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West Bengal

Opposition slams Modi government at Mamata rally, calls for BJP ouster

Leaders of more than 20 opposition parties attended a massive rally in Kolkata organised by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and joined her in giving a clarion call for the ouster of the BJP government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre in the coming elections.

 
TMC rally: Opposition unites in a show of strength
Leaders of more than 20 opposition parties attended a massive rally in Kolkata organised by West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) Chairperson Mamata Banerjee and joined her in giving a clarion call for the ouster of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre in the coming elections.
 
All the leaders who were present at the "United India Rally", which attracted thousands of people, spoke of the problems being faced by the poor and vulnerable sections across the country because of the present regime's policies and measures and urged the people to vote it out in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
Ms. Banerjee also said the question about the Prime Ministerial candidate could be decided later, stressing the immediate task was for all of them to come together and oust the BJP from power.
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) did not attend the rally but sent their representatives. Mr. Gandhi also sent a message in which he extended his support to "Mamata Di" on the show of unity and hoped that they send a powerful message of a united India together.
 
"Across India, there are powerful forces afoot. Forces that are fanned by the anger and disappointment of hundreds of millions of Indians who have seen through the false promises and lies peddled by the Modi government," he said in the message.
 
"These forces are moved by the hope of a new tomorrow; a tomorrow filled with the idea of an India in which  the voice of every man, woman and child will be heard and respected no matter what their religion, economic status or region.
 
"The entire opposition is united in our belief that true nationalism and development can only be defended on the tested pillars of democracy, social justice and secularism, ideas that the BJP and Mr. Modi are intent on destroying.
 
"We commend the great people of Bengal who have historically been at the forefront of defending our ideas," he said.
 
Those present at the rally included former Prime Minister and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) chief H D Deve Gowda, Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Singhvi, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, Karnataka Chief Minister and JD-S leader H D Kumaraswamy, Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmy Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav,  former Union Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers and National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah and former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang.
 
Others present included Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) chief Sharad Yadav, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M K Stalin,  Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, former Jharkhand Chief Minister Babulal Marandi, senior BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra, former BJP Ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Ram Jethmalani, dissident BJP MP and actor Shatrughna Sinha, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Jayant Chaudhary, Patidar leader Hardik Patel, Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Hemant Soren.
 
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"A new dawn is coming. We have taken the pledge to work together," Ms. Banerjee told the huge crowd.
 
"Some people are trying to destroy the country. As Arvind Kejriwal said, what Pakistan could not do in 70 years, the Government at Centre managed to do in just five years. They have managed to drive a wedge between communities. They have destroyed all the institutions. They have started politics of hate. They have destroyed the country’s economy," she said.
 
"Jan Dhan, NPA, Rafale, insurance are big scams. There are other big scams as well. Those who are dishonest are preaching about integrity. They are talking about honesty? How much money did they have five years ago and how did their wealth increase? I don’t want to make personal comments but they initiated it. I believe in politics of courtesy but they do not care about it. They crossed the Lakxman Rekha. They tried to implicate Sonia ji, Lalu ji, Akhilesh, Mayawati ji and even me. Why will they expect to be spared?" she asked.
 
"People are asking who will be the leader. There is no dearth of leaders here. Their party is leaderless, so there is just one Prime Minister. In our gathbandhan, we all are leaders, we all are workers, we all are the subjects and we all are the kings. This is democracy. We will later finalise who will be the Prime Minister. The time has not yet come," she said.
 
"Enough of Achhe Din, it is time to bid goodbye to BJP. It is time for change at Centre. For the sake of youths, farmers, labourers, and people of the country, we have to defeat the BJP," shhe said.
 
"We are against divisive politics. We are against hate. We do not want bloodlust. We are against discrimination. We want constructive politics, not destructive agenda.
 
"Hindu stands for sacrifice, Muslims represent integrity. Christians stand for love and Sikhs represent validaan. This is our country. A person who can work for all, without discrimination, will be the leader of the nation," she said.
 
Addressing the rally, Congress leader Kharge appealed to all parties to unite to save the Constitution and democracy. He said the BJP had promised two crore jobs every year, but has only helped its corporate friends.
 
"A rainbow of 22 parties is replacing dark clouds hovering over the country," Mr. Abhishek Singhvi said.
 
Mr. Chandrababu Naidu said Mr. Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had betrayed the nation. He said the public mandate that brought them to power also had the strength to overthrow them.
 
"If BJP tries to victimize our leaders and harass the public, it will pay a heavy price. We will fight fearlessly to save democracy," he said.
 
"All the leaders forming the Mahagathbandhan have one ambition, ‘Save India, Save Democracy'. Since coming to power, the BJP govt has used every strategy to divide the people. We have united India and a new Prime Minister will rise out of this union," he said.
 
Mr. Kumaraswamy said the government at the Centre was headed by "undemocratic persons". He said demonetisation had hit the poor in the country hard, especially in the rural areas. He said it was sad that the Union Government had turned a deaf ear to the needs and woes of the people.
 
Mr. Stalin said the 2019 Lok Sabha elections would be the second war of independence. He said Mr. Modi was sure that he would not get a second term as Prime Minister and that is way he was fiercely attacking the Opposition at every opportunity.
 
"He is afraid of our unity. We must come together to protect India," he said.
 
Dr. Farooq Abdullah said there was a need to save India from the BJP, which  was dividing people on religious lines. He said the parties present must fight the elections together, pointing out that the question of who should become the Prime Minister could be decided later.
 
Mr. Tejashwi Yadav said the opposition parties were united in their diversity and would not be scared by the government's intimidation tactics.
 
Mr. Arun Shourie said no Government had said so many lies or undermined institutions as the Modi regime had done. "We all should have one aim, of removing BJP from the Centre," he said. He said the Opposition must ensure a single candidate against the BJP in all constitutuencies and urged them to hold rallies in every corner of the country.
 
Mr. Yashwant Sinha said it was not about removing one man from power but about coming together to defeat an ideology.
 
Shatrughan Sinha said people kept asking him why he spoke against the BJP when he was still in the party. "The mood of the nation is for 'parivartan' (change). People want a new leader," he said.
 
"If speaking truth is rebellion then you should consider me a rebel. Along with truth, I also don't compromise with principles," he said.
 
Mr. Jayant Chaudhary said Ms. Banerjee had united the Opposition and said it was imperative to get rid of Mr. Modi from the Centre.
 
Hardik Patel, who was invited to be the first speaker, said, "Subhas Chandra Bose had given a slogan to fight against ‘goro’ (Britishers), we are fighting against ‘choro’ (thieves),” he said.
 
Mr. Jignesh Mevani said the country was facing an unprecedented crisis with the exploitation of the poor, minorities and Dalits under the present regime.
 
Mr. Pu Lalduhoma of Zoram Nationalist Party of Mizoram said minorities felt unsafe under the BJP-led NDA government.
 
Mr. Hemant Soren said the BJP must be uprooted from not just the Centre but the States, too.
 
Thousands of people turned up for the rally. The TMC put up flexes and posters with photographs of the visiting leaders on roads leading to the venue of the rally from the airport.
 
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Kolkata bridge collapse: Rescue operations on, suo motu case lodged

Rescue operations continue on Wednesday after a portion of a 40-year-old bridge collapsed in south Kolkata a day earlier, even as a suo motu case has been lodged against the persons responsible for the accident. Two persons are still reported missing.

 
Kolkata bridge collapse: rescue efforts on
 
 
Rescue operations continue on Wednesday after a portion of a 40-year-old bridge collapsed in south Kolkata a day earlier, even as a suo motu case has been lodged against the persons responsible for the accident. Two persons are still reported missing.
 
A part of the Majherhat Bridge between Taratala and Mominpur collapsed around 4.30 p.m. on Tuesday in south Kolkata, crushing a person to death and injuring 19 others.
 
"Two persons are still missing and a suo motu case has been lodged under IPC 304 and 308 against responsible persons," police said.
 
Four teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), fire brigade and personnel of disaster management teams are at the spot.
 
Cranes have been deployed and gas cutters are being used for the rescue operation. Three columns of army personnel are also present at the spot.
 
"Our team is still working on the rescue. Overnight and this morning, we tried to dig holes in the concrete slab decks that caved in to find out whether anyone is still trapped underneath.
 
"Cameras are also being used to find out what remains below the debris. Removing the rubble would take more time," a member of the rescue team said on Wednesday.
 
The West Bengal government has initiated a probe into the incident. "Investigations are going on. At this point, we cannot come to any conclusion regarding the possible reasons behind the accident," a member of the forensic team said.
 
Pedestrians and commuters in buses and cars who were on the collapsed structure were rescued.
 
The bridge was the main connector between central and southwest part of the city. Due to the partial collapse of the bridge, traffic has been diverted. Tram services on some routes have been withdrawn, a Kolkata Traffic Control official said.
 
Goods vehicles' movement has been restricted on some of the arterial roads between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
 
State government will pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of Soumen Bagh, who died in the accident.
 
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State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said on Tuesday that heavy construction work of the metro project beside the collapsed bridge could have weakened its pillars.
 
City metro railway authority, however, ruled out any such possibility.
 
Amid blame game over the partial collapse of the bridge, the Eastern Railway said it was not conducting any maintenance work at the accident site.
 
However, experts said the bridge was very old and as such structural defect or use of inferior quality material cannot be cited as the reason for the collapse.
 
They said the bridge has been withstanding heavy vehicles for more than 40 years and that the only reason that may have triggered the collapse could be "lack of maintenance".
 
According to a state official, the 40-year-old bridge was constructed by the Kolkata Port Trust and maintained by State Public Works Department.
 
However, a Kolkata Port Trust official said it does not have any records that show the bridge was constructed by it.
 
IANS
 

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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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Elections a battle between unity and hatred: Rahul

Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "lying all day in his speeches", Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday termed the coming Lok Sabha elections a battle between the Congress' idea of unity and the BJP-RSS' ideology of "divisiveness and hatred".

Congress President Rahul Gandhi waving to the crowds at a public meeting in Malda district of West Bengal, on March 23, 2019.(Photo: Congress)
Congress President Rahul Gandhi waving to the crowds at a public meeting in Malda district of West Bengal, on March 23, 2019.(Photo: Congress)
Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "lying all day in his speeches", Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday termed the coming Lok Sabha elections a battle between the Congress' idea of unity and the BJP-RSS' ideology of "divisiveness and hatred".
 
"We have the general elections in the country before us within a few days. It is a battle of two ideologies. At one end is the Congress and on the other side is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Narendra Modi. 
 
"We work to unite the nation and try to bring people together by talking about love and brotherhood, while the BJP-RSS spread hatred wherever it goes. It makes people of different religions and language fight against each other," Gandhi said while addressing a large gathering at the Kolom Bagan ground here in Malda district.
 
Training his guns on Modi, Gandhi claimed that the Prime Minister was a "chowkidar" (watchman) for the rich and corrupt in the country, who didn't care about the woes of the common people.
 
A view of the crowds at a public meeting addressed by Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Malda district of West Bengal, on March 23, 2019.(Photo: Congress)
A view of the crowds at a public meeting addressed by Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Malda district of West Bengal, on March 23, 2019.(Photo: Congress)
"Modi ji keeps lying all day during his speeches. He will lie about something or the other wherever he goes. He is the 'chowkidar' of the rich and corrupt such as Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi and Mehul Choksi," he alleged.
 
"Modi has waived the loans of 15 people worth Rs 3.5 lakh crore in the last five years. But when the farmers of the country wanted loan waiver, Modi, (Finance Minister) Arun Jaitley and (West Bengal Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee refused," Gandhi said, clubbing the Trinamool Congress supremo with the BJP leaders.
 
Referring to the Congress' victory in the Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh Assembly elections in December last year, Gandhi said the party's governments kept their promise of waiving farm loans in all the three states within 10 days of coming to power.
 
He also attacked Modi on issues like demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), claiming that such moves destroyed the income potential of many people.
 
"The Prime Minister has created the highest amount of unemployment in the country during his reign of last five years," the Congress President said.
 
IANS
 

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Congress names candidates for 11 Bengal LS seats

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Putting an end to all speculations of renewed efforts for a tie up with the Left Front (LF) in West Bengal for the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress on Monday night put up candidates in the two seats won by the LF spearhead CPI-M in the previous general elections.
 
The Congress declared candidates for 11 constituencies in the state, in its fifth list of nominees overall and the first for Bengal.
 
Former Union Minister Deepa Dasmunsi will contest from Raiganj, while Abu Hena would be the party candidate from Murshidabad. 
 
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member Mohammad Salim had defeated Dasmunsi by a slender margin in 2014, while Badaruddoza Khan entered the Lok Sabha from Murshidabad.
 
The Congress had earlier decided not to contest the two seats, and leave them to the CPI-M. However, the Congress changed its stand after the seat sharing talks broke off.
 
The party has re-nominated its sitting MP Abhijit Mukherjee, son of former President Pranab Mukherjee from Jangipur in West Bengal. It has again fielded party MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury from Baharampur. 
 
Among other candidates announced by the party, former union minister Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury would be in fray from his fort Baharampur, which has elected him four times consecutively. Another former Union Minister Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury would fight it out from Malda South, which has elected him in 2009 and 2014.
 
Abu Hashem's son Isha Khan Choudhury, an MLA from Sujapur, is the Congress candidate from Malda North. He will take on his cousin Mausam Noor, who has been nominated by the Trinamool.
 
Abu Hashem is the brother of legendary Congress leader from Malda district -- the late A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury.
 
IANS

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Congress to contest all 42 LS seats in Bengal

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The Congress on Sunday announced it would contest all 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal as its seat adjustment talks with the Left Front have collapsed.
 
"We do not think that we need any alliance by compromising our party's dignity. To maintain the dignity of the party, we don't have any other option than fight," state Congress chief Somen Mitra told media persons at the state party headquarters Bidhan Bhavan here.
 
The state Congress chief will fly to Delhi to seek clearance from the party high command on its stand.
 
"We will contest all the 42 Lok Sabha seats on our own," Mitra said, thus making it clear that the Congress would be in fray in Raiganj and Murshidabad constituencies also - which were won by LF major Communist Party of India-Marxist in the 2014 polls
 
The immediate trigger for the Congress' decision was the LF deciding to nominate, as an independent from Birbhum, Rezaul Karim, the head of the state Congress medical/doctors cell.
 
Peeved at Karim's nomination, Mitra had on Saturday expelled him from his post as also the organisation, terming it as an act of "indiscipline".
 
Mitra complained that during the talks, the LF leaders came up with "weird logic".
 
"During the meeting, they came up with weird logic, like they wanted to decide about the candidates of our party. For instance, in Birbhum, they have announced the name of the chairman of the doctor's cell of our party. They did not even bother to seek our permission."
 
"If the Left Front announces our seats, then why should we wait? We must announce all 42 seats," he said.
 
Mitra said in the Darjeeling constituency also, the LF leaders were "asking us to take candidates from a certain place", despite agreeing to leave the seat to the Congress.
 
"We couldn't take this sort of logic with ease. And hence we informed Delhi that it is not possible to form an alliance. So once you (Delhi) ratify the decision, we will make the future plans accordingly," he said.
 
IANS

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Trinamool Congress' MLA Arjun Singh joins BJP

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Trinamool Congress strongman and MLA Arjun Singh on Thursday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) here in the presence of senior party leaders.
 
The legislator was miffed with the Trinamool leadership as he was denied Lok Sabha ticket from Barrackpore Lok Sabha constituency, presently represented by Dinesh Trivedi.
 
Singh reached here earlier in the day and met BJP leaders Kailash Vijayvargiya and Mukul Roy, in whose presence he later joined the saffron party at the BJP headquarters.
 
Singh is likely to be fielded from Barrackpore by the BJP.
 
IANS
 
 
 

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Honey Baisoya takes lead with second straight 64

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Delhi’s Honey Baisoya carded a second straight six-under-64 to take the half-way lead at the inaugural Bengal Open Golf Championship at Tollygunge Club here on Wenesday.
 
Baisoya, a six-time winner on the PGTI, was one clear of the rest of the field at 12-under-128. It was a crowded leaderboard as there was a four-way tie for the second spot at 11-under-129 between Delhi’s Rashid Khan (64), Bangladesh’s Badal Hossain (66), Chandigarh’s Karandeep Kochhar (66) and Faridabad-based Karan Pratap Singh (67).
 
The day’s best round of 63 was posted by Delhi’s Himmat Rai, Bengaluru’s Trishul Chinnappa and Sri Lankan N Thangaraja. While Himmat occupied tied sixth place at 10-under-130, Trishul was tied ninth at nine-under-131 and Thangaraja was tied 20th at six-under-134.
 
The cut went at two-under-138 and 51 professionals made the cut.
 
Honey Baisoya (64-64) jumped five spots from his overnight tied sixth thanks to his dogged 64. Honey, who won his last event about a year back, dropped an early bogey on the first where his drive found the trees.
 
The 22-year-old Baisoya was one-over through four holes before he charted a splendid recovery with consecutive birdies on the fifth, sixth and seventh. Honey missed an ace on the sixth as his magnificent tee shot stopped inches from the hole. After another dropped shot on the eighth, Baisoya hit top-gear on the inward nine with five birdies courtesy some accurate drives and approach shots.
 
Honey said, “I’ve shot two rounds of 64 but I would rate today’s round better as I started from the front-nine which has some tough holes at the beginning especially the first and the third. I got into my stride on the back-nine today as I created a lot of chances by consistently hitting the fairways.
 
“I’ve been in good touch since the start of this season having already posted two top-5s in the first three events of the year. I was third in Chittagong last week with a 16-under total. So the consistency is there. It’s now about doing the basics right over the next two days by finding the fairways and staying out of trouble. That will keep me in contention.”
 
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Rashid Khan, the winner at Chittagong last week, moved up from tied 12th to tied second thanks to another flawless round. Incredibly, five of Rashid’s last six rounds have been bogey-free.
 
Badal Hossain continued in tied second position having traded five birdies for a bogey. Karandeep Kochhar also hung on to joint second place for the second day running.
 
Round one leader Karan Pratap Singh slipped to tied second after mixing five birdies with a double-bogey. The rookie’s sharp short-game saw him make some quality chip-putt birdies and four long putts to save par.
 
Himmat Rai began the day with birdies on his first three holes including a chip-in on the 12th. He was seven-under through 10 holes but then stumbled with bogeys on the second and third. However, he managed to pull it back by picking up two more shots thereafter and thus recording the day’s joint best round.
 
Among the prominent names, Bengaluru-based Rahil Gangjee (67) occupied tied 16th at seven-under-133 while Indian star and local favourite SSP Chawrasia (65) was in tied 20th at six-under-134. Incidentally, SSP’s nephew Sunit Chowrasia (71), who was overnight tied second, also ended the day in tied 20th place. SSP and Sunit will now be playing in the same group in round three.
 
Viraj Madappa (70), playing at his home course, missed the cut, as he totaled one-over-141 to be tied 63rd after round two.
 
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Rookie Karan Pratap fires a breathtaking 62 at Bengal Open Golf

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Eighteen-year-old rookie Karan Pratap Singh of Faridabad stole the thunder with a breathtaking eight-under-62 to seize the lead on the opening day of the Bengal Open Golf Championship at Tollygunge Club here on Wednesday. 
 
Local boy Sunit Chowrasia, nephew of ace golfer S S P Chawrasia, also made a mark in round one with a top-notch seven-under-63. The 24-year-old Sunit thus shared second place with Chandigarh’s Karandeep Kochhar, Bengaluru’s Syed Saqib Ahmed and Bangladesh’s Badal Hossain.
 
Karan, playing only his third event as a professional after making the grade from the 2019 PGTI Qualifying School, reaped the dividends for his brilliant putting on Tuesday as he drained an eagle and four birdie putts from a range of 10 to 20 feet.
 
Karan, who plays at the DLF Golf & Country Club in Gurugram, was quick off the blocks with birdies on his first three holes. He added another on the eighth before sinking a 15-footer for eagle on the par-5 13th. The six-footer, who finished tied 16th at the PGTI Q School earlier this year to earn a full card on the tour, finally picked up two more shots on the 14th and 18th to make it the most memorable day of his fledgling professional career so far.
 
“I hardly missed a fairway today and that’s the key to playing well at this course. While my hitting was spot-on, my putting was even better. I also did well with the wedges, especially the gap-wedge and didn’t make any errors," Karan said.
 
“The three birdies at the start just took my confidence to another level. It was also great to end the round with a 12-foot birdie conversion on the 18th," he added.
 
“I didn’t play too much on the amateur tour last year as I was busy studying and giving my 12th school board exams. However, I practised very hard last year. I then entered the PGTI Q School with the thought that I would turn pro only if I earned an A card. I managed to do that and subsequently turned pro. Thereafter, the tied 12th finish on my professional debut in Hyderabad, was a huge morale-booster," he said.
 
“Today’s round also gives me a lot of self-belief. It’s important that over the next three rounds I keep repeating the things that I’ve done well today.”
 
Chowrasia, fresh from a career-best seventh place finish at the PGTI Players Championship at Classic Golf & Country Club last month, continued his hot form as he put together an eagle, six birdies and a bogey for a 63 in round one. He chipped-in from 13 yards for his eagle on the 13th.
 
Karandeep Kochhar, who as an amateur at age 17 became the youngest player to win on the PGTI during the last PGTI event at Tollygunge Club in 2016, once again enjoyed himself at his happy hunting ground with a 63 that featured an eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys. He was eight-under through 10 holes before slowing down with a bogey on 11 and all pars thereafter.
 
Syed Saqib Ahmed’s hot putter earned him five birdie conversions from a range of 10 to 20 feet. He finished in style by nearly finding the hole with his tee shot on the par-3 18th. He tapped-in for birdie there and therefore also shared second place at 63.
 
Badal Hossain’s round which included an eagle, six birdies and a lone bogey also bunched him in the four-way tie for second place at 63.
 
Among the prominent names, Rashid Khan of Delhi was in tied 12th at 65 while Bengaluru-based Rahil Gangjee was a further shot back in tied 15th at his original home course.
 
Local favourite SSP Chawrasia shot a 69 to be tied 45th even as another Kolkata-bred Bengaluru-based player Viraj Madappa occupied tied 66th place after a round of 71.
 
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Glamour, surprise in Trinamool list, 10 MPs axed

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West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress on Tuesday declared its list of Lok Sabha poll candidates, dropping 10 sitting MPs, nominating some turncoats and giving 41 per cent representation to women, including a number of Bengali screen celebrities like Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan.
 
Announcing the candidates, Trinamool supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Harvard University professor and eminent historian Sugato Bose - who had earned many plaudits for his speeches during his first stint in parliament - has opted out of the contest as "he did not get permission from his university".
 
In place of Bose, the Trinamool has come up with a surprise choice from Jadavpur - leading Bengali films heroine Mimi Chakraborty.
 
Another popular actress Nusrat Jahan has been made the candidate from Basirhat, by dropping sitting MP Idris Ali - known as a prominent Muslim face of the party. Basirhat had witnessed communal violence in 2017, and Banerjee had then reportedly got upset with Ali's role.
 
Leading Bengali film hero Dipak Adhikari (Dev) would seek re-election from Ghatal constituency in West Midnapore district, while actress Satabdi Roy would fight to retain her Birbhum seat.
 
From Howrah, the Trinamool has re-nominated Arjuna awardee and former Indian football captain Prasun Banerjee.
 
As many as 17 of the 42 Trinamool candidates in the state are women.
 
Yesteryear's actress Moon Moon Sen, who pulled off an upset victory over Communist Party of India-Marxist veteran Basudeb Acharia in Bankura in 2014, has been shifted to Asansol, where she is likely to take on Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, singer-turned-Union Minister Babul Supriyo.
 
Veteran state politician and senior Minister Subrata Mukherjee has replaced Sen for Bankura seat.
 
Among new faces, sitting legislator Mohua Moitra will contest from Nadia's Krishnanagar constituency, instead of Bengali film star Tapas Paul who was grilled by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Rose Valley ponzi scam case.
 
Congress MP from Malda North, Mausam Noor, who had joined the Trinamool recently, will be in fray as a Trinamool aspirant from the seat.
 
Rajya Sabha MP Manas Bhunia would fight from Medinipur, where Trinamool has dropped its sitting MP, veteran Bengali film actress Sandhya Roy, who, Banerjee claimed, now preferred to take "a more sedate responsibility owing to her ill-health".
 
From Raiganj in northern Bengal's North Dinajpur district, Banerjee gave the party ticket to sitting MLA Kanaia Lal Agarwal, who had crossed over to Trinamool after winning the 2016 assembly polls as a Congress nominee.
 
Amar Singh Rai, a sitting Gorkha Janmukti Morcha legislator from Darjeeling, will contest from Darjeeling constituency, backed by the pro-Banerjee faction of the GJM. BJP's S. S. Ahluwalia, now a Union Minister, had won the seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
Shyamal Santra would fight it out from Bishnupur in Bankura district, where the party's sitting parliamentarian Saumitra Khan has crossed over to the BJP.
 
In Bolpur Lok Sabha constituency, senior Trinamool leader Asit Mal has replaced young MP Anupam Hazra, who was also expelled from the party for anti-party activities and formally joined the BJP on Tuesday.
 
Trinamool's Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay, who was arrested by the CBI in Rose Valley case, would seek re-election from Kolkata North. Another veteran Sougata Roy, who was also among a dozen Trinamool leaders allegedly caught taking money in exchange for a promise to dole out favours to a fictitious company in a video grab uploaded on the Narada news portal, will also throw his hat in the ring from his current Dum Dum seat.
 
Kolkata Municipal Corporation Councillor Mala Roy would be the party candidate from the prestigious Kolkata South constituency, which is now represented by Trinamool president Subrata Bakshi.
 
Banerjee claimed that Bakshi opted out of the race on his own as he was more keen on party work.
 
The Trinamool will also contest in three seats in Jharkhand, one in Andaman, six seats in Assam and in two seats from Bihar, Banerjee announced.
 
IANS
 

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Inland, coastal maritime technology centre coming up at IIT-Kharagpur

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The Ministry of Shipping, under its flagship Sagarmala Programme, is setting up a state-of-the-art Centre for Inland and Coastal Maritime Technology (CICMT) at IIT-Kharagpur at a cost of Rs 69.20 crore, the institute said on Sunday.
 
The Centre will provide applied research and development, as also real world solutions for the inland and coastal waterways sector, as also coastal waterways transportation.
 
It would also provide tools and technological inputs to double the share in intermodal transport for domestic waterways freight carrying capacity, the IIT-Kharagpur statement said.
 
The project is of strategic long-term interests for the port and maritime sector of the country and is being fully funded under unique and innovative projects under Sagarmala.
 
The funding for CICMT is for five years after which revenues generated from the end users will make it sustainable.
 
Currently, there is no testing and experimentation facility available in the country for inland and coastal vessels for which the shipbuilders have to approach various European countries. The CICMT is expected to address this long-felt need, the statement said.
 
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Vehicle with 1,000 kg explosives intercepted in Kolkata, three arrested

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A goods vehicle loaded with 1,000 kg of explosive material was intercepted here on Saturday and three persons have been arrested, police said.
 
Based on prior information, the Special Task Force of Kolkata Police intercepted the commercial vehicle at Tala Bridge in Chitpur in the early hours of the day.
 
The vehicle was coming from Odisha and heading towards North 24 Parganas district.
 
"About 1,000 kg of explosive substances (potassium nitrate) stored in 27 gunny bags was seized," a police officer said.
 
The driver and the helper - Indrajit Bhui, 25, and Padmolochon Dey, 31 - both residents of Odisha's Balasore district, were nabbed.
 
Later, based on information provided by the duo, Sheikh Rabiul, 40, who was going to receive the entire consignment in Barasat in North 24 Parganas, was arrested.
 
He was now been interrogated, the officer said.
 
All three were produced before a court which sent them to 14 days police custody.
 
IANS

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CCEA clears third railway line between Narayangarh and Bhadrak

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The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Thursday approved the construction of a third railway line between Narayangarh in West Bengal and Bhadrak in Odisha of 155 km length. 
 
To be built at a total cost of Rs 1,866.31 crore, it is slated for completion during the year 2023-24, an official press release said.
 
According to it, the construction of the third line will help create the capacity to cope with existing as well as additional traffic. The busy section between Narayangarh and Bhadrak is mainly used for the movement of coking coal to steel plants as well as the movement of export ore from the areas of Chakradharpur to several ports. 
 
The third line will help in easier movement of coal. This will help steel plants, power plants as well as the export industry, which will boost the economies of Odisha and West Bengal, and entire East India, the release said.
 
"It will ease congestion on this route. Narayangarh–Bhadrak section forms a part of the Howrah-Chennai trunk route. The present utilization (with maintenance block) of the section between Narayangarh and Bhadrak is to the tune of 138% as per Line Capacity Statement 2014-15. 
 
"Over and above the heavy freight traffic, the route has to accommodate 47 pairs of coaching trains including high-speed trains like Bhubaneswar Rajdhani, Howrah-Yesvantpur Duronto, Howrah-Puri Duronto, Sealdah-Puri Duronto and Howrah-Puri Shatabdi Express. This makes it highly congested," the release added.
 
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Goyal lays foundation stone for new coaching terminal at Nemom in Kerala

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Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal laid the foundation stone for a new coaching terminal at Nemom, near Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, and unveiled the WAP-7HS passenger locomotive through video conferencing from here on Thursday.
 
Railway Board Member (Traction) Ghanshyam Singh, Member (Rolling Stock) Rajesh Agarwal and Member (Engineering) Vishwesh Chaubey and other senior railway officers were present on the occasion.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Goyal said that the present Government has consistently focused on development for all areas in the country. Focus has been on large scale infrastructure creation, both physical and social, he said.
 
He said the new coaching terminal at Nemom in the Thiruvananthapuram Division of Southern Railway would help in decongesting the already overloaded current coaching terminals. With the commencement of work at this new coaching terminal, Indian Railways can start providing large number of new trains which will either originate or terminate in Thiruvananthapuram, he said.
 
The Minister said there were no Unmanned Level Crossings in the entire state of Kerala and all the stations have been converted to 100 % LED lighting. 
 
He said Indian Railways were committed to faster development of Kerala and to make the state a better tourism destination which will help transform the local economy and give a big boost to the generation of employment and improve customer amenities and facilities for all the people using trains in Kerala. 
 
The high-speed WAP-7 HS locomotive has been indigenously developed at the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) in West Bengal.
 
“The most powerful passenger locomotive over the Indian Railways which will be capable of hauling 24 coaches instead of 140 Kmph now at 160 kmph has been designed and manufactured at CLW by our own engineers and by our own workers, making the entire nation proud of the Indian engineering talent and Indian skilled manpower talent. This new engine will help us serve the larger distances much faster and will reduce pollution level and will improve the operation initially of the premium trains.”
 
WAP-7 is the most powerful passenger locomotive over Indian Railways capable of hauling 24-coach high speed trains. However, the maximum service speed of locomotive is 140 kmph. 
 
Railways have undertaken a project for upgradation of speed potential of WAP-7 locomotives from 140 kmph to 160 kmph. It will be put into service after statuary tests and trials. The new type of locomotive is expected to facilitate operation of premium trains such as Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duranto at higher speed.
 
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Trinamool Congress MLA Satyajit Biswas shot dead in Bengal

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Satyajit Biswas, a Trinamool Congress (TMC) legislator in West Bengal, was shot dead at point-blank range while he was attending an event in Majhdia, 120 km from here, today.
 
The two-time member of the legislative assembly (MLA) from Krishnaganj constituency in Nadia district, had just inaugurated a Saraswati Puja function and was watching a cultural show while seated in the front row when someone from the milling crowd fired at him.
 
There was chaos all around as Biswas slumped to the ground, covered in blood, and the assailant managed to escape in the confusion, soures said.
 
A team from the Criminal Investigation Department of the West Bengal Police is probing the murder, they said.
 
While the TMC held the BJP responsible for the murder, the BJP blamed the ruling party's factional feuds for the killing and called for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
 
"Satyajit Biswas our MLA was a dear colleague. Words fail me. Recently BJP leaders tried to stoke tension in the area. This was an orchestrated plan to eliminate him, designed to try and benefit BJP. People will give a befitting reply to perpetrators of this dastardly act," TMC General Secretary Partha Chatterjee said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"Those who have killed him will not be spared. Those responsible for his death will be brought to book. BJP is responsible for this shocking death. There are some traitors who have killed him," he said.
 
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Modi to lay foundation stone for highway project worth Rs 1938 crore in West Bengal on Friday

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone for the four- laning of the Falakata-Salsalabari section of National Highway (NH) -31 D in the northern part of West Bengal tomorrow.  
 
The 41.7 km long section of National Highways falls in the Jalpaiguri district of the state, and will be constructed at a cost of about Rs. 1938 crore, an official press release said.
 
The project will reduce the distance from Salsalabari and Alipurduar to Siliguri by nearly 50 km. 
 
"This is significant as better access to Siliguri means better access to railways and airways. The national highway will facilitate better movement of tea and other agricultural produce from the region to markets. The improved connectivity will also lead to an increase in tourism in the region. All this, in turn, will give a major boost to socio-economic activity in the state, opening up employment opportunities for the local people," the release said.
 
The highway section will have three railway overbridges, two flyovers, three vehicular underpasses, eight major bridges and 17 minor bridges, the release added.
 
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Mamata calls off protest after SC order on Kolkata Police chief

File photo of Mamata Banerjee
File photo of Mamata Banerjee
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today called off her two-day hold protest against the Centre for allegedly trying to muzzle Opposition voices, using the CBI and other agencies, after the Supreme Court earlier in the day directed Rajeev Kumar, the Commissioner of Police, Kolkata to appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the chit funds scam but made it clear that he cannot be arrested.
 
Banerjee, who had hailed the Supreme Court's order as a moral victory for West Bengal and the country, said she had taken the decision to call off her "dharna", which she had begun on Sunday evening, on the request of all the Opposition leaders who had backed her.
 
However, the "Save India" protest will continue in Delhi next week on February 13-14, she said.
 
Standing alongside Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader N. Chandrababu Naidu, who visited the "dharna" site today, Banerjee thanked all the political leaders and parties as well as various organisations and others who had extended their support to her fight.
 
"This is not a Trinamool dharna. This is a political ‘Satyagrah’ movement, I have maintained from the beginning. This dharna was to save our democracy, to save the Constitution, to save the federal structure, the IAS officers, administrative officers.
 
"When we are fighting a battle collectively, I cannot take a decision without consulting all the parties of United India. We consulted with Chandrababu Naidu Ji, Tejaswi and even Devegowda Ji spoke to me this morning.
 
"This dharna is a victory for Bengal. This is a victory for the country. This dharna is a victory for democracy, federal structure and the Constitution," she said.
 
"The Supreme Court gave a very positive verdict, for the people, by the people and of the people. We have decided to call off the dharna here today. However, the protest will continue in Delhi next week.
 
I have done dharnas in the past, sometimes for 21 days (against custodial deaths) and 26 days (during Singur movement). I can continue. But the request came from other political parties.
 
"We have got justice from one pillar of democracy – the judiciary. The court has clearly said there can be no coercive action or arrest. They have repeated what they had said earlier, about meeting at a neutral place. We will abide by that. Our police has already initiated action to respond to Supreme Court order," she said.
 
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Banerjee denied that Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, who was at the centre of the latest stand-off, had participated in her "dharna".
 
"It came to my notice that Rajnath Singh, the Home Minister, has sent a letter to the Governor. The Home Ministry wants to know why Rajeev Kumar joined my dharna. The entire media – local, national and even international – were present. Did anyone see Rajeev Kumar on the dias with me?
 
"Why have they lost their sleep over a police officer? Why are they having nightmares? They want to take action against Rajeev Kumar. What is this? He never joined the dharna. This is a blatant lie.
 
"As per protocol, it is the duty of police officials to be present with the Chief Minister, Governor or the Prime Minister to give protection and security. That is the law. So, can they not even come here to talk to me?
 
"There is a separate room next to this stage, where we even held a Cabinet meeting yesterday.
 
"Do they think they can do anything? This is political vendetta. They are controlling all the central agencies and now want to control the state agencies also?" she asked.
 
Banerjee accused the Centre and the ruling BJP of trying to meddle in every area. 
 
"They want to control everything. Is this a one-man rule? Then there is no need for democracy. The Indian Constitution delineates the role of Centre and States. Both the governments have their own jurisdiction. They have become desperate.
 
"From political parties to IAS/IPS officers, media to civil officers – no one is being spared. They think they are the only nationalists, and everyone else is an outsider. We have to oust them from power. We have to oust, we have to oust, we have to oust.
 
"Atrocities should be stopped. We will fight together. We will only allow Constitutional and legal provisions. We will abide by law. We are disciplined soldiers," she added.
 
Banerjee began the protest on Sunday evening, shortly after a team of CBI officers made an unsuccessful bid to question Mr. Rajeev Kumar at his residence in Kolkata, leading to an unprecedented stand-off between the CBI and the Kolkata Police.
 
She visited Rajeev Kumar at his residence in a show of support and later sat on a "dharna" at the Metro Channel here.
 
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SC directs Kolkata Police chief to appear before CBI, says he cannot be arrested

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Rajeev Kumar, the Commissioner of Police, Kolkata to appear and make himself available before the CBI in connection with the chit funds scam but made it clear that he cannot be arrested.

The Supreme Court today directed Rajeev Kumar, the Commissioner of Police, Kolkata to appear and make himself available before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the chit funds scam but made it clear that he cannot be arrested.
 
"Having heard learned counsels for the parties, we direct Shri Rajeev Kumar, Commissioner of Police, Kolkata to appear and make himself available before the investigating agency, namely, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and to faithfully cooperate with the investigating agency at all times," a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and including Justices Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said in its order.
 
"However, we make it clear that no coercive steps ncluding arrest shall be taken against the Commissioner of Police.
 
"To avoid all unnecessary controversy, we direct the Commissioner of Police to appear before the investigating agency in Shillong, Meghalaya on such date(s) as may be fixed," the court said in its order on a petition filed by the CBI after a team of its officers made an unsuccessful bid to question Mr. Rajeev Kumar in Kolkata on Sunday, leading to an unprecedented stand-off between the CBI and the Kolkata Police.
 
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reacted strongly to the CBI bid to make its way into Mr. Rajeev Kumar and has been on a protest at the Metro Channel in Kolkata since Sunday evening in protest against what she said were attempts by the Centre to muzzle Opposition voices by using the CBI and other agencies.
 
With regard to a separate contempt petition filed by the CBI against top West Bengal officials, the apex court directed the Chief Secretary of the the state, the Director General of Police and Commissioner of Police, Kolkata to file their replies to the statements made in the contempt petition on or before February 18.
 
"We further make it clear that on consideration of the replies of the aforesaid three authorities, the Court may require the personal presence of the said officers on 20.2.2019, which presence, if required, would be intimated to the officers concerned by the Secretary General of this Court on 19.2.2019," the order said.
 
Reacting to the Supreme Court order, Banerjee told journalists at the site of her protest that it was a moral victory for Bengal and the country.
 
"We respect the judiciary and the media. We are grateful and obliged. We welcome the Supreme Court verdict. This is what we wanted.
 
"The court has rejected the contempt of court allegation against us. This order (that Kolkata Police and CBI have to meet and talk mutually) was passed in the past also. The court has also said the Kolkata Commissioner of Police cannot be arrested.
 
"Even Rajeev Kumar, the Kolkata Commissioner of Police, had written five letters to the CBI saying he is reading meet at a mutual place. But the CBI went to his residence on a Sunday evening to arrest him. Supreme Court has clearly said today that he cannot be arrested," the Trinamool Congress chief said.
 
"We respect All India service officers. But when central agencies don’t seek State’s permission and go to the residence of an IPS officer to arrest him, it is against the spirit of federal structure.
 
"This is a jana-andolan, not a Trinamool andolan. We are fighting to save India, save the Constitution. This is fight of crores of people, not Rajeev Kumar alone," she said.
 
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Banerjee, who has received the support of the Congress and several other Opposition parties in this matter, said her party would strengthen its ties with other political parties. "We will fulfill our slogan, Modi hatao, Desh bachao."
 
"I have struggled all my life. I had gone on a hunger strike here for safeguarding the rights of farmers. We have to protect the federal structure. Centre is trying to run a parallel administration. This has never happened before. This is happening because of the vindictive attitude of Modi-Shah. I am going to lay down my life but I will never compromise.
 
"I am an LIP (Less Important Person). I am just a simple citizen of the country. All the parties will together decide (who will become the Prime Minister of the country). 
 
"There are many precedents of Chief Ministers sitting on dharna. This is my responsibility for my officers," she added.
 
Banerjee had said yesterday that her fight was against Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, she said, was "destroying the country by creating unneccessary divisions among the people".
 
The current stand-off began on Sunday evening when several CBI officers had landed up outside the residence of the Police Commissioner but were stopped by the police and taken in jeeps to a police station, where they were detained for some time before being released.
 
As the showdown between the CBI and the West Bengal Police played out, Banerjee had rushed to Kumar's residence in a show of support for him and later began her "dharna".
 
The CBI said they were investigating the case on the directions of the Supreme Court and insisted they were only carrying out their duties. 
 
An Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the 1989 batch (West Bengal cadre), Rajeev Kumar was the head of a Special Investigation Team that probed the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scams. The CBI has said that they need to question him regarding some documents and files and that he has not responded to repeated notices to him to appear before the agency. It accused him of shielding the accused and expressed apprehension that he might attempt to destroy evidence in the case.
 
Today's order means that Rajeev Kumar would have to make available all such material to the CBI.
 
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Mamata's protest continues, SC to hear CBI's plea on stand-off with Kolkata Police on Tuesday

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continued her protest against the Centre for allegedly trying to muzzle Opposition voices, using the CBI and other agencies, for the second day on Monday.

 
Mamata Banerjee continues her protest for second day
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continued her protest against the Centre for allegedly trying to muzzle Opposition voices, using the CBI and other agencies, for the second day today and said her fight was against the "person who is destroying the country by creating unneccessary divisions among the people".
 
"He is creating fear in the minds of the people," the Trinamool Congress chief told newspersons at Metro Channel, the venue of her "dharna", which began more than 24 hours ago.
 
Banerjee began her protest yesterday evening after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) made an unsuccessful attempt to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with the chit fund case here yeserday.
 
Several CBI officers had landed up outside the residence of the Police Commissioner but were stopped by the police and taken in jeeps to a police station, where they were detained for some time before being released.
 
As the unprecedented showdown between the CBI and the West Bengal Police played out, Banerjee rushed to Kumar's residence in a show of support for him and later began her "dharna".
 
The CBI said they were investigating the case on the directions of the Supreme Court and insisted they were only carrying out their duties. 
 
An Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the 1989 batch (West Bengal cadre), Rajeev Kumar was the head of a Special Investigation Team that probed the Saradha and Rose Valley scams. The CBI has said that they need to question him regarding some documents and files and that he has not responded to repeated notices to him to appear before the agency. It has also expressed apprehension that he might attempt to destroy evidence in the case.
 
"A situation has been created where opposing the BJP is being taken to imply being anti-national, and opposing is being taken as an excuse to use different investigating agencies to harass people and to throw people in jail. They are using the most lowly ways to create hatred in the minds of the people," Banerjee said.
 
"From the day they came to power, they have been busy in finding ways to get rid of the Opposition. Our Satyagraha movement will continue," she said.
 
Banerjee said her "dharna" would continue till February 8. She said the date had been chosen because the Madhyamik Examinations will start the next day, when restrictions on the use of loudspeakers would come into place.
 
"India has always been a humane society. I am fighting under the ‘Save India’ banner to save the unity and integrity of the country, and above all, to save the democratic rights of people, citizenship rights, property rights, freedom of speech, and to ensure that officers can conduct their work in an impartial manner," she said.
 
"There is no political issue involved in this. They are torturing everyone. We always respect the law and feel that things should run as per law. But if someone tries to destroy the pillars on which democracy stands, then there would be nothing left of the democratic process that we are so proud of," she said.
 
"It is in this background that I am conducting ny protest here. This is not some small incident. Leaders from across the country, who believe in the federal structure, are supporting me in this struggle. We extend our sincerest thanks to all of them," she said.
 
"This is not my individual fight; this is a collective fight. I hope democracy and the rule of law find a favourable atmosphere to go their courses.
 
"We will never support any attempt to control the media, gag people’s right to speak, use the judiciary in an unbefitting manner, to indulge in a coup. There can always be differences among people.
 
"No government work would be hampered because of this protest. Our official work and our struggle to secure the rights of the people will continue simultaneously. I request all of you to protest in a peaceful manner. Do not get influenced by any instigatory tactics," she added.
 
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Meanwhile, West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi is understood to have sent his report on the situation to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today.
 
The Home Minister had called up Tripathi yesterday to take stock of the situation.
 
In Delhi, the CBI moved the Supreme Court today and sought the cooperation of the Kolkata Police Commissioner in their investigations. The plea will be heard tomorrow.
 
The CBI's application was mentioned by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjeev Khanna.
 
The court said it would hear the plea tomorrow and that it would be open for the solicitor general or any other party to lay before the court any material, by means of an affidavit, to show that the Kolkata Police Commissioner or any other authority was trying to destroy evidence related to the case. 
 
The BJP, meanwhile, defended the CBI's moves in the case and wondered why Banerjee was protecting the Police Commissioner.
 
"She kept quiet when many of her Trinamool Congress leaders, including MPs, were arrested in corruption cases but has started a sit-in to support a police officer ... these suspicious circumstances clearly indicate that the police commissioner knows a lot and therefore needed to be saved," Union Minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the developments in the state were "unfortunate and unprecedented" and "dangerous for the democratic polity of the country".
 
He said that if law enforcement agencies were not allowed to carry out their duties it would lead to anarchy.
 
Trinamool Congress members raised the issue in the Lok Sabha and found support from the Congress, the NCP, the SP, the RJD and the BJD, among others. They alleged the Centre was misusing the CBI and other agencies for its narrow political ends ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The ruckus led to repeated adjournments before the Chair adjourned the house for the day.
 
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Mamata begins dharna after CBI-Police showdown in Kolkata

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launched a scathing attack on the Centre after a CBI team made an unsuccessful attempt to question the Commissioner of Police of Kolkata in connection with the chit fund case and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah of trying to stage a coup against her.
 
"The situation in the country is like a super-emergency. I have decided to sit on a dharna to save the Constitution, to save democracy, to save the federal structure," the Trinamool Congress (TMC) said as she began a "Save the Constitution" protest at the Metro Channel in the city.
 
This came after several CBI officers landed up outside the residence of Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar but were stopped by the police and taken in jeeps to a police station, where they were detained for some time before being released.
 
As the unprecedented showdown between the CBI and the West Bengal Police played out, Banerjee rushed to Kumar's residence in a show of support for him.
 
The CBI said they were investigating the case on the directions of the Supreme Court and insisted they were only carrying out their duties. Sources also indicated that the agency might approach the apex court in Delhi tomorrow on the latest develpments.
 
Banerjee received support from Congress President Rahul Gandhi and several other Opposition leaders.
 
"I spoke with Mamata Di tonight and told her we stand shoulder to shoulder with her. The happenings in Bengal are a part of the unrelenting attack on India’s institutions by Mr Modi & the BJP. The entire opposition will stand together & defeat these fascist forces," Gandhi said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Messages of support also came in from former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, former J&K Chief Minister and NC leader Omar Abdullah, DMK chief M K Stalin and RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav, among others.
 
"I am anguished. The manner in which Modi and Shah are trying to take control of Bengal is unprecedented. Just because I organised the United India Rally, I am being targeted," Banerjee said at a press conference.
 
"You have seen the speech of the Prime Minister. The language he used is not befitting a Prime Minister. He had threatened yesterday only that CBI will be used," she said.
 
She said the BJP's expiry date had arrived and that the party would be voted out in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, expected to be held in April-May. "They have to win the mandate in an election, not by force," she said.
 
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Banerjee said it was her government that had constituted the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that arrested the chit fund owner. "The action against chit funds began during our regime," she said.
 
"Every time there is an election, they start raking up the issue of chit funds. Modi is writing the script and Mr. Doval is implementing it through CBI," she said, referring to National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
 
She wondered if the Centre would now impose President's Rule and said the people would give a befitting reply if it did so.
 
"The Kolkata Police Commissioner is among the best in the world. Let them prove their allegations against Rajeev Kumar. How can they come to the residence of the Kolkata CP without warrant? This is a constitutional breakdown. They are running a parallel administration.
 
"I appeal to all Opposition parties to work unitedly  to oust Modi from power. Modi hatao, desh bachao," she said.
 
"The offices of Governors have become branches of BJP party office.
 
"The situation in the country is like super-emergency. I have decided to sit on a dharna to save the Constitution, to save democracy, to save federal structure," she said.
 
Banerjee asked her party workers to organise rallies between 2 pm and 4 pm in every block of the state.
 
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BHEL bags Rs.3,500 crore order for supercritical thermal power plant in West Bengal

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The public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) today said it had won, against stiff international competitive bidding (ICB), a major order for setting up a 660 MW supercritical thermal power plant in West Bengal.
 
Valued at approximately Rs. 3,500 crore, the order for setting up the 1x660 MW Sagardighi Thermal Power Project Extension Unit-5 at Manigram village in Murshidabad district of West Bengal, has been placed on BHEL by West Bengal Power Development Corporation (WBPDCL). 
 
A press release from the company said BHEL’s scope of work in the project includes design, engineering, manufacture, supply, erection, testing and commissioning of the Main Plant Turnkey Package, comprising supercritical boiler and turbine generator along with its auxiliaries, electricals, controls & instrumentation, switchyard, flue gas desulphurization (FGD) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems, coal handling plant and ash handling plant.
 
"The supercritical technology based project would significantly contribute to the nation’s quest for clean and eco-friendly power and would cut fuel consumption by employing high efficiency equipment working at higher operating parameters. The project will further limit emissions by utilizing state-of-the-art emission control equipment - FGD and SCR systems to capture pollutants like SOx and NOx, aimed at meeting revised emission norms, notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change," the release said.
 
BHEL has so far contributed over 80% of the total coal-based generating capacity of WBPDCL. 
 
The key equipment for the project will be manufactured at BHEL’s Tiruchirapalli, Haridwar, Bhopal, Ranipet, Hyderabad, Jhansi, Thirumayam and Bengaluru plants, while the company's Power Sector - Eastern Region division will be responsible for construction and installation activities on site. 
 
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