Kolkata: Congress on Sunday demanded immediate
withdrawal of the recent West Bengal government order asking
state-sponsored and aided libraries to keep select newspapers
and termed the move as "shocking" and "most undemocratic".
"The content of the circular identifying specific
newspapers with the direction of their use in all libraries
(state-sponsored and aided) across the state is most partial
and undemocratic," state Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharjee
said in a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
"In our constitutional and democratic political order,
such partiality towards select newspapers and the directive
that no other newspapers can be kept in the libraries is
shocking," Bhattacharjee, who is also a party MP and president
of the state INTUC, said.
He said there was no such precedence of this type of
"blatant attempt to institutionalise a system of patronage at
the cost of exchequer".
Congress, he said, was committed to democracy and rule of
law and "as such we cannot condone any move or government
circulars that attempt to run counter to these ideals."
He noted that the move and the justification offered
by the government had been "soundly and comprehensively
criticised" by all sections of the civil society, media and
The PCC chief also urged the chief minister to withdraw
another reported directive for discontinuation of government
advertisements in publications published at the rural, block
and district levels.
"This would be most detrimental to the growth of these
small but vital publications," he alleged.
Bhattacharjee appealed to Banerjee to consider immediate
withdrawal of the two circulars, saying it would not lower the
prestige of the government, but would rather save the
situation from deteriorating any further.
In the face of criticism from Congress, Left parties and
the intelligentsia which described the decision as
"undemocratic, undesirable and worse than censorship", the
government had on Thursday changed the order to include more
Defending the government order, the chief minister said
recently that it had been done to promote small newspapers and
characterised the criticism as a "systematic, unfair and dirty
game being played by a mischievous section".