Bangla Govt embracing infotech: E-governance, fintech, AI, student competitions, cyber security

Under the initiative of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the State Government has embraced the use of information technology wholeheartedly. Every Bangla Government office, be they in Kolkata or the districts, is either wholly computerised or in the process of being so. The Government is also encouraging students to work on software technologies to create apps and other useful technologies.

E-governance has been made the norm. As a result, work has become faster – both for the Government offices as well as for the public being served.

All information technology-based aspects of the State Government are handled by the Information Technology & Electronics Department. Thus the department is playing a leading role in the digitisation of governance.

A report published by the McKinsey Global Institute last January had stated that Kolkata is poised to emerge as one of the top Indian cities and one of the epicentres of global financial activities by 2030. According to the report, by virtue of its relative proximity to Singapore and Hong Kong, Kolkata stands a bright chance of becoming a big IT hub.

The department is investing in the latest aspects of information technology. It has formed a core group which will interact with various stakeholders and prepare a repository of case studies of projects involving artificial intelligence (AI). Such cases will be taken up which can be adapted by various departments of the State Government.

The IT&E Department is coming up with is a Centre of Innovation. In an effort to give fresh graduates rent-free space for churning out ideas and designing innovative models, the department is setting up a Centre of Innovation at the IT park being built in Bantala, Kolkata. The blueprint for the centre has already been prepared. It will be functional from this financial year, and will have top academicians, scientists and industry members as its mentors.

The department is also encouraging software-based solutions from students, technical professionals and common citizens, particularly for the day-to-day problems of common people. For the last two years (2017 and 2018), the department has been organising Bengalathon, a competition for the development of apps for day-to-day needs.

Another sector the IT&E Department is actively promoting is fintech (short for ’financial technology’). Fintech is an emerging industry that comprises companies which use digital technology to provide financial services. These companies are involved in digital payment, automatic digital banking, share market analytics, insurance predictions and asset management.

The State Government has taken a leading role in developing fintech. A fintech hub is coming up in New Town, with plug-and-play infrastructure. Several companies have already rented space. The department came up with a stellar show at the Singapore FinTech Festival, held last November.

The department has already started working on emerging technologies like cyber security, blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, animation, IoT (internet of things), Industry 4.0 (a standard), analytics, animation and e-sports. Summits are being held every month on different emerging technologies.

An important avenue of growth and safety that the State Government has identified is cyber security. It has set up a Cyber Security Centre of Excellence in order to successfully confront cyber crimes.

The cyber security centre collects, analyses and disseminates information on cyber security incidents, executes emergency measures, coordinates response, and issues guidelines, advisories and vulnerability notes. It also acts as a monitoring authority for the State, which looks at every single incident and incorporates the information for research and development.

Harnessing technology in the best possible way tops the Bangla Government’s priorities, and the above measures provide ample proof of that.

State Govt to bring self-help groups under insurance coverage

The State Co-operation Department is all set to bring self-help groups under insurance coverage to ensure their financial security in case there is any untoward incident. Different steps were taken on the inspiration of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to promote the work of the Self Help Groups in Bengal.

Interestingly, 95 per cent of the loan which was given to the Self Help Groups has been recovered in the last financial year. There are around 1.95 lakh Self Help Groups registered with the state co-operation department. If everything goes as planned, the task of the bringing them under the security coverage will be done in the current fiscal.

With the Chief Minister’s initiative to introduce Biswa Bangla brand to promote the goods manufactured by the small scale enterprises and Self Help Groups in the state, the business of the groups have sustained growth in the past five years.

Unlike the erstwhile Left Front government that had just set up some stalls in government offices and complexes to promote the produce of the Self Help Groups, Mamata Banerjee government had taken major steps for promotion of the same not only in the local market but in other states and abroad.


স্বনির্ভর গোষ্ঠীগুলিকে বীমার আওতায় আনছে রাজ্য সরকার

মুখ্যমন্ত্রী মমতা বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়ের অনুপ্রেরণায় রাজ্য কোঅপারেটিভ দফতর এবার যেকোনো প্রতিকূল অবস্থার মোকাবিলা করার জন্য স্বনির্ভর গোষ্ঠীগুলিকে বীমার আওতায় আনতে চলেছে। এজন্য বিভিন্ন পদক্ষেপ নেওয়া হচ্ছে।

প্রসঙ্গত, স্বনির্ভর গোষ্ঠীগুলিকে যে ঋণ দেওয়া হয়েছিল বিগত আর্থিক বছরে তার ৯৫ শতাংশই ফেরত পাওয়া গেছে। আনুমানিক ১ লক্ষ ৯৫ হাজার স্বনির্ভর গোষ্ঠী এই মুহূর্তে রাজ্য কোঅপারেটিভ দফতরে নথিভুক্ত। সব কিছু ঠিকঠাক চললে এই বীমার অন্তর্ভুক্ত করার কাজটি চলতি আর্থিক বছরের মধ্যেই সম্পন্ন হবে।

মুখ্যমন্ত্রীর ঐকান্তিক চেষ্টায় ক্ষুদ্র শিল্প ও স্বনির্ভর গোষ্ঠীগুলির তৈরী হস্তশিল্প বিশ্ব বাংলার মাধ্যমে বিগত ৫ বছরে সারা বিশ্বে ব্যাবসায় সাফল্যের মুখ দেখেছে।

রাজ্যের বিভিন্ন প্রান্তে, অন্যান্য রাজ্য এবং বিদেশেও ক্ষুদ্র শিল্প ও স্বনির্ভর গোষ্ঠীগুলির ব্যবসার জন্য বিপণন কেন্দ্র খুলে দিয়েছে মমতা বন্দোপাধ্যায় পরিচালিত সরকার।


Thousands in Bengal get free eye surgeries thanks to State Govt initiative

Thousands of patients have been given free eye surgeries at various state-run medical colleges and hospitals, after the state government took a significant decision to bring eye surgeries under the coverage of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY).

For a long time, below poverty line (BPL) patients requiring eye surgeries could not avail benefits under the RSBY. As a result, many suffering various eye diseases were seriously inconvenienced and could not manage the cost of the operation.

Keeping the problem in view, the state government decided to take up initiatives so that eye surgeries can be brought under the coverage of the RSBY.

The state government’s move started paying off as thousands of poor patients are now availing eye treatment and surgeries free of any cost at the government hospitals.

Earlier, in case of eye surgeries, patients could not avail insurance coverage under the RSBY. But now, delicate operations like phacoemulsification, cataract and other eye surgeries are being done for patients for free. As a result of the coverage plan, all patients can get the free surgeries from the government hospitals empanelled with the RSBY.


রাজ্য সরকারের উদ্যোগে বাংলায় রোগীরা বিনামূল্যে চোখ অপারেশনের সুযোগ পাচ্ছেন

রাজ্য সরকার চোখ অপারেশনকে রাষ্ট্রীয় স্বাস্থ্য বীমা যোজনা (RSBY) আওতায় নিয়ে আসার মত গুরুত্বপূর্ণ সিদ্ধান্ত নিয়েছে। এর ফলে হাজার হাজার রোগী রাজ্যের মেডিকেল কলেজ ও হাসপাতালে বিনামূল্যে চোখ অপারেশন করানোর সুযোগ পাবেন।

অনেক দিন ধরে, দারিদ্র্যসীমার নিচে (বিপিএল) বসবাসকারী রোগী যাদের চোখ অপারেশন করা প্রয়োজন রাষ্ট্রীয় স্বাস্থ্য বীমা যোজনার আওতায় কোন রকম উপকার পেতেন না। ফলস্বরূপ, অনেকে বিভিন্নরকম চোখের সমস্যায় ভুগছিলেন এবং অপারেশন খরচ বহন করতে পারছিলেন না।

এই সমস্যার কথা মাথায় রেখে চোখ সার্জারি যাতে রাষ্ট্রীয় স্বাস্থ্য বীমা যোজনার (RSBY) আওতায় আনা যেতে পারে রাজ্য সরকার এই সিদ্ধান্ত নিয়েছে।

রাজ্য সরকারের এই অভিনব পদক্ষেপ নেওয়ার ফলে হাজার হাজার দরিদ্র রোগী সরকারি হাসপাতালে বিনামূল্যে চক্ষু চিকিত্সা এবং সার্জারী করাতে পারবেন।

এর আগে, চোখের সার্জারির ক্ষেত্রে, রাষ্ট্রীয় স্বাস্থ্য বীমা যোজনার অধীনে কোনরকম সহায়তা পেতেন না রোগীরা। কিন্তু এখন, বিভিন্ন সূক্ষ্ম অপারেশন যেমন phacoemulsification, ছানি এবং অন্যান্য চক্ষু সার্জারী মত অপারেশন রোগীদের জন্য বিনামূল্যে করা হচ্ছে। এই পরিকল্পনার ফলস্বরূপ, রাষ্ট্রীয় স্বাস্থ্য বীমা যোজনার সহায়তায় সব রোগীরা সরকারি হাসপাতাল থেকে বিনামূল্যে সার্জারি করাতে পারবেন।

Accident insurance scheme for self-help groups started in Bengal

An accident insurance scheme for self-help groups (SHGs) has been started in West Bengal. The implementation of the scheme has begun with the district of Purulia. It is to be extended to the district of Nadia, and in around a month, to the rest of the State. An additional 2% subsidy on interest against loans taken by the SHGs has also been announced.

About the scheme

The accident insurance scheme for the SHGs, administered by West Bengal Swarojgar Corporation Limited, has been made applicable to all members aged 18 to 60 years. The compensation for accident-related deaths has been settled at Rs 1 lakh. This compensation amount is also applicable to those who fall in the categories of total permanent disability, partial permanent disability and temporary total disability, as per an announcement by the Department of Self-Help Group & Self-Employment.

Rs 40,000 has been earmarked for accident-linked treatment and surgery. For conducting the last rites of accident victims, a maximum of Rs 2,500 would be given. To compensate a person for the wage loss suffered as a result of an accident, Rs 100 per day would be paid for a maximum period of 30 days.

Loans taken by the SHGs from banks carry an interest of 11%. Of this 11%, till now, 7% used to be paid by the State Government in the form of subsidy. Therefore, SHGs had to pay 4% of the interest. Now, the State has decided to pay an additional 2% of the interest, to lower the burden on the SHGs. Hence, from now on, the SHGs would have to pay only 2% of the interest.

As of now, this new subsidy scheme would benefit those SHGs that had applied for loans from April 2014 onwards. However, efforts are on to extend this subsidy to those groups too that have been paying their interests from earlier.

According to the State Government, more than 50 lakh members from the almost 5 lakh SHGs would be benefited by all the above-mentioned measures.


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Trinamool opposes Insurance Bill in Rajya Sabha

Leader of Trinamool Congress in Rajya Sabha, Derek O’Brien, today opposed the Insurance Bill which seeks to increase the cap on FDI in insurance sector from 26% to 49%.

He said, “In the last five years, the insurance penetration has dropped by 1%. FDI in insurance, has given you Rs 7,800 crore and LIC Dividend has given you Rs 12,000 to 14,000 crore in the last 10 years.”

He raised the point that average annual premium that an individual has to pay, for the private insurance companies is Rs 60,000 whereas for LIC is it only Rs 9,000.

Regarding claim settlement, Derek O’Brien said, “LIC’s settlement figure is at 99.86 % whereas private sector is at 79%. These are IRDA figures. Lapse ratio for LIC is 5% as compared to 47% in private sector insurance.”

He warned the Government of the dangers of exposure to global recession and reminded the Government of how AIG had to be bailed out with $ 200 billion.

Trinamool Congress walked out of Rajya Sabha on this Insurance Bill issue.

Click here for the transcript of Derek O’Brien’s speech

Saugata Roy raises objection on Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2015 | Transcript

On behalf of my party we have always been opposed to the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2015. The main part of this Bill is the raising of Foreign Equity Investment cap in Insurance sector from 26% to 49%. This allowing of FDI in a big way in Insurance sector is something which is against the interest of the country and hence I oppose this.

It is very ironical that what father proposes the son disposes. Sir, in 2011 the Standing Committee of Finance in Parliament headed by Sri Yashwant Sinha, had recommended not to increase the FDI limit in the Insurance Sector. This is what is happening in BJP that senior generation prescriptions are being overruled by junior section. Yashwant Sinha’s recommendation is being totally ignored by his son, Hon’ble Minister Jayant Sinha.

Sir, it has been mentioned that this law is made in bad taste and undue haste as this Insurance Bill was all along the property of Rajya Sabha. First, the UPA II govt brought this in. Then it went to the Standing Committee on Finance. The Standing Committee on Finance gave its report in 2011. The again after the new Government came into power, in August 2014, a Select Committee on Rajya Sabha was formed and that select committee gave its report. Earlier,there were 88 amendments proposed by the Standing Committee on Finance then 11 more amendments were proposed. So all together 99 amendments were there.  The Select Committee presented the report and the Bill could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha.

Sir, just imagine, on 23 December 2014, Parliament adjourned and on 26 December 2014 this Ordinance was promulgated. Is it not going behind the back of the Parliament? Who are we sending a signal to that we shall implement this FDI in Insurance no matter what Parliament thinks. This is not good.

How does the Junior Finance Minister ensure that this time it will be passed in Rajya Sabha? Anybody you might have invited will have to go back empty handed. I strongly oppose this form of legislative practice going behind the back of the Insurance sector.

Sir, let me also tell you, that the private sector let alone the FDI has not performed well in Insurance sector. It was in the wake of the Mudra scandal that LIC was nationalised during Jawaharlal Nehru’s Prime Ministership in 1957. During Mrs Gandhi’s Prime Ministership the General Insurance business was nationalised in 1973 and now in 1999 when the NDA was in power they brought the new Insurance Act which opened general insurance to the private sector. IRDA was formed at that time and they have allowed this private sector into the industry.

Now Sir, what has happened, I tell you something, compare the performance of LIC with that of the private sector. Of course this Bill does not concern LIC directly but LIC by 2014 enlisted more than 30 crore policy holders and generated more than Rs 16 lakh crore investable funds. 11 lakh LIC agents are there. LIC today commands 85% of the policy market and 75% of the total premium collected. LIC is public sector, it has performed commendably in the Insurance sector.   Now if you compare LIC lapsing with private industry, more than 99% settlements of the claims and more than 99% of death claims this is the performance of LIC.

Now, the private sector Future Generali 49%, Prudential 42%, Reliance 38%, Bharati AXA 36%. This means they pay one premium  and their money is forfeited by the insurance company. Now you want more private players in insurance sector? I can understand in life insurance because life insurance is a long term investment, so you can invest money in life insurance for long term in infrastructural gains. I can even understand if FDI comes into infrastructural sector, to build huge roads, ports, etc. But Sir, in GIC which is basically health insurance, motor car insurance, shop insurance against theft, these premiums are one to two years how are you going to gain if Foreign Direct Investment comes in? It gives you no special privilege. It basically involves small savings and in general insurance only a short period of one year or so is involved. So the purpose of generating long-term investment funds is not possible in the general insurance sector.

Sir, another thing, they say the enhancement of FDI limit assumes that there is a lack of funds in this sector. The assumptions have no basis in the sense that the business in the hands of high end business houses and also insurance business has no link between investment and volume of business. For instance, Bajaj Allianz which has an investment of a total capital of Rs 4800 Crore, premium income of Rs 6893 Crore, yet SBI life has premium income of Rs 10450 Crore with capital and reserves of Rs 2710 Crore. What does this prove? It means that if you have more investment it does not mean you will have more premium income. This whole logic of the Government in pacing ahead with FDI insurance in insurance sector is flawed with dangerous consequences. Because in case of FDI, they take out more money than they actually put in. they will invest something then quickly take out more money because that is their policy.

Sir, the other thing I want to mention is that LIC employees have gone on strike against this FDI in insurance. The insurance agents, their whole functioning has been taken out of law, it is put in the hands of IRDA and the work of surveyors have also been taken out of the ambit of the law. Who is this meant to help? You have only said that some big investment will come in the health sector. Sir, you can really never depend on foreign companies to really help out in health insurance sector. Mostly the insurance companies are cheating people. They say ‘we will give you cashless treatment’ but later they say that ‘your claim is not tenable’ to many people?

So Sir, may I request the Minister, not to pursue this bill. In any case it will get stuck in Rajya Sabha. So let him show the broadness of vision, let hi legislate on the insurance sector as a whole, including life insurance and let him not allow the FDI to infiltrate into this very vital sector of the economy.

Health insurance for BPL families – Bengal shows the way

West Bengal Government, under the leadership of CM Ms Mamata Banerjee, is committed to the mission “Health for all.” From fair price shops to fair price diagnostic centres to free beds, WB has witnessed a sea change in health infrastructure.

At present, West Bengal has enrolled more than 56 lakh BPL families for scheme of health insurance. West Bengal is at number 2, only after Bihar, in terms of enrolment. All 19 districts are covered under the scheme. 602 hospitals are enlisted for the scheme which includes 544 private hospitals and 62 public hospitals.


Shown below is performance of the top 5 states:


RSBY data



TMC slams Govt for taking Ordinance route

Statement by Derek O’Brien, National Spokesperson and Chief Whip in Rajya Sabha:

Extremely unethical to avoid & bypass the democratic process. What value does it serve to bulldoze the democratic process?

তৃণমূল কংগ্রেসের জাতীয় মুখপাত্র ও রাজ্যসভায় মুখ্য সচেতক, ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েনের বিবৃতি:

এটা গণতান্ত্রিক ব্যবস্থাকে এড়িয়ে অনৈতিক পদক্ষেপ। গণতন্ত্রকে এভাবে ধ্বংস করার মানে কি?