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Local issues, not national, dominated campaigning for 42 LS seats in Bengal

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Kolkata, May 30 (IANS) With campaigning in the last and seventh phase of polls for nine Lok Sabha constituencies set to end within a few hours, a quick look back shows that local issues took precedence over national matters during the campaigns for the 42 seats in West Bengal.

Although the electorate is voting to elect the government at the Centre, the focus of all political parties in the fray is still on state-centric issues and how the results of the Lok Sabha polls in Bengal will determine the longevity of the ruling government in the state, which is officially scheduled to continue till 2026.

For instance, the BJP has focussed on issues like corruption cases against the state government and Trinamool Congress leaders, charges of sexual harassment of women at Sandeshkhali and misuse of funds released under centrally-sponsored projects.

Interestingly, this line of campaigning has not just been followed by prominent BJP leaders in the state like President Sukanta Majumdar or the Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, but even by the party’s national leadership.

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The campaign speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah were full of references of state-specific issues.

Although both PM Modi and HM Shah touched upon national issues like India’s social and economic progress in the last 10 years, the time allotted for the same was too less compared to the references to state-specific issues.

For instance, in the campaigns for the last two phases, PM Modi focussed on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s observations, accusing a section of the monks of Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission and ISKCON of acting on behalf of the BJP.

On the other hand, Trinamool Congress leaders, especially Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the party’s General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee devoted most of the time in either defending the allegations made by the BJP or in explaining how the saffron party has deprived the state government of its legitimate dues under different centrally-sponsored schemes.

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In addition, both leaders have dedicated much time on how the NRC, CAA and UCC will be against the interest of the Muslim community and how determined the Trinamool Congress is to block these in West Bengal.

Similarly, in the campaign meetings for the last two phases, CM Banerjee has devoted substantial time in explaining that her comments on the iconic religious institutions were being misinterpreted and she had never been against such entities.

However, one interesting similarity in the campaigns of the BJP and the Trinamool Congress has been their take on the CPI(M) and the Congress.

Both BJP and Trinamool Congress have accused the CPI(M) and the Congress of having a covert understanding with their political rival in the state.

This slur war was kicked off by CM Banerjee when she started describing CPI(M) and the West Bengal unit of the Congress as clandestine partners of the BJP in the state.

Soon the BJP leadership, including PM Modi launched a counter-campaign describing CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress as “enemies in Bengal but partners in Delhi.”

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Surprisingly, even the Congress-Left Front alliance in West Bengal has focussed on state- specific issues while campaigning.

The alliance leaders have mainly talked about three issues, namely cases of corruption, clandestine understanding between BJP and Trinamool Congress and attempts to polarise voters in the state on religious lines by the BJP and Trinamool Congress.

An interesting factor in the Trinamool Congress’ campaign for these General Elections has been the constantly-shifting stand of CM Banerjee on the INDIA bloc.

After claiming that the INDIA bloc will end the tally with over 300 seats, with the BJP stopping at a little over 200, the CM said that she would give outside support to any probable Union government formed by the Opposition alliance.

Within days she shifted her stand and claimed that she is very much a part of the INDIA bloc and will take the lead role in any probable Opposition-led government at the Centre.

–IANS

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Bengal train collision: Preliminary findings suggest combination of human, procedural lapses

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Kolkata, June 20 (IANS) Preliminary investigation by a joint observation committee in the Kanchanjunga Express–goods train collision on Monday morning suggests that a combination of two procedural lapses was the reason behind the accident, sources said on Thursday.

Sources said that the first procedural lapse was that the “absolute block system” was not followed in the case of the goods train that had hit Kanchanjunga Express from behind.

The absolute block system (ABS) is followed by railways in case the automatic signalling system is inactive within a particular area between two stations. In that case, a train will not be allowed to leave one station unless the preceding train in the same line (the ‘block’) leaves or crosses the next station ahead. However, as per a preliminary report, the goods train was given permission to leave the Rangapani station before the Kanchanjunga Express, which was moving in the same line, crossed the next station which was Chatter Hat.

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Had the ABS been strictly followed in this case the accident, which has taken 11 lives so far, could have been avoided.

While this was the first procedural lapse, as per the preliminary findings, the next human error was on the part of the loco-pilot (now deceased) of the goods train, where he overshot the prescribed speed limit while crossing a distance where the automatic signalling system is non-functional. As per norms, for the trains passing through such a distance, the speed should never exceed 15 km per hour, to maintain a reasonable distance between the two trains passing on the same line.

Preliminary findings suggest that the collision occurred due to the violation of the speed limit between the Rangapani and Chatter Hat stations.

At the same time, sources said, from the impact of the collision on the last four coaches of Kanchanjunga Express, the last two being the parcel coach and guard’s compartment, it was clear that the speed was well above the prescribed limit of 15 km an hour.

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–IANS

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Madhya Pradesh Police arrest over 1K involved in cattle smuggling in 6 months

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Bhopal, June 21 (IANS) The Madhya Pradesh Police have claimed to have registered as many as 575 cases in the last six months related to cattle smuggling and arrested a total of 1,121 people in this connection.

Besides, more than 7,000 cows were rescued from illegal possession during the same period.

The police said that most cases of cattle smuggling were reported in Balaghat, Seoni, Chhindwara, Barwani, Khargone, Burhanpur, Ujjain, Ratlam and Neemuch districts.

A source said the operation against cattle smuggling was carried out extensively following the direction received from Chief Minister Mohan Yadav.

“Several teams of police were formed across the state and the routes that were used frequently for cow trafficking were identified. Sources were developed in particular regions to get real-time information and the cases of 10 years were examined,” a police source said.

The BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government has been strict on cattle smuggling and the sale of meat in open places for the last several years.

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Notably, Chief Minister Mohan Yadav, in one of his initial orders after taking over charge of the CM Office, directed the police to take strict action against cattle smuggling.

The recent action in Mandala where 11 houses were demolished was as part of action against the illegal beef trading in the state, a police officer said.

The action was taken after a tip-off was received that numerous cows had been held captive for slaughtering.

–IANS

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BJP and Congress conspiring to privatise Singareni Collieries, alleges BRS

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Hyderabad, June 21 (IANS) The Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) on Thursday alleged both the BJP and the Congress were conspiring to privatise Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL) through the auction of coal mines.

BRS Working President K.T. Rama Rao said the BJP government at the Centre and the Congress government in Telangana were undermining Singareni by opting to auction coal mines in Telangana instead of allocating them directly to Singareni.

He slammed the state government for participating in the auction of mines instead of demanding direct allocation to Singareni.

“The Central government is auctioning more than 60 mines in the country, including Singareni, starting tomorrow. The state government’s participation in the auction contradicts their previous stance of opposing the auction and seeking direct allocation from the Central government to Singareni,” he said.

He also reminded the public that the present Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy had written a letter to the Central government seeking the cancellation of the Singareni mines auction and requesting direct allocation to Singareni.

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KTR, as the BRS leader is popularly known, questioned Revanth Reddy’s silence now over the Central government’s auction of mines in the Singareni area, considering his opposition earlier.

He claimed that BRS and its government had stalled the auctioning of coal mines in the Singareni area for the past nine years to safeguard Singareni’s future.

“With 16 MPs, neighbouring state’s Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is trying to halt the privatisation of Vizag Steel Plant and safeguarding their state’s interests. In contrast, the 16 elected MPs from Telangana, both from Congress and BJP, remain silent despite the Central government’s attempt to harm the state’s prospects through the mines auction,” he said.

KTR demanded that all MPs and the two Union Ministers from Telangana should immediately take steps to cancel the Singareni mines auction. He also accused the Central ministers from Telangana of harming the state’s interests by remaining silent on this matter. KTR stated that the same Central government made the Vizag Steel Plant incur losses by not allocating dedicated mines.

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The BRS leader also said that even if companies participate in the auction and get the mining rights, the BRS would cancel the leases “once they come into power after four and a half years”.

–IANS

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Railway to resume Garib Rath Express between Kolkata, Guwahati, Agartala

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Guwahati, June 21 (IANS) The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) would resume the services of two pairs of Garib Rath Express on the Agartala-Kolkata and Guwahati-Kolkata routes from next month, officials said here on Thursday.

NFR’s Chief Public Relations Officer Sabyasachi De said that the Garib Rath Express would run on the Agartala-Kolkata route every Wednesday from July 3 and it would run on the Kolkata- Agartala route every Sunday from July 7.

The CPRO said that the Garib Rath Express would run on the Guwahati-Kolkata route every Saturday from July 6. Similarly, the train would run on the Kolkata-Guwahati route every Thursday from July 4.

De said that resuming the services of these express trains would fulfil the long-standing demand of the people of the region. Rail connectivity in the northeast would be strengthened with West Bengal and its capital by these services. This would highly benefit the patients, students, and other commuters of the adjacent states, apart from promoting economic growth and commerce, the CPRO added.

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–IANS

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No proposal to monetise 25,000 acres around Bengaluru, says Siddaramaiah govt

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Bengaluru, June 21 (IANS) The Karnataka government on Thursday denied reports it was considering monetising 25,000 acres of land around Bengaluru to fund its guarantee schemes, saying there was no such proposal.

“At the outset, there is no proposal to monetise 25,000 acres of land around Bengaluru as suggested in the news reports. It is the fundamental responsibility of the government to optimise resource mobilisation without putting undue burden on the citizens. Our state has greater potential to raise additional non-tax revenues from sectors such as mining, advertisements in urban areas, naming rights, etc. Better tax compliance is also another measure that is being explored. Some of the recommendations also include a limited extent of monetisation of non-strategic assets, but that does not have to mean disposal or outright sale of government lands,” a government statement said.

There are several creative and intelligent ways to raise resources without selling government land and raising taxes, it added.

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“The idle land parcels of the state government and other government entities, which are prone to encroachment, would be developed to generate a continuous stream of revenue to the state without selling these lands. Instead of an outright sale of public lands, innovative value-capture financing methods would be employed to generate revenue to the state which does not involve the outright sale of public assets. The various successful value capture financing methods deployed in other states and countries would be carefully studied and the best methods would be adopted in the state,” the statement said.

It also said that the focus of the global consultant is on the rapid development of large industrial townships and urban amenities by tapping private investments. The Finance Department is looking into all the measures and any proposal to raise resources will be in the public domain once it is properly fleshed out. There is no reason for anyone to jump to hasty conclusions based on preliminary ideas that are on the table,” the statement added.

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–IANS

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