Math order, headquartered in Belur, Howrah, abstained from voting like all previous years, as they do not take part in any activity related to politics.

Voters were seen lining up before 12,500 polling stations since morning to avoid the scorching sun. Kolkata had on Sunday recorded 40.2 degrees Celsius, five degrees above normal, and several districts are reeling under heatwave.

Unprecedented security arrangements have been made and about 90,000 security personnel, including central armed forces, have been deployed by the Election Commission.

Patrolling in the night and patrolling in the rivers are being tried for the first time in this round of elections.

To keep a strict vigil on the law and order situation, five police observers, all of IAS ranks, have been deployed in the two districts.

Besides, another 1,100 mobile surveillance teams are doing additional monitoring work.

West Bengal Elections 2016 Phase 4: Can TMC repeat its past dominating performance?

With electorates already having decided the fate of candidates in more than half of the state’s constituencies, the West Bengal elections have now entered an intriguing juncture. To use a cricketing parlance, phase four of the elections is like a batting powerplay for the TMC. The North 24 Parganas and Howrah districts are going to polls and, based on past performance, the TMC is expected to do very well in these 49 seats.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A strong performance is the need of the hour for beleaguered Mamata’s outfit, which has now been hit by the photoshopping controversy, in an unending series of embarrassments that have greatly tarnished the party’s image in the run-up to the polls. A solid performance in this phase will be a great morale booster for the party to finish strongly in the last two phases.On the other hand, the Congress-Left alliance will try to punch above their weight in this phase. They are bolstered by the positive feedback they have received from the ground in the last three phases, combined with the activity of Election Commission, which has ensured that the ruling party’s polling machinery is on a tight leash. Past electionsIf we look at the last two elections in the state, North 24 Parganas and Howrah was a field of lush green for the ruling party. It had been complete domination for the TMC, a testament to their solid organisation, connect with rural voters and the general apathy of the voters for the Left. What happened in 2011North 24 ParganasParty TMC Congress CPI(M) BJP Seats 28 1 3 1 HowrahParty TMC Congress CPI(M) BJP Seats 15 1 0 0 Out of 33 constituencies in North 24 Parganas, TMC won 28 and Congress in one. BJP won their solitary seat in the by-election. In Howrah, TMC won 15 out of the 16 seats. The Congress and TMC fought together in 2011. The result shows that in the rural belt, the Left cut an extremely sorry face post the fiasco in Nandigram and Singur. Mamata Banerjee reaped a rich harvest of her fight against ‘forceful’ land acquisition. What happened in 2014North 24 Parganas Party TMC Congress CPI(M) BJP Seats 28 0 2 3 Howrah Party TMC Congress CPI(M) BJP Seats 16 0 0 0 Rahul Gandhi addressing a rally in support of the Left and Congress candidates. Source: PTIThe TMC had a clean sweep in Howrah. In North 24 Parganas too, the TMC was ahead in 28 assembly constituencies, same as in 2014. The Left was ahead in two and the BJP, buoyed by the Modi wave, was ahead in three. Now let’s see look at the scenario in the case of a Congress-Left alliance, assuming the votes are fully transferred from one party to another. What would have happened if Congress and CPI(M) were in allianceNorth 24 ParganasParty TMC Alliance BJP Seat 29 3 1 HowrahParty TMC Alliance BJP Seat 16 0 0 The TMC would have actually won one more seat in North 24 Parganas and still had a clean sweep in Howrah. The TMC has been so dominant in these constituencies that the joint might of the Left and the Congress wouldn’t have perturbed them much. Mamata Banerjee with Amit Mitra. Source: PTIWhat are the issues?In North 24 Parganas, the Motuya community is firmly supporting the TMC, which makes the party a frontrunner in the seats reserved for SC. In the industrial belt, the lack of industry remains a big cause of concern and whether the disenchanted workers are in a mood to give the TMC another chance may decide the course of the election. The proliferation of the syndicate system is a major headache in constituencies in and around Kolkata, in places like Baranagar, Dum Dum, Rajarhat and Bidhannagar. In his election speeches, PM Modi too prominently highlighted the issue. Similarly in Howrah, the industrial logjam is a legacy issue which the TMC has inherited. It has provided no answer to solve the puzzle so far. From Bally to Shibpur, there is a virtual stagnancy in industrial development. Whether it will be reflected in EVM, though, is another matter. Modi with BJP leaders, including Rupa Ganguly. Source: PTIIn the rural belt, there is reasonable satisfaction with the work done so far by the Mamata government. Hence, the party is likely to enjoy pro-incumbency there. The opposition will hope that the Saradha scam is a factor in this phase since a large number of poor people from both these districts invested in the Ponzi scheme. Scam tainted ex-minister Madan Mitra is also contesting in this phase.Giving him a ticket is an indication that Mamata Banerjee thinks the Sarada scam is unlikely to influence voting patterns. How do the parties stack upTMCThey are expected to sweep the two districts, but will they? The party is riddled with internal strife. It is more or less assured of repeating its past performance in the rural belt, owing to sound mechanism and some good work done by the Mamata government. But in the city and the suburban belt, the party is almost certainly going to lose some seats due to the negative perception propagated by the string of controversies, from the Saradha scam to the Narada sting. Didi experimented a little bit, going for celebrity candidates in some of the urban seats to offset the anti-incumbency mood. Overall, Mamata Banerjee is hoping to bank on her goodwill to get TMC over the rope in this phase. Congress-Left alliance Congress is a virtual non-entity in these two districts. Hence, almost the entire onus will be on the Left to seize back some initiative. The Left had earlier been a prolific organisation in the rural belt of South Bengal, which has been appropriated by the TMC. Five years after being ousted from power, the Left is still grappling with getting back its footing in the rural constituencies and is likely to have the going tough. Left rally in North 24 Parganas. Source: PTIIn the urban pockets, though, especially in the industrial zone, the party has slowly clawed its way back. Many voters are depressed with the blatant crony capitalist culture propagated by the ruling party. There is a general sense of the situation spiralling out of control propagated by largely negative media reports. Hence, it may just give CPI(M) and its allies the opening they desperately seek. So one can expect a Left resurgence. But their well-laid planning may be marred by the saffron equation. BJPThere are few seats in North 24 Parganas where BJP will fancy its chances. It is tipped to win 2-3 seats there. In Howrah (North), Rupa Ganguly has added a celebrity flavour to the mix. But the party is unlikely to hold on to its vote share from 2014 as the Modi wave has ebbed. The party which gets the incremental votes of those who earlier supported the lotus is likely to hold an edge in the three-way contests. All in all, TMC won 43 out of the 49 seats last time. It may not hold on to that impressive number, but if they can notch something between 35-40, Mamata Banerjee’s path to re-election on May 19 will be made significantly smoother.

West Bengal Elections 2016: Madan Mitra and Rupa Ganguly the big names in fourth-phase

Campaigning for the fourth phase of assembly polls in West Bengal which will decide the fate of 345 candidates in 49 seats spread across North 24 Parganas and Howrah district ended this evening. A total of 1.07 crore electorate will exercise their franchise in about 12,500 polling stations from 7 am to 6 pm on Monday. State Finance Minister Amit Mitra and jailed ex-minister Madan Mitra are among the high-profile candidates contesting in this phase. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amit Mitra, who was secretary-general of FICCI before joining politics in the 2011 assembly polls, is once again in the race from Khardaha seat in North 24 Parganas in the northern outskirts of the city.Despite his claims to the contrary, Mitra has been under attack for lack of industrialisation during the Trinamool Congress regime in the state.
ALSO READ West Bengal Elections 2016: Mamata, Modi making false job promises, alleges Rahul GandhiAll eyes will be on former Transport and Sports minister Madan Mitra, who is contesting from Kamarhati seat in North 24 Parganas district. Madan Mitra was arrested by CBI in December 2014 in the multi-crore rupee Saradha chit fund scam and is currently lodged in Alipore jail. This is the first time that a high-profile candidate is fighting elections in West Bengal from jail.
ALSO READ West Bengal elections: Congress, CPI-M will realise mistake of forging alliance, says Mamata BanerjeeTMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee campaigned for Mitra in his consistency saying he has been a victim of a conspiracy by the Centre.Mitra’s name had also figured in Narada sting operation, an issue which has been haunting TMC ever since the video was released.Also in the fray this phase are TMC ministers Purnendu Basu, Chandrima Bhattacharya, Bratya Basu, Jyotipriyo Mullick and Aroop Roy. Greenhorns in the ring this phase include former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya’s daughter Vaishali and former Bengal cricket captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla – both of whom are fighting on TMC tickets. Shukla is pitted against actress-turned-politician Rupa Ganguly of BJP from north Howrah seat.Footballer Dipendu Biswas has been fielded by TMC from south Basirhat seat which is being defended by BJP’s only sitting MLA Shamik Bhattacharya. Bidhannagar Mayor Sabyasachi Dutta is fighting for his Mayor Sabyasachi Dutta is fighting for his seat from Rajarhat New Town. In his campaign trail Prime Minister Narendra Modi had claimed that Mamata Banerjee had “virtually accepted defeat”, which, he said, was evident in the manner in which the first three phases of elections were held in the state. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on the other hand has accused both Modi and Mamata of “resorting to falsehood and bluffing people”. Under pressure due to the Narada sting, Banerjee said she would have “given a thought” before choosing her party candidates for the ongoing assembly elections had the video tapes been telecast earlier. Amidst complaints of violence by opposition parties during elections, Election Commission has transferred North 24 Parganas Superintendent of Police Tanmay Roy Chowdhury and a number of other officers. The issue of ‘Syndicate Raj’ or milking builders in the name of supplying inferior building materials at a premium by persons backed by political parties has popped up many times in this election. Parts of Sundarbans delta are also included in this phase where climate change and man-animal conflict are issues.

West Bengal Elections 2016: PM Modi to hold rallies in Howrah and Basirhat

Continuing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) vigorous campaign in poll-hit West Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Thursday address rallies in Howrah district and Basirhat south in North 24 Parganas.First, he will address a rally at Howrah north where actor-turned politician Roopa Ganguly is the party candidate. He would then fly to Basirhat to address a public meeting where party candidate Samik Bhattacharjee was elected in the by-polls last year.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Prime Minister on Sunday had addressed two public meeting- Krishnanagar and Saheed Minar in the city when Bengal was polling for 56 assembly seats.Meanwhile, polling is under way for the third phase for 62 assembly seats in four districts of Burdwan, Murshidabad, Nadia and north Kolkata.

West Bengal polls: Domjur crusader’s assymetric battle against Syndicate Raj has TMC feeling the heat

There is one constituency in West Bengal that is truly exceptional.

Domjur, in Howrah district, is the battle ground against “Syndicate Raj,” the elaborate network of illegal enterprise with a legal front that in turn controls a private force of mercenaries to assist in the extortion, supplies, intimidation and violence rackets that have burgeoned in the past five years.

Challenging the syndicates is a woman, a widow, from a family that was once a flag-bearer of the Trinamool Congress. The soft spoken but infinitely courageous Pratima Dutta is a former member of the Jagaccha Panchayat Samity. She is a victim of the nexus between crime and power. Pratima’s husband Tapan, who was the vice president of Trinamool Congress’s Bally-Jagacha block unit, died because he took on the land mafia.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Tapan Dutta was shot by assailants on 6 May, 2011, close to his home. Various TMC leaders including the now-expelled Howrah party secretary, Satish Gayen, and his brother Asit were picked up by the police. Flawed investigation by the state’s Criminal Investigation Department complicated and ultimately stonewalled the process of finding the killers and prosecuting them.

The killing made headlines in 2011, a sensational announcement of sorts that Syndicate Raj has come of age. Tapan paid the price for trying to protect a 750 acre wetland – Jaipur Beel —from syndicates that wanted to fill it up and sell off to developers. He had formed the Jalabhumi Bachao Committee (Save the Wetlands Committee) to fend off the syndicates.

Pratima is not scared to assert that she is fighting to protect the wetlands from the land mafia on the one hand and for restoration of law and order on the other. It is also a battle against the idea that development is just a collection of shoddily constructed infrastructure that serves to percolate cash into the hands of unemployed youth with nothing to look forward to. Her fight is bigger than battling the land mafia or the racketeering over supply of construction materials.

It is an unequal fight. Pratima is pitted in a straight contest against the powerful TMC minister Rajib Banerjee, who has every resource to convince voters that it would be a bad idea if they do not vote for him. Domjur is one of the two constituencies where the Congress-CPI M alliance did not put up a candidate, making Pratima an independent contestant supported by both parties. The support, however, is more moral than substantive as the resources needed to cover a constituency as spread out as Domjur is not easy for a lone crusader with limited means.

Finding Pratima in Domjur is one way of uncovering how difficult the contest will be. People avoided giving directions, claiming they did not know the locations she mentioned as landmarks. Very few people admitted to knowing that she was the candidate from Domjur. And even fewer admitted to knowing the approximate direction in which she resides.

The claims of ignorance, the confusing directions were all part of a larger design; to pretend that there was no such challenge to the idea of the Trinamool Congress. Of the two people sitting in a shop, one person pointed in one direction and the other in the opposite.

In any other election in West Bengal, searching for an independent candidate in a semi-rural constituency would have been a nightmare. In this election, not knowing who Pratima Dutta is and where she lives is very strange because she and her cause have been constantly in the public domain.


Akranto Amra, which literally translated means, ‘We, The Victims’, is a platform that has projected itself successfully as the Save Democracy forum. And, Pratima is a very visible member of it. From Kamduni (the brutal gang rape and murder of a college student on her way home) to the Kolkata flyover collapse, Akranto Amra and Pratima Dutta have been part of the public protests against the TMC government and Mamata Banerjee as the Chief Minister.

If Domjur pretends not to know who Pratima is, then it is more than simple ignorance. It can mean that the ruling party is dismissive of her as a challenger. It can mean that the TMC is uneasy about her as a dark horse, the unknown quantity that can pose a challenge to its dominance. Both possibilities are intriguing, because with very little resources and no organisation of her own, Pratima’s fight becomes meaningful only and only if there is a hidden undercurrent of public support that will manifest itself on polling day, provided the Election Commission can create the conditions for free and fair elections.

Railways replace one pantry car with AC-3 coach in 8 Rajdhani trains

Railways has decided to do away with one of two pantry cars and replace them with AC-3 coach in eight Rajdhani trains to increase the availability of berths for passengers.LIVE England vs New Zealand 1st Semi-Final T20, ICC World T20 2016, March 30, 2016All eight Rajdhani trains including Mumbai, Howrah, Dibrugarh, Patna, Sealdah will have now only one pantry car instead of two. The pantry cars will be replaced with one AC-3 coach in these Rajdhani trains, said a senior Railway Ministry official.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There are total 17 Rajdhani trains out of which nine have one pantry car each and rest have two pantry cars.Rajdhani for Bhubaneswar, Trivandrum, Jammu, Chennai among others have only one pantry car.The process of replacing pantry cars with AC-3 coaches is underway and it will be completed by March 31 so that all these Rajdhani trains will have about 600 additional berths from April 1.He said there is no need for the second pantry car as the food is supplied from outside.Besides, railways is also introducing the option for Rajdhani passengers to choose the e-catering facility or the onboard arrangement on trains.Since the catering charge is included in the tickets in Rajdhani, the software is being changed to give passengers option of choosing it, the official said.Besides railways is also in the process of changing the catering policy in a significant way to do away with train-based tendering system.As per the proposal, railways will introduce the two-pronged system of tendering for production and distribution of food at rail premises.”Tendering methodology for catering is being changed and now two separate tendering process will take place as per the new arrangement,” said the official adding “IRCTC will be given major responsibility in the new system.There will be about 250 base kitchens at all major stations across the country to prepare about six lakh meals and snacks per day.

Goods train derails, Jan Satabdi Express stranded for 2 hours in Jamshedpur

A goods train bogie was derailed between Noamundi-Badajamda stations under Chakradharpur division of South Eastern Railway on Tuesday.The Howrah-Barbil Jan Satabdi Express was stranded for two hours near Noamundi station in West Singhbhum district as a result, a senior railway official said.The driver of the Badajamda-bound goods train put the train on reverse gear after it failed to move forward due to technical snag, Senior Divisional Commercial Manager, Satyam Prakash said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The train started rolling backward after the attempts to stop it failed, leading to derailment of one of its bogies, the official said.The driver of another goods train, which was standing at a distance and waiting for the green signal behind the goods train, also put the train on reverse gear to avoid collision.However, no harm was caused either to the passengers or the train.Later, the Barbil-bound train left Noamundi station two hours behind schedule after the track was cleared, he said.

Call claiming bomb was planted at West Bengal secretariat turns out to be a hoax

Kolkata: A phone call on Thursday claiming that a bomb had been planted inside the West Bengal secretariat ‘Nabanna’ that houses Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee‘s office, turned out to be hoax.

The call was received at the PBX of ‘Nabanna’ when the Chief Minister was present in her office on the 14th floor.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Police was immediately informed of about the phone call, Joint Commissioner Kolkata Police (Headquarters) Supratim Sarkar said.

Kolkata Police, its bomb detection and disposal squad, dog squad, special branch, detective department along with Howrah Police and other security agencies immediately rushed to ‘Nabanna’ and conducted a thorough search on all the floors, Sarkar said.

Senior police officers monitored the drill at the Secretariat which houses many important departments and offices of a number of ministers.

Along with different floors, the roof of the building too was checked throughly by the bomb and dog squads, besides the parking and other places around the building.

The call turned out to be a hoax as nothing was found in the hours-long search operation, Sarkar said.

Security in and around the entire Secretariat has been beefed up following the incident, he added.


Student molested on Doon Express, accused arrested

Yet another disturbing incident has thrown up questions about women’s security while travelling in trains. Around 7.30 am on Wednesday, a student travelling alone was molested by a co-passenger on a running train – Doon-Howrah Express.The incident took place when the train was nearing Bandel station from the Burdwan station. As other co-passengers heard the screams of the girl, they caught the accused, Ravi Sonkar red handed.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The RPF was later called in and the accused was handed over to them. Later, the RPF took the accused to the Bandel GRP. The accused was arrested and is likely to be produced before the court today.Meanwhile, a case has been registered at the Howrah GRP. Officials at the Howrah GRP said that the RPF officials on that train and TC will be called in for questioning.On December last year, a woman passenger was molested by an Army jawan on the Amritsar express.

Fog slows down Rajdhani, Shatabdi; 66 trains cancelled

Moderate to dense fog disrupted rail services on Wednesday leading to cancellation of 66 trains and delay of 16 other Delhi-bound rail services including Rajdhani and Shatbadi expresses.Premier trains including Rajdhani Express coming from Patna, Bhubaneswar, Howrah, Sealdah, Dibrugrah and Kanpur Shatabdi, Howrah Duronto were affected due to bad weather condition. Departure of three trains including Mahananda and Delhi Sarai Rohilla – Ferozpur Intercity were rescheduled.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There were cancellation of a total of 66 trains including those announced earlier in view of the fog, a senior Northern Railway official said. The dense fog affected 16 Delhi-bound trains which are running late by two hours to seven hours.The official said trains move slowly due to the low visibility as the passengers’ safety is paramount to railways and loco pilots are being instructed to take every precaution during the fog.

Yet another case of security forces sexually assaulting women, teenager gangraped by 2 BSF men in Guwahati

The girl was found from the compartment when RPF raided the train at Madhupur station on December 28 on receiving a message from RPF Howrah. Tripathy was then arrested. The girl’s father had lodged complaints that she had allegedly fled from home and was travelling by the train.

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