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Updated on JUL 26, 2021





Updated: JUL 26, 2021

Weekly News Digest

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Kolkata Diary

Mamata Banerjee leaves for Delhi; likely to meet President, PM, Opposition leaders

Briefing media persons, West Bengal Chief Minister had said, "I will go to Delhi during the Parliament session and meet some leaders there. I will meet the President and the Prime Minister if given an appointment." This will be the first visit of Banerjee after her victory in the Bengal Assembly elections earlier this year. Banerjee's visit during the Parliament's Monsoon session holds significance as the Opposition is cornering the BJP-led NDA government on a range of issues including price rise, increasing cost of diesel and petrol, and issues related to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. There is also a standoff between the Centre and Opposition parties over several key issues including the alleged Pegasus snooping controversy and scrapping of farm laws.


West Bengal forms commission to investigate Pegasus spyware issue

The announcement was made by Banerjee before her scheduled visit to Delhi to meet the Opposition leaders including Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Briefing media persons, the chief minister said, "Through Pegasus spyware, everyone including the judiciary and civic society have been under surveillance. We expected that during the Parliament session, the Centre will investigate the matter under the Supreme Court's supervision but they did not. West Bengal is the first state to initiate a commission of inquiry." "Under the leadership of Senior Justice Madan Bhimrao Lokur and former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court Jyotirmay Bhattacharya, we have initiated the commission. They will monitor illegal hacking, monitoring, surveillance, recording mobile phones, etc," added Banerjee. The chief minister informed the commission has been set up under the Inquiry Act (1952). The Opposition has alleged that names of several Indian politicians, journalists, lawyers, and activists have appeared on the leaked list of potential targets for surveillance by an unidentified agency using Pegasus spyware. This comes followingral top JMB leaders from the trio -- Naziur Rahman Pavel, Mikail Khan and Rabiul Islam.


Bengal may get its first woman DGP

With West Bengal Director General of Police Virendra scheduled to retire in August, bureaucratic activities are underway to choose his successor, and if there is no surprise development then the state might get its first woman DGP. Suman Bala Sahoo -- a 1987-batch woman IPS officer is being considered to be one of the front-runners for the top post in the state police. If selected, the state will see the rare combination of a woman DGP working under a woman chief minister. Sahoo presently posted as DG-Communication of West Bengal, though, doesn't have much experience in handling law-and-order situation but has specialisation in the intelligence network and her clean image might keep her ahead of her peers. Sahoo, who spent a considerable part of her career in the detective department of Kolkata Police and CID and was responsible for the security of the VVIPs has fair knowledge about Kolkata and West Bengal. Though the state has already sent a list of 11 candidates, sources close to the chief minister suspect that after the Alapan Bandophayay incident, the posting of DGP might also take a political turn. Ideally, since the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) under PMO is the appointing authority of IPS and IAS officers, the PMO's sanction is required to appoint a person as the DGP of any state.


Changing tactics of terror groups have security forces on tenterhooks

The arrest of three Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) terrorists from Haridevpur in South Kolkata followed by several arrests and their subsequent interrogation has led the police to believe that the militants coming from or through Bangladesh are not following the traditional patterns of operation. They are adopting new methods and mechanisms which are helping them to avoid security surveillance and expand their organisation. West Bengal, which shares 2,217 km of the total 4096 km border with Bangladesh, has always been a soft target for the Bangladeshi terrorists. But now, sleuths of the Kolkata Special Task Force (STF) investigating the terror modules operating in the state have reasons to believe that not only from Bangladesh but extremist groups from Pakistan and agents from China are also making their way to India through this route. "The recent arrest of a Chinese spy Junwei Han (36 years) in border area Malda district and the arrests of nine Al Qaeda terrorists from different districts of the state by the National Investigation Agency are enough to understand that the neighbouring countries are targeting the huge porous border of the state to enter India," a senior officer of the Kolkata STF said. According to the data released by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the security forces arrested 577 people who tried to enter the country through different states along the Bangladesh border. Of these 577 people, 492 tried to enter Tndia through West Bengal which according to the police is highly alarming. "As both the Nepal and Kashmir route have become vulnerable the terrorists are trying to infiltrate into the country through the West Bengal border. Of the 2,217 km border, 60 per cent is riverine, and it is difficult for the border security forces to keep an eye on that. The infiltrators are using it as an easy route," the officer said. The sleuths probing the JMB case are now saying that instead of increasing the members of their sleeper cells, the outfits are focusing more on selective, highly motivated and trained persons. Training in handling explosives seems to be the latest goal of these outfits.


Rumana Sultana tops HS exams in Bengal, scores 499 out of 500

Though the West Bengal Council for Higher Secondary Education (WBCHSE) -- the board responsible for conducting Higher Secondary exams in the state -- did not release any merit list because no formal exams were held this year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the marks scored by the students on the basis of an evaluation pattern, a Muslim girl student has topped the exams. Forty-five days after the West Bengal government decided not to conduct Madhyamik (Secondary) and Uccha Madhyamik (Higher Secondary) examinations this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the WBCHSE on Thursday announced the results for Class 12 students on the basis of an evaluation pattern decided by the state-appointed expert committee and the council. Rumana Sultana from Kandi in Murshidabad district is the first student in recent times who has become the unofficial topper in Higher Secondary exams from the minority community. A student of Raja Manindra Chandra Girls High School in Kandi, Sultana has scored 499 marks out of 500. Rumana had ranked fifth in the 2019 Madhyamik exams by securing 687 marks out of 700.


Trinamool welcomes Tatas to make big investments in Bengal

More than a decade after forcing them to shift their planned car factory from Singur, the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal has welcomed the Tatas to make big investments in the state. The Trinamool's anti-land acquisition movement in Singur in Hooghly district had forced the Tatas to move their planned Nano car factory to Gujarat. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her party rode to power on the strength of the Singur and Nandigram anti-land acquisition agitations that struck a chord with the rural poor, the traditional supporters of the Left Front. But after returning to power for a third time this year, Banerjee and her party have prioritised big ticket investments in manufacturing, taking a clue from neighbouring Bangladesh. Underscoring job creation as the Trinamool government's top priority, Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee said on Monday that incentives will be provided to companies which invest big in West Bengal, but the nature and extent of the incentives will depend on their ability to generate employment.

He said the Mamata Banerjee government wants at least two large manufacturing units to be set up by any prominent industrial house in West Bengal at the earliest. "We never had any enmity with the Tatas, neither did we fight against them. They are one of the most respected and biggest business houses of this country and also abroad. You can't blame the Tatas (for the Singur fiasco)," said Chatterjee. Government insiders said that negotiations are on with the Tatas and 'few other groups', but it is not yet clear what kind of projects are likely to attract investments. "Automobiles, especially new generation electric vehicles, could be manufactured in West Bengal. Hooghly district, where the Birlas produced the Ambassador cars, is a natural venue because of the availability of local skilled manpower. Singur is also in Hooghly," said a government insider familiar with the negotiations. He said Bengal is also keen to attract new generation knowledge-driven industries like IT and ITES.

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