0Shares0000Manchester City’s manager Pep Guardiola (R) speaks to midfielder Raheem Sterling during their English Premier League match against Liverpool, at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, on March 19, 2017MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Nov 30 – Pep Guardiola believes confidence has been the key factor in Raheem Sterling’s emergence as Manchester City’s hero this season.Sterling hit a 95th minute winner in City’s 2-1 victory over Southampton on Wednesday, to hand Guardiola’s side a club record 12th successive Premier League triumph. It’s far from the first time that the England international has proved to be a match-winner for City this season.Sterling has hit late winners against Bournemouth, Feyenoord and Huddersfield, with his latest heroics prompting wild celebrations at the Etihad.“[Raheem] is a winning player, winning games,” said Guardiola.“Before it was not like this now he’s full of confidence.“I spoke to him last season many times, you have to discover the pleasure for yourself to win games – to score those goals.“The guys who score are full of joy. The goal was amazing because there’s no space.“It was a good night, I think all the supporters create some special moments tonight and in the last second we enjoyed the situation.“You have to celebrate it. It was a good moment in the last minute, in the locker room, all the staff so happy it makes sense to enjoy our celebration. It makes sense, our job to enjoy these sort of situations.“I said [to the referee] I apologise because i couldn’t control it, I was so happy like all the fans and players. I ran after Raz but I’m not quick enough but we were so happy.”0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)
DOPEY Co Donegal cannabis growers nabbed by Gardai still face the full wrath of the law – despite growing the wrong plants!Gardai seized 150 cannabis plants – some 15-feet high – at the back of a house in townland of Leitir, Kilmacrennan, earlier this week.Several people are helping gardai with their enquiries. However the dopey dealers had grown male plants – useless when it comes to selling weed.The law does not distinguish between male and female plants, so those responsible will eventually be charged with possessing €120,000….even though their crop was worthless on the illegal drugs market.The gang will also face charges of cultivating an illegal crop of cannabis. DOPEY CANNABIS GROWERS STILL TO FACE SERIOUS CHARGES was last modified: September 12th, 2013 by John2Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:cannabiskilmcrennan
Russa Youngmen’s Association, which looks like an innocuous shelter in the shade of a huge krishnachura tree, gets totally transformed as daylight fades and the birds retire for the day. Young and middle-aged men, many of them party supporters, keep trooping in and make a beeline for the Trinamool Congress,Russa Youngmen’s Association, which looks like an innocuous shelter in the shade of a huge krishnachura tree, gets totally transformed as daylight fades and the birds retire for the day. Young and middle-aged men, many of them party supporters, keep trooping in and make a beeline for the Trinamool Congress office just across the street. The sports association, meant for coaching boys in carrom and chess, also shifts itself from the humble abode to the sprawling portico (actually the pavement) of the TMC party office of ward No. 84, in South Kolkata, just a kilometre away from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s residence. What follows is the tutoring of the young brigade in the art of ‘conducting’ polls and of being committed cadre.Welcome to one of the 7,500 clubs which have popped up in Kolkata and its suburbs, with their ‘offices’ in the dingy allies, obscure lanes, the main thoroughfares, under a tree, or on the benches at a tea stall, all of them vying for a piece of the TMC government’s yearly dole for ‘clubs’ (Rs 2 lakh in the first year and one lakh for the subsequent four years).Ground supportSince 2012, Mamata Banerjee has been spending lavishly on these local clubs. Officially, of course, the funds are to promote sports and extra-curricular activities among the jobless youth. But in reality, the ruling party uses the clubs as a front for assembling the local unemployed men and the toughs under the TMC banner. It ensures them a steady supply of funds and political patronage for their allegedly nefarious activities in exchange for allegiance during election time.advertisementThese are chief minister Didi’s damaal (wild) brothers, indulged even if they are dushtu (naughty), the ones with a licence to break all the rules. Banerjee herself has defended their actions many a time, saying it’s a part of the nature of youth to be a bit wild.”Forget the drunken brawls, eve-teasing and other nuisance, the club boys have a free licence to extort money,” says veteran Congress leader Arunava Ghosh. “They came to my house asking for Rs 5,000 for organising a pithe-puli utsav (a festival of rice pudding and pies, typical of Bengali culture). They will seek entry by saying kaku (uncle) and extort money by taking out a chaku (knife). This is the club culture going on in every locality.”Russa Youngmen’s Association shifts base to the TMC office across the street. Photo: Subir HalderThe late CPI(M) leader Subhas Chakrabarty’s wife Ramola, who was a candidate in the Bidhannagar municipality election, shudders when she recalls how hoodlums and anti-socials from the clubs of Rajarhat, Mahisbathan, Late Town and Sreebhumi descended on the area the night before the municipality elections in Salt Lake last year.”Salt Lake was chock-a-block with outsiders. Three thousand men, mostly boys, moved in the night before and were camping in my ward. The next day they resorted to threats, intimidation and large-scale violence to terrorise valid voters. People were prevented from stepping out of their houses to cast their votes. Those who braved the warnings were threatened on the way to the booth,” Ramola says, recounting how former Left Front finance minister Asim Dasgupta’s area saw atrocities on women and the aged alike.In good humourSuch services, of course, come at a premium. And the leaders of the ruling party know how to keep the club boys in good humour. Be it any festival, the Duttabad Sporting Club, Tarun Sangha and Ankur Club on Eastern Metropolitan Bypass arrange lavish spreads for club members and other locals. Incidentally, these clubs only started receiving dole last year before the municipal election. “Biryani and booze are a must for any occasion…the cost is met by the local councillors,” says Bapi of Tarun Sangha.”MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay has given us Rs 6 lakh and MLA Sadhan Pande is always recommending jobs for our boys. Ministers like Madan Mitra and Arup Biswas have committed Rs 4.5 lakh as dole. The Trinamool leaders have helped our club grow from a shabby asbestos shed structure to a two-storeyed building. So if they want something in return, what’s the harm? If Sadhanda asks me to arrange people for a rally, I will pick up boys from 10 local clubs and take out a bike rally,” says international weightlifter Amit Das, president of the Bhratri Sangha Byam Samiti. The club, which dates back to the 1960s, has seen a huge boost to its fortunes since the TMC came to power in 2012. So the club members, who are mostly bodybuilders, are indebted to the powers that be in more ways than one.advertisementElection day”Such is the clout of these local club boys that even booth-level officers, who are the Election Commissioner’s men, are unable to do their jobs. They have sent many of them back saying they know their area and people better and are capable of correcting the lists themselves,” says Arunava Ghosh. Tapan Bhattacharya, one of the few elders attached to the Russa Youngmen’s Association, corroborates this. But his version says the Election Commission’s men did not turn up, which is why the club boys were forced to go about distributing voter’s slips and doing other odd jobs.Not only this, in the last municipality election in Salt Lake and the suburbs, both the local (pada) boys and outsiders took upon themselves the responsibility to chaperone voters to the booths. “From early morning on, we saw bikers in large numbers taking over the streets. Many of us, mostly the elderly, were under house arrest. We felt like strangers in our own locality having to negotiate between a motley crowd who were zooming around, either asking us to go back home or leading us to the polling station. People have seen how a 70-year-old was thrown on the road and beaten up by hooligans. No boys from the local clubs intervened, obviously because of their complicity,” says A.P. Chaudhuri, a resident of Salt Lake. Kolkata North MP Sudip Banerjee has even been heard saying at a club rally that supporters “needn’t take the party flag or wear the party badge. Just ensure the TMC wins in large numbers”.Meanwhile, over the last four years, Mamata Banerjee has consistently increased the budget for the clubs, from Rs 15.5 crore in 2012 to Rs 150 crore in 2015-16. The number of beneficiaries has also gone up, from several hundred to over 7,000.Money talksIn the first four years of TMC rule, the government’s debt has escalated to over Rs 1 lakh crore, mostly due to the various populist measures of the CM. The Rs 300 crore spent on the clubs in the last three years has now invited the ire of the accountant-general’s office.The CAG has pulled up the state sports and youth affairs department repeatedly and sought explanation on the splurging beyond budgetary allocation. Recently in the Calcutta High Court, Justice Debangshu Basak, while hearing a case on the salary dues of 17 months of 91 teachers of Murshidabad (recruited under a central scheme now scrapped), has asked the state government to pay from the fund which is disbursing money to the clubs. He has set a deadline of four weeks for compliance, beginning on February 16.But even such indictments have failed to rouse either the minister concerned or the secretaries of the department. In fact, everyone is tight-lipped as far as the question of clubs are concerned. Syed Ahmed Baba, current secretary of the sports and youth affairs department, politely turned away this correspondent. “It’s not a good topic to ask. If you have nothing else to discuss, you may leave,” he said, even forgetting that he had ordered tea. The department has witnessed a change in the principal secretary at least five times in the last four years, which speaks volumes on why officials prefer to stay mum. Minister Arup Biswas also could not be contacted even after repeated attempts. Mails to his official website also went unanswered.advertisementForget the rulesThe rules say that a club qualifying for dole has to be registered, should have a bank account, proper papers, lease, ownership or tenancy rights of the land. However, no one bothers to go by the rule book in Bengal. Like in Gouribari lane in North Kolkata, a group of young boys who mostly used to loiter around, got together, collected subscription and organised a Saraswati puja just to get the tag of a club and claim money. Incidentally, they don’t even have a proper club room. A small room at an acquaintance’s house is drawing money from the government. Though they have put up a big hoarding in the name of the club, and proclaimed that it has a registration number and dates back to 1988, a member admits they are less than three months old.The Russa Youngmen’s Association holds no such pretensions, its official address is the TMC party office, a sprawling two-storeyed dilapidated building on Manohar Pukur Road. “This is the place where Mamata Banerjee used to hold all her important party meetings of South Kolkata, prior to the construction of the Trinamool Congress Bhawan on E.M. Bypass,” says senior member Tapan Bhattacharya.In fact, within the premises of the same party office, another club, the Youth Club of No. 84 ward, is running the show. “It doesn’t even need to be a club to claim money from the government. Block committees, residential plots in Salt Lake, they are all getting money from the sports department. The average age of members on such committees is 50-70 years, they are good for no sports. Yet they are drawing money to maintain community halls and such, letting them out for marriage and other purposes,” says Arunava Ghosh.Veteran TMC leader and the party’s chief whip in the legislative assembly, Sovondeb Chattopadhyay, in whose constituency Russa Youngmen’s Association falls, says that a majority of the clubs were products of the previous Left Front regime and the culture of using them for political ends was their brainchild. “Some clubs may have earned a bad name, but I would say that 75 per cent are working for the betterment of society and are utilising government funds well,” says Chattopadhyay. In fact, he says the practice of using clubs or gymnasiums (akharas ) as hubs for imparting secret training (to the revolutionaries and nationalist leaders) dates back to colonised India.In all this, an interesting feature is that there is no thumb rule for selection. It is completely at the discretion of the MLAs, MPs and people’s representatives of the ruling party on which clubs are selected.According to a sports department official, who requested anonymity, each of the 294 MLAs in the state legislative assembly was entitled to a quota of 10 clubs within his constituency. However, MLAs of the Opposition parties, the Left, Congress and BJP have heard of no such thing. “When Madan Mitra was sports minister, his locality, Bhowanipur, saw the maximum number of clubs getting dole. Now, Arup Biswas’s constituency is seeing a mushrooming of clubs,” the official says. Last year, before the corporation elections, councillors of the Trinamool Congress were allowed to disburse dole to clubs of their choice. This year, the TMC MLAs are calling the shots.Frenzy of patronagePatronage to the clubs has reached such a frenzy that recently the owner of a 42 cottah plot in Naktala in South Kolkata had to beat a retreat after the former police commissioner, Surajit Kar Purakayastha, and civic authorities, armed with a high court order, failed to evict a club-cum-multi-gym from the land. The club is patronised by the local Trinamool Congress councillor and even sports minister Arup Biswas keeps dropping in often. “Who is Ramola Chakrabarty to talk about bringing boys from different clubs and engaging them in rigging and other malpractices? Her husband (Subhas Chakrabarty) did the same thing in Salt Lake, Rajarhat, Dum Dum in the heyday of the CPI(M). No genuine voters could vote,” says a Trinamool Congress leader.The same leader recounted an incident a few weeks ago when Arup Biswas and some club boys helped rescue an injured bridegroom and his friends from a mangled accident vehicle to justify that the clubs are not all that bad. A brief bit of civic duty, no doubt, before the rampage begins.