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West Bengal

Heavy turnout of voters in first phase of Assembly polls in West Bengal, Assam

More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security on Monday.

More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security today.
 
Polling was by and large peaceful in both the states, with no major untoward incident reported from anywhere, official osurces said.
 
In West Bengal, voting was held today in 18 constituencies in Phase IA of polling. They include six seats in Paschim Medinipur, nine in Purulia and three in Bankura district.
 
These constituencies have a total electorate of 40,09,171 voters, including 20,47,202 men and 19,57,453 women. There are 4500 service electors in these constituencies.
 
There were a total of 133 candidates in these constituencies, including 11 women.
 
The Election Commission had set up 4945 polling stations and made elaborate arrangements to ensure a smooth poll in these constituencies.
 
As many as 65 constituencies went to the polls in the first phase of voting in Assam. There were 566 candidates in all, including 44 women. Prominent candidates in the fray included Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress, who is seeking a fourth conseccutive term, and Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the chief ministerial candidate of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
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16 dead, 63 injured as under-construction flyover collapses in Kolkata

At least 16 persons died and 63 others suffered injuries when an under-construction flyover, which has been more than six years in the making, collapsed in the busy and congested Bura Bazaar area of north Kolkata on Thursday.

 
Kolkata: 10 dead in under-construction bridge collapse
 
At least 16 persons died and 63 others suffered injuries when an under-construction flyover, which has been more than six years in the making, collapsed in the busy and congested Bura Bazaar area of north Kolkata today.
 
Police sources told NetIndian that the 16 dead included 14 men and two women, all of whom were crushed under the tonnes of concrete and steel that came crashing on them around 1215 pm today without any warning.
 
They said nearly 60 others had been taken to various hospitals in the city for treatment of injuries.
 
Officials feared the number of casualties could increase as search and rescue teams made their way through the mangled steel and concrete through the night.
 
Army personnel and teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) joined the local police, the fire brigade, other agencies and hundreds of volunteers in a massive rescue effort with specialised equipment, sniffer dogs and so on.
 
Several people were feared trapped below the debris of the bridge and frantic efforts were being made to reach them without loss of time. As people dug through the rubble, they found cars, taxis and other vehicles trapped under the concrete.
 
Hundreds of people of the locality and passers-by rushed to the spot and began trying to remove the debris with their bare hands, using whatever equipment they could lay their hands on, even as the authorities made arrangements to rush cranes, gas cutters and other machinery as well as ambulancesto the scene. 
 
Scores of witnesses told journalists at the scene that they heard a loud rumble and then a massive thud as the huge bridge suddenly came down without any warning.
 
Footage from a closed circuit television (CCTV) camera in the area showed people going about their normal business and traffic moving as usual under the flyover when it suddenly came crashing down.
 
Traffic in the entire area came to a total standstill and there were traffic snarls in several nearby areas as a consequence.
 
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was campaigning for the state assembly elections outside Kolkata, rushed back to the state capital and visited the scene of the tragedy.
 
She said stringent action would be taken against officials of the construction company, the Hyderabad-based IVRCL Limited, or any others found guilty of negligence.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently in the United States on an official visit, took stock of the situation and expressed shock and grief over the incident.
 
“Shocked and saddened by collapse of under construction flyover in Kolkata. Took stock of the situation and rescue operations. 
 
"My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives in Kolkata. May the injured recover at the earliest," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was touring West Bengal as part of the BJP's election campaign, asked the Director General, NDRF, Mr. O.P.Singh, to rush rescue teams to the spot.
 
An official press release said seven NDRF teams had been deputed to the site and two more teams were being mobilized for the rescue operations.
 
"I am deeply saddened to know that precious lives have been lost in the Kolkata accident," he added.
 
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Modi invokes spirit of Team India; says Centre, states must work together

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday described the Central government and the 29 state governments in the country as "30 pillars of Team India" which would together take the country forward.

 
Delhi alone will not run nation: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today described the Central government and the 29 state governments in the country as "30 pillars of Team India" which would together take the country forward.
 
Addressing a public meeting after dedicating to the nation the 2.5 million tonne modernised and expanded IISCO steel plant at Burnpur in West Bengal, he mentioned various instances of cooperative federalism of recent months, including the setting up of the NITI Aayog, and the devolution of additional revenues to the States through acceptance of the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. 
 
He also mentioned that the decades-old land boundary issue between India and Bangladesh had been successfully resolved through the same spirit of Team India, with all state governments concerned and political parties coming together to support a solution of the problem.
 
He said the nation would move ahead faster when the Centre and the states worked together.
 
"Sadly Centre-State relations were tensed for a long time. I have been Chief Minister for a long time and I know that such behaviour will not be good. We have brought in a change, we focused on co-operative federalism. Delhi alone will not run the nation," he said.
 
"India will not change without a 'Team India'. The Prime Minister and Chief Ministers are one team that will take India ahead. The nation is bigger than any party," he said.
 
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Mr Modi said the time had now come for India to address the issue of "geographical imbalance" along with the economic and social imbalances. He said that eastern India, too, should develop as fast as western India is developing, and for that, development of West Bengal is essential. 
 
"The eastern part of India has immense potential. The people are also skilled," he said.
 
He said District Mineral Foundations would be set up to help speed up progress and welfare of the poor in mineral-rich districts. He said that, within a year, the atmosphere of gloom in the country had lifted, and all global rating agencies were now agreed that India is among the world's fastest growing economies.
 
"A year ago the world had a different perception about India. Now the world says in one voice that India is a fast growing economy," he added.
 
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Modi "deeply concerned", asks for report on Nadia nun's gang-rape, Hisar church attack

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced deep concern about the alleged gangrape of an elderly nun at Nadia in West Bengal recentlyand the attack on a church at Hisar in Haryana and sought an immediate report on the incidents.

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced deep concern about the alleged gangrape of an elderly nun at Nadia in West Bengal recentlyand the attack on a church at Hisar in Haryana and sought an immediate report on the incidents.
 
"PM is deeply concerned about the incidents in Hisar, Haryana and Nadia, West Bengal," the Prime MInister's Office (PMO) said on micro-blogging site Twitter today.
 
"PMO has asked for immediate report on facts & action taken regarding the incidents in Haryana and West Bengal," it added.
 
A 71-year-old nun was allegedly gang-raped by dacoits at a convent in Nadia district in the early hours of Saturday. The incident has triggered protests in West Bengal and the state government has ordered a probe by the CID in the case.
 
In the second incident, a church under construction at Kaimri village near Hisar in Haryana was vandalised by a group of people on Sunday.
 
Both the incidents have evoked widespread condemnation across the country, with the Christian community expressing serious concern about the safety of churches and other institutions.
 
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Polling underway for 41 seats in final phase of LS elections

Polling was underway on Monday amidst tight security in 41 constituencies spread over three states -- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal -- in the ninth and final phase of elections to the 16th Lok Sabha.

 
Ninth phase of 16th LS polls underway
Polling was underway today amidst tight security in 41 constituencies spread over three states -- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal -- in the ninth and final phase of elections to the 16th Lok Sabha.
 
Thousands of voters turned out to exercise their franchise in these constituencies and long queues of voters  were seen at many polling stations despite the sweltering heat,
 
All eyes were, however, on Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, the second constituency from which BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is trying to make his maiden entry into the Lok Sabha. His main rivals in Varanasi are Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal and local Congress leader Ajay Rai.
 
Mr Modi is also in the fray from Vadodara in Gujarat, where polling was held on April 30.
 
Around 1.6 million people are eligible to cast their votes in Varanasi in what is clearly the keenest contest of the 2014 elections. There were long queues of voters outside polling stations in most areas of the city.
 
The authorities have deployed around 45,000 security personnel to ensure free and fair polls in the constituency. More than 12,000 polling booths were put under surveillance with CCTV cameras and proceedings at more than 300 polling stations were being videographed.
 
The Election Commission has deployed Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Kumar as a special observer for the constituency following complaints of bias against the local election officials by the BJP. Several senior police officers of Uttar Pradesh are also camping in the city.
 
The constituencies that voted today included 18 in Uttar Pradesh, 17 in West Bengal and six in Bihar. They have a total of 66.13 million voters and there were 606 candidates in the fray.
 
The first phase of polling in the long drawn out election process was held on April 7. Counting of votes for all constituencies will be taken up on May 16 and all results are expected by that evening. Two members in the 545-member Lok Sabha are nominated by the President from the Anglo-Indian community.
 
Other prominent candidates in the fray in Uttar Pradesh include Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo and former Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav from Azamgarh and UP Legislative Assembly Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey from Doomariaganj.
 
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Union Minister of State for Home Affairs R P N Singh is contesting from Kushinagar and popular Bhojpuri film actor Ravi Kishan from Jaunpur, both on the Congress ticket. Veteran BJP leader Kalraj Mishra is contesting the Deoria seat. Quami Ekta Dal (QED) leader Mukhtar Ansari, who withdrew from the contest in Varanasi and later announced his support for the Congress, is in the contest from Ghosi.
 
In Bihar, the prominent candidates include well-known Hindi filmmaker Prakash Jha, who is trying his luck yet again, this time as a Janata Dal (United) candidate, and former Union Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
 
In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has fielded former Union Ministers Sudip Bandopadhyay, Dinesh Trivedi in Barrackpore and Sougata Roy in Dum Dum and actors Dipak Adhikari (Dev) from Ghatal and Tapas Paul in Krishinagar.
 
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has put up Ms Subhashini Ali against Mr Trivedi in Barrackpore, while the BJP has fielded well-known magician P C Sorcar (Junior) in Barasat. West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury is the party's candidate in Berhampore.
 
The TMC had won 14 of the 17 seats that went to the polls today in West Bengal in the 2009 elections, while the CPI, SUCI and Congress had won one each. The TMC and the Congress were in an alliance then. The CPI (M) had not won a single seat from these in 2009.
 
There are a total of 328 candidates, including 18 women, in the 18 constituencies of Uttar Pradesh, which have a total electorate of 31.6 million voters.
 
In Bihar, more than 8.8 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the six constituences which have a total of 90 candidates in the fray.
 
The 17 constituencies that went to the polls in West Bengal have a total electorate of  25.61 million and 188 candidates in the fray.
 
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Former LS Speaker Somnath Chatterjee passes away, nation mourns

Veteran parliamentarian Somnath Chatterjee, the first Communist Speaker of the Lok Sabha who had defied his party's call to quit the post, died in Kolkata on Monday following a cardiac arrest and prolonged old age-related illness.

Somnath Chatterjee (File photo: IANS)
Somnath Chatterjee (File photo: IANS)
Veteran parliamentarian Somnath Chatterjee, the first Communist Speaker of the Lok Sabha who had defied his party's call to quit the post, died here on Monday following a cardiac arrest and prolonged old age-related illness.
 
Chatterjee was given a 21 gun salute in the West Bengal Assembly, while the nation mourned the death of the barrister-turned-politician, known for championing the cause of the downtrodden.
 
Chatterjee, 89, leaves behind his wife, a daughter and a son.
 
"He died at 8.15 a.m," Bellevue Clinic CEO Pradip Tondon told IANS.
 
Ailing for a long time, Chatterjee's condition turned grave on Sunday after he suffered a heart attack. On August 7, he had been admitted to the hospital in a critical condition due to a kidney-related ailment and put on ventilator support.
 
A former Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) central committee member, Chatterjee was Lok Sabha Speaker during the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA-1) rule from 2004 to 2009.
 
It was during this stint that direct telecast of the Zero Hour started in 2004, while the Lok Sabha television channel came into existence in 2006.
 
However, on July 23, 2008, Chatterjee was expelled from the Communist Party of India-Marxist "for seriously compromising the position of the party" as he refused to resign as the Speaker after the CPI-M withdrew its support to the UPA-1 government over the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
 
Chatterjee had then contended that the office of the Speaker was above party affiliations and he ceased to be a CPI-M member once he took over the job.
 
Till the end, Chatterjee had nursed a deep sadness over his expulsion.
 
In Kolkata, as the news of Chatterjee's death became public, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the private clinic and paid her last respects.
 
From the clinic, the cortege was taken to the Calcutta High Court, where Chatterjee had started his legal practice in the early 1960s. Judges, lawyers and clerks all came out of the corridors of the court to pay homage to him.
 
The next stop was the Assembly, where the body was placed on a high platform by police personnel in a slow march. The bugle played the last post before he was accorded a guard of honour and gun salute.
 
Banerjee was present at both stops, and even walked barefoot from the high court to the Assembly.
 
The cortege was then carried to Chatterjee's house in south Kolkata, where his wife Renu and other family members wept inconsolably. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, who flew here from Delhi, garlanded the body at the house.
 
Sometime after evening, the body was donated to the SSKM Hospital, in deference to Chatterjee's wish that his mortal remains be used for medical causes.
 
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President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in paying glowing tributes to Chatterjee.
 
Calling him "a veteran parliamentarian who had a forceful presence in the House", the President tweeted: "A loss for public life in Bengal and India. My condolences to his family and innumerable well-wishers."
 
Modi described Chatterjee as a stalwart of Indian politics who made parliamentary democracy richer.
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi hailed him as "an institution".
 
Banerjee termed it a great loss.
 
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar described Chatterjee as "a dignified person who set high standards of conduct during his stint as Lok Sabha Speaker".
 
Governors, Chief Ministers and politicians across the country grieved for Chatterjee.
 
CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury "deeply mourned" for Chatterjee, and later airdashed to his residence to garland the body.
 
Chatterjee joined the CPI-M in 1968, and was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1971 from Burdwan constituency in a by-election as an Independent candidate backed by the CPI-M.
 
The seat had fallen vacant after the death of his father Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee, a Hindu revivalist and one of the founders and one-time President of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha.
 
He made it to the Lok Sabha on CPI-M ticket from Jadavpur in 1977 and 1980, but lost to Mamata Banerjee -- the present West Bengal Chief Minister and then a Youth Congress leader -- in 1984.
 
However, the very next year, he re-entered the Lok Sabha after the party nominated him as its candidate from Bolpur in a by-election. He retained the seat in 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004. From 1989 till 2004, he served as the Leader of the CPI-M in Lok Sabha.
 
During his three decades in the opposition benches of the Lok Sabha, Chatterjee used his baritone, legal skills and debating prowess adroitly to pin the government on the mat on a plethora of issues, and was given the "Outstanding Parliamentarian Award" in 1996.
 
Born on July 25, 1929 in Tezpur in Assam, Chatterjee studied in Kolkata, before earning B.A and M.A degrees in Law from the Jesus College, Cambridge. He was called to the bar from London's Middle Temple.
 
Chatterjee was a close confidant of former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, who made him Chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC).
 
Working with all sincerity, Chatterjee toured various countries, inking memorandums of understanding worth thousands of crores, but very few of the pacts materialised as industrial projects on the ground.
 
A keen sports enthusiast, Chatterjee headed the West Bengal Table Tennis Association for four years, till he stepped down in May citing his poor health.
 
He was an ardent supporter of city soccer giants Mohun Bagan.
 
IANS
 

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Nation grieves for Somnath Chatterjee

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President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday led the nation in paying glowing tributes to former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, one of the country's most respected parliamentarians, who died here in the morning.
 
Calling him "a veteran parliamentarian who had a forceful presence in the House", the President tweeted: "A loss for public life in Bengal and India. My condolences to his family and innumerable well-wishers."
 
Modi described Chatterjee, a 10-time MP, as a stalwart of Indian politics who made parliamentary democracy richer.
 
He said that Chatterjee "was a strong voice for the well-being of the poor and vulnerable. Anguished by his demise".
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi hailed him as "an institution".
 
"He was an institution. Greatly respected and admired by all parliamentarians, across party lines. My condolences to his family at this time of grief," he tweeted.
 
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who came to prominence incidentally with her triumph over Chatterjee in the Lok Sabha polls from Jadavpur consituency in 1984, termed it a great loss.
 
"Saddened at the passing away of Somnath Da. My condolences to his family and admirers. This is a great loss for us," the Trinamool Congress chief tweeted.
 
Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal said he was "extremely sad" over his death and remembered him as "one of the greatest parliamentarians of contemporary times. He will always be missed".
 
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said: "A stalwart parliamentarian, popular amongst people and one of greatest Speakers of Lok Sabha. A huge loss to the Indian democracy."
 
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also paid homage to Chatterjee.
 
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Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy described the veteran parliamentarian as a towering figure in Indian politics.
 
"Somnathda was known for stirring parliament speeches, which motivated a generation of Indians. We lost a conscientious leader who fought for social justice and harmony. May his soul rest in peace," tweeted Kumaraswamy.
 
In Chennai, Tamil Nadu leaders also condoled his death. Chief Minister K. Palaniswami said Chatterjee expertly presided over the Lok Sabha.
 
PMK founder S. Ramadoss said Chatterjee was a man of impeccable integrity and earned the respect and friendship of all party leaders.
 
DMK leader M.K. Stalin said Chatterjee was a good friend of his late father and DMK President M. Karunanidhi.
 
Maharashtra Chief Minster Devendra Fadnavis also mourned the death, saying the country lost "a tall and influential Communist leader".
 
"A universally respected person, his long career in parliamentary politics served to inspire and guide the leaders and workers alike. His role as the Lok Sabha Speaker will always be remembered for the way he upheld the Constitution and democratic norms," he said.
 
Maharashtra Congress President Ashok Chavan said he was "deeply saddened".
 
Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar described Chatterjee as "a dignified person who set high standards of conduct during his stint as Lok Sabha Speaker".
 
In Kolkata, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Biman Bose said Chatterjee always used to talk in favour of the masses. "Somnath Da's demise is a colossal loss to parliamentary politics...He used to always think of the masses," Bose told the media.
 
CPI-M state Secretary Surya Kanta Mishra added: "He attended meetings and programmes in support for democracy even after his retirement from active politics."
 
IANS

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Somnath Chatterjee: A die-hard Marxist forsaken by his party

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For long the voice of Opposition, Somnath Chatterjee was the first Communist Speaker of the Lok Sabha and one who defied his party and refused to quit the post over the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008, leading to his expulsion from the CPI-M.
 
From championing the cause of the downtrodden as one of India's finest parliamentarians and barristers and settling effortlessly into the role of wooing investors to industry-dry West Bengal, Chatterjee donned many a hat with ease and aplomb during a four-decade public career.
 
The tall, heavily built man with a majestic personality evoked awe at first sight. But beneath that stern exterior lay a tender heart that cared for the poor.
 
His aggressiveness, baritone, legal acumen and sharp debating skills were big assets not only for the CPI-M but for the opposition benches as a whole in pinning down the government during his three decades in the Lok Sabha. But beyond that, Chatterjee always came out as an affable person, gentle in his manners and rising above petty politics.
 
Perhaps it was this quality that stood Chatterjee in good stead in stewarding the Lok Sabha as Speaker from 2004 to 2009. Excepting Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, who once hurled papers and her shawl towards the Speaker's podium, no other MP ever accused Chatterjee of being partisan in conducting the House proceedings.
 
The rivalry between the two went a long way back. It was by upsetting the CPI-M stalwart in the 1984 general elections from Jadavpur that Banerjee - then a youth Congress leader virtually unknown in state politics - cut her teeth in politics. That was Chatterjee's only electoral defeat and the beginning of Banerjee's ascendancy.
 
However, Banerjee too mellowed and in 2012, a year after taking over as West Bengal Chief Minister, she had proposed his name along with those of Manmohan Singh and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as her choice for President.
 
Chatterjee was perhaps the right disciple of his mentor and the late Communist patriarch Jyoti Basu, who shared a similar high-society upbringing and educational qualifications.
 
Through his political life and even after he was expelled from the CPI-M in 2008, Chatterjee remained close to Basu who had a great liking for Chatterjee. So much so, that as West Bengal Chief Minister, he coaxed and cajoled Chatterjee to take over as chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corp (WBIDC) to woo investors. 
 
Chatterjee put his heart and soul into the job, met industrialists and toured various countries, inking MoUs worth thousands of crores of rupees, though it was another thing that very few of the pacts matured into industrial projects on the ground. The opposition in Bengal lost no opportunity to make fun of Chatterjee, jokingly calling him "MoU da".
 
Another interesting contradiction lay in Chatterjee's family ties. Though he remained a Marxist all his life, his father Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee was a Hindu revivalist and one of the founders and one-time president of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha.
 
Parliamentarians from the BJP had at times made mocking reference to the "Marxist Chatterjee" by highlighting this aspect.
 
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Born on July 25, 1929 in Tezpur in Assam, Chatterjee studied at the Mitra Institution School, Presidency College and the University of Calcutta. 
 
He then proceeded to England to earn B.A and M.A degrees in Law from the Jesus College, Cambridge. He was called to the Bar from London's Middle Temple and started legal practice as an advocate at the Calcutta High Court.
 
Chatterjee joined the CPI-M in 1968. He was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1971 from Burdwan in a bye-election as an independent candidate backed by the CPI-M. The seat had fallen vacant after the death of his father Nirmal Chatterjee.
 
He made it to the Lok Sabha on the CPI-M ticket from Jadavpur in 1977 and 1980 and from Bolpur in 1985, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004. From 1989 till 2004, he served as the Leader of the CPI-M in the Lok Sabha.
 
Chattterjee rose to become a central committee member of the party but was expelled on July 23, 2008 "for seriously compromising the position of the party".
 
Chatterjee had then contended that the office of the Speaker was above party affiliations and he ceased to be a CPI-M member once he took over the job.
 
In an interview to IANS, Chatterjee had called his expulsion the "saddest day of my life,... I was sad then, I am sad now also. It is not like weather that it will change".
 
West Bengal CPI-M leaders, however, constantly kept in touch with him, and even sent feelers that if he applied again admitting his mistake, he would be readmitted. But the principled man steadfastly refused, while making it clear, that he would be game if the party on its own took him back.
 
But that was not to be. And to the last day, Chatterjee remained party less, while nursing a void deep in his heart.
 
IANS
 

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Former LS Speaker Somnath Chatterjee passes away at 89

Somnath Chatterjee
Somnath Chatterjee
Former Lok Sabha Speaker and eminent barrister Somnath Chatterjee died here on Monday at a private clinic following a cardiac arrest and prolonged old-age-related illness, nursing home sources said.
 
He was 89, and leaves behind his wife, a daughter and a son.
 
"He died at 8.15 a.m.," Bellevue Clinic CEO Pradip Tondon told IANS.
 
Chatterjee's condition turned grave following a heart attack he suffered on Sunday. On August 7, he was admitted to the clinic in a critical condition due to a kidney-related ailment and put on ventilator support.
 
A former Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader and a 10-time Lok Sabha MP, Chatterjee was the Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament during the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA-1) rule from 2004 to 2009. 
 
It was during his stint that the Lok Sabha television channel came into existence in 2006.
 
Known for his debating skills, Chatterjee was given the "Outstanding Parliamentarian Award" in 1996.
 
Chatterjee joined the CPI-M in 1968, and was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1971 from Burdwan constituency in a bye-election as an independent candidate backed by the CPI-M.
 
The seat had fallen vacant after the death of his father Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee, a Hindu revivalist and one of the founders and one-time president of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha.
 
He made it to the Lok Sabha on a CPI-M ticket from Jadavpur in 1977 and 1980, but lost to Mamata Banerjee -- the present West Bengal Chief Minister and then a youth Congress leader -- in 1984. 
 
However, the very next year, he re-entered the Lok Sabha after the party nominated him as its candidate from Bolpur in a bye-election. He retained the seat in 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004. From 1989 till 2004, he served as the Leader of the CPI(M) in Lok Sabha.
 
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Chattterjee rose to become a central committee member of the Left party, but was expelled on July 23, 2008, "for seriously compromising the position of the party" as he refused to resign as the Speaker after the CPI-M withdrew its support to the UPA-1 government over the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal.
 
Born on July 25, 1929 in Tezpur in Assam, Chatterjee studied at the Mitra Institution School, Presidency College and the University of Calcutta. 
 
He then proceeded to England to earn B.A and M.A degrees in Law from the Jesus College, Cambridge. He was called to the bar from London's Middle Temple and started legal practice as an advocate at the Calcutta High Court.
 
Chatterjee was a close confidant of former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, who prodded him to take over as chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) to bring the must-needed investment in the state. 
 
He toured various countries, inking memoranda of understanding worth thousands of crores, but very few of the pacts materialised as industrial projects on the ground.
 
A keen sports enthusiast, Chatterjee also headed the West Bengal Table Tennis Association for four years, till he stepped down in May citing his poor health. 
 
He was also a former working committee member of the Cricket Association of Bengal.
 
IANS
 

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Former LS Speaker Somnath Chatterjee dies at 89

Somnath Chatterjee
Somnath Chatterjee
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee died here on Monday at a private clinic following a cardiac arrest and prolonged illness, nursing home sources said. He was 89.
 
"He died at 8.15 a.m.," Bellevue Clinic CEO Pradip Tondon told IANS. 
 
Chatterjee was in a critical condition following the heart attack he suffered on Sunday. He was also suffering from a kidney-related ailment and was admitted to the clinic in a critical condition on August 7.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 

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Shah attacks Rahul, Mamata over NRC, calls for change in Bengal

 
We won't stall process of NRC: Amit Shah
 
 
Setting the tone of his party's West Bengal poll campaign next year, BJP president Amit Shah on Saturday launched a blistering attack on Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee on the NRC issue, while warning her not to hinder Hindu religious celebrations.
 
In an aggressive speech at a rally organised by the party's youth wing, Shah dwelt at length on infiltration from Bangladesh and made a clear distinction between the infiltrators and refugees -- minority Hindus, Christians and Buddhists from Muslim majority Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. 
 
While the infiltrators needed to be "identified", it was the "responsibility" of the BJP government at the Centre to ensure refugees can stay back in India, he said.
 
He gave a call to uproot the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government, and made a veiled reference to her nephew and MP Abhishek Banerjee as he charged the state's ruling party with involvement in a series of corruption cases, besides destroying the law and order situation in the state.
 
Accusing Gandhi of not taking a clear stand on the recently published draft of the National Register for Citizens (NRC) in Assam for the sake of vote-bank politics, Shah asserted that his party was committed to completing the registration process to identify infiltrators.
 
"Mamata Di, NRC will not stop just because of your opposition. You are free to oppose. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is free to oppose. But it is our commitment that we will complete NRC in Assam, by following the due process of law, and identify all infiltrators one by one," Shah said at a rally here.
 
Banerjee has been strident in her criticism of the NRC after 40 lakh people did not find a place in the document published on July 30.
 
Asking Gandhi to spell out his stand on NRC, Shah pointed out that the work on the document was being done as per the Assam accord which was signed by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi - Rahul Gandhi's father - in 1985.
 
"Now for vote-bank politics, Rahul Gandhi is not taking a clear stand," Shah said at the rally organised on Mayo Road in the heart of the city.
 
Virtually throwing a challenge to Gandhi and Banerjee, Shah said they should clarify their priority -- country's security or votebank politics.
 
Reminding Banerjee that in 2005 she had thrown papers at then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and stalled the House demanding removal of Bangladeshi infiltrators, Shah said she has changed her stance as the infiltrators now vote for her Trinamool.
 
Unlike other state BJP leaders, Shah did not talk of bringing out an NRC in Bengal, but said the state would not be in fine fettle if infiltration - 'rampant' during Banerjee's rule - was not stopped.
 
"And the best way to stop infiltration is NRC. So, the NRC process in Assam has to be completed," he said.
 
Shah also charged Banerjee with spreading "misinformation" in Bengal that along with infiltrators, refugees will also be driven out of India because of the NRC.
 
"I assure all refugees in Bengal that the BJP government is bringing the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016. This Bill has the provision to give citizenship to Christians, Buddhists and Hindu refugees who have come from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. There are no plans to send any refugee back."
 
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Shah asked the two opposition parties to speak out before the general election whether they would back the legislation in Parliament.
 
Ridiculing the critics of NRC who have expressed concern about human rights of infiltrators, Shah wondered whether the Congress and the Trinamool were "not bothered" about the "human rights of the Hindus and Muslims of West Bengal".
 
Playing the Hindu card, Shah warned Banerjee not to create hurdles in Durga idol immersion or the Saraswati worship in the state, saying his party activists will "bring down Banerjee's secretariat brick by brick" if such things ever recurred.
 
The Durga Puja immersion processions were delayed over the past few years in certain parts of Bengal as Muharram rallies coincided with the immersion of idols.
 
Shah said he would tour all districts in Bengal and start an agitation to throw out the Trinamool Congress.
 
Describing the BJP as the only party capable of ushering in progress in the state, Shah said : "Since the Trinamool Congress government came to power, there has been a series of corruption (cases) starting from the Narada scandal, Saradha and Rose valley ponzi scams... syndicates and the unlawful activities of cattle mafia and coal mafia."
 
On the issue of graft, Shah indirectly referred to Abhishek, widely regarded as her prospective successor.
 
"During the 14th finance commission, the Narendra Modi government allotted Rs. 3,59000 crore to Bengal as compared to Rs. 1,32,000 crore given by the UPA government during the previous finance commission. Where did all the money go? Did it disappear in the pockets of syndicates and the nephew?" Shah questioned.
 
He also urged the people of Bengal to ensure the BJP won 22-plus Lok Sabha seats in Bengal in 2019.
 
IANS
 

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Shah asks Rahul to spell out his stand on NRC

 
We won't stall process of NRC: Amit Shah
 
 
Asking Congress President Rahul Gandhi to clearly spell out his stand on the NRC in Assam, BJP President Amit Shah on Saturday asserted that his party is committed to completing the registration process to identify infiltrators notwithstanding opposition from Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.
 
"Mamata Di, NRC will not stop just because of your opposition. You are free to oppose. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is free to oppose. But it is our commitment that we will complete NRC in Assam, by following the due process of law, and identify all infiltrators one by one," Shah said at a rally here.
 
Banerjee has been strident in her criticism of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, after 40 lakh people did not find place in the document's first complete draft published on July 30.
 
Accusing Gandhi of not making clear his position on the NRC for the sake of votebank politics, Shah pointed out that the work on the document was being done as per the Assam Accord which was signed in 1985 by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
 
Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi's father, headed the Congress government at the Centre from 1984 to 1989.
 
"The work of the NRC is being done as per the Assam Accord. Who formulated the Assam accord? It was formulated by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
 
"The Congress had no problem then, but now for votebank politics, Rahul Gandhi is not making clear his stand," Shah said at the rally organised by the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM).
 
Virtually throwing a challenge to Gandhi and Banerjee, Shah said they should clarify their priority -- country's security or votebank politics.
 
Reminding Banerjee that in 2005 she had thrown papers at then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and stalled the House demanding removal of Bangladeshi infiltrators, Shah said she has changed her stance as the infiltrators now vote for her.
 
"See how people change. In 2005, the Bangladeshi infiltrators used to vote for the CPI-M (led Left Front, which was in power in Bengal then)... Mamata Di had raised a ruckus in the Lok Sabha. She threw papers at the Speaker. She stalled the House and shouted slogans for removal of Bangladeshi infiltrators.
 
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"Today, the same Bangladeshi infiltrators form the Trinamool votebank. And Mamata Di wants to keep them in India, in Assam. Mamataji, please clarify. Congress President Rahul Gandhi, please clarify, whether you give priority to the country's security or your votebank politics," said Shah at the well-attended rally on Mayo Road in the heart of Kolkata.
 
Shah asked the crowd whether or not the Bangladeshi infiltrators pose a threat to the country's security, were involved in bomb blasts in Bengal and if they should be driven out.
 
Once the crowd responded with a roaring "yes", he said: "Mamata Didi, I tell you, we are Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, for us the country comes first, votebank later."
 
Shah also charged Banerjee with spreading "misinformation" in Bengal that along with infiltrators, refugees will also be driven out of India because of the NRC, and affirmed that it is the responsibility of the BJP government at the Centre to ensure refugees stay back in India.
 
"I assure all refugees in Bengal that the BJP government is bringing Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016. This bill has the provision to give citizenship to Christians, Buddhists and Hindu refugees, who have come from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. There are no plans to send any refugees back.
 
"Mamata Di, stop spreading confusion, it is the responsibility of the Indian government to keep the refugee brothers and sisters in India," he said.
 
IANS
 

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Three Mumbai residents arrested in Kolkata ATM fraud case

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Kolkata Police on Wednesday said three Mumbai residents have been arrested on charge of involvement in an ATM fraud case reported in the metropolis and seized skimming machines and pinhole cameras from them.
 
Accused Rohit Nayar was caught on Tuesday night while trying to install a skimming machine at an ATM of Kotak Mahindra Bank in south Kolkata's Elgin Road. 
 
"Based on information he gave, his accomplices Sayeed Sayed and Sudhir Rajen were arrested from the Kolkata airport and CIT Road respectively," a police officer said. 
 
"Two skimming machines, pinhole cameras, mobile phones and a laptop were seized from them. The accused have been remanded in 14-day police custody till August 21," he said.
 
The three allegedly confessed to stealing ATM card data by installing the skimming machines at ATM outlets in south Kolkata's Kasba and Elgin Road areas so as to clone users' card details.
 
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Kolkata Police had earlier arrested two Romanian nationals from Delhi in the case.
 
The fraud came to light towards the end of last month after several people approached city police with complaints that amounts ranging from Rs 4,000 to Rs 40,000 were withdrawn from their bank accounts fraudulently. Around Rs 18-20 lakh was withdrawn from different bank accounts.
 
IANS
 

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Two Romanians held for Kolkata ATM frauds

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Two Romanian nationals were detained in connection with ATM frauds in the eastern metropolis wherein many persons were swindled out of money totalling Rs 18-20 lakh through fraudulent transactions, Kolkata Police said on Friday.
 
The accused were picked from Vasant Vihar in Delhi and 20 duplicate ATM cards, also called clone cards, seized from them. Magnetic strips used in ATM cards were also seized, police told the media here.
 
Preliminary investigation revealed that the two accused arrived in Kolkata in March and stayed for around two months.
 
The fraud was committed by the use of skimming machines on ATMs to clone users' card details. The accused then fraudulently withdrew around Rs 18-20 lakh from different bank accounts at unmanned ATMs in a week.
 
A Special Investigation Team was set up to probe the fraud after the victims approached city police earlier this week with complaints that money ranging from Rs 4,000 to Rs 40,000 were withdrawn from their bank accounts fraudulently.
 
Police has so far received 77 complaints, primarily customers of Canara Bank and Punjab National Bank. A former Calcutta University Professor and a renowned radio jockey were among the victims. 
 
Canara Bank identified 37 customers from its south Kolkata branch as victims and said it was taking steps to compensate affected customers within a week. The PNB said it has started compensating depositors as well.
 
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Mamata accuses Centre of doing 'vote politics' on Assam NRC

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Slamming the Central government on Assam's draft NRC which left out over 40 lakh people, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday accused the Narendra Modi-led government of doing "vote politics".
 
Banerjee accused the Centre of deliberately trying to isolate a section of Indian citizens, and said she will seek an appointment with Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi and urge him to "save" those who were excluded from the list.
 
The first complete draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), comprising the names of 2,89,83,677 people of Assam, was published on Monday, and 40,07,707 have been left out due to some discrepancies in their documents, according to officials.
 
"Forty lakh people including Hindus and Muslims were left out. All connections with Assam including the Internet, have been severed. Fifteen companies of central forces have been sent to Assam in addition to the force that is already there. We suspect it is an attempt to bulldoze people or to forcibly evict them," Banerjee told mediapersons at the state secretariat Nabanna.
 
The Trinamool Congress supremo claimed that excluding people from the NRC draft is an attempt at "political isolation" of a section of citizens by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government as many people have been excluded from the list on the basis of their last names.
 
"It is a game plan to evict humanity and human beings forcibly, and an attempt to isolate them in order to do vote politics. It is unfortunate that all connections have been severed. We are not able to contact the affected people," she alleged.
 
The Bengal Chief Minister apprehended that there would be problems in Bangladesh and West Bengal as it shares a border with Assam. She, however, said her state would not act like the Centre or the Assam government in trying to "push back" people forcibly.
 
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"Bangali Khedao and Bihari Khedao (drive out the Bengalis and Biharis) is going on in Assam. This will be a big issue for Bangladesh. Because these people might be pushed back to Bangladesh, and if Bangladesh refuses to accept them, where will the 40 lakh people go?" she asked.
 
Citing some examples of people who were left out of the NRC list in Assam, Banerjee said many Bengalis and people of Bangladeshi-origin have been left out in spite of having Aadhaar cards, passports and other identification documents.
 
"They (left out people) were made refugees by the Assam and central government. Many people submitted all the documents. Yet, they were not considered, just excluded. Some of them are staying for more than 50 years," she said.
 
Banerjee said she would meet Rajnath Singh over the issue and also send a team of representatives from Bengal to Assam.
 
"I want to appeal to the Home Minister to save them. Do not isolate them like this. They are also human beings. If needed, Parliament can amend the law to save these people. Parliamentary session is on. We will also send a team to Assam," she said.
 
Terming the draft NRC as "terrible", Banerjee said "people were helpless... they are not Rohingyas" and they are "very much Indian citizens".
 
IANS
 

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Congress must take the fight to the BJP: Omar Abdullah

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Underscoring the importance of the Congress in defeating the BJP in next year's general elections, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday said no effort for opposition unity will succeed unless the Congress is able to take the fight to the BJP.
 
Abdullah, who was speaking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a seminar, also mentioned the efforts by former Congress President Sonia Gandhi to bring various opposition parties together.
 
He said the proposed Federal Front will take a "greater shape" before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
 
Abdullah's comments came a day after he met West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who has been the chief proponent of a Federal Front comprising regional parties. 
 
"We were discussing how best the regional parties can come together to take on Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the forthcoming general elections. Obviously, no effort towards opposition unity will really succeed unless the Congress is also able to take the fight to the BJP the way we hope," said the National Conference leader after addressing "Think Federal Conclave".
 
"It (forming a Federal Front) is an ongoing process and as we get closer to general elections of 2019, I am sure it will take greater shape," he said. "You have seen a number of efforts were made particularly by Sonia Gandhi to bring opposition parties together."
 
Abdullah pointed at the presence of opposition leaders at the swearing-in of Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and said more such attempts would be made in other states as well.
 
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Speaking on Jammu & Kashmir, he reiterated his party's demand that the assembly be dissolved and efforts made to improve the overall situation in the state.
 
The state is currently under Governor's rule after Chief Minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti resigned following the BJP quitting her government and walking out of the alliance.
 
According to Abdullah, the situation should be like what it was there in 2014, when the assembly election was conducted in November-December.
 
"Discussion for conducting the elections can be started after improvement in the situation. Under the prevailing situation, there is no scope for discussion on the elections," he said.
 
Asked whether the India-Pakistan relationship will improve with a new government coming to power in the neighbouring country, he said let the new government be formed first.
 
"Let Imran Khan form the government. He has never been in power before.
 
"There is a need to see what kind of relationship Islamabad wants with India and what is their approach regarding terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack," Abdullah said.
 
IANS
 
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Bengal passes Lokayukta amendment, CM outside ambit on public order issues

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The West Bengal Assembly on Thursday gave its approval to the Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which keeps the Chief Minister beyond its ambit with regard to allegations of corruption in matters concerned with public order.
 
According to the legislation, the Lokayukta can investigate allegations of corruption against the Chief Minister on 58 of the 59 subjects on the state list, but only after a nod by two-third members of the House present and voting.
 
Just before the Bill was passed, ruling Trinamool Congress legislator Tapas Roy moved the amendment - which was passed by the House - adding the clause about the Lokayukta needing the pre-approval of the House to start an investigation on corruption allegations against the chief minister.
 
The debate was heated, with the opposition resenting the two clauses - the Chief Minister being kept outside the purview of the Lokayukta on matters of public order and the pre-requisite for the Lokayukta to get the approval of two-third members of the House present and voting before starting a probe into allegations against the Chief Minister on other matters.
 
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, claimed that she had given the people the right to question her credibility.
 
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Alleging that the opposition and a section of the media were creating confusion by claiming that the Chief Minister has been kept entirely outside the purview of the Lokayukta bill, she said exclusion of the office of the Chief Minister on maters of public order only pertained to police recruitment, force deployment and any other emergency situation.
 
"Other subjects in the state list are within the ambit of the Lokayukta. I feel credentials are the biggest assets of a politician. Let the people of the state judge my credentials," she said.
 
The legislation claimed that the clauses related to excluding the Chief Minister were in line with the provisions under section 41 (1) (a) of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 passed by parliament. The particular section of the Central Act refers to excluding Prime Minister from the purview of investigation of Lokpal.
 
The Bill passed by the assembly on Thursday also includes a provision that approval of the state government would be needed for investigating a complaint against a public servant.
 
Leader of the Left Front legislature party Sujan Chakraborty alleged that the amendments have diluted the powers of the Lokayukta.
 
The Bill was later passed by voice vote.
 
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West Bengal assembly passes resolution renaming state as 'Bangla'

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The West Bengal Assembly on Thursday passed a resolution renaming the state as "Bangla", with the Left Front and the Congress backing the move by the Trinamool Congress government.
 
The BJP, however, preferred the existing name of the state - West Bengal in English and Paschim Banga in Bengali.
 
As per the resolution, the state would now be called Bangla in three languages - Bengali, English and Hindi.
 
The resolution would now be sent to the Union Home Ministry, and once it gives its approval, the new name would come into effect.
 
The change in the nomenclature would enable the state to move up in the alphabetical order and thus it can now present its point of view early in meetings of all states, where the alphabetical order is followed. So long, West Bengal languished at the bottom of the list, as its name started with "W" in English.
 
In fact, with its new name, the state now comes fourth after Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Assam.
 
Soon after coming to power in 2011, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had expressed her frustration for her turn to speak coming last in meetings involving all states.
 
On August 29, 2016, the state assembly had passed a resolution proposing the name of the state be changed to 'Bangla' in Bengali, 'Bengal' in English and 'Bangal' in Hindi.
 
But after the Central government turned down the proposal of having three names for the state in three different languages, the Mamata Banerjee cabinet passed a resolution rechristening the state as "Bangla" on September 8 last year.
 
On Thursday, Banerjee told the assembly that her government did not want any controversy regarding the name of the state, and so it has opted for "Bangla".
 
"Earlier we had sent the proposal containing the three names in the three languages, but the Central government first sat on it for long time, and only recently they have advised us through a communication that we should choose one name, and not three.
 
"We don't want any controversy related to the name of the state. So we have opted for Bangla," she said.
 
IANS
 
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Gadkari reviews Namami Gange Projects in Bihar, Jharkhand and Bengal

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Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Nitin Gadkari reviewed the projects under Namami Gange programme in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal here on Wednesday.
 
Even as significant progress is being made in Namami Gange projects in the three States, the Minister instructed contractors to speed up the work and complete projects by December 2018, an official press release said.
 
He also urged the officials of the Central and State governments to resolve all issues that are obstructing the work in any way.
 
The Minister said he himself, along with Minister of State Satya Pal Singh, will inspect the sites during the coming months and monitor the progress of the projects.
 
Against a projected sewage generation of 606 MLD for the year 2035, Bihar has 124 MLD of existing sewage treatment capacity. There are 19 ongoing STP projects in the state for 216 MLD. Projects of 201 MLD capacity are under tendering while projects for about 112 MLD capacity will soon be tendered.
 
Out of the 19 ongoing STP projects, 11 are in Patna (Beur, Saidpur, Karmalichak, Sadipur, Pahari, Digha, Kankarbagh sewerage zones), and the others are in Buxar, Mokama, Sultanganj, Barh, Hajipur, Begusarai Munger and Bhagalpur. Digha and Kankarbagh projects in Patna and the project in Bhagalpur are under Hybrid Annuity mode.
 
In Patna, while work is under progress to create 200 MLD STP capacity, projects to create an additional 150 MLD capacity are under tendering. The capital city generates 286 MLD of sewerage and has an existing treatment capacity of 109 MLD. All 33 drains in the city are also being tapped. Besides, work to create a sewer network of 707.5 km is under progress while projects to lay sewer line for another 438 km are under tendering.
 
In Bihar, projects in 15 towns on tributaries of Ganga are also being taken up. The tributaries are Koshi, Burhi Gandak, Gandak, Kiul, Sone, Baghmati, Mahananda. One project in Nauguchia on a tributary of Ganga was also reviewed in the meeting.
 
The Minister also reviewed the progress of 20 projects under Patna Riverfront Development (RFD) which is nearing completion. So far, 16 ghats, 4.8 km promenade and one building for audiovisual programmes have already been constructed under Patna RFD, the release said. 
 
The Minister also instructed officials to complete the remaining ghat/ crematoria work in Munger, Jamalpur, Sonepur, Hajipur and Buxar by August.
 
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The projected sewerage generation for Jharkhand for the year 2035 is 16MLD. The state has no STP capacity at present.  There are two ongoing projects in the state – Sahibganj and Rajmahal - to create 15.5 MLD STP capacity. These were reviewed by the Minister. The likely date of completion of Sahibganj project is December 2018. 
 
While the Minister asked the contractors to strictly adhere to the timelines, he directed the officials to resolve all issues impeding the progress while expressing his dissatisfaction over the delay in the Rajmahal project in Jharkhand. It was informed during the meeting that works on 4 ghats and 1 crematorium in Jharkhand has been completed out of total 9 projects.
 
The Union Minister appreciated the proposal of West Bengal officials to build crematoria for animals to prevent the disposal of their dead bodies of animals into the River Ganga and other water bodies. In West Bengal, the ongoing projects to create STP capacity of 80 MLD and under tendering projects for 204 MLD STP capacity were reviewed by the Minister. The work on 15 ghats and 4 crematoria are under progress and officials were instructed to complete it by December 2018.
 
During the meeting, minute details like issues of land acquisition, No Objection Certificates, Tree Cutting etc. were discussed at length with officials and contractors.
 
The Minister exhorted the officials to take up the issue of sewer house connections on priority. He suggested the officials speed up this work in coordination with local municipality officials and state governments simultaneously with the ongoing work of STPs and laying of sewer lines.
 
NNN
 
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Mamata announces oust BJP campaign, says it could end up with under 100 LS seats in 2019

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Stepping on the accelerator in her bid to play a prominent part in the anti-BJP political space nationally, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Saturday said her party would launch a fortnight-long campaign from August 1 calling for the ouster of the saffron outfit from power at the centre.
 
She also announced her party would organise a "huge" rally in the city on January 19 next year, where "leaders from all over the country", including those of the Federal Front proposed by her, would call for defeating the BJP at the centre.
 
"We will invite all anti-BJP political parties. I will invite (former Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi. I will invite the CPI-M too," Banerjee, also the West Bengal Chief Minister, said later.
 
Addressing her party's annual Martyrs' Day rally, Banerjee predicted the BJP could end up with less than 100 seats in next year's general election. "The maximum they can get is 150."
 
The Trinamool supremo said: "We don't like the chair (top post) that much, we don't care for the chair, but we care for the country, the people, the soil of the land.
 
"Bengal will show the way to India, we will show the way to Parliament in the coming days."
 
Banerjee said the August campaign would have the slogan "remove communal BJP, save the country". "On August 15 (Independence Day), all of you should raise the Tricolour and take a vow to ensure that none from the BJP raises the national flag from the Red Fort from 2019 onwards," she told her party workers.
 
She appealed to Trinamool activists to work for the victory of the party in all 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal.
 
"We will organise the next July 21 rally after our India triumph," she said.
 
Referring to the NDA government's victory in Fridy's no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha, Banerjee said: "They got 325 votes compared to the opposition's 126. The AIADMK voted in their favour. Had AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa been alive, they would not have received their votes. They would have lost.
 
"I doubt if they would manage to get even 100 seats in 2019," she said.
 
Accusing the BJP of presenting a distorted picture of Hinduism, she said: "What sort of Hindus are they? Talibani Hindus? Are we not Hindus? We don't believe in their brand of Hinduism. We believe in our Hinduism, which is inclusive."
 
Banerjee said the BJP led coalition has already started to crumble, with its long-time ally Shiv Sena not casting its vote in the non-confidence motion, while another ex-ally Telugu Desam moved the motion itself.
 
Former BJP leader and two-time Rajya Sabha member Chandan Mitra and four Congress legislators in the state - Samar Mukherjee, Abu Taher, Sabina Yasmin and Akhruzzman - joined the Trinamool at the rally.
 
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Banerjee announced that the Trinamol would fight the general election alone in Bengal and warned the Congress and the Left "not to join hands with the BJP" in the state while seeking her support at the Centre.
 
"They should think twice. We don't need their support in Bengal. We will fight alone. But they should remember that we support them in Delhi."
 
Taking a dig at the BJP for the canopy collapse during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally in Midnapore last week, Banerjee said: "Those who cannot even construct a pandal, talk of nation-building."
 
Pillorying the BJP for trying to establish its hegemony everywhere, she said it has purchased or terrorised media houses, interfered in the judiciary's functioning, and even removed Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen as chancellor of Nalanda University.
 
Bengal's opposition parties, however, ridiculed Banerjee's call to remove BJP from power.
 
"She should stop dreaming about capturing power in Delhi as her ambitions will never be fulfilled. Let alone harbouring hopes of becoming the Prime Minister, I doubt whether she will be able to retain power in Bengal," BJP General Secretary Rahul Sinha said.
 
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sujan Chakraborty said Banerjee and her party will be in a soup if people of the state get a chance to exercise their democratic rights properly.
 
State Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury said the Trinamool supremo was indirectly helping out the BJP by stressing on the Federal Front while neglecting the anti-BJP grand alliance (Maha Gatbandhan) that has already been formed in seven states.
 
IANS
 
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Former BJP MP Chandan Mitra joins Trinamool Congress

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Former BJP leader and two-time Rajya Sabha member Chandan Mitra on Saturday joined Trinamool Congress at its Martyrs Day rally here.
 
Mitra, Editor and Managing Director of The Pioneer newspaper, quit the Bharatiya Janata Party earlier this week.
 
Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee announced Mitra's switch to the Trinamool from the dais of the hugely attended rally in central Kolkata.
 
Mitra was nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha in August 2003. He was elected for another term in the Upper House as a BJP MP from Madhya Pradesh in June 2010.
 
He unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on the BJP ticket from Hooghly constituency in West Bengal.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Kovind urges IITs to ensure more participation of girls in science & technology

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President Ram Nath Kovind today urged the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to take the lead in ensuring the greater participation of girls in higher education, especially in science and technology, and take it to fair and acceptable levels within the coming decade.
 
Addressing the 64th annual convocation of IIT Kharagpur here, he said that, in the colleges and universities that he has visited across the country, he found that girl students tend to win more medals and awards than their male counterparts.
 
“Yet, when it comes to IITs, the intake of girl students is distressingly low. In 2017, about 160,000 candidates appeared for the IIT Joint Entrance Examination (Advanced). Only some 30,000 were girls. In 2017, 10,878 students got admission into the undergraduate class of the IITs. Only 995 were girls,” he added.
 
He noted that of the 11,653 students enrolled at IIT Kharagpur, only 1,925 were girls, a little over 16%. “This cannot go on. We need to do something about these numbers. The participation of women in higher education, in science and technology and in the workforce of our country has to rise to fair and acceptable levels within the coming decade. This should be a national priority, and the IIT community must take the lead,” he added.
 
Mr Kovind said IIT Kharagpur has its origins in a committee that was set up by the government shortly after Independence to take stock of technical education. The committee was headed by the British Nobel laureate Dr A.V. Hill who recommended the setting up of an institution modelled on the pattern of MIT in the United States. The use of global experts to conceive this Institute was appropriate.
 
“Over the years, IIT Kharagpur and in fact the IIT network and community has become an important window to the world. This is in keeping with our country’s and our civilisation’s character. Exchange of ideas, of expertise, of knowledge – across fields, from engineering to economics, from medicine to management – has contributed to our policy choices and our people’s development. We must continue to celebrate this,” he added.
 
IIT Kharagpur’s diverse and trans-disciplinary academic portfolio has led to joint research programmes with several institutions. These include the Indian Statistical Institute, the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, and Tata Medical Centre, all located in Kolkata.
 
“With its wealth of knowledge, it is for IIT Kharagpur to continue to guide the nation by helping find solutions to the pressing problems of our age – whether agricultural productivity or emerging infectious diseases, whether renewable energy or low-cost housing and sustainable cities," Mr Kovind said.
 
He noted that IIT Kharagpur has signed a MoU with the Ministry of Rural Development to set up a Centre for Excellence in Big Data Analytics for Rural Development.
 
The President also unveiled the foundation stone for the Savitribai Phule Girls’ Hostel and the APJ Abdul Kalam International Visitors’ Guest House on the occasion.
 
Mr Kovind said, “Of all the IITs, I understand IIT Kharagpur has the largest percentage of women in leadership roles. This must translate into more girl students as well. Your institute has created 113 supernumerary seats for girl candidates in the undergraduate programme. I have also been told about a special initiative, with support from the Infosys Foundation, to fund women researchers who wish to attend major international conferences. These are good steps but a long road lies ahead of us."
 
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National Library, Kolkata to host exhibition on four eminent personalities of Bengal

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A world-class permanent exhibition on four eminent personalities of Bengal -- Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Syama Prasad Mukherjee -- will open at the National Library in the near future, Secretary, Culture Raghvendra Singh said on Thursday.
 
Reviewing restoration, renovation and modernization work being carried out by the Central Public Work Department (CPWD) at the Belvedere House of the National Library, Mr Singh expressed satisfaction and said that this house will be illuminated and sound and light shows will be organised to entertain the visitors.
 
Literary festivals would also be held to restore old glories of the building and to make new generations aware of their rich heritage. Permanent art galleries pertaining to paintings and pictures of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, different sculptures and antiquities would be displayed there, he added. He sai that all these renovation and revamping works would be completed before Durga Puja at a cost of around Rs 8 crore.
 
Mr Singh said Kolkata will soon have an artists’ hub. The Kolkata chapter of the National Gallery of Modern Art will soon be opened at the Old Currency Building in the city, he said. After reviewing the ongoing revamping works in the building, he said all open spaces of the building will be utilized.
 
These spaces would be sealed with thick glass to make them sound-proof. Permanent and rotating air-conditioned art galleries with paintings of eminent painter Ramkinker Baij and others will be organized. Concerts will be held on the ground floor of the building to entertain the visitors. Restoration and renovation work at the Old Currency Building would be completed before Durga Puja at a cost of Rs. 3 crore, he added.
 
The Currency Building is a beautiful three storeyed structure built in the early 19th century (1833 CE), designed in Italian style with Venetian windows reflecting the colonial architectural style. Initially, this building housed the Agra Bank Ltd., later on, it was used by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for housing the issue and exchange of government paper currency.
 
The entire structure is made of bricks and lime masonry, the floor areas measuring approximately 35,920 sq. feet. The central hall covered with a large dome is now collapsed before protection of the monument by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
 
Earlier in the day, Mr Singh visited Metcalfe Hall. He reviewed restoration and revamping works there too. The double storeyed building of Metcalfe Hall at the junction of the Hare Street and Strand Road was constructed in 1844 and dedicated to the memory of Charles Metcalfe who officiated as Governor General of India from 1835 to 1838.
 
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Bengal: Police book BJP leaders after canopy collapse at Modi rally

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A day after a canopy collapsed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally in West Bengal's Midnapore town, injuring nearly 90 people, police on Tuesday booked the rally organisers, the state BJP, for attempted culpable homicide, police said.
 
"A case has been filed against the organisers of the Prime Minister's event under Section 308 of IPC for attempting to commit culpable homicide. They have also been booked for causing hurt by acts endangering life or personal safety of others," an officer said.
 
Along with the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the contractor and decorator who built the canopy for Modi's event, has also been booked under the same sections.
 
A section of the makeshift canopy collapsed minutes after Modi started his address at the Midnapore College ground on Monday afternoon. Ninety people - 24 of them women - were taken to hospital after the accident.
 
Modi stopped speaking for a few minutes when the structure collapsed to urge the audience to move to a safer area. He also instructed officials to make arrangements for the treatment of the injured.
 
After the rally, Modi visited the injured in the hospital.
 
The state forensic team visited the rally ground on Tuesday and pointed out many reasons that might have caused the structure to cave in.
 
"First, the soft condition of the ground due to rains, the second shallow digging of the iron poles (3-4 inches), the fixing plate had four joints out of which only one was fastened with a nut bolt," said Chitrakhsya Sarkar of state Forensic Science Laboratory.
 
The state BJP leadership cited rains and overcrowding for the mishap but blamed the police for not taking necessary security measures or controlling the crowd.
 
"Police did not hold a single meeting with the organisers. The local administration simply overlooked the security aspect of the Prime Minister's meeting. Now they cannot shrug off their responsibility," Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said.
 
"It might be due to rains or the pressure of crowd. But the police should have checked the security aspects more diligently," he added.
 
IANS
 
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Salvage operations on for fire-affected MV SSL Kolkata

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The salvage operations of the container vessel MV SSL Kolkata that had caught fire last month, was continuing in rough weather conditions with 2- 4 metre swells, official sources said on Monday.
 
The vessel is grounded at about 8 nautical miles off the ecologically sensitive Sundarbans since June 13 when its cargo area caught fire following an explosion. All the 22 crew members were rescued by the Indian Coast Guard.
 
An official press release said the Directorate General of Shipping and its allied office, Mercantile Marine Department, Kolkata, West Bengal government, the Indian Coast Guard and various authorities have been constantly monitoring the developments as the salvage efforts continued.
 
There was no apparent damage caused to the environment as of now except a minor oil leakage from the vessel which is being attended to with means of oil spill combating gear. An investigation by the Directorate was under progress.
 
The salvors, SMIT International Salvage, have been at the site since June 15, 2018. Vessels, tugs, crane barges and oil spill response equipment have been mobilized and deployed for salvage and oil recovery operations. The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF), a leading marine ship pollution response advisor, has also been appointed as specialists for advising and coordinating with local authorities.
 
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A team from Oil Spill Response Ltd. (OSRL), the world’s largest industry-funded agency for oil spill recovery is on site to initiate preventive measures in the event of oil pollution.
 
On the request of the Directorate, the IAF aircraft sprayed water to control the fire and ONGC released AHTS ‘Greatship Amrita’ to assist the salvor. Due to shallow waters, only small fishing vessels/trawlers or vessel with less draft can approach the ship. Inclement weather due to south-west monsoon was proving to be a challenge, the release said.
 
Therefore, shallow-draft barges have been specially sourced from Singapore and the UAE and are expected to arrive on site shortly. The two vessels will facilitate bunker oil and cargo removal operations.
 
A team from Le Floch Depollution, a specialised clean-up contractor with expertise in mangroves was also on site near the Sunderbans. A helicopter dispersant system was also being tested by the Indian Air Force team. Despite the adverse weather conditions, a dive team from SMIT was scheduled to attempt an underwater inspection of the vessel to assess the hull condition, the release added.
 
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