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Close watch on Amphan relief

Close watch on Amphan relief

The East Midnapore district administration on Wednesday appointed 18 senior government officers to oversee Amphan relief verification efforts in 16 blocks and two municipalities.

The move is a part of Nabanna’s attempts to redeem its image following protests, especially in Nandigram, against Trinamul functionaries allegedly swindling the state’s compensation meant for those whose homes had been damaged in the May 20 cyclone.

“The officials will be responsible for field-level inspections and surprise visits in their respective blocks, in addition to supervising re-verification paperwork being compiled by block officials to weed out wrongfully compensated functionaries,” said a source.

Areas being monitored include Tamluk and Haldia municipalities and 16 blocks, including Nandigram where the number of complaints had been highest. The officials will report to the district’s four additional district magistrates.

ADM (general) Sudip Sarkar has been assigned Tamluk Sadar subdivision, ADM (treasury) Shekhar Sen Haldia, ADM (land and land reforms) Sarit Bhattacharya Contai, and ADM (development) Cheng Parzar Egra.

The state government has so far released Rs 198 crore as aid for East Midnapore and is likely to send more. Learning from mistakes, aid is now likely to be disbursed in a phased manner, an official said.

The damage-control exercise has become critical to the Mamata Banerjee government with the Opposition using dole-distribution anomalies as a potent weapon in the run-up to Assembly polls.

Sources said the officials would be responsible for field-level inspections and surprise visits at blocks, and supervise the re-verification paperwork underway at block offices to weed out bogus claims.

“We are looking closely at specific police complaints that have reached the state secretariat. This apart, names of genuine victims that may have fallen through cracks during re-verification by block and panchayat officials are being added,” said a district official on Thursday, referring to 15,000-odd police complaints that reached Nabanna in early June that prompted Mamata to launch a drive to cleanse the beneficiary lists of irregularities. “We have learnt from recent mistakes and administration will release compensation in a phased manner after thorough verification. This might mean releasing compensation to groups of 1,000 persons at a time,” the official added.

District disaster management officer Mrityunjay Haldar said it was a Herculean task to verify rightful claimants amid the confusion. “But we are being careful,” he said.

“These steps are important because hundreds of crores in disbursals are stalled now because of improper verification,” a district official in Tamluk said, adding that over 1 lakh rightful claimants were waiting for funds.

Panskura municipality chairman Nanda Mitra said many block officials were confused whether to make separate lists for partially damaged and fully damaged homes. “The dole is different, Rs 20,000 for full damage and Rs 5,000 for partial damage. In Panskura, dole distribution is held up because no claimant had fully damaged homes. They will get Rs 5,000 each instead of Rs 20,000,” he said. In Tamluk, 1,319 were shortlisted for the first phase with homes that had partial damage, added Tamluk administrator Rabindranath Sen.

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Attacks dent efforts to address anger

Attacks dent efforts to address anger

The Trinamul Congress is making desperate attempts to contain the resentment of people over distribution Amphan compensation by cracking down on “perpetrators of corruption” within the party.

But the efforts are often getting undone with some panchayat-level leaders allegedly taking to violent ways to resist the wrath of villagers.

The Trinamul leadership in East Midnapore’s Nandigram has taken disciplinary action against several party leaders involved in malpractices. But at Dulduli-Kothabari near Hingalganj in North 24-Parganas, a panchayat member of the ruling party and his associates allegedly attacked protesting villagers with sharp-edged weapons.

Eight persons were injured in the attack.

Trinamul sacked Mansura Begum, the pradhan of Kendamari panchayat in East Midnapore, on Tuesday afternoon over allegations of fraud related to the Amphan aid delivery. Mansura was one of 25 Trinamul leaders and workers in Nandigram against whom disciplinary action was taken on Tuesday.

Mansura has since resigned as the pradhan.

Mansura, a resident of Hossainpur in Kendamari, had been facing allegations of fraud and nepotism in the distribution of Rs 20,000 each for those affected by the cyclone.

“The charges against her were proved when the person whose number she had used to perpetrate irregularities visited the block office. It turned out that Mansura had used the person’s number to disburse aid to her mother, Rumeshan Biwi, who lives around 10km away at Gadaibalbar village in Nandigram panchayat,” said a block official.

Asked, Mansura said she had been falsely implicated.

“There is a campaign to besmirch my image by my detractors. I did not put my mother’s name and have already instructed her to return the money,” she said.

Asked why Mansura’s mother’s name did not come up during verification, BDO Subrata Mullick declined comments.

“The government must take legal action against the accused. If that doesn’t happen, we will organise massive protests,” said CPM district secretary Niranjan Sihi.

Trinamul’s effort to crack the whip on the corrupt and the attempt for an image makeover tripped at Dulduli-Kothabari on Monday night with panchayat member Mamata Munda Sardar and her associates allegedly attacking villagers who had gone to her house to ask about corruption involving Amphan compensation.

Sources said an angry Mamata, her husband Ashutosh and some of their close aides had attacked the villagers with sharp weapons.

Police rescued the eight injured persons, who were later admitted to Basirhat district hospital. Sources said the condition of Bimal Mandal and Ramen Gayen was critical.

One of the villagers, who had gone to the Sardar’s house, said: “Our homes had been devastated. We wanted to know why we didn’t get compensation while those whose houses had not been damaged received the dole. Without answering our queries, the panchayat member, her husband and their aides abused us and then tried to kill us with sharp-edged weapons.”

Denying the allegations, Sardar said: “I repeatedly tried to pacify the villagers, assuring them that compensation would soon be credited to their bank accounts. But they threatened us.”

Trinamul’s North 24-Parganas district executive president Narayan Goswami said: “The BJP, CPM and the Congress are attacking our panchayat officials with false allegations and this is leading to tension.”

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Trinamul Congress tries to undo Amphan relief damage

Trinamul Congress tries to undo Amphan relief damage

Trinamul Congress leaders in Amphan-affected districts have embarked on a door-to-door campaign to undo the damage caused to the party’s image after several leaders of the ruling party were held responsible for anomalies in the distribution of government compensation for the victims of the cyclone.

Sources in the party said the reach-out programme, described by a senior leader as “unprecedented”, was initiated after Mamata Banerjee herself had taken stock of the protests against the anomalies.

“A lot of damage has been caused… The only way we can undo the damage is by reaching out to people and we are trying to do that,” said a senior Trinamul leader in South 24-Parganas.

According to the plan, the leaders are mapping three types of villagers for the reach-out exercise. “Those who are eligible but did not receive compensation, then those who were ineligible but were provided with the government aid… And the third lot are the people, who were not eligible but lodged complaints about malpractices in the compensation distribution,” said a source.

All panchayat members of Trinamul and local party leaders were asked to reach out to the people at every village in the Amphan-affected districts from Monday.

“We are showing the villagers deprived of the compensation records of past government benefits that they had received and assuring them that they will not be denied the aid this time either,” said Samir Kumar Jana, the Trinamul MLA of Pathar Pratima in South 24-Parganas.

The MLA has said 35 people who are either panchayat functionaries or their relatives had received the Amphan compensation in his area but returned the money later.

Trinamul insiders said the Opposition parties, mainly the CPM and the BJP, were provoking people who had already got houses built under government schemes to join the protests.

“According to the norms, those who received housing scheme benefits are not entitled to the compensation. But those people are misled by

the Opposition and are participating in the protests against us. So, it is our duty to make them understand the government plan,” said a Trinamul leader.

Kanti Ganguly, the former CPM Minister and a leader in the Sunderbans, however, said: “The attempt of Trinamul is useless. If a glass is broken, then it can’t be joined as it was and this is the situation of Trinamul here.”

In East Midnapore, North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas — three districts worst affected by Amphan — at least 30,000 complaints have been lodged regarding the malpractices. At some places, panchayat members were beaten up, local Trinamul offices ransacked and few leaders were forced to squat in public.

“There was an attempt to distribute compensation in a hurry, which resulted in some mistakes. Our leaders at village levels are going to the households to assure them that no one would be denied the aid,” state food and supply minister Jyotipriya Mallik said.

Convincing people, however, is going to be easier said than done, admitted Trinamul insiders.

On Sunday, Asiwni Patra, a Trinamul member of Sonachura gram panchayat in Nandigram, along with local party president Radhakanta Mondal, went to meet people at their doorsteps but the attempt boomeranged as a group villagers agitated citing corruption even by the panchayat members.

Patra blamed the BJP for the protest, but some sources in the ruling party said the situation was spinning out of control. “These three districts have been our bastions… We have to intensify our efforts to control the damage, otherwise, it will be too late,” said a Trinamul leader.

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BJP eulogises Syama Prasad Mookerjee as ‘creator of Bengal’

BJP eulogises Syama Prasad Mookerjee as ‘creator of Bengal’

Some senior historians have raised questions on the BJP’s attempts to pitch Bhartiya Jana Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee as the “Paschimbongeyr srishtikorta (the creator of West Bengal)” and “Bangalir rokk­hakorta (the protector of Bengalis)” in the run up to the Assembly polls in which the saffron camp is desperate to wrest the seat of power in the state.

Given the current political climate in the state — in which even chief minister Mamata Banerjee chooses to be seen as honouring Mookerjee — and the country, the historians requested anonymity.

“The Bharatiya Jana Sa­ngh (BJP’s predecessor) foun­der was a lot of things — some, rather admirable — but he was essentially a divisive exponent of raw Hindutva that did considerable damage to the nation towards the end of the British Raj,” said a Calcutta-based historian.

“The likes of Mookerjee, on the Hindu side, contributed significantly — just as the likes of Muhammad Ali Jinnah did on the Muslim side — to the Partition,” he added.

The BJP celebrated Mookerjee’s 119th birth anniversary on Monday with programmes across the country.

BJP national president J.P Nadda addressed a virtual rally for Bengal from Delhi on the occasion and referred to his life and works.

Sources in the BJP state unit said the saffron camp would go big with Mookerjee in the run-up to the make-or-break Assembly polls.

“If today Bengal is a part of India, it is because of Syama Prasad Mookerjee. Not only that, the fact that a large portion of United Punjab is today with India is also because of the voice raised by him,” said Nadda.

But another historian pointed out that Mookerjee opposed the United Bengal plan — a proposal to transform undivided Bengal into an unpartitioned, sovereign state called the Free State of Bengal, without division on religious grounds — floated by Bengal premier Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy that received the backing of the likes of Sarat Chandra Bose and Kiran Shankar Roy.

“Mahatma Gandhi was not opposed to it. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was open to the idea. Then Bengal governor Frederick Burrows supported it too. But opposition from the likes of Mookerjee went a long way in that falling through and Bengal being partitioned,” he said.

“If his facilitation of Partition is considered, then Mookerjee was, indeed, one of the creators of West Bengal…. Also, we can’t forget that both Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose had reservations about his politics,” he added.

A political scientist said he understood why the BJP thought Mookerjee could be a good platform for its Bengal campaign.

“An upper caste, elite, bhadralok statesman, Mookerjee ticks most of the right boxes for being deemed a great Bengali icon…. But the saffron camp’s attempt is with the objective of using his legacy in the current socio-political climate to ensure deeper penetration in the state ahead of 2021,” he said.

He said the BJP was keen to use Mookerjee’s legacy in Bengal, where a majority of people still view it as a non-Bengali party that stands for the “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan” vision.

“At the same time, his unvarnished majoritarian views help the BJP’s communal, divisive agenda,” he said.

“But even in Bengal, Mookerjee has always been a controversial figure,” he added, referring to protests in Calcutta in January against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to rename the Calcutta Port after him. The protesters said the port should instead be named after Bengal Renaissance patriarch Raja Rammohun Roy.

A city-based historian, who was part of the protests, said several researchers considered Mookerjee as biased towards the British.

“Mookerjee, as a minister of Bengal Province (1941-43) under (A.K.) Fazlul Haq’s coalition government, had helped suppress the Quit India movement here, out of his weakness for the Union Jack,” he said.

He pointed out how during the “back-breaking” Bengal Famine of 1943-44, a principal concern of Mookerjee was that government-run canteens employed Muslim and Hindu “lower caste” cooks.

“Mookerjee and his Hindu Mahasabha were preoccupied with how those cooks made it “impossible” for upper caste Hindus to eat without “breaking caste”. This, amid a disaster that killed over 30 lakh Bengalis,” he added.

BJP national president Nadda, who addressed the virtual rally for the party’s Bengal unit on the birth anniversary of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, credited him for the abrogation of Article 370 and the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The stress on the two contentious issues made it apparent that the saffron camp wo­uld go to the Bengal Assembly polls with its divisive narrative.

“It is of great pleasure that the leadership of Narendra Modi and the strategies of Amit Shah helped us get rid of Article 370, that one issue over which Syama Prasad Mookerjee sacrificed his life,” Nadda said in his speech from the BJP headquarters in New Delhi.

“He fought for the rights of minorities from Bangladesh and Pakistan…We will have to implement the CAA in Bengal as a tribute to the vision of Syama Prasad,” Nadda added.

Insiders in the BJP’s Bengal unit have indicated that given the state’s demography with around 30 per cent Muslim voters, the party’s chances of wresting power from the ruling Trinamul depend on the ability of the leaders to spin a narrative that will polarise the electorate. Most BJP leaders think the repeated mention of the role of the Modi-Shah duo in ensuring the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and enactment of the CAA would create the necessary polarisation.

Shah, who had launched the series of virtual rallies for Bengal on June 9, had focused on the CAA and attacked Mamata Banerjee for opposing the new citizenship matrix.

Nadda’s narrative on Monday started off from where Shah had left it. Nadda aligned the two contentious legislations with Mo­o­kerjee whom the party wants to pitch as a Bengali icon.

“In 1953 Mukherjee told a press conference, ‘if 4 crore Muslims can live peacefully in a nation of 35 crore, why can’t 25 lakh Muslims live peacefully in Kashmir?’” Nadda said, explaining Mookerjee’s opposition to Article 370.

Speaking about Mookerjee’s contributions to the nation, Nadda asserted it was because of the efforts of the Jana Sangh founder that West Bengal and large parts of Punjab are with India.

“It is due to Syama Prasad Mookerjee that Bengal and Punjab are with India. Otherwise, they would have gone to Pakistan during the Partition…”

Nadda also blamed the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru for apparently denying an inquiry into Mookerjee’s death under mysterious circumstances in Srinagar jail in 1953.

In the later half of his speech, Nadda accused the Mamata regime of degradation from the ethics and morals that Mookerjee had preached in his lifetime.

He also accused Mamata of not conforming to the rules of cooperative federalism, alleging that the state had not shared exact details of the Covid-19 situation in Bengal with the Centre.

“They are willing to compromise on all fronts just to stay in power,” Nadda said referring to the Trinamul leadership. “We have to follow the path led by Syama Prasad Moo­kerjee and restore the pride of Bengal by removing the current government,” he added.

Trinamul leader and state parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee termed Nadda’s allegations baseless. “For the BJP what matters most is votes. They can go to any extent, from telling lies to disto­rting history. They want to destroy our culture and traditi­on. They want to thrust their culture and ideology on Bengalis and are trying to mislead the people of Bengal,” he said.

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Bengal’s new Jal Swapno project to provide pipeline water to 2 crore rural households

Bengal’s new Jal Swapno project to provide pipeline water to 2 crore rural households

Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced Rs 58,000-crore Jal Swapno project to provide pipeline water supply to 2 crore rural households in Bengal in the next five years.

“Each rural home in the state would get pipeline water supply in the next five years. A sum of Rs 58,000 crore would be spent to connect 2 crore rural households with pipeline-based water supply projects,” the chief minister said at Nabanna on Monday.

The project’s announcement was considered to be significant in the administrative and political circles as it was targeted to address a major concern of a large portion of the state, where the ruling Trinamul Congress performed poorly in the last Lok Sabha polls.

“Mamata’s announcement shows she has already started preparations for the next year’s Assembly elections while battling the spread of Covid-19. It is clear pandemic might restrict political parties from holding large rallies ahead of the polls, but the chief minister started her preparations in style with the announcement on Monday,” said a senior state government official.

Sources in the public health engineering department said in the first phase of the project, it would focus on providing water supply connections to households in the so-called dry region of the state. Districts like Jhargram, West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia, West Burdwan and parts of Birbhum are considered to be dry zones in the state.

Trinamul did not put up a good show in those areas during the last Lok Sabha polls where the BJP wrested six seats. “The chief minister was clearly trying to woo the people living in the dry zones. She also tried to address the concerns in parts of Nadia, Murshidabad, Birbhum, North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas that are suffering from fluoride contamination by announcing the project,” said an official.

Mamata did not make it clear from where the funds for the scheme would come.

Senior government officials did not divulge the details of the project either. But a section of the officials did not rule out the possibility of joining the Centre’s Jal Jeevan Mission, which aims to secure pipeline water supply to 1.37 crore rural households in Bengal and 18 crore rural households in the country.

According to the Centre’s scheme, Delhi would provide 50 per cent of the project’s cost and the state has to shoulder 40 per cent of the expenditure. The beneficiaries would have to shoulder 10 per cent of the cost.

“The state had reservations about the beneficiaries’ share. It had written to the Centre that it would not accept that beneficiaries pay for water as the state did not levy water charges at all,” said an official.

Sources said the state had hinted that it could reconsider joining the project if the Centre shouldered the beneficiaries’ share or allowed Bengal to do so. Senior government officials said the details of the project would be made available soon.

Mamata Banerjee on Monday launched Self Scan, a mobile app developed entirely indigenously by the IT department of the state government.

“The app is developed by our IT department. I want everybody in the world to use this app as it is completely secured. It reflects patriotism,” said the chief minister. The app is for scanning documents.

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From lockdown job woes to tiger’s jaws

From lockdown job woes to tiger’s jaws

The unemployment caused by months of lockdown, compounded by en masse return of thousands of migrant labourers, in South 24-Parganas has made a large number of people enter restricted tiger reserves to catch crabs or go fishing putting their lives at risk.

Sources said as many as 11 persons had been killed by tigers in the Sunderbans starting late March, putting the figure among the highest fatality rates. Last year, 14 persons had been killed by tigers in the area until June.

Forest officers have said around a dozen persons die every year in attacks by the big cat in the Sunderbans because of “intrusion” into the reserve areas to collect crabs.

A census carried out by the forest department between November 2019 and January this year pegged the number of royal Bengal tigers in the Sunderbans at 96.

“Fishing is banned in the Sunderbans for the period from April to June, which is the time for breeding. The lockdown synchronised with the ban on fishing this year and those who were killed by the tigers were mainly intruders. We apprehend the number of intruders in the reserve forest areas will increase because thousands of migrant labourers have returned home during the lockdown,” said a senior forester.

The fishing ban was lifted from July 1.

District officials said around 50,000 people who worked as migrant labourers in different states had returned home in South 24-parganas in the past two months.

Former CPM minister Kanti Ganguly has already written to the chief minister informing her that dependency on natural resources for livelihood had increased following the lockdown and Cyclone Amphan. Ganguly requested Mamata Banerjee to give compensation to 11 families who had lost their kin in the tiger attacks.

“Around 50,000 migrant workers came back home in the Sunderbans alone and have started returning to their old professions. They are collecting crabs and fish in dense forests braving tigers,” said Ganguly.

On June 25, Bishnupada Santra, 60, who went fishing along with his wife in the Godabari river, was killed in a crocodile attack. A resident said crocodiles had never been found in the Godabari before Cyclone Amphan.

Samir Bag, a migrant labourer from Patharpratima who used to work in a rice mill in Jharkhand, returned along with six friends last month and has been involved in fishing and crabbing in the area ever since.

“Apart from fishing, we have no work here. I know there is a fear of tigers and crocodiles. But we need to go to forests for our survival despite the threats posed by fierce animals,” said Samir.

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Bengal nod to Bangla import

Bengal nod to Bangla import

Cargo trucks from Bangladesh rolled into Indian territory on Sunday through two land ports in North 24-Parganas, Petrapole and Ghojadanga, after 102 days, amid murmurs that the Mamata Banerjee government was forced to allow imports after Dhaka approached Delhi.

“The Bengal government was not allowing import through these two land ports Petrapole and Ghojadanga in North 24-Parganas district. We are happy that finally the two-way trade has resumed,” said a Bangladeshi exporter.

Trade through all the six land ports between India and Bangladesh had stopped on March 23 as part of the lockdown measures announced by the Centre in the wake of Covid-19. After the Centre removed the embargo, it took another 75 days for the Bengal government to allow exports to Bangladesh. As imports from Bangladesh were still not allowed through these two land ports — which account for over 72 per cent of the overall trade between the two countries — discontent brewed in the neighbouring country. Amid protests in Bangladesh over one-way trade, its foreign minister A.K. Abdul Momen wondered why the Bengal government was not paying heed to the Centre.

“Bangladesh allowed exports from India, so Dhaka termed the trade one-way and urged Delhi to take it up with the Bengal government to resolve it,” said a source from Dhaka. Amid discussions in diplomatic channels, traders in Bangladesh took another strong step and stopped imports from India from July 2.

“Protests in Bangladesh and a prod from Delhi forced the Bengal government to open gates for imports,” said a source.

At least five Bangladeshi carriers had docked at Petrapole and 26 at Ghojadanga as of Sunday evening.

Earlier on Sunday afternoon North 24-Parganas district administration advised traders to resume operations. However, no specific standard operating protocols for imports was issued till evening.

Petrapole land port manager Suvajit Mandal confirmed the resumption of export and import but claimed that he had not received any order from the state government.

“Traders and stakeholders informed us of the arrival of cargos. We received the vehicles and complied with standard safety protocol in the wake of Covid-19,” he said.

An officer of North 24 Parganas administration added: “Pending technicalities will be settled by Monday and guidelines for imports issued.”

The Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) regional chairman Sushil Patwari welcomed the move.

Patwari had earlier written to chief minister Mamata Banerjee urging her immediate intervention to allow imports from Bangladesh. “Very good news. We are very thankful to the chief minister.”

Petrapole Clearing Agents’ Staff Welfare Association secretary Kartick Chakraborty said: “It is a timely decision by the state government, which actually helped over two lakh people on either side of the border to survive. These people are directly or indirectly involved with border trade through Petrapole and Ghojadanga as well.”

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9 rail routes for private players

9 rail routes for private players

The railway ministry has offered nine routes to private players in the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) zone that covers most parts of north Bengal and the entire Northeast.

This move is a part of the ministry’s recent decision to offer 109 routes across India to private investors interested in running passenger trains. It is also being seen as an initiative by the railways to give passengers used to air travel a premium train-travel experience, though railway employee unions have been vocal against any attempt at privatisation.

“In the NFR, nine routes have been identified for private sector investments. It is estimated that the project, as a whole, would bring in investments to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore. Existing train services along these routes, however, will continue. Proposed trains run by private investors will be additional ones,” said NFR chief public relations officer Subhanan Chanda.

Among the routes selected in the NFR zone are Guwahati’s link to national capital Delhi and cities like Calcutta, Pune, Bangalore and Bhopal.

As of now, around 120 long distance mail and express trains run in the zone, said railway sources.

All these nine proposed routes pass through New Jalpaiguri — the largest railway station and the main transit point for people going to north Bengal and Sikkim.

The routes move through Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar, major tourist destinations of the region.

“North Bengal and the Northeast figure prominently in the tourism map of India and attract many domestic and international travellers every year. It seems the railways want to offer the option of trains to those who usually take flights or travel in their own vehicles or air-conditioned buses,” said a retired railway official in Siliguri.

Among the trains which usually run from north Bengal and Northeast to other parts of the country are Rajdhani Express, the Shatabdi Express (between Howrah and New Jalpaiguri) and the Darjeeling Mail, an iconic and one of the oldest trains in the region.

“Apart from these, all others are general mail or express trains. We often hear tourists complain about poor service in these trains. Also, not many quality long-distance bus services are available in this part of India. That is why high-value tourists who visit these areas mostly travel by air. If this segment starts using these proposed private trains, inflow of visitors to the region can go up,” said a transporter in Siliguri.

Unions of railway employees in the NFR zone have strongly protested against this privatisaton bid.

“We observed a Black Day on June 8 this year in protest (against privatisation) and now we are drawing up plans to tell railway users about the consequences of such a project. There is high chance that the fares will go up. Also, concessions (for senior citizens, among others) are unlikely,” said Joginder Singh, convener of the Alipurduar divisional branch of NFR Mazdoor Union, a constituent of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation.

The NFR Employees’ Union, backed by the Intuc-affiliated National Federation of Indian Railwaymen, also reacted sharply.

Sujit Mishra, president of the union’s Alipurduar division, said: “We suspect mass retrenchment if this project is taken up. Our members are sending postcards to the Prime Minister, seeking the decision be revoked.”

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Trinamul councillor shot at

Trinamul councillor shot at

Trinamul councillor of North Barrackpore Municipality, Champa Das, was shot at by unidentified men near her home at Ichhapur Mayapalli area in Noapara around 9pm on Saturday.

Eyewitnesses claimed masked goons on two bikes fired at least four rounds, of which one bullet hit her left thigh.

She has been admitted to RG Kar Hospital in Calcutta.

Das, who won as an Independent from ward 2, joined Trinamul early this year. Minister Jyotipriyo Mullick blamed the BJP for the attack. BJP MLA Sunil denied the charge and pointed a finger at “infighting within Trinamul”. Police said probe was on.

“The BJP had threatened her with dire consequences unless she joined the BJP and they tried to kill her since she refused to oblige them,” Mullick told The DSTV DARJEELING

BJP leadership has, however, sought to refute the allegation.

“The area where the councillor was attacked is a den of criminals close to Trinamul and divided into two rival camps of the party. This is known to all. The attack on the councillor is a fallout of that rivalry,” BJP MLA Sunil said.

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TMC leader killed over ‘Amphan fury’

TMC leader killed over ‘Amphan fury’

The ongoing Amphan relief graft row took an ugly turn on Saturday with one leader each from Trinamul and rival SUCI found dead in Kultali, South 24-Parganas, and at least 40 houses and shops ransacked and set on fire in a clash.

Trinamul youth leader Ashwini Manna, 46, was killed early on Saturday at Maipith village in Kultali. The ruling party blamed the SUCI for the murder, while the SUCI claimed Manna was lynched by villagers over corruption in Amphan aid distribution.

Later, the body of SUCI leader Sudhanshu Jana, 58, with injury marks, was found hanging from the ceiling of his home that had been set on fire.

Trinamul claimed that Jana had committed suicide.

Six persons were seriously injured in the clash. Tensions had not abated fully till evening. Police arrested 10 people from both the parties.

“A Trinamul leader was killed. We found the body of another man (Jana) hanging from the ceiling, but only the post-mortem can determine the cause of death. We have arrested 10 persons for involvement in the violence,” said Rashid Munir Khan, the chief of Baruipur police district in South 24-Parganas.

Sources said the SUCI had launched massive protests in Maipith and accused several ruling party leaders and their relatives of taking Amphan compensation illegally.

The panchayat at Maipith is run by Trinamul, but SUCI had won 11 of its 20 seats in the last poll. SUCI leaders said their protests against Amphan aid graft angered Trinamul workers and sparked a clash.

“Trinamul leaders tried to stop us on July 2 but failed as 1,200 people came for protests that day. At night, Trinamul goons went to the homes of our workers and threatened them. Early on Saturday, Ashwini Manna led a group of goons to attack villagers who had been in the protest. Villagers caught him and he was lynched,” said Prakash Maity, a SUCI district committee member. “Collective outrage of the villagers over Amphan irregularities led to his death.”

CPM MLA in Kultali Ramsankar Haldar also said public anger led to Manna’s death.

Trinamul sources said armed SUCI groups attacked the house of Trinamul president in Maipith, Pintu Pradhan, and Manna who had gone to help him was killed. “The SUCI goons planned Ashwini (Manna)’s murder to take control over the area. The issue of Amphan aid has no connection with the violence,” said Ganesh Mondal, Trinamul youth president in Kultali. “Jana was not killed, he committed suicide out of fear,” he said but did not spell out the fear.

BJP leaders also claimed that at least five of their party workers were missing. “The Trinamul is targeting our party workers for protesting against Amphan irregularities,” said Palash Rana, BJP district committee member in South 24-Parganas.

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