When Mamata Banerjee posted on her Facebook page a message urging all regional parties to come forward, unite and form a federal front so as to provide an alternative to Congress or BJP led governments, there was general amusement in the opposition camp in Bengal. “When people are looking for an alternative to the TMC rule at home, some gall she has suggesting alternatives at the centre,” said a particularly incredulous Congress MP. The CPIM too laughed off the matter with Left Front Chairman Biman Basu smirking about the ridiculousness of the proposal. But then going by the interest that at least two non-Congress, non-BJP chief ministers (Odisha’s Navin Patnaik and Bihar’s Nitish Kumar) have shown in the Bengal CM’s suggestion, it’s Didi who may just have the last snigger.
Living in Denial
But then Didi really doesn’t have much to smile about. It’s ironic that during her rule—she is the first woman chief minister of the state—crimes against women have reached their highest mark. Data released by the National Crime Records Bureau reveals that Bengal has topped the country in crimes against women. It reported 30,942 cases in 2012 compared to 29,133 the previous year. While the Bengal Director General of Police is reported to have disputed this figure, going just by the rapes and molestations being reported in local newspapers and television channels almost on a daily basis, there is little doubt that crimes against women are on the rise. Instead of the denying the NCRB data, the police and the government should get out of denial mode and do something.
Not Just Bookshops
Like most establishments that sprung up on or around Calcutta’s Park Street, a store called Music World which sold music and movies, had become something of a city landmark. You usually found most of the music and movies on your list there and it was also a meeting point just adjacent to the famous Flurys. Though not as old or established as Flurys or other restaurants and pubs along the city’s most well-known boulevard—like say, an Olympia or a Mocambo or a Peter Cat—in its 15 years Music World had willy nilly become a part of the Calcutta cityscape. On June 30 it will shut its doors forever. According to its owners, the Sanjeev RP Goenka Group, which brings out a magazine and also has a retail chain, the reason for the closure is the competition from online digital sales of music.
Though the countdown to the rural polls in Bengal has already begun—it is supposed to start on July 2 and end by July 15—the deadlock between the state government and the state election commission is still alive and kicking. The Calcutta High Court which has had to step in at almost every point and settle disputes between the poll panel and the state government (it had to intervene and decide on everything from the dates to the phases and even security logistics) is now in the process of settling disputes about the very “supremacy” of the poll panel. In the confusion, and with a big question mark about whether the polls will be held in time, some state institutions, which have to plan their schedules according to the poll dates, don’t know what to do. Others, like Calcutta University, decided to act on the benefit of doubt, and taken some decisive action. CU, to the relief of students, has postponed its MA and BA exam dates.
A Basu Stamp
The CPM has reportedly urged the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to issue a set of postage stamps of former Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu to mark the late Left patriarch’s birth centenary. Basu, born on July 8, 1914, was the longest-serving chief minister of the longest-running democratically elected communist government, and nearly become Prime Minister in 1996, but had had to decline, on the advice of his party comrades. Basu later called his decision to decline a “historical blunder.”