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Make way for Mamata Di: Bengal cop stops ambulance, tells heart-attack patient she can wait

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Bengal will supply surplus power to other states soon, says Mamata after inaugurating third phase of Sagardighi Thermal Power Plant

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Mamata cosying up to Sonia, Kejriwal: Didi now wants a say in national politics

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Mamata Banerjee remembers Nirbhaya on Delhi gangrape case anniversary

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A tale of two verdicts: Amid frenzy over Salman’s acquittal, India forgot about Suzette Jordan

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India forgets Park Street gangrape victim Suzette Jordan, who got justice when Salman walked free

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Mamata Banerjee bats for Aamir Khan, says ‘this country belongs to everyone’

Kolkata: Extending her support to Bollywood star Aamir Khan by saying that it is his democratic right to say what he felt, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said no one has the right to ask someone to leave this country as this country belongs to everyone. But the RSS does not agree. On the same day, in a different city, joint chief of RSS publicity wing Nanda Kumar said that “if the country could tolerate his film ( PK), how can he ( Aamir Khan) feel unsafe here?”

“No one has the right to ask someone to leave this country or go to Pakistan. We all are citizens of this country, India,” Banerjee said.

Nanda Kumar took another line: “Has he been attacked? I want to ask a simple question. Can a film like PK be made in Pakistan? If the country could tolerate his film, how can he feel unsafe here,” Nanda Kumar said.

Mamata Banerjee lashed out at Hindutva groups, saying that no one has the right to kill someone for just consuming beef, as the
Constitution of India grants the right to preach to each of its citizens.

File photo. Image courtesy: PTIFile photo. Image courtesy: PTI

File photo. Image courtesy: PTI

“Nobody can say anything against them in this country. They will decide what we will say. Aamir has said something what he felt and what his wife told him, he just said that. He is being asked to leave the country. Who are you to ask someone to leave this country? This country belongs to everyone. This is our motherland,” Banerjee said while addressing a rally of the minorities.

Banerjee’s comment comes against the backdrop of countrywide chatter on Aamir Khan’s recent remark where he expressed “alarm and despondency” over the rise in incidents of intolerance in the last six to eight months.

“Kiran (his wife) and I have lived all our life in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India…She fears for her child, she fears about what the atmosphere around us will be,” the actor said in an interaction at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism ceremony organised by the Indian Express few days back.

Banerjee also criticised the statements against Shah Rukh Khan for his comments on intolerance.

“They have criticised Aamir. They have also criticised Shah Rukh. They have criticised A R Rahman. Who are they to decide what we will say or what we will eat?” she asked.

Banerjee expressed apprehensions that the powers in Delhi might unleash CBI against her for her comments against intolernace and threat to communal harmony.

“If you say anything against them, they will engage CBI after you but you can’t shut my mouth by engaging CBI after me. They have threatened Mithun Chakraborty in such a way that he can’t even talk to me. He is an MP (Rajya Sabha) of our party,” she said.

Nanda Kumar insists that Muslims are better off in India than elsewhere: “(Earlier), actors like Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari had to change their names and work. But it is today’s tolerance that allows them to use their real names. Even Pakistani-Canadian columnist Tarek Fatah has said that if there is any country in the world safest for Muslims, it is India,” he told The Indian Express.

RSS says ‘if country could tolerate PK, Aamir must feel safe in India’; Mamata bats for actor, slams RSS

Kolkata: Extending her support to Bollywood star Aamir Khan by saying that it is his democratic right to say what he felt, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said no one has the right to ask someone to leave this country as this country belongs to everyone.

“No one has the right to ask someone to leave this country or go to Pakistan. We all are citizens of this country, India,” Banerjee said.

She also lashed out at Hindutva groups, saying that no one has the right to kill someone for just consuming beef, as the
Constitution of India grants the right to preach to each of its citizens.

File photo. Image courtesy: PTIFile photo. Image courtesy: PTI

File photo. Image courtesy: PTI

“Nobody can say anything against them in this country. They will decide what we will say. Aamir has said something what he felt and what his wife told him, he just said that. He is being asked to leave the country. Who are you to ask someone to leave this country? This country belongs to everyone. This is our motherland,” Banerjee said while addressing a rally of the minorities.

Banerjee’s comment’s comes in the backdrop of countrywide criticism on Aamir Khan’s recent remark where he expressed “alarm and despondency” over the rise in incidents of intolerance in the last six to eight months.

“Kiran (his wife) and I have lived all our life in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India…She fears for her child, she fears about what the atmosphere around us will be,” the actor said in an interaction at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism ceremony organised by the Indian Express few days back.

Banerjee also criticised the statements against Shah Rukh Khan for his comments on intolerance.

“They have criticised Aamir. They have also criticised Shah Rukh. They have criticised A R Rahman. Who are they to decide what we will say or what we will eat?” she asked.

Banerjee expressed apprehensions that the powers in Delhi might unleash CBI against her for her comments against intolernace and threat to communal harmony.

“If you say anything against them, they will engage CBI after you but you can’t shut my mouth by engaging CBI after me. They have threatened Mithun Chakraborty in such a way that he can’t even talk to me. He is an MP (Rajya Sabha) of our party,” she said.

PTI

UK seeks more time to decide on declassifying Netaji files

New Delhi: The UK has sought more time to decide whether to declassify the secret files in its possession on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, his family said on Sunday.

Bose’s family had recently approached British authorities demanding making public all the files relating to his sudden disappearance in 1945.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Reuters.Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Reuters.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Reuters.

“My sister Madhuri Bose has approached the government of UK. She has already received several responses admitting that there were files on Subhas Bose but they would require more time to take a decision about the de-classification,” Netaji’s grandnephew Surya Kumar Bose told PTI.

Surya, who had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Berlin in April, said the Bose family will also keep asking the governments of the USA, Russia and Japan to open up the files they have on Netaji.

“In post-war India, Subhas Chandra Bose was a threat to Nehru and Patel. Hence the classified files on Subhas are of immense importance,” he said.

Complimenting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for declassifying over 60 files relating to Bose, he said it was time for the Centre to unravel the mystery and make public the information relating to Netaji.

“We do not know if all the files were opened up or some were eaten up by moths or bureaucrats. This move will certainly put pressure on the Prime Minister to open up his Pandora’s box! But it would be very much more difficult for Narendra Modiji to open up all the classified Bose files,” said Surya from Berlin.

Sixty four files running into nearly 13,000 pages relating Bose were declassified last month by the West Bengal government. The files showed some of his close family members were spied on in independent India but there was no clarity whether he died in an air crash in 1945 as is widely believed.

“I think Mamata Banerjee has taken a very good and welcome step in declassifying all the files in the custody of the West Bengal government. There may have been political motivation behind this very bold move but we must give her credit for doing so,” said Surya.

He said Bose family will not sit quiet till the Centre declassied all the files relating to Netaji.

“We shall continue the movement till sufficient pressure has been built up for the Centre to comply with our demand and the demand of the people of India,” he said.

Asked when the family approached the British authorities, he did not specify but indicated it was done recently.

Toeing the line adopted by the previous UPA government, Prime Minister Modi’s Office in February had refused to declassify the files relating to Bose.

The PMO had in August told the Central Information Commission that it cannot declassify the files as it will adversely affect relations with foreign countries.

Netaji had gone missing in 1945 and some of his family members have rejected the theory that he had died in a plane crash in Taihoku in Taiwan on August 18 that year.

PTI

Rasagola wars: Bengal submits application for GI tag to beat Odisha

Kolkata: West Bengal has submitted the application for a (Geographical Indication) GI tag for the rosogolla to stake claim on the sugary delicacy and beat Odisha, a minister said.

“We have filed an application for GI on September 18 with full support from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,” Rabiranjan Chattopadhyay, science and technology minister, told IANS on Tuesday here.

The syrupy, soft spongy balls of Indian cottage cheese, the rasogollas, have virtually unleashed a war between two Indian states.

Rasgulla. Image courtesy: www.kcdas.co.inRasgulla. Image courtesy: www.kcdas.co.in

Rasgulla. Image courtesy: www.kcdas.co.in

Both Odisha and West Bengal have entered the fray to stake their claim on the famed dessert.

The Odisha government recently decided to form three committees which will counter Bengal’s claim as the birthplace of rosogolla.

But Chattopadhyay said the state government is not considering forming any such committees at the moment to counter the move.

Bengal is claiming that Nabin Chandra Das had introduced the sweet in 1868, while the Odisha government said the tradition of offering rosogolla by Lord Jagannath to Goddess Laxmi on the day of Niladri Bije (the day when the deities return to their abode after the annual Rath Yatra) is at least 300 years old indicating it was much older than the 150-year history of Bengal’s rosogolla.

“Bengal is the birth place of rosogolla and we prepared a detailed dossier on its origins based on evidence from Das family and historian Haripada Bhowmik. There is no question on the origins as far as Bengal is concerned,” the minister said.

IANS

Netaji wanted to speak over radio, reveals declassified files of Subhash Chandra Bose

Kolkata: “For the last one month a rather strange broadcast is being heard over the radio…The broadcast only says ‘Neta Subhas Chandra transmitter…wanted to speak,” this was written by Netaji’s nephew Amiya Nath Bose in a letter to his brother in 1949 as revealed by one of the secret files on the leader declassified by the West Bengal government.

The letter by Amiya Nath Bose, addressed to his brother Sisir Kumar Bose, based at that time in London, on November 18, 1949, said, “We are getting this broadcast on the shortwave near 16mm. The broadcast only says Neta Subhas Chandra Bose transmitter… wanted to speak. This sentence is repeated for hours. We do not quite know where it is coming from because that is not announced”.

A file photo of Netaji with Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. AFPA file photo of Netaji with Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. AFP

A file photo of Netaji with Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. AFP

The letter was intercepted by Kolkata Police’s intelligence bureau following a government order, according to the declassified files. A secret report submitted by the central intelligence office, Calcutta to deputy inspector general of police, IB, West Bengal on 25.1.1949 stated, “Sarat Chandra Bose (elder brother of Netaji) inclined to believe from information gathered during his European tour that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was alive and that he is now somewhere in China controlled by the Communist army of China”.

Netaji had gone missing in 1945 and some of his family members have rejected the theory that he had died in a plane crash in Taihoku airport in Taiwan on August 18 that year. The secret files also revealed how snooping was done on Netaji’s family members including Sarat Chandra Bose even after independence by the then government.

A secret report sent by deputy commissioner, special branch (1) CID, Bombay to DCP (II), SB, Calcutta in 1949 said, “Mr Sarat Chandra Bose arrived in Bombay on May 11 and flew to Geneva on May 13. He holds passport no 3915/1949”.

The file showed that even a letter written by a travel company to Sarat Chandra Bose confirming seats in Air India for travelling to Geneva was intercepted. Netaji’s grandnephew Chandra Bose, when asked whether Netaji died in 1945 in a plane crash, has replied, “A communication from CID Howrah quoting the US and the British intelligence stated that he did not die in a plane crash.”

Netaji’s family members demanded that the Centre take a cue from the state government and declassify the secret files on Netaji in its own possession. One of the declassified files referred to a document which spoke of a correspondence between Sisir Bose and a professor in Japan over a “very important subject”.

Yet another file referred to Sisir Bose writing to a journalist of a Japanese News agency enquiring about whether news about the alleged Taihoku plane crash on August 18, 1945 was published in any newspaper in Japan.

The files also threw light on how Amiya Bose and Sisir Bose were shadowed by IB officials. Details of their foreign visits and any foreigner visiting them had been recorded in those files.

PTI

Netaji files released by West Bengal govt, Mamata wants Centre to follow suit

Kolkata: Sixty-four secret files relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose that could help throw light on his mysterious disappearance — an enduring enigma for seven decades — were on Friday released by West Bengal government with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asking the Centre to follow suit.

Here’s what happened on Friday so far.

Files on Netaji released

Mamata Banerjee. PTIMamata Banerjee. PTI

Mamata Banerjee. PTI

The Centre has 130 files. Hidden in police and government lockers for years, the 64 files containing 12,744 pages were declassified in the presence of Bose’s family members who have been demanding that information on the leader of the Azad Hind Fauj(Indian National Army-INA) be made public.

The files displayed in glass cascades in Kolkata Police Museum would be made accessible to the public from Monday, City Police Commissioner Surajit Kar Purakayastha said.

Of the 64 files, 55 were with Kolkata Police while another nine were with the state police.

Purakayastha handed over a DVD containing the files in digitised format to the family members of Netaji who welcomed its release.

People should know the truth, says Mamata

Fulfilling a long-standing demand, Banerjee described as “historic” the declassification of the closely guarded files on one of the country’s foremost nationalist leaders and said people should know the truth.

“Today is a historic day. Our government has made all Netaji files public. People have a right to know about the brave son of India,” Banerjee, who visited the police museum, tweeted.

Later, she said, “We made a beginning. The people should know the truth. Let the central government also declassify the files (on Netaji). Let good sense prevail on all of us. You cannot suppress the truth. Let truth come out.

“In 70 years, the mystery has not been solved. We did not know what happened (to Netaji). It is unfortunate. How long you can keep it under secrecy. You read the files in details.”

What Netaji’s family said

Welcoming the declassification of the 64 files, Chandra Bose, Netaji’s grandnephew said, “It is a correct step. Now it is the duty of the central government to declassify 130 files it has with it.”

Chandra Bose said, “By keeping the files (on Netaji) under secrecy for 70 long years, some leaders have committed treachery towards the country. It is the duty of the central government to declassify those files to expose those leaders.”

He said that it is not possible to keep those files under secrecy any longer.

Another family member of Netaji and a former TMC MP Krishna Bose said that Mamata Banerjee has taken a bold step by declassifying the files.

“So far there were gossips, now truth will come out. I am happy that the files have been made public”, she said, adding that the Centre should also do so.

Bose’s family members and researchers have repeatedly maintained the secret files lying in Delhi are of significance, as they contain the answer to the key questions on the disappearance of the firebrand leader and the subsequent years.

Will Centre follow suit?

The Prime Minister’s Office in August told the Central Information Commission it cannot declassify files related to Bose as it will adversely affect relations with foreign countries.

Union Minister of State for Home Kiran Rijiju said the Centre has to keep in mind supreme national interests while taking any decision on the release of the secret files.

PTI

WB govt to give monetary compensation to 30 lakh farmers who lost crops

Kolkata: The West Bengal government has decided to give monetary compensation to 30 lakh farmers who have lost their crops due to floods in the state.

“Nearly 30 lakh farmers who have suffered partial or full crop damage will get a compensation of Rs 13,500 from the state government,” Pradip Majumdar, Chief Agriculture Advisor to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

More than 11.5 lakh hectares of land has been identified by the state government which has been either fully or partially affected by the floods in the month of August this year.

“Near about 13 lakh hectares of land has been affected either partially or fully. Out of this we have identified 11.5 lakh hectares of land farmers of which are eligible for compensation,” said Mazumdar.

He said that more than 10 lakh farmers had been registered so far who would be eligible for the compensation.

“With the next few days we will be able to complete the list of 30 lakh farmers for their registration,” said Mazumdar.

The compensation of Rs 13,500 would be given to farmers to create new seed bed for cultivation of crops as existing sea beds have been washed away by the floods.

PTI

Bengal govt to declassify 64 Netaji files: All you need to know about Bose documents

The West Bengal government is all set to declassify 64 files on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, which lying with the state’s Home Department, next Friday.

“A total 64 files are there with us. There may be one or two more files also. After properly reviewing all the files, we have decided to put them in the public domain from next Friday,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Friday.

“We decided to release the files so that everybody can see them. We don’t feel that there is anything related to internal security in the files. Everybody wants to know about what happened to Netaji. He was a brave son of our soil and he was from Bengal,” she said.

West Bengal government is going to declassify 64 files on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. AFP

West Bengal government is going to declassify 64 files on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. AFP

Asked if the state would request the Centre to declassify files it has in its possession, Banerjee said, “It is for the Centre to decide, but we want the truth about Netaji to come out.”

The Chief Minister also announced that the record of the freedom struggle from 1937 to 1947 would be digitised in order to preserve history. Asked whether the files to be declassified can throw any clue about the alleged snooping on Netaji’s nephew by the central government from 1948 to 1968, Banerjee said, “You have the options. It is better for you to go through the files to get the answers.”

Recently, some files relating to Bose, declassified by the central government, had revealed that the Ministry of Home Affairs had snooped on at least two of Netaji’s nephews. The files revealed that the Intelligence Bureau had kept the relatives of Netaji under close surveillance between 1948 and 1968 when Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister.

Here is all you need to know about the classified files on Netaji:

What are the classified Netaji files?

While under house arrest by the British in the then Calcutta, freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had escaped in 1941 to seek international support for his efforts to free India and formed the Indian National Army with the help of the Japanese. He went missing in 1945 and since then little has been known about his whereabouts.

The classified Netaji files documents related to freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, especially linked to his disappearance which have not been made public so far. According to an India Today report, there are 37 secret Netaji files in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

“Those asking for the files to be declassified hope they will reveal the ‘truth’ behind Bose’s death. At least three judicial commissions have probed the matter, but their reports were never accepted by the Centre,” said an Indian Express report.

The snooping row

A huge controversy had erupted in April this year when two declassified Intelligence Bureau (IB) files had claimed that the government under India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had spied on the family of Subhas Chandra Bose for nearly 20 years between 1948 and 1968.

BJP national spokesperson MJ Akbar had alleged that the spying was done because Congress was scared of Bose’s return and felt he was the only leader who could mobilise the opposition against the Congress in the 1957 polls.

Congress, on the other hand, had accused the BJP and Modi government of running a “sinister campaign” against national icons as it dubbed reports of snooping on the family of Netaji as motivated news plants based on selective leaks.

Following the declassification of the IB files and the massive political storm which that created, family members of Bose had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and put forward their long-pending demand to de-classify the files related to Netaji.

A few days after the declassification of the IB files, on 15 April, the Modi government formed an inter-ministerial committee headed by Cabinet Secretary to review the Official Secrets Act in the context of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose files.

The committee was formed decide whether to declassify the documents related to mysterious disappearance of Netaji.

However, on 5 May, the government clarified it had no plans to conduct any probe into the alleged snooping of Netaji’s family members.

“There is no proposal to probe into the spying as referred to in the question,” Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary had told Lok Sabha. He was replying to a written question by M Udhayakumar and Sunil Kumar Singh whether the government has set up any inquiry committee/commission to investigate the alleged spying incidents.

Modi government’s U-turn on the Netaji files

In January 2014, the then BJP president Rajnath Singh had demanded during a visit to Netaji’s birthplace Cuttack this January that the UPA government make public the records. “The entire country is impatient to know how Netaji died and under what circumstances,” Rajnath Singh had said on the eve of Netaji’s 117th birth anniversary on 23 January, 2014.

However, after coming to power, the BJP government, in response to an RTI query on the Netaji files, had refused to declassify the Netaji files. “(The) disclosure of documents contained in these files would prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries. As such, these are exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act,” the PMO had said in a statement in December, 2014.

(With agency inputs)

From PM Modi to Sonia Gandhi: Political leaders condole demise of First Lady Suvra Mukherjee

New Delhi: Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and leaders of other political parties on Tuesday condoled the death of First Lady Suvra Mukherjee, saying her warm nature endeared her to everyone.

President Pranab Mukherjee with his wife Suvra Mukherjee. PTI

President Pranab Mukherjee with his wife Suvra Mukherjee. PTI

“The Vice President joins the nation in offering condolences to the President on his bereavement,” a statement by his office said.

The Prime Minister tweeted: “Pained to know about the passing away of Mrs. Suvra Mukherjee. My condolences to Rashtrapati ji & his family in this hour of grief.”

He said Suvra Mukherjee will be remembered as a lover of art, culture & music. “Her warm nature endeared her to everyone she met,” Modi added.

President Pranab Mukherjee‘s wife Suvra had been ailing for some time and she passed away this morning at the age of 74.

Mukherjee got married to Suvra on 13 July, 1957. The First Lady hailed from Jessore, now in Bangladesh, and had migrated to Kolkata at the age of 10 years.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi expressed deep grief over the passing away of the First Lady.

Extending her condolences to the President and members of his family, Sonia said that she, Congress and the entire country stood with them in this moment of bereavement.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad expressed deep sorrow and grief, saying the First lady was grace and dignity personified and “a silent source” of support for Mukherjee during his long political career.

“I stand in solidarity with Rashtrapati ji and his family in this hour of grief,” said Azad, who is also Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh and his Cabinet colleagues too conveyed their condolences.

“Saddened to hear the news of Smt. Suvra Mukherjee’s demise. My heartfelt condolences to Shri Pranab Mukherjee and his bereaved family,” Singh tweeted.

Expressing grief over the death of President’s wife, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she knew her for more than three decades as a simple and loveable person.

“Saddened to hear that Rashtrapati ji’s wife Suvra boudi is no more. Cannot believe she has passed. Such is life. We have to accept the truth.

“I have known Suvra boudi for more than three decades. She was simple, lovable and a caring housewife. May God give Rashtrapati ji and his family the strength to bear the loss,” she said in a series of tweets.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar too extended his condolences. “Sad to hear about the demise of Shri Pranab Mukherjee ji’s wife. My deepest condolences to Pranab da and family. @RashtrapatiBhvn Nitish Kumar.”

Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar also condoled the death of the first lady.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar said in a tweet, “Deepest condolences to the family of the President of India Pranab Mukherjee on a sad demise of his wife Suvra Mukherjee.”

PTI

Release of water from barrages making floods worse, says Mamata Banerjee

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday blamed the release of water from barrages for the deterioration of the flood situation in two Bengal districts and expressed hope the situation in all the affected districts will improve from Tuesday.

Over 12 districts have been hit and over 36 lakh people affected by the heavy rainfall. The death toll due to heavy rain and floods crossed 50 on Sunday.

Mamata Banerjee. AFPMamata Banerjee. AFP

Mamata Banerjee. AFP

“The flood situation has improved in Birbhum and Murshidabad districts, whereas condition in Bardhaman continues to be the same,” Banerjee told the media before beginning her tour of Ashoknagar in North 24-Parganas.

“The flooding in Hooghly and Howrah districts have worsened and will deteriorate a bit further as DVC (Damodar Valley Corporation) has released more water,” she said.

The Trinamool Congress chief, who personally monitored the flood situation overnight at the state secretariat Nabanna, is set to distribute relief material in the area while Trinamool Congress leaders and MPs have been designated to cover other localities of the state.

Banerjee said besides 47 municipalities, 210 blocks and 9,691 villages were affected by the flood due to heavy rains triggered by Cyclone Komen.

Crops in over 2.1 lakh hectares of land were destroyed across the state, she said.

According to Irrigation Minister Rajib Banerjee, DVC has released 90,000 cusecs of water since last night compounding the woes of flood-hit residents.

IANS

Flood situation in Bengal rendered beyond control: CM Mamata Banerjee

Kolkata: The excessive rain for the past two days coupled with high tide and water released from Jharkhand and Odisha has rendered the flood situation in West Bengal “beyond control”, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Sunday.

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. PTI

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. PTI

She advised people in vulnerable areas to take shelter in relief camps to avoid “untoward incidents”.

“In the last four years, there has been no flood like this year’s. So far, we have witnessed man-made floods and we have restricted them quite successfully. But the situation at present is rendered beyond control,” Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat Nabanna on Sunday.

“I know that it is difficult to stay out of home but life is priority. So you must stay in relief camps for two, three days,” Banerjee said, advising people in vulnerable areas to take shelter at relief camps.

Yesterday, I had said that there was 61 percent excess rainfall. Today, it’s 70 percent excess rainfall, she said.

Holding the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) responsible for releasing excess water resulting in floods in the state, Banerjee said, “DVC is doing business…We love them but that does not mean they will submerge Bengal.”

“Two years ago, we had written to the Centre that more than two lakh cusecs of water can be reserved in DVC reservoir only if dredging is done. I will again write to them,” she said.

The Chief Minister earlier held a meeting with Chief Secretary, DGP, IG Law and Order, IG Police and Disaster Management Secretary.

PTI

West Bengal on alert, heavy rains killed 39 people: Mamata Banerjee

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday said heavy rains have claimed 39 lives so far, and affected about seven lakh people leaving many homeless, and asked concerned officials to ensure prompt rescue, relief and restoration work.

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. PTI

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. PTI

Announcing a compensation of Rs 4 lakh for the kin of those who died, Banerjee said the deaths were caused either by lightning, wall collapse, electrocution, snake bite or drowning since the onset of heavy to very heavy rains.

“The month of June and July this year have recorded excess rainfall by 60 percent, of which July alone has recorded more than double the normal rainfall,” Banerjee said after a review meeting with her cabinet colleagues and secretaries of concerned departments at the state secretariat.

Stating that over 30,000 people were sheltered in about 700 relief camps in different affected districts, she said that a Control Room with 1070 helpline number will work round-the-clock.

Banerjee said high velocity storms have flattened hundreds of houses, rendering a large number of people homeless and injuring at least 12 people in three districts of the state since Wednesday.

She further said that so far about seven lakh people were affected while over 10,000 houses were damaged fully and about 58,000 houses partially.

The Chief Minister, who cut short her London visit and returned to Kolkata on Thursday following the cyclone threat, earmarked responsibilities of all her cabinet colleagues and secretaries during the meeting for better coordination and prompt rescue, relief and restoration works.

“All measures have been taken to rescue those affected, to provide them with relief materials and restore normalcy sooner as the water recedes,” she said, adding that her government was fully geared to save people from this disaster.

“Since rain due to deep depression and high tides will still continue, I have asked my cabinet colleagues and the entire administration to be on alert,” she said.

On whether Centre would be asked to declare it as natural calamity, Banerjee said, “Such expenses come from the National Disaster Relief Fund and State Disaster Relief Fund. Also we are yet to assess the extent of total loss and damages which will definitely be huge.”

Banerjee also cautioned that there should not be any politics in relief works.

“My experience says during such hours of crisis, some people create problems. We should stand beside those affected and any politics in relief works will never be allowed to take place,” she said.

Officials were asked to ensure that there is no disturbance during relief works by the state government and the affected are not disturbed, she cautioned.

Officials have also been asked to send reports of loss and damages as assessed on a daily basis to the Centre, she said, adding, a complete report on loss and damages would be sent to the Centre after the situation is restored and assessment completed.

Banerjee also asked the officials to ensure that release of water from different barrages due to heavy rains in the high catchment area is controlled and done with prior notice to local residents.

The Ministers of the departments concerned have also been asked to arrange for restoration of national highways, state highways, rural roads, electricity line and other infrastructure as soon as water recedes.

Over one lakh hectare crop area under Howrah, Nadia, Birbhum, West Midnapore and Burdwan were also damaged, Disaster Management department officials said.

Adequate relief materials have also been sent to all affected districts, the officials added.

PTI

Saradha chit fund scam: Mitra’s bail plea rejected again

Kolkata: A city court on Thursday rejected the bail plea of West Bengal Transport Minister Madan Mitra in Saradha chit fund scam case as his counsel, while seeking the relief for his client, quoted a witness as saying that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee graced a Saradha Group programme.

Acting District and Sessions Judge, Alipore court, Lakshmi Kanta Das rejected the bail prayer of Mitra.

Madan Mitra. PTIMadan Mitra. PTI

Madan Mitra. PTI

Appearing for Mitra, senior counsel Milon Mukherjee submitted that one of the witnesses had in a sworn statement said that while reposing faith in the Saradha Group, he was influenced by three points including the presence of Mamata Banerjee at the inauguration of ‘Kalam’, a Bengali newspaper owned by the chitfund company’s media wing.

The witness, Ashraf Ali from Malda district, said that he had also been influenced by knowing that Madan Mitra was the president of the workers’s union of Saradha Group on seeing a photo frame at the company’s office here.

Ali, who had deposited money in Saradha Group’s chit fund scheme, had said that his local MP Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury’s “good” words about Saradha Group had also helped him in taking a decision in favour of depositing money in its scheme.

Stating these, Mukherjee submitted before the judge that when the witness has named three political figures, why would Mitra be kept under incarceration.

“Why is he (Mitra) being made a scapegoat?” the counsel said while seeking bail.

Mitra, who is in judicial remand, is at present lodged in state-run SSKM Hospital.

Mukherjee further submitted that Mitra, who is in custody for the last 195 days, was no more an influential person and that he would abide by any condition imposed by the court.

CBI counsel K Raghava Charyulu, opposing the bail plea, submitted that Mitra was still a minister in West Bengal Cabinet and as such was a very influential person.

He stated that Mitra had spent a large part of his days in custody at SSKM Hospital with full facilities and that he has been given special treatment there.

Charyulu submitted that the scam, involving over Rs 2,500 crores and spanning several states, was still under investigation and that a bail for the minister at this stage would affect the probe.

PTI

Decoding why mafiadom rules from Mamata’s Bengal to Akhilesh’s UP

An Uttar Pradesh freelance journalist is set on fire and dies in hospital for allegedly angering a minister by posting stories about illegal mining and land-grab on Facebook. His family, after raising a banner of protest, has now accepted a compensation of Rs 30 lakh, two jobs for family members, and promises of a fair probe by the Chief Minister. Their protest has ended.

UP journalist Jagendra Singh. Facebook

UP journalist Jagendra Singh. Facebook

We now know what the maximum price for murder is in Akhilesh Yadav’s Uttar Pradesh.

In April this year, a cop was run over and killed by a dumper allegedly run by the sand mafia in Morena, Madhya Pradesh. Saying the “guilty will not be spared,” Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ordered a SIT probe, Rs 10 lakh as compensation, Rs 1 lakh for the family, and free education to his two kids.

The lives of Madhya Pradesh cops can apparently be priced lower than freelance journos in Uttar Pradesh, it seems. Or maybe the media did not make enough of a fuss in Madhya Pradesh.

In Didi’s Bengal, the Chief Minister’s nephew makes no bones about how the state is run: by threats of physical terror. Abhishek Banerjee, who is head of the party’s youth wing, offered this colourful warning to opponents. “Those who dare to glare at us, we can gouge their eyes out and throw them on the road. Show us your hands and we can cut them off, but remember, it is the common man who will have the last word.”

One wonders what the common has to do with all these threats to life, limb and –yes — eyes.

Nor was Banerjee’s graphic description of what happens to opponents an exception to the rule in Trinamool’s political lexicon. Party MP Tapas Pal was last year caught on camera promising rape and mayhem against those who threaten his party’s workers. “If any one touches any TMC person I will make sure they are dead. I walk around with ‘maal‘,” he pointed out. “Maal” is not contraband, but a gun.

These three events of actual and verbal violence sum up the state of out states.

India’s Scotch-swigging liberal elite, ensconced happily in the metros and addicted to statement-mongering about free speech and liberalism, should take a look at the places where there is actually very little evidence of the rule of law. Out of sight of the English-language media, various state-level political parties run their fiefs in ways that may not be very different from how Dawood Ibrahim may be running his. Rough and ready methods are the norm whenever the powerful are threatened by exposure or defiance by weaker members of the population.

The Left Front ran 33 years of heavy-handed rule in West Bengal, and the only thing that has changed after Mamata Banerjee came to power is that the thugs have changed sides and joined Trinamool Congress.

Uttar Pradesh’s criminal-politician nexus is a byword in Indian folklore, and the Samajwadi party epitomises this rule by ganglords and mafia dons who are also ministers.

Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (U) criticised Lalu Prasad’s Bihar as “jungle raj”, but the two are now joined at the hip in an unholy alliance to keep Narendra Modi out.

The scene is no different in the other states, whether it is AIADMK-ruled Tamil Nadu, the divided Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala, Gujarat or any other state.

In Punjab, a 13-year-old girl died when she was pushed out of a moving bus in which she was allegedly being molested by the staff. The public outcry forced the Badals to act, for the bus was owned by them. The family, after initially declining compensation, accepted a payment of Rs 24 lakh from the bus company, and the offer of a job for one of the family members of the girl.

If the UP journo’s family and the Punjab girl’s kin willy-nilly accepted cash in lieu of murder, it can only mean one thing: they know that if they have to survive in their states, they had better take the money and shut up. Or even that may not be on offer.

This sums up the state of human rights and the absence of the rule of law in most states of India. So Abhishek Banerjee is only telling his people what they already know: the rulers have the upper hand, as they have state power and the requisite street-level muscle-power to make their writ run.

Our civil libertarians are wasting their time trolling the centre and metropolitan areas from Delhi and Mumbai. They should shift their bases to India’s lawless states. That’s where the real threats to life, liberty and freedom exist.

Reign of terror: Why mafiadom rules from Mamata’s Bengal to Yadav’s UP

An Uttar Pradesh freelance journalist is set on fire and dies in hospital for allegedly angering a minister by posting stories about illegal mining and land-grab on Facebook. His family, after raising a banner of protest, has now accepted a compensation of Rs 30 lakh, two jobs for family members, and promises of a fair probe by the Chief Minister. Their protest has ended.

UP journalist Jagendra Singh. Facebook

UP journalist Jagendra Singh. Facebook

We now know what the maximum price for murder is in Akhilesh Yadav’s Uttar Pradesh.

In April this year, a cop was run over and killed by a dumper allegedly run by the sand mafia in Morena, Madhya Pradesh. Saying the “guilty will not be spared,” Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ordered a SIT probe, Rs 10 lakh as compensation, Rs 1 lakh for the family, and free education to his two kids.

The lives of Madhya Pradesh cops can apparently be priced lower than freelance journos in Uttar Pradesh, it seems. Or maybe the media did not make enough of a fuss in Madhya Pradesh.

In Didi’s Bengal, the Chief Minister’s nephew makes no bones about how the state is run: by threats of physical terror. Abhishek Banerjee, who is head of the party’s youth wing, offered this colourful warning to opponents. “Those who dare to glare at us, we can gouge their eyes out and throw them on the road. Show us your hands and we can cut them off, but remember, it is the common man who will have the last word.”

One wonders what the common has to do with all these threats to life, limb and –yes — eyes.

Nor was Banerjee’s graphic description of what happens to opponents an exception to the rule in Trinamool’s political lexicon. Party MP Tapas Pal was last year caught on camera promising rape and mayhem against those who threaten his party’s workers. “If any one touches any TMC person I will make sure they are dead. I walk around with ‘maal‘,” he pointed out. “Maal” is not contraband, but a gun.

These three events of actual and verbal violence sum up the state of out states.

India’s Scotch-swigging liberal elite, ensconced happily in the metros and addicted to statement-mongering about free speech and liberalism, should take a look at the places where there is actually very little evidence of the rule of law. Out of sight of the English-language media, various state-level political parties run their fiefs in ways that may not be very different from how Dawood Ibrahim may be running his. Rough and ready methods are the norm whenever the powerful are threatened by exposure or defiance by weaker members of the population.

The Left Front ran 33 years of heavy-handed rule in West Bengal, and the only thing that has changed after Mamata Banerjee came to power is that the thugs have changed sides and joined Trinamool Congress.

Uttar Pradesh’s criminal-politician nexus is a byword in Indian folklore, and the Samajwadi party epitomises this rule by ganglords and mafia dons who are also ministers.

Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (U) criticised Lalu Prasad’s Bihar as “jungle raj”, but the two are now joined at the hip in an unholy alliance to keep Narendra Modi out.

The scene is no different in the other states, whether it is AIADMK-ruled Tamil Nadu, the divided Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala, Gujarat or any other state.

In Punjab, a 13-year-old girl died when she was pushed out of a moving bus in which she was allegedly being molested by the staff. The public outcry forced the Badals to act, for the bus was owned by them. The family, after initially declining compensation, accepted a payment of Rs 24 lakh from the bus company, and the offer of a job for one of the family members of the girl.

If the UP journo’s family and the Punjab girl’s kin willy-nilly accepted cash in lieu of murder, it can only mean one thing: they know that if they have to survive in their states, they had better take the money and shut up. Or even that may not be on offer.

This sums up the state of human rights and the absence of the rule of law in most states of India. So Abhishek Banerjee is only telling his people what they already know: the rulers have the upper hand, as they have state power and the requisite street-level muscle-power to make their writ run.

Our civil libertarians are wasting their time trolling the centre and metropolitan areas from Delhi and Mumbai. They should shift their bases to India’s lawless states. That’s where the real threats to life, liberty and freedom exist.

Ending 41-year dispute, India, Bangladesh seal historic Land Boundary Agreement

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Dear PM Modi, it is time to thank Bangladesh for embracing its Indian immigrants

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Aarti at Dakhineshwar to opening India’s largest blast furnace: Modi’s Bengal visit in photos

Continue reading here –  Aarti at Dakhineshwar to opening India’s largest blast furnace: Modi’s Bengal visit in photos

108 people from West Bengal yet to be traced in Nepal: Mamata Banerjee

Siliguri: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said 108 people from the state who were in Nepal on various purposes were yet to be traced and efforts were on to locate them.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTIWest Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI

“As per the information available, another 336 people of Bengal who were in Nepal have either come back or are on their way back,” Banerjee told a press conference after holding a meeting with senior officials of different departments in Siliguri.

“We are sending a bus to Nepal to send people who want to go there to meet their near and dear ones, as also to bring back those stranded there,” Banerjee said.

“Our first priority is to save and protect lives. We will ask for funds from the Centre only after proper and total assessment,” she said in reply to a question.

She also formed a crisis management group to deal with the impact of the devastating Nepal earthquake on three districts of north Bengal and said monetary assistance would be sought from the Centre after detailed assessment of the damages.

“We have formed a crisis management group headed by Director General of Police (Coastal Security) Raj Kanojia. It has members from the disaster management group, police and hospital authorities,” Banerjee said.

Three persons were killed and 69 others, including 43 school children, were injured in the earthquake which had a major effect in the districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar.

The Chief Minister also visited some of the places affected by Saturday’s 7.9 magnitude earthquake in neighbouring Nepal, which shares its border with the Darjeeling district.

“We will write to the Centre for financial assistance only after making a detailed assessment of damages to life and property,” the chief minister said, adding, it was the onus of the central government to provide such support as it was a case of natural disaster.

“I have asked the PWD and Irrigation departments to check all the bridges in North Bengal to find out whether these have been damaged by the earthquake,” she said.

PTI

West Bengal made highest progress in building toilets, says Mamata Banerjee

Kolkata: With Nadia district becoming free from open defecation, West Bengal has registered the highest progress in the country by constructing 8.47 lakh new household toilets in 2014-15, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said.

“Nadia is now Open Defecation Free, the first in the country in the last two years,” the chief minister announced on Facebook.

Mamata Banerjee in a file photo. PTIMamata Banerjee in a file photo. PTI

Mamata Banerjee in a file photo. PTI

She said that among the top four districts in the country in terms of construction of individual toilets, Nadia is at the top followed by Hooghly and Burdwan.

“The state has registered the highest progress in the country with 8.47 lakh new household toilets in 2014-15. In record time, Nadia district could reach out to all the households and construct more than 3.47 lakh toilets to ensure that everyone in the district has got access to sanitation,” she said.

Banerjee said the central government is doing wide publicity for its ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ but West Bengal has been working silently for ‘Mission Nirmal Bangla’ and making it a true success.

“This is result of good governance, implementation and monitoring,” the CM said.

Under the ‘Sobar Souchagar’ (Toilets for all) scheme led by the district magistrate Dr P B Salim, the authorities have not only constructed toilets but have also been running a continuous behavioural change campaign for those used to attend nature’s call in the open.

After extensive field studies, the open-defecation free status of the district has been validated by UNICEF and Pratichi Trust.

PTI

Centre rejects West Bengal govt’s plea for CBI probe into nun gangrape

New Delhi/Ranaghat: The Centre on Friday rejected West Bengal government’s request for a CBI probe into the gangrape of a 71-year-old nun at a convent school in Nadia district, a day after the CID achieved a breakthrough in arresting two suspects 12 days after the heinous crime took place.

Senior officials in the Home Ministry said that a recommendation of the West Bengal government had been received for a CBI probe into nun gang rape case and it had “expressed regret”, officials said.

The officials said that the decision had been communicated to the state government.

AFPAFP

AFP

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced on 19 March that her government recommended a CBI probe “considering the seriousness and sensitivity of the case” and assured the central probe agency of all cooperation and assistance in the investigation.

Meanwhile, Gopal Sarkar, the second suspect arrested on Thursday, was on Friday produced before a local court and remanded to 14 days’ CID custody.

The order was passed by Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Papiya Das, who agreeing to the prosecution’s submission charged him under IPC sections 212 and 216(a) (harbouring the offender before) apart from IPC sections 395 (dacoity), 397 (dacoity with attempt to cause grievous hurt or death) and 376 (rape).

The first arrest was made in Mumbai, also yesterday, when Mohammed Salim Sheikh alias Salim was picked up in the early hours. Both the arrested were Bangladeshi nationals.

A study of the CCTV footage at the convent in Ranaghat sub-division had shown visuals of four persons, who were allegedly involved in the crime.

The gang broke into the school and three-four of them raped the woman after gagging her and later took away Rs 12 lakh kept in a locker.

The nun was admitted to a local hospital and later taken to an undisclosed destination after being discharged.

The incident had sent shock waves across the nation. Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, the president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said that “justice should be made visible and such acts should not continue…”

Apart from being allegedly involved in the crime, Sarkar, who was arrested from his home at Habra in North 24 Parganas district yesterday, had allegedly given shelter to the other culprits involved in the crime.

Like yesterday when the first suspect Mohammed Salim Sheikh found no lawyer to represent him when he was produced in court after his arrest in Mumbai by the CID, Sarkar too found none to represent him.

Milan Sarkar, secretary of Ranaghat Bar Association said the decision not to represent them was taken as they had committed a “heinous crime”.

However, the two will get the legal assistance from the Sub-Divisional Legal Aid Committee, its representative and advocate Basudeb Mukhopadhy had said yesterday.

Sheikh, who was brought here on transit remand, too was remanded to 14 days’ CID custody.

The Sister Superior of the Convent of Jesus and Mary at Gangnapur in the Ranaghat police station area in Nadia district was gangraped in the early hours on March 14 after which a CID probe was ordered.

The nun had left for an undisclosed location outside West Bengal after her discharge from hospital.

The gang also took away Rs 12 lakh kept in the almirah locker before fleeing the place.

PTI

Bengal govt to come up with 14 new blood banks for rural areas

Kolkata: West Bengal government will come up with 14 new blood banks to meet the requirement in rural areas, a senior official in the Health Department said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“In the districts, there are not many blood banks to meet the requirement in the rural areas. For this reason, the state government has decided to come up with 14 new blood banks in those areas,” the official said.

The districts of Bankura, Jalpaiguri, West and East Midnapore, Murshidabad, Coochbehar and South 24 Parganas have been identified where the blood banks would be set up, he said.

Three blood banks would be set up in Bankura’s Chatna, Onda and Barjara block primary health centres, while one would be set up at Jalpaiguri’s Falakata block primary health centre, the official said.

West Midnapore would get four blood banks at Salboni, Debra, Nayagram, Gopiballabhpur Grameen Hospital, while East Midnapore would have two at Nandigram zilla hospital and Pashkura block primary school, he said.

Besides, one each at Murshidabad’s Sagardighi Grameen Hospital and South 24 Parganas’ Metiaburuz Hospital there would be two blood banks at Coochbehar in Dinhata and Mathabhanga mahakuma hospitals, the official said.

The Central Blood Bank and the five other blood banks in the city have been serving people of Kolkata and the surrounding districts of North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly all these years, he said.

A total of 210 vacancies have been created for the new blood banks and the proposal has got the state government’s nod.

For each blood bank, there would be three officers and four technicians to run the operations initially, another source at the Health Department said while stressing on several posts at blood banks lying vacant for a long time.

Asked when the blood banks would be ready, the official said, “We are working on the preliminary requirements for these banks and if everything goes according to our plans, we hope to finish this by 2017.”

Meanwhile, sources at the health department said the state government also has plans to upgrade 40 of its hospitals to multi-specialty hospitals.

Apart from Bangur Hospital in the city, several primary block hospitals have been identified for upgradation, the official added.

PTI

Nun gangrape case: Decided to entrust investigation to CBI, says Mamata

Ranaghat: The West Bengal government on Wednesday decided to hand over the case of gangrape of a 71-year-old nun of a Rangaghat convent school to the CBI as the demand for justice grew louder with the culprits still at large even after four days of the incident.

“Considering the seriousness and sensitivity of the case and also the fact that the place of incidence is very close to border area, I have decided to entrust the investigation of the case to the CBI,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said in a Facebook post.

Mamata Banerjee. PTIMamata Banerjee. PTI

Mamata Banerjee. PTI

She said her government would provide all necessary cooperation and assistance to the CBI for investigation in this case.

“The Ranaghat incident of 14th March is a very serious matter. The police administration was instructed to take swift action to nab the culprits. They are making their best efforts,” Banerjee said.

The state government had earlier ordered a CID probe into the incident.

No arrest could be made so far although 15 persons have been detained in this connection, the police said.

President of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, who arrived at Ranaghat to express solidarity with Sister Superior of a convent school who was allegedly gangraped, said, “CBCI would like to request the authorities to ensure that justice is done”.

“Justice should be made visible and such act should not continue. We are here to see personally what has happened,” he said.

The Cardinal who offered prayers at the Ranghat sub-divisional hospital room where the nun is being treated, said that “Sisters have forgiven (the culprits) but justice is to be made visible”.

Cardinal Cleemis, who will meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee later in the day, said, “I will request her to act fast. Such inhuman acts should be stopped.”

The Cardinal told an English daily, “We are living in a country with democratic values, where humans should be protected too and not just cows.”

Archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D’Souza welcomed the state government’s move to hand over the investigation of the case to the CBI.

“In a way we are happy that the government is taking steps to nab the culprits,” D’Souza told PTI.

He, however, said he was disappointed that the state government had not yet been able to make any arrest.

The 71-year-old Sister Superior of the Convent of Jesus and Mary at Gangnapur in the Ranaghat sub-division in Nadia district was gangraped on Saturday.

Superintendent of Ranaghat sub-divisional hospital A K Mondol said the hospital authorities were “in a position to release her, but the final decision has to be taken by the patient party, the police and the district administration. “

Four persons, who allegedly committed the crime, were caught on a CCTV installed in the school. The SP had announced a reward of Rs one lakh for providing information leading to the arrest of the accused.

PTI

Protests erupt against the gangrape of elderly nun in Bengal, Mamata meets victim

View original article –  Protests erupt against the gangrape of elderly nun in Bengal, Mamata meets victim

In Memoriam: Suzette Jordan on her battle to stop being the ‘Park street rape victim’

Editor’s note: Suzette Jordan, 40, died of meningoencephalitis at a hospital in Kolkata on Friday. This is an interview we ran with her on 2 July 2013, detailing her immensely brave struggle to break out of the ‘rape victim’ label and fight to be recognised as ‘Suzette Jordan’. In tribute to her struggle, we are republishing this piece.

Suzette Jordan went out with friends to have a couple of drinks at a nightclub in a five star hotel in Kolkata in February 2012.

At the end of the night, she was thrown from a car onto the street, bruised, battered, gang-raped, her clothes ripped half off. Her personal tragedy soon became a political football. The Chief Minister dismissed her case as a sajano ghatana (manufactured incident). Ministers made remarks about Jordan’s character – what kind of a mother would be out at discotheque so late at night?

Over the next fifteen months, Suzette Jordan became a blurred image on our television screens, a silhouette, a disembodied voice with an identifying label: the Park Street rape victim.

But those who knew her could easily tell who she was, even from a silhouette. “My hair, it’s so curly,” she says. Perfect strangers came up to her on the street, sometimes while she was with her teenaged daughters, to ask, “Are you the Park Street rape victim?”

“It frightened me. I started going into a shell,” she says. Then one day she decided enough was enough. “I was raped. I was brutally raped. But I am alive and I want to fight,” says Jordan. “I need to fight as I am, not behind a mask, not behind a screen, not behind a blurred image.”

Like a re-rape

The journey back from being ‘the Park Street rape victim’ to becoming Suzette Jordan once again has been tortuous. Rape makes news but the grueling aftermath often wreaks a whole other trauma. Jordan remembers the first few days after the incident as a blur of pain and humiliation. “I couldn’t even get up to go the loo. My father had to lift me off the bed to take me to the bathroom. I am 37 years old. That was so embarrassing.”

She recounts the gauntlet of trying to file the FIR at the police station where there were only men. “They laughed at me. They didn’t take me seriously,” she says. She remembers the policemen who made leering comments about going to the disco and drinking beers on Valentine’s Day while she waited.

She shudders as she talks about the medical test, standing naked, being poked and prodded, the finger testing, the swab testing even though the doctors tried to be comforting. One said she was lucky she was fair. The bruises were still visible. “I felt like a piece of meat,” she says. “It’s like a re-rape,” says Women’s activist and entrepreneur Santasree Chaudhuri.

Every time she would read about another brutal gang rape she’d wonder about her own ordeal. “It drove me crazy, wondering what the hell they did to me while I was unconscious. I was in so much pain. I couldn’t move my body.”

Image by Sandip RoyImage by Sandip Roy

Image by Sandip Roy

Then there were the innumerable comments from strangers and acquaintances alike. Politicians dismissed her as a prostitute, claiming this was not a rape but a deal gone wrong. Her case was compared unfavorably to the Nirbhaya case – bad victim vs good victim. “When my daughters went to school in the morning, some people would look at them in weird ways and pass comments,” says Jordan.

The comments about her character stung.

“I’ve been a single mom for 11 years. Instead of saluting you for being a both mother and father, they cast aspersions on you. Oh, she’s a single mom. Her husband left her. She might have been a prostitute.” She says the “dignitaries” who make these remarks don’t realize the implications of what they are saying. “You called me a prostitute and you don’t even know me. And then you endanger the life of an actual prostitute. You are trying to say her word does not matter and anyone can do anything to her.”

Her decision to make her identity public has also ruffled feathers at her trial which is taking place in camera. “A lawyer has said I am ruining the sanctity of the courtroom,” she says. “But when the courtroom doors open, the entire families of the accused are outside. They are clicking me on their phones. What about my sanctity?”

No one called back

In the aftermath of the rape, Jordan’s family rallied around her, her teenaged daughters told her they didn’t care what anyone called her, her 76-year old grandmother stoutly encouraged her to go to the police, and the NGO Swayam supported her. But emotional support didn’t pay the bills, and she was running out of money.

She went for job interviews but once they saw the NGO reference in her CV, they would put two and two together. “Never ever till today has anyone gotten back to me,” says Jordan who started wondering “Am I really that worthless? Because I was at a nightclub? If nightclubs are so bad then shut them down.” Her confidence was shattered. “I started taking so many anti-depressants, sleeping tablets. I had nightmares. I would wake up screaming. I was a mess. I was hurting myself. Had it not been for my parents and my babies, I definitely would have been dead.”

Women’s activist and entrepreneur Santasree Chaudhuri also tried to get her a job. “With my background and social contacts, it’s not very difficult for me to get anyone a job in Kolkata,” says Chaudhuri. “I’ve been into women’s activism for twenty years. I empower women by giving them jobs.” She didn’t hide Jordan’s identity from those she approached. “They all said OK, I’ll get back to you. I just waited for the return call. Till today no return call. And these are very good friends.”

In the end, Chaudhuri hired Jordan at a helpline she started called Survivors For Victims of Social Injustice. The remuneration is modest. “I am still waiting someday a call will come with a 60,000 rupee job for Suzette,” says Chaudhuri who works mostly with domestic violence victims, something she herself once had to face. She says she could have done a charity event, collected 1000 rupees each from wealthy friends, instead of hiring Jordan. But she thought the helpline would be an act of active compassion. “She’s not only healing. She’s also helping.”

Healing and helping

Last month, a 20-year-old student was set upon by a gang of men on her way home from college in Kamdhuni village in Barasat on the outskirts of Kolkata. She did not survive the attack.

Jordan went with Chaudhuri to Kamdhuni village to visit that victim’s family, but could not bring herself to talk to the mother. “My feet just froze,” she says. A few days later there was a protest led by women’s rights groups for the rape victim. Chaudhuri asked Jordan to come along.

“I told her do you want to go out every day as a victim or as Suzette,” says Chaudhuri. “Are you still a victim or a survivor? Criminals should hide their identity. Not you.” On the way to the protest, when Jordan realized she hadn’t brought a scarf to hide her face, Chaudhuri told her, “You have forgotten, perhaps that was God’s instruction.”

Chauduri says as Jordan walked into that crowd of 300-400 women, many of whom already knew her story, it was electrifying. “More than me, she was ready. When we turned into Park Street and she shouted halla bol I knew something had clicked.”

Jordan is now taking life one day at a time, re-learning the simpler pleasures of life – cooking a big prawn curry for the family, playing with her feisty little white kitten, looking after her plants.

However the toll still shows. She screams at her daughters if they are even 10 minutes late coming home. And her own social life has changed inalterably. “I love discos. I love dancing but haven’t been back since then. I want to go out to a party. I want to dress up the way I like. But I am so scared to do that.”

Asked if she wants the politicians who to apologize, Jordan says she doesn’t care. “I have nothing against those people. I just don’t know why they are taking my rape so personally. I have been raped. They can make it up to me by giving me justice. Not just for me but for every other woman like me in the state.”

Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee defends idea to paint city blue and white

Kolkata: The move to give Kolkata the distinctive blue-white signature theme has earned brickbats from opposition parties, prompting Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to back her decision on Wednesday by giving using the example of the famed “Pink City” Jaipur.

kolkata-blue-whitekolkata-blue-white“I had the idea of decorating Kolkata blue and white after I visited the pink city Jaipur,” Banerjee said at a programme TMC-run Kolkata Municipal Corporation at Bhowanipur, her Assembly constituency in South Kolkata.

Over the past three years in several parts of the city state-owned buildings, small and big parks, bridges, road railings, boulevards, flyovers, traffic police booths as well as new taxis were given a sky blue and pristine white look, Mamata‘s favourite colour.

Criticising the idea, Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra, a CPI (M) central committee member had said, “She (Mamata) may be thinking about ‘Pink City’ Jaipur, but then that city has its historical reasons.”

State BJP president Rahul Sinha had dubbed the decision by the Trinamool Congress-led KMC board as “Tughlaq-like”.

The opposition parties also came down hard on the TMC-run Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s tax waiver scheme, decided in a meeting of its mayor-in-council last year, for people who would opt for painting their houses in blue and white colours.

City Mayor Sovan Chatterjee said the scheme was prepared to provide an incentive to owners as many houses in the city were in a dilapidated state bereft of any paint for many years.

The waiver will, however, not be available to commercial buildings, offices and flat owners, he had clarified.

However, this decision also raised the hackles of Mishra, who wondered whether the citizens did not even have the right to choose the colours of their homes.

PTI

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Saradha scam: TMC MP Srinjoy Bose released on conditional bail

Kolkata: Trinamool Congress MP Srinjoy Bose, who was arrested by the Special Crime branch of the CBI in connection with the Saradha case on 21 November, was released on conditional bail on Wednesday.

Srinjoy Bose was released on conditional bail. IBNLive

District and Session Judge’s Court, Alipore Samaresh Prasad Chowdhury granted bail to Bose after imposing three conditions that he would not leave the country, he would not threaten witnesses and he would respond to CBI’s summons, whenever served.

After hearing Bose’s counsel and the prosecution, the judge asked him to submit a registered surety of Rs 50,000 and cash deposit of Rs 50,000 in the state exchequer.

Counsel appearing for Bose maintained that although he remained under arrest for 75 days, CBI was yet to frame a charge sheet against him under Section 420 of IPC, under which, along with other sections, he has been booked.

They said that the maximum detention time under Section 420 was 60 days while Bose was under custody for more than 75 days and pleaded that there was no need for further custodial detention and prayed for his bail.

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The counsel for CBI said that he had nothing to say to oppose the statutory period, but maintained that he should not be given bail since this scam was a huge matter and had a significant impact on the society.

Bose’s counsel moved the bail appication in the court a few days back.

CBI is likely move the High Court as early as possible, sources said.

PTI

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