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Oj Corner
Special column
by OJ George

Cheque facility won't be withdrawn, says the govt
It is a matter of relief that the Union Government has clarified that cheque facility won't be withdrawn.

There were stray reports that an overenthusiastic government favaouring total digitalisation may go in for banning the cheque books.

It is gratifying to note that the government won't proceed with the reforms this way.
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Manik Sarkar, the poorest CM of India
AGARTALA (IANS): Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, set to assume office for a fourth time after leading the Left to a huge electoral win, is the son of a tailor who still washes his own clothes.

An unassuming man, the 64-year-old got down to work no soon than he was declared the winner from Dhanpur constituency. He met CPM leaders and activists at Sonamura, 60km from here.

On Thursday, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) bagged 49 of the 60 seats while its ally Communist Party of India won one seat. The Congress finished with only 10 seats.

It was the best result for the Left since 1978 when the legendary Nripen Chakraborty-led CPM swept 56 seats. This time, Sarkar helped the Left Front increase its 2008 tally by one seat.

Undoubtedly, the "poorest" chief minister in India, Sarkar, according to documents filed with the Election Commission, has Rs.10,800 in cash.

In line with CPM rules, Sarkar gives away his salary to the party, which pays him Rs 5,000 a month.

He is probably India's only chief minister who does not own a home, car or bank balance worth mentioning.

He does not even have a mobile phone and has never used the red beacon on his official car.

Sarkar's wife Panchali Bhattacharjee, 62, who retired as a government employee in 2010, has Rs 22,015 in cash and Rs.24,52,395 as savings. The couple has no children.

She said her husband still washed his clothes every morning.

"My wife's pension can sustain us. My expenses are a small pot of snuff and a cigarette a day," Sarkar said.

After the death of his mother in 2009, Sarkar inherited a small house worth Rs.200,000 in Agartala. He donated it to his younger sister.

Sarkar's father Amulya was a tailor and mother Anjali was an employee of the state health department.

Sarkar joined politics in 1967 and was elected secretary of the CPM's Tripura unit in 1993.

A bachelor of commerce from Calcutta University, Sarkar was first elected to the Tripura assembly in a 1980 bypoll and again in 1983.

He is the second in the northeast to be the chief minister for 15 years or more after Gegong Apang of the Congress who ruled Arunachal Pradesh for 24 years over two periods (1980-99 and 2003-07).

On Thursday, Sarkar defeated his Congress rival Shah Alam by 6,017 votes. In 2008, Sarkar's winning margin was 2,918.

"This is a verdict in favour of development, peace and stability besides good governance," Sarkar told reporters.

According to a CPI-M leader, Left Front leaders will meet here Friday and decide when to form a new government.
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