Dodging the Dodgy
Looks like Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is spending sleepless nights thinking up ways and means to combat the chit fund menace in the state. After announcing plans to levy an additional 10 percent tax on tobacco products to raise money for a relief fund for the victims of dodgy chit funds, she has come up with another idea. Possibly to counter possibilities of Ponzi schemes from raising their ugly heads again—they have a history of doing that time and again—she said that she was thinking about setting up a “social security scheme” for small savers. This, she hoped, would address the need for a “safe and secure” investment option for the rural and poor people who did not have large sums of money to afford banks. She did, however, point out that the government scheme would not be able to afford the high returns or interest rates that the chit funds promised. But then, if even the principal amount isn’t coming back—as in the case of Sharadha—what difference does it make if the returns they offered were high or low?
Ray of Hope
After the win in Karnataka, Congress leaders in Bengal are optimistic that there would be a similar resurgence of the party in the state. “There is a distinct possibility that we will return to power in the state in the not too distant future,” Congress leader Om Prakash Mishra told us. The people of Bengal are already talking about the lack of political alternatives in the state because of the TMC government’s “disappointing” performance so far. And the Left, which though has gained back some support, is still not entirely welcome. BJP’s presence is minimal and though Narendra Modi visited Calcutta recently, with the communal tag that is attached to him, he or his party is unlikely to find a strong foothold in Bengal, which has a 30 percent Muslim voter population. So Bengal Congress is keeping its fingers crossed.
For some reason, industry minister Partha Chatterjee always looks happy. Whether it is because he is in denial about the state of Bengal’s industry or whether he is able to see the brighter side of things even in the midst of misery, is not clear. He grinned through the entire chit fund episode blaming the CPIM for everything—(“koylaye haath moylaa hoyeni toh? Got your hand dirtied in the coal, did you?”—he asked sarcastically of the CPIM, questioning their motives for pressing for a CBI probe into the chit fund scam, while linking them to the coal scam and the SC’s recent rap on the CentreCBI nexus). But this week, there is some genuine reason for him to smile. In what could be a boost to industrial growth in Bengal, the ambassadors of five Nordic countries —Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden—have offered to share their country’s expertise in a number of areas with Bengal. These include clean technology, food processing, hydro electricity and maritime businesses.
A new Bengali film called Ami Aar Amar Girlfriends (Me and My Girlfriends) by Mainak Bhaumik (the director of hits like Bedroom and Maach Mishti Aar More), has created a controversy. After the film’s trailers showed the three heroines—Parno Mitra, Swastika Mukherjee and Raima Sen— running on the beach dressed scantily (how else are you supposed to dress on the beach?), it suddenly raised the hackles of the censor board. Though the date of release had already been announced, it was called off at the last minute and the film was hauled off to the censor board for a fresh certification. Now it has been recertified “A” and released. Watch this space for a review.
Mystery Of The Lost Nobel
May 9 was “Pochishey Boishakh.” The 25th day of the new Bengali year celebrated for being Tagore’s birthday. This year also marks the 100th year of his receiving the Nobel prize. In a shocking incident in 2004, the Poet Laureate’s medal was stolen from Shantiniketan, the ‘abode of peace’ where he had set up Vishwa Bharati University. It is a matter of shame that to this day the medal has not been found. Why has there been no systematic enquiry into the matter? Why has there been no investigation into it? Next year it will be ten years. Both the Bengal government and the Center should immediately initiate a probe.