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).

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.
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.

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.
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.
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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Border Protection Grid to be set up in border States, says Rajnath Singh

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh yesterday said that a Border Protection Grid (BPG) would be set up in border States as a multi-pronged and foolproof mechanism to secure the country's border.
Chairing a meeting with Chief Minnisters of the Indo-Bangladesh Border (IBB) States here, he said the grid would comprise various elements such as physical barriers, non-physical barriers, surveillance system, Intelligence agencies, State Police, Border Security Force (BSF) and other State and Central agencies.
He said BPG would be supervised by a State-level Standing Committee under the chairmanship of respective Chief Secretaries. BPG will ensure greater help for the States in the overall border security, he said, and sought the active participation of all stakeholders, including State Governments.
Mr. Rajnath Singh had earlier conducted border-specific review meetings for India-China, India-Myanmar and India-Pakistan borders.
In yesterday meeting, the Home Minister underlined the need for securing the country’s borders and putting in place systems to facilitate legitimate trade and commerce. He said India has friendly relations with Bangladesh and all these measures will facilitate genuine trade and legitimate cross-border movement of people while curbing radicalization, illegal migration, and smuggling of cattle, fake Indian currency notes and drugs, and so on.
Mr. Rajnath Singh stressed the need to prevent entry, at international borders, of illegal migrants, some of whom have links with extremist groups for furthering anti-national activities with ulterior motives and posing threat to internal security. 
He emphasized the need to fast track border infrastructure development and to strengthen border security. 
The Indo-Bangladesh Border covering five States -- Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and West Bengal --  is 4096 km long. So far, in 3006 km border security infrastructure of fence, roads, floodlights and border out posts (BOPs) are in place and works in the remaining 1090 km are yet to be started. Out of this, 684 km will be secured with fence and related infrastructure, and the balance 406 km with non-physical barriers. 
Although bulk of the infrastructure is in place or under construction, construction in some parts is yet to commence, mainly due to land acquisition issues. The Home Minister urged the Chief Ministers to take personal interest to expedite land acquisition in the interest of national security. They promised to make land available at the earliest. 
The areas to be covered by non-physical barriers are those where fencing is not feasible like rivers or nullahs. In these areas technological solutions of a networked combination of electronic gadgets like radar, day-night cameras and various types of sensors, all integrated in a command and control architecture, will be used. 
The Home Minister said that the people living in the border areas are a strategic asset and need to be provided with all the infrastructure and socio-economic development facilities. He emphasized the importance and necessity of improved infrastructure such as roads, railways, health and education and also boosting border economy in the border areas in a holistic and comprehensive manner. He said the State Governments must pay greater attention to these areas while the Home Ministry was working to supplement their efforts.
Appreciating the role of BSF for their unshakeable courage, skills, determination and dedication in securing the border, Mr. Rajnath Singh reiterated that they should be more vigilant. He expressed satisfaction over the active participation and assurance of all cooperation given by the states. 
The meeting was attended by Union Minister of State (Home Affairs) Kiren Rijiju, Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Assam and Mizoram, Union Home Secretary, Secretary (Border Management), MHA, DG BSF, Chief Secretary Meghalaya, Secretary, Home, Tripura. 
Senior officers of MHA and other Ministries of Government of India besides State Governments also attended the meeting, an official press release said.

Bengal has great history, ensure that it also has a great future, says Kovind

President Ram Nath Kovind today said while Bengal has a great history, it is for each one of the people to ensure that the state, which was an early industrial and manufacturing centre in India, also has a great future.
“Its economy must sing again in this age of digital and robotic technologies. Its green fields and hard-working farmers must be equipped with the latest agricultural knowledge to allow them to realise their potential,” Mr Kovind said in his address during a civic reception hosted in his honour.
“In 2022, India will be celebrating 75 years as a free country. This will be an occasion to reach certain developmental milestones for our people and to create a better India. For this, we need to invoke the same idealism and fervour that contributed to our freedom movement. Bengal was one of the leaders of our freedom movement. It must lead this effort for a better India by 2022,” he added.
Referring to the Union Government’s ambitious Act East Policy, he said this involves building connectivity projects and taking economic initiatives. The people of Bengal are crucial to this programme that will be of mutual benefit to the eastern and Northeastern states as well as to neighbouring countries.
The President said, being a border state, Bengal has certain advantages. It also gives it certain responsibilities. “Forces of radicalism and extremism, some of them with cross-border linkages, seek to take advantage of our democratic spaces. We must guard against this,” he added.
Mr Kovind said though this was his first visit to the city as President, he was not a stranger to Bengal. “I have been visiting the state and I have been coming to Kolkata for decades now. I would say I have long been an admirer of Bengal and its culture and its history.
“In fact, there are few people anywhere in our country who have not been touched by Bengal or by some creation of Bengal. Somehow, in some manner, this state has touched every Indian and enriched the lives of every Indian. Every Indian child has grown up on stories about Bengal or written in Bengal,” he added.
"Bengal has been central to our national identity. The national anthem, Jana Gana Mana, was written on the soil of Bengal by the Nobel Laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. The national song, Vande Mataram, a rallying cry for our freedom fighters, was composed by Maharishi Bankim Chandra Chatterjee as early as the 19th century. And our beloved slogan Jai Hind was given to us by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, a great son of Bengal and a leader who is cherished, remembered and missed to this day in all parts of our country,” he added.
“A few days ago, I had the honour of visiting the Indian National Army Memorial in Moirang in Manipur. This is where freedom fighters of the INA, inspired by Netaji, raised the national flag for the first time on Indian soil. It was a very moving moment for me.
“ These three – Gurudev Rabindranath, Maharishi Bankim and Netaji Subhas – were instrumental in defining our nationalism. Our freedom came faster because of the energy they gave our people,” Mr Kovind said.
During his visit, he will also be travelling to Belur to pay his respects to Ramakrishna Paramhansa and his finest disciple, Swami Vivekananda.
"In their own manner, they rediscovered our ancient Indian ethos not only for us in India – but for the world. Swamiji was among our earliest modern cultural ambassadors. His work lives on through the Ramakrishna Mission. This institution has been instrumental in our nation-building process,” he added.
“Our nation-building owes so much to Bengal and the sacrifices and achievements of the people of this land. A galaxy of revolutionary heroes from Bengal helped us get Independence, each doing his or her little bit, quietly, without seeking any reward.
“Young Khudiram Bose went to the gallows with a smile and with the dream of a free India in his eyes. The elderly but determined Matangini Hazra was shot by the colonial police. She died with Vande Mataram on her lips and the hopes of our motherland in her heart,” the President said.
“A number of our pioneering women leaders were from Bengal – perhaps the most famous of them being Sarojini Chattopadhyay, who became Sarojini Naidu after her marriage. So many of our foundational social reform movements began here – from the times of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and later Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, who set up among the first institutions for women’s education,” he added.
“And in education, we cannot forget the contribution of that remarkable father and son, Ashutosh Mukherjee and Shyamaprasad Mukherjee. Or in the field of law, the humanism of that upholder of justice, the jurist Radha Binod Pal. He is still recalled with affection in Japan for his sympathy for ordinary men, women and children who had suffered the horrors of two nuclear bombs,” Mr Kovind said.

Kovind to visit West Bengal, Mizoram, Nagaland from Nov 28 to Dec 1

President Ram Nath Kovind will visit West Bengal, Mizoram and Nagaland from November 28 to December 1 in his first trip to the three states after assuming office in July this year.
An official press release said Mr. Kovind would attend a civic reception hosted in his honour at Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata tomorrow. He will also address the "Vigyan Chintan - Scientific Ecosystem in Kolkata" at Raj Bhavan in Kolkata.
On Wednesday, the President will visit the birthplace of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore at Jorasanko and Netaji Bhawan in Kolkata. He will also address the closing ceremony of the centenary celebrations of the Bose Institute in Kolkata and visit the Ramakrishna Mission and Math at Belur.
On the same day, at the Raj Bhavan, Aizawl, Mizoram, the President will inaugurate housing complexes for economically weaker sections under the ‘Basic Services to Urban Poor Scheme’. On November 30, 2017, the President will address a special session of the Mizoram Legislative Assembly.
On the same day, he will meet and interact with various prominent citizens and NGOs in Kohima, Nagaland. On December 1, the President will inaugurate the Hornbill Festival and State Formation Day celebrations of Nagaland in Kisama, before returning to Delhi.

Bye-elections in R. K. Nagar, Tamil Nadu and four seats in Arunachal, UP, West Bengal to be held on December 21

The Election Commission today announced that it would hold bye-elections on December 21 to fill up five vacancies in the State Legislative Assemblies of Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
The vacant seats include Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, where a bye-election was necessitated by the death on December 5, 2016 of then Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.
The other seats for which bye-elections will be held are 12 – Pakke-Kasang (ST) and 28 – Likabali (ST) (Arunachal Pradesh); 207-Sikandra (Uttar Pradesh); and 226-Sabang (West Bengal).
The notification for the elections will be issued on November 27 and the last date for filing nominations is December 4. Scrutiny of nominations will be held on December 5 and the last date for withdrawal of candidatures is December 7.
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 24 and all the results are expected by that evening.
The electoral rolls of the five constituencies, revised with reference to 01.01.2017 as the qualifying date, will be used for the bye-elections.
The Commission has decided to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails in the bye-elections in all the polling stations, an official press release added.
The bye-election to fill the Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar seat was originally slated for April 12 this year, but the Commission had, on April 10, rescinded it because the electoral process had been "seriously vitiated" by unlawful activities of candidates and political parties, including bribing of voters.
At that time, the Commission had said that the bye-election would be held in due course when the vitiating effect created by the distribution of money and gift items to allure the electors got removed with the passage of time and the atmosphere in the constituency became conducive to the holding of free and fair election.

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Modi, Sheikh Hasina, Mamata flag off new train between India, Bangladesh

India, Bangladesh launch connectivity projects
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh  Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today jointly inaugurated a series of connectivity projects between the two countries and flagged off the inaugural run of the Bandhan Express between Kolkata and Khulna through video conference from Kolkata railway station.
The projects include the second Bhairab and Titas Railway Bridges; and the International Rail Passenger Terminus at Chitpur in Kolkata. 
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also joined the event from New Delhi. Mr. Sudip Bandyopadhya, Member of Parliament & Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways, Ms. Mala Saha, MLA, Mr. Harindra Rao, General Manager, Eastern Railway and Mr. Toufique Hassan, Deputy High Commissioner, Bangladesh Deputy High Commission, Kolkata were also present on the occasion at Kolkata station. 
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Modi said that the close connection and understanding between two countries required connectivity between the people across the border and the Maitree Express and the Bandhan Express trains would help strengthen the bonding between  the two countries.
He said India had emerged as the most trusted partner of Bangladesh by undertaking and completing a series of developmental projects in Bangladesh.
Ms. Hasina lauded the initiative and expressed hope that there would be more such initiatives for increasing rail links and connectivity between the two countries. She also highlighted the fact that the introduction of International Passenger Rail Terminus with End-to-End Immigration and Customs Clearance Facilities would help reduce the journey time for rail passengers between the two countries.
Ms. Banerjee said the new train would strengthen ties between the two countries.
The Bandhan Express train is the second train to be flagged off after the introduction of Maitree Express’ between Kolkata and Dhaka Cantonment stations in April, 2008. It covers the distance between Kolkata and Khulna through Petrapole and Benapole route.
The Bandhan Express will be a weekly service on every Thursday. The Kolkata - Khulna Bandhan Express (13129 Up) will depart from Kolkata at 07.10 hrs.(IST) and arrives at Khulna at 12:30 hrs.(BST). On the return journey the Khulna-Kolkata Bandhan Express ( 13130 Down) will depart from Khulna at 13.30 hrs. (BST) and arrive at Kolkata at 18.10 hrs.(IST) on the same day. The immigration and customs checks will take place at Kolkata International Passenger Terminal for the Indian side and at Benapol border station for Bangladesh side.
The one kilometer long second Bhairab Railway Bridge was built over the Meghna river at a cost of around $ 75 millions by Indian contractors and consultants. Similarly, the Titas bridge over river Titas in Eastern Bangladesh was built with a cost of around $ 25 million. Both these bridges are on the main Chittagong to Dhaka Trunk Rail Line which will help in faster movement of both passenger and freight trains of Bangladesh, the release added.

Former Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy joins BJP

Former Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mukul Roy, who quit the party as well as his Rajya Sabha seat last month, formally joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) here today.
Speaking to reporters after joining the BJP in the presence of Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Mr. Roy, 63, said he considered it a privilege to work under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.
Considered to be a close confidant of West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee at one stage, Mr. Roy said he believed that the BJP was not a communal party but a secular one.
"I am confident that, in the near future, the BJP will grab power in West Bengal," he said.
According to him, the TMC could not have established itself in West Bengal without the help of the BJP and recalled that Ms. Banerjee had served in the previous NDA government headed by veteran BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Mr. Prasad said Mr. Roy's presence would strengthen the BJP and help it in its efforts to expand its footprint to West Bengal.
Mr. Roy, a founding member of the TMC, served as a member of the Rajya Sabha from April 2006 to April 2012 and was re-elected for a second term in 2012. He resigned from the Upper House of Parliament on October 11 after quitting the TMC.
He had served as Minister of State for Shipping from May 19 to July 12, 2011 and then as Minister of State for Railways in the Manmohan Singh Government from March-September 2012. 

Renowned singer Girija Devi passes away

Girija Devi
Girija Devi
Renowned classical vocalist Girija Devi, whose renditions of thumris, khyal and tappa won her millions of admirers, passed away at a hospital here tonight after suffering a cardiac arrest, sources said.
She was 88. She is survived by a daughter.
Girija Devi was taken to the B M Birla Heart Research Centre this afternoon for treatment of cardiovascular ailments and was put on life support, the sources said.
Hospital sources said she was admitted to the Cardiac Care Unit and kept under continous watch. The end came at around 8.45 pm, they said.
"Saddened by demise of Girija Devi ji. Indian classical music has lost one of its most melodious voices. My thoughts are with her admirers," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on micro-blogging site Twitter. 
"Girija Devi ji's music appealed across generations. Her pioneering efforts to popularise Indian classical music will always be remembered," he added.
Girija Devi was born on May 8, 1929 to Ramdeo Rai, a zamindar. Her father played the harmonium and taught music, and he made Girija Devi take lessons in singing khyal and tappa from vocalist and sarangi player Sarju Prasad Misra from the age of five.
She made her public debut in 1949 on All India Radio, Allahabad and sang at her first concert in Bihar in 1951. She continued to study with Sri Chand Misra for some more years, until his death. She worked as a member of the faculty at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata in the 1980s and at the Banaras Hindu University during the early 1990s. She also toured and continued to perform and taught several students to preserve her musical heritage.
Girija Devi sang in the Banaras gharana and performed the purabi ang thumri style, typical of the tradition, whose status she helped elevate. Her repertoire included the semi-classical genres kajri, chaiti, and holi and she sang khyal, Indian folk music, and tappa.
The Government had honoured her with the Padma Vibhushan, the country's second highest civilian honour, in 2016. She had been awarded the Padma Shri in 1972 and the Padma Bhushan in 1989.
She was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1977 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2010.

Depression over coastal Odisha likely to weaken gradually: IMD

The depression over coastal Odisha is likely to move nearly northwards for some time and then north-northheastwards and weaken gradually into a well-marked low pressure area during the next 24 hours, the India Meteorological Department  (IMD) said this morning.
A bulletin from IMD, issued at 0830 hours this morning, said the depression had moved moved northward and lay centered at 0530 hours of today over coastal Odisha near latitude 20.8º N and longitude 86.5º E, about 25 kms west of Chandbali. 
"The system would move nearly northwards for some time and then north-northeastwards and weaken gradually into a well marked low pressure area during next 24 hours," it said.
The bulletin said that, under its influence, rainfall was very likely at most places over coastal Odisha, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places and isolated heavy rainfall over interior Odisha during the next 24 hours.
It said rainfall was very likely at most places over Gangetic West Bengal during the next 48 hours with heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places during the next 24 hours, and isolated heavy rainfall over Sub-Himalayan West Bengal during the next 48 hours.
The bulletin also said that rainfall was likely at many places over east Jharkhand, Mizoram and Tripura during next 24 hours, with isolated heavy rainfall, and over Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur during the next 48 hours.
It said rainfall was very likely at most places over west Assam and Meghalaya during the next 48 hours, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and isolated extremely heavy rainfall.
Squally winds speed reaching 45-55 kmph gusting to 65 kmph would prevail along and off Odisha and West Bengal coasts during the next 12 hrs and 30-40 kmph gusting to 50 kmph along and off north Odisha and West Bengal coasts during subsequent 12 hours, the bulletin said.
The bulletin said sea conditions would be rough to very rough along and off Odisha and West Bengal coasts during the next 12 hours and rough along and  off north Odisha and West Bengal coasts during the subsequent 12 hours.
Fishermen along and off north Odisha and West Bengal coasts are advised not to venture into sea during the next 24 hours and along and off south Odisha coast during the next 12 hours, it added.

Minor earthquake shakes Jalpaiguri region of West Bengal

An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale, shook the Jalpaiguri region of West Bengal in the early hours of today.
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 26.8°N and longitude 89.3°E, occurred at 0259 hours at a focal depth of 10 km.

Rajnath appeals to GJM to withdraw "bandh" in Darjeeling Hills

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today appealed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) to withdraw the ongoing "bandh" (general strike) in the Darjeeling Hills.
He also asked the Union Home Secretary to convene an official level meeting in the Ministry of Home Affairs within a fortnight to discuss all related issues, an official press release said.
“On the call of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) an indefinite strike is currently on in the Darjeeling Hills since June 12, 2017. Eleven precious lives have been lost so far, several have been injured and the entire people of Darjeeling hills have suffered a lot since the strike. I have been pained immensely by what has happened in Darjeeling hills,” the Home Minister said in his appeal.
“In a democracy, dialogue is the only way out to resolve any problem. Solutions can be found through restraint, mutual dialogue and within the legal ambit,” he said.
“I have asked the Home Secretary to convene an official level meeting in the Home Ministry within a fortnight to discuss all related issues. I also appeal to the GJM and its leader Bimal Gurung to withdraw the ongoing bandh and to help create a conducive atmosphere for allowing normalcy to return to the area, particularly in view of the festive season,” Mr Rajnath Singh added.

Scientists develop natural material for faster blood clotting

Excessive blood loss due to injury may result in serious medical complications and, in extreme situations, even death. The problem could be severe in case of patients with impaired blood clotting capacity such as in hemophilia. To address this challenge, Indian scientists have developed a nature-inspired biomaterial with enhanced blood clotting efficiency to treat injuries.
The new material has been developed by scientists at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata (IISERK) and Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata. Researchers have modified natural biomaterials, peptides, to develop sealants with improved strength, stability and clotting properties.
"We have engineered fibrin-inspired peptide-based sealants which have demonstrated superior blood clotting ability than natural fibrin,” explained Dr Rituparna Sinha Roy, a member of the research team.
The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Computer based analyses was employed, using various approaches, to generate sealant structures with desired properties, explained Prof Dhananjay Bhattacharyya, a senior researcher of the study. These structures were then synthesized and evaluated under laboratory conditions.
These tests revealed that the engineered sealant was able to self-assemble, much like the human body’s natural clotting mechanism, to form an interwoven structure resembling a clot but in nearly half the time. This enhanced clotting rate can play an extremely crucial role in treating injuries sustained during accidents or military combat, researchers pointed out.
The natural material of the engineered sealant will ensure that it is tolerated by the body with minimal inflammatory response. It is also bio-degradable, similar to the natural clotting factor. “Such sealants might be potentially translated into clinics for handling traumatic coagulopathy and for treating patients suffering from impaired blood clotting", felt Sinha Roy.
The researchers claim that the sealant may also find use in treating injuries where surrounding healthy skin tissue is absent and the body is incapable of closing its own wounds. The study also proposes the use of the engineered sealants in suture-free wound closing, such as in deep cuts or after surgical procedure.
The research team included Snehasish Ghosh, Sanchita Mukherjee, Chiranjit Dutta, Kasturee Chakraborty, Paramita Gayen, Somnath Jan, Dhananjay Bhattacharyya and Rituparna Sinha Roy. 
(India Science Wire)

Rajnath Singh urges GJM leaders to call of hunger strike, withdraw bandh call

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh yesterday appealed to the leaders of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) and other stakeholders in Darjeeling to call off their hunger strike and also withdraw the "bandh" call so that normalcy could return to the area.
Mr. Rajnath Singh also West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to initiate a dialogue with the GJM and other stakeholders of Darjeeling, who are on a strike for the past 60 days.
The Home Minister made the appeal during a meeting with a delegation of Gorkhaland Movement leaders who called on him here yesterday. The delegation submitted a memorandum on their demands to him.
“The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) has called for an indefinite strike in Darjeeling hills with effect from 12-06-2017 demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland," Mr. Rajnath Singh said in his appeal.
"I am concerned about the developments in Darjeeling and the loss of valuable lives and sufferings of people over the past 60 days which pains me immensely. 
"Violence can never be a solution to any problem. In a democracy, solutions are always found through restraint, mutual dialogue and within the legal ambit," he said.
Mr. Rajnath Singh said the Government was aware of the strategic importance of the region and the challenges faced in the region. He said he was kept informed on the developments in the region on a regular basis by his ministerial colleague, Mr. S S Ahluwalia, the Lok Sabha member from Darjeeling.
"Keeping in mind the national interest, as well as in the interest of our Gorkha brothers and sisters, who are brave and large hearted people and have contributed immensely to nation building, I appeal to GJM and all other stakeholders to call off the hunger strike, and also to withdraw the bandh call, allowing normalcy to return to the area. It is a move that will help to create an atmosphere for finding a solution to the current crisis. 
"I also appeal to West Bengal Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee to initiate a dialogue with the GJM and other stakeholders of Darjeeling, who are on a strike for last 60 days. In the meantime, the state government should restore all civil supplies and also restore internet services, Cable TV & local channels. 
"I also appeal to the people of Darjeeling to display sensitivity, and also keep in mind their civic responsibilities. No grievances & problems can be resolved without any dialogue," he added.

Kolkata East-West Metro Corridor's underwater tunnel by December 2019

The underwater tunnel in Kolkata East-West Metro corridor, an Indian Railways project, is expected to be completed by December 2019, the Lok Sabha was informed yesterday.
The twin tunnel, being constructed below the Hooghly river, between Howrah and Mahakaran stations, is the first underwater transportation tunnel in the country, Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain said in a written reply during Question Hour.
The length of the river crossing is 520 meters and the internal diameter of each tunnel is 5.55 meters, he added.
The total estimated cost of the Kolkata East West Metro Corridor Project is Rs 8996.96 crore. Construction of the underwater tunnel below is completed. The work of construction of tunnel (total 10.81 Km) in this project is targeted for completion by December 2019, he added.

Minor earthquake shakes West Bengal on Monday afternoon

An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale, was recorded in West Bengal this afternoon.
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 26.8°N and longitude 89.2°E, occurred at 1517 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin said.

Mukherjee distributes free LPG connections under PMUY at Jangipur, West Bengal

President Pranab Mukherjee today distributed free LPG connections to 11 women under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) at Jangipur in Murshidabad district of West Bengal.
With this, the Central Government has distributed 2.5 crore LPG connections under PMUY among the poor and marginalised households across the country since its launch. The PMUY was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 1, 2016.
Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Abhijit Mukherjee, MP and Ranjan Mahapatra, Executive Director, Indian Oil, Kolkata were also present on the occasion.
The LPG connections granted under PMUY crossed the 25 million mark with the one given to Ms Gouri Sarkar of Raghunathgunj by Mr Mukherjee.
On the occasion, Mr Pradhan said more than 600 distributorships will be commissioned in the state out of which more than 50 will be in Murshidabad district.
The scheme aims to provide LPG connections to 50 million BPL households by 2019 and is a part of a larger program of adding 100 million new LPG connections by 2019 to achieve full coverage.
This is the first time in the history of the country that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is implementing a welfare scheme benefiting millions of women belonging to the BPL households. The identification of BPL families has been made on Social Economic Caste Census (SECC)- 2011 data.
The scheme of providing clean cooking fuel has also reduced drudgery, the time spent on cooking and also provides employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas. 
PMUY scheme provides assistance of Rs. 1600 to the woman beneficiary, comprising security deposit of 14.2 Kg cylinder and domestic pressure regulator; Suraksha hose; domestic gas consumer card and installation charges.
In the financial year 2016-17, Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) have given 32.5 million new connections across the country. This is the highest ever LPG connections released in any given year. In the current fiscal PMUY connections have been presented so far to women beneficiaries from across the country, taking the total number of active LPG consumers to 207 million.
LPG demand in the country has registered a growth rate of more than 33% during last three years. More than 5000 new distributors have been added in the last 3 years which have come up primarily in rural areas to cater to the enhanced LPG demand generated by PMUY.

Mukherjee inaugurates Satya Bharti School in Kanidighi, West Bengal

President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated a new school of the Satya Bharti Foundation at Kanidighi in Murshidabad district of West Bengal yesterday.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Mukherjee said that Satya Bharti schools are providing quality education to students with main focus on girls belonging to weaker sections of society. He appreciated the Satya Bharti Foundation for establishing schools in rural areas to cater to educational needs of local children. 
On the occasion, the President also launched a special compendium capturing the dreams and aspirations of an ideal schooling experience as expressed by the students under various education programs being run by the Bharti Foundation across the country. 
Mr. Abhijit Mukherjee, MP (Lok Sabha), Mr. Subrata Saha, MLA, Sagardighi, Mr. Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Co-Chairman, Bharti Foundation and Mr. Vijay Chadda, CEO, Bharti Foundation were also present on the occasion. 
The school is the tenth in West Bengal under Bharti Foundation's flagship "Satya Bharti School" programme, which currently provides quality education to more than 1900 students across 10 schools in the State, 57% of them girls. Bharti Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Bharti Enterprises.
"With this new school at Kanidighi, we aim to continue delivering on our promise of quality education to every underprivileged child in the school’s vicinity. The new school marks the beginning of a new chapter for us and further strengthens our resolve to continue our journey in the State," Mr. Mittal said.
The Kanidighi School is proposed to be an elementary school with classes from Pre-Primary up to Class VIII. Currently, the school has classes up to Class II, with one class to be added every subsequent year. In addition to local students, this school will also cater to students from neighbouring Satya Bharti Schools.
The Satya Bharti School program currently operates 249 primary / elementary schools and five senior secondary schools across six states ( Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal) reaching out to 43,664 children employing 1,667 teachers. With a focus on the girl child [49% girl students] and the weaker sections of society [75% of children from SC/ST/OBC communities], the program is one of the largest end-to-end education initiatives by a corporate in the country. 
It also enhances the schooling experience in Government Schools under its Satya Bharti Quality Support Program and Satya Bharti Learning Centre Program. Overall, Bharti Foundation’s education initiatives are reaching out to close to 2,00,000 underprivileged children in 13 states, the release added.

Mukherjee to visit West Bengal from July 14-15

President Pranab Mukherjee will pay a two-day visit to West Bengal from tomorrow, an official press release said here today.
Tomorrow, Mr. Mukherjee will inaugurate the Satya Bharti School at Kanidighi. On the same day, he will also inaugurate the 7th Edition of KKM Memorial Gold Cup- Rural Football Tournament -2017 at Mackenzie Park Football Ground.
On July 15, the President will distribute LPG connections at Jangipur Bhawan. He will also address an ex-servicemen's rally at Nabagram Military Station before returning to Delhi, the release added.

CBI registers case against Principal Commissioner of IT, Ranchi, recovers Rs. 3.5 crore in cash, 5 kgs of gold

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today said it had registered a case against the Principal Commissioner of Income Tax, Ranchi and others on the allegations of criminal conspiracy, illegal gratification and criminal misconduct.
Sleuths of the agency conducted searches at the premises of the accused persons at 23 locations, including 18 in Kolkata and five at Ranchi, today, a press release from the CBI said.
During the search at the residence of Principal Commissioner at Kolkata, cash of approximately Rs. 3.5 crore and about five kg of gold, along with some incriminating documents, were recovered, it said.
Searches at various locations are in progress and further investigations are continuing, it said.
Apart from the Principal Commissioner of Income Tax, the case has also been filed against the Additional CIT, Ranchi; ITO (Tech), Ranchi; another officer of Income Tax, Ranchi; six private persons and other unknown public servants/private persons/companies under sections 120-B of Indian Penal Code (IPC), read with sections 7, 12, 13(2) r/w 13 (1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
It was alleged that the Principal Commissioner of Income Tax, Ranchi, while functioning as such during the years 2016 and 2017, had entered into a criminal conspiracy with Additional CIT, Ranchi, ITO (Tech.), another officer, Income Tax Department and five private persons, all Kolkata based businessmen and entry operators and a CA of Kolkata for getting Income Tax assessment files of their different assessee companies transferred from Kolkata/ Hazaribagh to Ranchi for providing undue favour to those assesses, who have been charged with heavy tax liability, in lieu of huge bribe. 
It was further alleged that the Principal Commissioner of Income Tax, Ranchi had already issued favourable orders in the case of private companies, who already paid huge bribe, which has allegedly been stashed with a private person, the release added.

Cabinet approves creation of posts of Directors for new AIIMS in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra

The Union Cabinet today approved the creation of three posts of Directors in the pre-revised scale of Rs. 80,000 (fixed) {plus NPA Ceiling limit Rs. 85,000} for the three new All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Mangalagiri near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Kalyani in West Bengal and Nagpur in Maharashtra. 
An official press release said that, as per the AIIMS Act 1956 amended vide AIIMS (Amendment) Act, 2012, there shall be a Chief Executive Officer of the Institute. He shall be designated as the Director of the Institute and shall be appointed by the Institute provided that the first Director of the Institute shall be appointed by the Central Government. 
The Director shall act as the Secretary to the Institute as well as the Governing Body and support proper functioning and governance of the three AIIMS. 
The post will be immediately filled up following due procedures. The annual financial implication for each of the post of the Director will be around Rs. 25 Lakhs, as per the 6th Central Pay Commission.
The Union Finance Minister in his Budget speech for the year 2014-15 had announced for setting up of four new AIIMS in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. The Cabinet had approved establishment of new AIIMS at Mangalagiri near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Kalyani in West Bengal and Nagpur in Maharashtra at a cost of Rs. 4949 crore on 07.10.2015. 
The three AIIMS are being set up as a part of the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) launched in 2003 with objectives of correcting regional imbalances in the availability of affordable/ reliable tertiary healthcare services and also to augment facilities for quality medical education in the country.
PMSSY has two components: (i) Setting up of AIIMS like institutions (ii) Upgradation of Government Medical Colleges/Institutions. Under this scheme AIIMS have been established in Bhubaneshwar, Bhopal, Raipur, Jodhpur, Rishikesh and Patna while work of AIIMS Rae Bareli is in progress. Also, three AIIMS in Nagpur(Maharashtra), Kalyani (West Bengal) and Mangalagiri in Guntur (A.P) have been sanctioned in 2015 and two AIIMS have been sanctioned in Bathinda and Gorakhpur in 2016 and Assam in 2017. All necessary steps are being taken for creation of the physical infrastructure and creation of faculty and non-faculty position required for operationalization of these three new AIIMS in Nagpur(Maharashtra), Kalyani(West Bengal) and Mangalagiri in Guntur (A.P). 
Design consultants have been appointed for all the three AIIMS on the basis of global bid as per mandate of the Cabinet. The master plans for these AIIMS have also been finalized. Detailed designs are under preparation. Proposals for creation of faculty and non-faculty positions are under consideration/discussion with Department of Expenditure, the release added.

Rajnath Singh assures Sikkim CM of all assistance from Centre

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling today regarding the security situation in Sikkim and areas neighbouring West Bengal. 
In a telephonic conversation, Mr. Chamling apprised Mr. Rajnath Singh that Sikkim is facing an acute shortage of supplies specially essential commodities such as medicines, baby milk powder, vegetables and petrol and diesel due to closure of the national highway, the critical road link to Sikkim. 
The Home Minister assured him that the Centre would ensure the safety and security of National Highway (NH) 10 and do everything possible to save the people of the state from any misery and ensure essential supplies to the State of Sikkim. 
Mr. Rajnath Singh has asked Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi to coordinate with West Bengal administration and ensure the safety, security and smooth traffic on NH 10. 
The West Bengal Government is being requested to ensure that the road link to Sikkim remained open, an official press release added.
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