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23 Mar 2018

Poll fast-forward cue to projects

Mamata Banerjee in Midnapore on Thursday. Picture by Saikat Santra
Anshuman Phadikar, TT, Mar 22, 2018, Midnapore: Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has ordered speeding up of infrastructure projects ahead of the rural polls this year, ordering stern action against errant contractors and asking officials to overcome alleged "central interference" in implementation.

"Some contractors are not working, some are letting work remain pending, some others are not doing the right things despite getting the work.... All this must be monitored by district administrations. The DMs must hold at least one meeting every six months," Mamata said at an administrative review meeting in Midnapore on Thursday.

A Trinamul member of the local zilla parishad, Saibal Giri, alleged that public anger had been growing over road projects delayed by four to five years because of the contractors' lapses. Mamata immediately asked DM Jagdish Prasad Meena to blacklist all such contractors.

"Those who are taking the government's money, the people's money and not completing the people's work on time, they should not get work anywhere, from any government," said the chief minister.

Sources said many contractors had suffered delays in getting land, which pushed up their costs. "Many times, it is not the fault of the contractors," said a source.

At the meeting, Mamata asserted that her government did not run on commission from contractors.

"Our government does not take cuts from you (contractors), it does not run on cuts.... ," said Mamata, instructing chief secretary Malay De to call a meeting urgently to resolve such issues.

Sources in the government, however, said such commissions were common, impeding projects. "In Murshidabad recently, the government could not find any bidders for work on 55 roads. It was given to a central agency after months of futile efforts to find contractors in Bengal," said a source.

At the meeting on Thursday, an official pointed out that the state could not do much in cases where contracts were given out by the Centre. At this, Mamata alleged that the Centre takes commission to hire contractors and that it should not be "allowed to interfere" in Bengal. "In the work that takes place in our state, we will pick the contractors," she said.

Another Zilla parishad functionary, Surjya Otto, pointed out at the meeting that PWD land along roads have been encroached in many places and pattas (deeds) issued to the encroachers by the land and land reforms department, facilitating construction on the plots.

Mamata warned the department against issuing pattas without thorough checks.


BJP eyes tea belt as party chief set to tour N Bengal

BJP Chief, Amit Shah, Dimapur, NDPPManas R Bannerjee | SNS | Siliguri | As BJP national president Amit Shah tours north Bengal early next month, the party seeks to put in place a strong support base in the region’s tea belt.
The top BJP leader is scheduled to interact with permanent tea workers, who will inform him of their plight and the present situation in the tea plantations.
According to a BJP leader in the tea belt, Manoj Tigga, who is also an MLA from Madarihat in the Dooars, Mr Shah will interact with select tea workers, who are directly associated with tea gardens, in Jalpaiguri on 8 April.
According to a senior leader of the party, Rathindra Bose, Mr Shah will also meet some select eminent personalities in Siliguri on 8 April. “Leaders in north Bengal have been demanding that Mr Shah visit other districts too, as he is coming ahead of the rural polls.
But the objective of Mr Shah’s visit is to do something better in the tea belt, and it is not about the rural polls,” a senior party leader said.
Notably, the present All India Congress Committee president Rahul Gandhi, also visited Jalpaiguri and interacted with tea workers seven years ago.
After the BJP came to power at the Centre, then union minister of state for commerce and industries, Nirmala Sitharaman, also visited closed and distressed tea gardens in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar.
Notably, the Left and CPIM- backed trade unions used to have a majority control over the entire tea belt, including the Hills. Later, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) took control of the plantations in the Hills.
The GNLF-backed trade union and others lost control in the Hills and some part of the Terai and the Dooars region after the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) came up and formed its trade union.
To beat the GJMM-backed trade union on the issue of the Gorkhaland demand, another community-based trade union, the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union (PTWU), was constituted and led by the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad.
After that, as the Trinamul Congress came to power in the state, it also formed its union in the tea belt, but has not been able to have absolute control of the tea belt.
Even the BJP-backed trade union has failed to form a support base, except in some few pocket areas, which are dominated by tribal people.
Recently, the BJP leadership, to beat the PTWU, constituted the BTWU (Bharatiya Tea Workers’ Union) in the Adivasi-dominated tea belt.
Interestingly, Joint Forum, a conglomeration of over 23 trade unions, that included the BTWU and GJMM-backed trade unions, but excludes the Trinamul union, has been organising a movement led by a group of Left-backed trade union leaders and the Congress- backed INTUC.
As the Joint Forum sought Minimum Wages Act (MWA) and traditional ration value, the Trinamul government took several steps in its bid to consolidate its base in the tea belt.
However, as the labour department failed to implement the MWA in the tea sector, department minister Moloy Ghatak decided to provide an interim relief to workers following his party-backed trade union leaders’ demand.
Now, though the increment in the tea workers’ wages was due from 1 April 2017, the labour department asked planters to provide interim relief of Rs 17.50 per day with effect from 1 January 2018.
Recently, the state government also asked planters to pay an interim relief of Rs 9 a day additionally as the cost of the traditional ration.
“Party president Amit Shah will seriously listen to workers so that he can brief Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the situation and plan the betterment of the tea industry as well as the tea workers in north Bengal,” the senior BJP leader said on Thursday.

Alternate solutions to our water woes

Water Crisis.S K Sarkar | SNS | March 23, 2018: Yesterday, 22 March, the world including India celebrated World Water Day 2018, the theme of which was Nature for Water. Its aim is to generate awareness of the fact that nature-based solutions should be explored to meet water challenges of the 21st century.
Nature-based solutions cover a wide range of approaches and technologies which use natural process to address a variety of environmental, social and economic challenges in sustainable ways.
Such solutions relevant in the field of water management are water resources management, river protection, wastewater treatment, pollution prevention, etc.
The sustainable development goals (to be achieved by 2030) on water and sanitation, aim to echo the above concept by stressing on protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.
They also target improvement of water quality by reducing pollution, minimising release of hazardous chemicals, and reducing the proportion of untreated waste water substantially by increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.
The 21st century challenges in the water sector, inter alia, centre around water availability and its access. Over the world, about 2.1 billion people are without access to safe water.
In India, over 76 million people lack access to safe water, the population living in peri-urban areas, etc. The available water is not always safe and is contaminated.
To augment the safe water availability, not only should the water be of potable quality, but the sources of supply have to be enhanced. Unlike conventional water supply through piped water, use of drinking water ponds in some rural coastal areas, or developing integrated tanks including revival of surface water ponds are examples of natural measures for augmenting the sources.
Further, the rainwater harvesting tool would help in this direction, being a natural process of augmenting safe water availability.
Many states/cities have mandated these measures. This option also helps in recharging of ground water resources.
The water can also be collected on rooftops by residents and stored in private tanks to be used for various purposes such as toilet flushing, gardening etc.
Second, waste water in a circular economy is a resource and if recycled and treated, augments water availability. Globally, 10 per cent waste water is treated. In India, capacity to treat waste water is about 37 per cent.
Treating waste water on site rather than using conventional methods through sewage treatment plants is one example of nature-based solutions being tried in many cities.
Further, wetland ecosystem helps treatment of waste water in a natural way. Wetlands have important ecological functions such as maintaining ground water table and preventing excessive soil erosion.
They also capture run off and clean water. For instance, the East Kolkata Wetland, a Ramsar site since 2002, acts as a kidney to Kolkata for its wastewater treatment, and has 254 sewage-fed fisheries, garbage farming fields, and agricultural land.
And it also produces 11,000 metric tonnes of fish annually and helps fish farmers save Rs 60 million annually through the reduced need for fish feed.
Third, river rejuvenation and cleaning the river are potential areas where nature-based solutions can be very effective.
Today Indian rivers are under threat due to flow alteration, water extraction, degradation of flood plains and drainage basins, over-exploitation of fish and of course, climate change.
Further, there is not enough vegetation on land; when land is covered by rain forest, precipitation gathers in the soil and feeds the streams and rivers.
There is a need to treat the river as a ‘living entity’, thereby focusing on its health and life. To meet these challenges, the environmental flow in a river should be ensured, which will enhance the biodiversity in the river ecosystem.
Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive policy today on the subject. Many rivers dry up in India during the post monsoon season. In some cases, the river water does not even travel to the sea.
The drying up of rivers has high linkage with ground water depletion and drying up of riverside tanks/ponds.
Tree plantation on the river side augments river flow. The forests have beneficial impact on control of soil erosion, control of floods, improvement of water quality and increase in base flow in a river.
Fourth, water pollution occurs when there is physical, chemical or biological change to quality of water bodies – rivers, lakes, oceans, etc – that has harmful effects on any living things that use or live in it.
Such pollution is caused by untreated sewage, waste from domestic households, industrial and agricultural activities. Like surface water, the groundwater and especially underground acquifers are also contaminated.
Such contamination results due to excessive drawal of ground water, resulting in inland salinity, presence of fluoride materials in both igneous and sedimentary rocks, existence of arsenic and its compounds, etc.
The nature-based solutions to minimise pollution include various measures such as denitrification, use of septic tanks, having wet lands, etc.
For example, dentrification is an ecological process that converts nitrates into nitrogen gas, and prevents leaching of nitrate into soil to contaminate ground water.
It avoids over-fertilization as a result of fertilizer run off which increases the nitrogen content of water and causes excess growth of algae, etc. Septic tanks treat sewage by separating solids from liquids, relying on biological processes to degrade the solids into liquids.
Wetlands also serve as a buffer zone to filter rain run-off and help remove pollutants from water.
In addition to conventional water solutions, nature-based solutions to India’s water problems should be undertaken for more comprehensively addressing the 21st century’s water woes.
The writer is a Distinguished Fellow and Senior Director, Natural Resources and Climate, TERI, New Delhi and a former Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, Govt. of India.

Man seeks answers on Siliguri pollution

Siliguri, Pollution, WBPCB, National Green Tribunal, Somnath DasSankha Ghosh | SNS | Siliguri | March 22, 2018 : As rising levels of pollution in Siliguri become the talk of the town, a resident here has filed applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, seeking to know how pollution- free is smoke emitted by diesel-run city auto rickshaws.
Somnath Das of Desbandhu Para also wants to know what steps the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) and the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) are taking if the smoke emitted by these engines is causing pollution to rise.
According to Mr Das, he wrote to the chairperson of the National Green Tribunal, narrating the environmental pollution due to smoke from diesel-run autos and health hazards in the town owing to this on 12 September last year.
“The ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change forwarded the letter to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), asking it to take necessary steps and send the action reports to the applicant within 15 days,” he said.
However, Mr Das claimed he is yet to get any response, forcing him to write to the tribunal and the CPCB again on 9 November last year.
According to him the CPCB, however, started recording the air quality of the town since February this year. “I am deeply concerned about the present situation of pollution in Siliguri. The pollution level has reached an alarming situation. The recent figures of the CPCB stated that the Air Quality Index of the town was higher than some cities in India. Being a resident of the town, I have fled applications under the RTI, addressed to the SMC and the WBPCB, seeking information on how much smoke is emitted by diesel autos and if it is pollution-free,” Mr Das said. Around 1,250 diesel autos run in the town.
Mr Das said the diesel autos should immediately be converted into gas-run ones. It may be mentioned here that a thick haze/smog blanketed Siliguri town for almost four consecutive evenings very recently, leaving residents worried.
Many residents complained of burning eyes, breathing problems and headache. The worried residents said a mechanism should be introduced to check the pollution level in the town, and that authorities concerned should immediately spring into action and save the town.
Siliguri Mayor Asok Bhattacharya said he has written to the Forest Department and the WBPCB regarding the recent smog that enveloped parts of Siliguri town.
Sources at the WBPCB office in Siliguri said they have already communicated with “municipality commissioners and forest department, and people concerned, about the pollution levels and reported fires in and around Siliguri.”

GTA pops decentralise pill

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Mar 22, 2018 Darjeeling: The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) has decided to decentralise some functions to ensure better governance at the hill body, which many believe was directionless in the previous regime.

Binay Tamang, chairman, board of administrators, GTA today held an administrative meeting in Kalimpong, which was attended by the board members and senior GTA officials including Subrata Biswas, principal secretary and C. Murugan, secretary of the hill body among others.

Saran Gurung, media executive, GTA,said: "The GTA has decided to reorganise the engineering division and henceforth, there would be an engineering cell at each block which would be monitored by a centralised engineering cell."

There are eight blocks within GTA's territorial jurisdiction and so far a centralised engineering department was largely overseeing all works in the GTA area. "The engineering cell is among the most important wings of the GTA and we have decided to decentralised this cell for better governance," said Gurung.

It has also been decided that sub-assistant engineers will have to make weekly visits to various sites, assistant engineers have to visit fortnightly and executive engineers have to make field visit every month.

"The engineers will have to maintain site visit book and the progress needs to be reported to high authorities regularly. Agencies would not perform will be blacklisted and terminated with immediate effect," said Gurung.

The GTA board also passed a resolution to have three dedicated executive directors for Darjeeling, Kalilmpong and Kurseong.

"The three executive directors would be in charge of all departments in their respective areas," said Gurung.

The GTA has also decided to stress on recruitment against vacant posts in GTA and expedite the died-in-harness cases in GTA. "The issue of increment of Group A and Group B of GTA employees was also considered in the meeting and a proposal would be sent to state government. The enhancement of salaries of GTA employees would be taken up and a separate panel to examine the promotion of deserving candidates would be constituted by GTA," said Gurung.

The GTA has also decided to handover some of the roads under its jurisdiction to the state PWD department. Sources said that the decision was taken to ensure that the roads are maintained properly.

Other decision taken at the meeting was to expedite regularisation of volunteer teachers, fill up vacant posts in primary school and to form a hill advisory board in all hill municipalities.

"The GTA authority has also passed a resolution that all GTA guesthouses will be transferred from GTA to interested private parties from tourism industry. An expression of interest will be floated shortly by GTA," said Gurung.

A Hindi medium high school would also be set in the foothills of Kalimpong in Kumai region. "Projects for the minority community like granting loans, beautification of minority cement and housing schemes will also be taken up," said Gurung.A resolution was also adopted to appoint Arun Sigchi and Suraj Sharma as liaison officers of GTA.

Congress helps Asok pass budget

TT, Siliguri: At a time when political relations among the Left and Congress have reached the last dregs in Bengal over the issue of fielding candidate for Raja Sabha from the state, CPM leader and Siliguri mayor Asok Bhattacharya managed to win support of Congress councillors to pass the budget of the civic body here.
On Thursday, the annual budget of Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) was put for voting. All the four Congress councillors present at the meeting supported the budget.
Later, they tried to clarify their move by saying that the mayor has accepted all their proposals and will incorporate those into the budget.
Without their support, the Left, who are minority in terms of numbers and have 22 councillors in the 47-ward municipality, would not have been able to pass the budget.
This move by Congress has been interpreted as a "local level adjustment" by a section of political analysts.
"It has hardly anything to do with situation in state politics and was just a local arrangement made by leaders of both parties," said an analyst.
Sources said that even though margins have widened between Congress and Left leaders on the Rajya Sabha candidate issue, Asok Bhattacharya did not hesitated to meet and speak with the Congress councillors to help him in passing the budget.
"The budget was passed with the support of Congress councillors. We will continue to work for improvement of civic services in the city," said Asok.
Some other observers however, pointed that the trend of "political aberration" is still prevalent in political arena of Siliguri.
"Since 2009, when Left had voted the mayoral candidate of Congress to keep Trinamul at bay, this political aberration, or in other words, the tacit understanding among the Left and Congress unlike other places, have been witnessed time and again. The trend seems to continue, despite cracks in relations among the parties in the state level," an observer said.
A Congress leader based in Siliguri, when asked whether their decision to support the civic budget here would go well with their state leaders - the CPM has even demanded cancellation of the candidature of Congress candidate Abhishek Manu Singhvi who has filed nomination from Bengal in the Rajya Sabha - said they were left with no other option.
"If we had not supported the budget, it would have affected civic services and had caused inconveniences for residents," said Sujoy Ghatak, leader of the Congress party in SMC.

Headmaster riddle stays

Haridayal Roy
TT, 22 March, Jalpaiguri:  Haridayal Roy, the headmaster accused of helping Madhyamik examinees of his school by opening exam papers before time, has not yet returned over 700 answer-sheets taken for the test that ended on Tuesday, an official said.
Roy had taken the answer-sheets for examinees at his Mainaguri Subhash Nagar High School, not for the candidates of his own school whom he had allegedly helped by having the answers sent to them as they appeared from other centres.
Biswanath Bhowmik, the sub-inspector of schools in Mainaguri, said: "For the students of other schools who appeared in Madhyamik from Haridayal Roy's school, he needed 2,900 answer sheets. He was provided the required number of copies and 450 more. Also, without informing me, he brought some more answersheets from another school of Mainaguri. After the exams, as we collated the copies, we found that he is yet to return over 700 unused sheets. I have informed the president of the board (that conducts Madhyamik)."
Roy claimed he had not taken any additional answer sheets.
A source in the education department said they suspect Roy might have some "wrong intentions" as the additional answer-sheets could be used to write solutions to questions and attached with papers in future exams.
"Whenever he was handed over the packets of answer sheets, he has put his signature. We fail to understand why he is denying it now. Such denial has left suspicious as whether he had any wrong intention," the official said.
A teacher, who had shot a video purportedly showing Roy opening questions packets ahead of time, spoke on Thursday.

"In earlier years, the students of this (Roy's) institution have secured positions in the merit list of Madhyamik. It seems the illegal practice was going on for quite some time as performance of most of these students have deteriorated as they went ahead for higher studies," said the teacher.
Roy, who had denied the allegations on Wednesday, did so again on Thursday. "A section of teachers and some others have conspired and have implicated me. I want a comprehensive inquiry," Roy said.
Some Mainaguri students held a march on Thursday and demanded immediate action against Roy.
Cloud on award
Education minister Partha Chatterjee said on Wednesday that the government will revoke the Siksha Ratna award given to Roy if the allegations against him are found to be true. He has been accused of helping some Madhyamik examinees of his institute by opening packets of question papers before time and engaging teachers to solve the questions so that the candidates can score high. "This is not the way a teacher should act. The government had awarded him with the Siksha Ratna honour in 2014. The government will revoke the award if he is found guilty," Chatterjee said in the Assembly today.
The Siksha Ratna award is given to eminent school teachers by the government on Teachers' Day every year.
The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education should complete the investigation as early as possible and punish him if he found guilty, the education minister said.

The West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education, president Mahua Das said that Roy will not be engaged in duties related to the conducting of the Higher Secondary examinations that starts on March 27.

हामी जनतालाई भ्रष्टचारमुक्त शाषण दिनेछौँ – विनय तामाङ...... करोडपति ठेकादार ‘ब्ल्याक लिस्ट’ मा समावेश

डी.के.वाइबा, कालिमन्युज, कालेबुङ,  23 मार्च। ‘हामी जनतालाई भ्रष्टचारमुक्त शाषण दिनेछौँ’ उक्त कुरा जीटीए बोर्ड अफ् एडमिनिस्ट्रेसनका अध्यक्ष विनय तामाङले भनेका हुन्। यहाँको डा. ग्राह्मस होम्स स्थित दुईवटा विकास कार्यहरूको उद्घाटन कार्यक्रमलाई सम्बोधन गर्दै तामाङले जीटीएलाई भ्रष्टचार मुक्त बनाउने दाबी गरेका हुन्। ‘हामीलाई विकास कार्यमा प्रतिशत खाँदैनौँ, तर जनतालाई गुणस्तरीय कार्य गरेर सुविधा दिनेछौँ’ विनय तामाङले भने। कार्यक्रमलाई सम्बोधन गर्ने क्रममा उनले जनतालाई विकास कार्यको सुविधा दिन अनि विकास कार्यलाई तिव्रता दिनका निम्ति कालेबुङ ईञ्जीनियरिङ विभागलाई फराकिलो पार्दै खण्डस्तरीय ईञ्जिनियरिङ विभाग स्थापना गर्ने जीटीए वोर्डको समिक्षा वैठकमा निर्णय लिएको पनि जानकारी दिएका छन्। 
‘जीटीएले खण्डस्तरीय ईञ्जीनियरिङ विभाग गठन गर्नेछ। प्रत्येक खण्डमा विकास कार्यलाई तिव्रता दिन यसो गरिएको हो। यो कार्य आगामी महिनाको पहिलो तारिखदेखि लागु हुनेछ’ तामाङले अझ भने। उनले उक्त खण्ड स्तरीय विभागले प्रत्येक विकास कार्यहरूको साप्ताहिक समिक्षा रिपोर्ट जीटीएलाई पठाउनुपर्ने पनि निर्देश दिएका छन्। 
यसक्रममा उनले विकास कार्यलाई तिव्रता दिएर जनतालाई छिटो सुविधा दिनका निम्ति ठेकादारहरूलाई पनि निर्धारित समय सिमाभित्र सबै कार्यहरू समाप्त गर्नुपर्ने निर्देश दिएका छन्। काम नगर्ने ठेकादारहरूलाई आफुहरूले कार्वाही सुरु गरेको भन्दै एकजना करोडपति ठेकादारलाई सही काम नगरेको कारण ‘ब्ल्याक लिस्ट’ मा समावेश गरिएको पनि जानकारी दिएका छन्। उनले डेलोमा सम्पन्न जीटीएको समिक्षा वैठकमा विभिन्न कार्यहरूको समिक्षा भएको जानकारी दिँदै आगामी वर्षहरूमा हुने कार्यहरूको खाका तयारी गर्ने कार्य गरेको पनि जानकारी दिएका छन्।

तामाङले आज डा. ग्राह्मस होम्स परिसरमा निर्माण गरिएको प्राथमिक स्वास्थ्य केन्द्र अनि स्व. मङ्गलसिंह राजपुत स्मृति सामुदायिक भवनको उद्घाटन गरेका छन्। जीटीए अधिनस्थ रहेको स्वास्थ्य एवम् परिवार कल्याण विभागद्वारा मोठ 12 लाख 77 हजार 8 सय 57 रूपियाँको लागतमा प्राथमिक स्वास्थ्य केन्द्रको निर्मण गरिएको छ भने कालेबुङ अभियन्ता विभागद्वारा 1 करोड 60 लाखको लागतमा सामुदायिक भवन निर्माण गरिएको छ। 
दुवैवटा विकास कार्यहरूको जीटीए अध्यक्ष विनय तामाङले रिबन काटेर उद्घाटन गरेका हुन्। यसक्रममा उनले अहिलेघरी प्रत्येक दिननै प्रत्येक ठाउँमा जनताको विकास कार्यहरूको सुविधा उपभोग गर्न पाइरहेको दाबी पनि गरेका छन्। उक्त उद्घाटन समारोहमा जीटीए उपाध्यक्ष अनित थापा, कार्यकारी सदस्य सञ्चवीर सुब्बा, मुख्य सचिव सुब्रतो विश्वास, सचिव सी. मुरुगण आदि समेत उपस्थित रहेका थिए।


22 Mar 2018

Mamata may not campaign for rural polls

Mamata Banerjee, infiltration, border districts, West Bengal CMSNS | Siliguri | Following the frequent visits made by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to north Bengal of late, people are hoping that she would be here as the ruling Trinamul Congress campaigns for the upcoming rural elections.
However, if official sources close to the party chief are to be believed, Didi will not be campaigning for the polls.
The sources also said that the state election commission may issue a notification for holding the three-tier Panchayat elections in the second week of April, so that new boards can be formed in time after completion of the polls within May 2018.
“The chief minister has strategically expressed views that she would not campaign for the rural polls. Other party leaders will campaign for the polls in the party’s bid to retain power in the three tiers, including the Zilla Parishad. The objective of such a strategy is to build confidence among party workers and showcase the CM as a contender for the post of Prime Minister, who is busy in national level politics to beat the BJP and Narendra Modi,” an official source said.
“If we look back, the Late Jyoti Basu, the former CM of West Bengal, also did not campaign for rural polls elaborately. Miss Banerjee is confident of positive results in the upcoming polls, which will be a mark to take on the BJP in 2019 in Bengal,” the source added.
On the other hand, people belonging to the Muslim community here believe that the constitution of another front under the leadership of Miss Banerjee in the national level will divide the vote bank of the UPA, which may finally help the NDA.
“To beat the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, all parties in the opposition should come under one umbrella. This only can stop the BJP from winning the Lok Sabha elections for the second time,” Jalil Munshi, a resident of Maynaguri in Jalpaiguri, said.
According to party sources, distribution of government assistance and schemes through the hands of the chief minister is yet to be organized in two districts–Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri in north Bengal. Party leaders expect to do it before notification of the rural polls.
Many people in north Bengal, especially in those districts in the Indo-Bangladesh areas, are influenced by the results in Tripura, and sources said that Miss Banerjee will tentatively leave on a three day trip to New Delhi on 26 March to meet other political leaders.

Gurung video quashes arrest ‘rumour’

Deep Gazmer | TNN | Mar 21, 2018, Darjeeling: Fugitive GJM leader Bimal Gurung issued an audio-visual message on Wednesday to quash rumours about his arrest that have gone viral on various social media sites.

In his message from an undisclosed location, Gurung said he was safe. “Since Tuesday, a message that says I have been arrested has gone viral. But I want to tell my dear people that I am okay, safe and secure and within my area and territory,” the GJM leader said.

Gurung also asserted that he would continue to struggle for the aspirations of his people.

“I am determined and will continue to struggle for Gorkhaland. I will not give up till my last breath even if I face hurdles in my struggle,” he said in the message.

Asking people to maintain peace and not be disheartened, the GJM founder president further said: “I request my people not to lose faith. I will definitely come after solving the problems. Till then, I request people to maintain peace and not get incited by rumours. Your prayers and wishes will keep me safe and will not go in vain.”


Teenagers lose sleep

Chandreyee Ghose, TT, Mar 21, 2018, Calcutta: Teenagers hooked to fast food and glued to their seats, watching TV or browsing phones, may be putting themselves at risk of sleep apnoea.

Doctors in the city have noticed a rise in the number of teenagers suffering from sleep apnoea, a type of sleep disorder, in recent years. Three out of 10 patients below 20 years have shown signs of the disorder in the past five years, said pulmonologist Raja Dhar. The main reasons - obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

Patients suffering from sleep apnoea face one or more obstructions in their airway - the passage from the tip of the nose to the lungs - while sleeping. Obstructive breathing is often caused when the tissue at the back of the throat collapses during sleep.

The initial signs of sleep apnoea often go unnoticed, thus aggravating the problem in later years. "Snoring is the most common symptom but rarely do teenagers approach doctors for snoring," said pulmonologist Dhar.

What prompts them to seek help are lack of concentration, shortness of temper, daytime fatigue and the inability to complete a job or take on new responsibilities - all signs of sleep apnoea.

"The number of teenagers suffering from sleep apnoea has increased triple fold. It is a metabolism syndrome with diabetes, hypertension, obesity and sleep apnoea following one another," Dhar said.

Doctors also blame lifestyle for the condition. "Most teenagers live on fast food and many take to smoking and drinking by 16. They prefer sitting for hours before a computer screen to getting some exercise. All this makes them prone to sleep apnoea," said head and neck surgeon Manojendra N. Bhattacharyya, who started a sleep apnoea clinic at a city hospital. "Sleep apnoea can be controlled with weight loss and a healthy lifestyle."

Pulmonologist Saibal Moitra said sleep apnoea patients are more prone to asthma.

Left untreated, sleep apnoea can lead to cardiac problems and even an attack in sleep, Bhattacharya said.

Right diagnosis is crucial. "Most teenagers spend hours gazing at bright flickering objects that rob them of deep sleep," Dhar said.

Tea union in strike threat

TT, Alipurduar: Leaders of tea trade unions other than those backed by Trinamul have threatened a strike in May if the state fails to fix and implement minimum wages.

Representatives of the Joint Forum - an apex body of non-Trinamul tea trade unions - have also decided to stage demonstrations in gardens and outside state government offices in blocks and sub-divisions from the end of this month.

The decision, made at a meeting of the forum in Siliguri on Tuesday, can pose a fresh challenge to the state government, which has been working to resolve the issue of minimum wages for the past three years.

"The minimum wage advisory committee was formed three years back but the state could not declare any rate so far. Instead, it has tried to placate tea workers by announcing an interim hike of Rs 17.50 over the current rate and another hike of nine rupees as interim payment of ration. Tea workers are not satisfied with such announcements. That is why we have decided to renew our agitation," said Ziaur Alam, convener, Joint Forum.

"If the state fails to finalize and implement the minimum wage by April 30, we would be forced to intensify our movement and can even think of launching strike in the tea industry," said Alam.

Bomb defuse fiasco hits cop.... CID constable suffered burn injuries

Smoke covers the blast site as the constable tries to save himself. Picture by Main Uddin Chisti
TT, Cooch Behar: A CID constable was injured when a bomb squad of the state intelligence agency was defusing some crude bombs, allegedly without proper precautions and safety suits.
Debasish Mitra suffered burn injuries on his face and is under treatment at the sub-divisional hospital in Dinhata.
The incident has raised questions about why the task of defusing the bombs, seized during a recent raid at a village near the Bangladesh border, was taken up without proper precautions.
Sources said a few days back, police and BSF personnel conducted a joint raid in Bhoram-Payasthi village under Dinhata-I block. Five crude bombs were seized from an under-construction toilet in the hamlet. One person was arrested. The seized bombs were brought and kept at Dinhata police station. On Wednesday, a three-member team from CID's bomb squad arrived at Dinhata to defuse the bombs.
They took the bombs to Krishimela Ground, located about a kilometre away from the police station. As the news spread, many people assembled at the site the watch the procedure.
"The team members opened the outer cover of all five bombs one after another. As they assembled the covers, which were smeared in gunpowder and tried to burn them, the explosion occurred. One of the constables got injured as the burning explosive scalded his face," said a police source.
Locals present at the site said the team was working without any precaution. "None of them were in the safety suits, which include helmets and defusing the bombs," said one of them.
Mitra was provided treatment at the hospital. Later, Kuntal Banerjee, the sub-divisional police officer of Dinhata, visited him and spoke to doctors. Such defusing of bombs by CID personnel without precaution had led to deaths earlier. In August 2013, a constable died while trying to defuse a bomb in Alipurduar. In May 2016, two CID officials died while performing a similar task at Baishnabnagar in Malda.

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