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Monday, March 22, 2010

Buddha expects ‘fruitful’ May meet

TT, Siliguri, March 21: The state government expects a breakthrough to end the Darjeeling hill impasse at the sixth round of tripartite talks scheduled in the middle of May, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said here today.
Bhattacharjee, who was on a two-day visit to Siliguri, was speaking to journalists at the Circuit House here before leaving for Calcutta.
“We have both the proposals (one by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the other by the Centre) with us and discussions are on. We expect a major positive development at the talks scheduled in May. The issue might not be resolved at that meeting, but there would be some fruitful progress towards a solution,” he said. “As of now, the situation in the hills is peaceful.”
The Morcha had sent its proposal, a “secret document”, only to the Union government in response to an interim set-up plan for the hills proposed by Delhi in December. At the fifth round of tripartite talks on March 18, the state government said since it had not received the Morcha proposal, it could not discuss it. The Morcha then accused the state of delaying the talks progress. After the meeting, the Bengal government was handed over a copy of the Morcha proposal.
Asked about the consistent funding of the DGHC despite allegations of misappropriation of funds during Subash Ghisingh’s regime, the chief minister said: “We had been providing financial support not to any political party but to the people of the hills. Such assistance will go on as the Darjeeling issue is political and has nothing to do with funding or spending.”
“Whatever amount had been disbursed to the DGHC, appropriate audit and other mechanisms had been used (to monitor it),” he added.
Evading questions on the territory marked out by the Morcha in its proposal for the regional authority (the region proposed includes Siliguri), Bhattacharjee said the state government was looking into it. He said he would not be present during the next round of talks.
Bhattacharjee admitted that the CPM was in a “difficult” position in the hills. In the Darjeeling district committee meeting at Anil Biswas Bhawan here yesterday, the chief minister had asked the district leadership to make an assessment of the party’s support base in the hills on the basis of renewal of memberships, which is in progress.
About the new trade union — Progressive Tea Workers’ Union (Dooars-Terai) — formed by the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, Bhattacharjee said: “We don’t think mushrooming of trade unions can do any good to workers. Mere formation of it (union) does not mean that workers’ woes will be alleviated.”
He said plans were on to revive Himul, the government-owned milk co-operative based in Siliguri. “There has been a 100 per cent growth across the state in the 100-day-work scheme, but the performance of Darjeeling district is not up to the mark.”
In a lighter vein, Bhattacharjee said he was “missing Mount Kanchenjungha”. “It is true that when I visit Darjeeling I hope to catch a glimpse of Kanchenjungha. However, all wishes cannot be fulfilled all the time. Whenever I get a chance, I will surely visit Darjeeling.”
More than 200 Trinamul Congress supporters demonstrated at Shivmandir as the chief minister’s convoy headed for Bagdogra airport. Wielding black flags along NH31, they shouted slogans like “khuni (killer) Buddha go back” while protesting the alleged lawlessness and attacks organised on its party workers across the state.
Centre, state weigh Hill options: CM
SNS, SILIGURI, 21 MARCH: The West Bengal government and the Centre are currently weighing the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha's (GJMM) proposal for an autonomous administrative set-up for the Darjeeling Hills, chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said in Siliguri today. 
“We have received the proposal. We are discussing the matter among the two of us (the Centre and the state). We are discussing all aspects of the proposal. None of the (three) parties involved is uttering the last word. Dialogue is on and we will have to find a solution through dialogue,” the chief minister said addressing a media conference at the Siliguri Circuit House this noon. 
Mr Bhattacharjee also expressed the hope that the next round of tripartite talks scheduled to take place in May, would take the 30-month long Darjeeling impasse closer to a solution, if not resolving completely. But the CM ruled out the possibility of his attending the next round of talks. 
Keeping his cards close to his chest on the modalities of the proposed autonomous set-up, the chief minister further stated that the government was trying to figure out what the GJMM was exactly referring to by “interim set-up”. 
“We are studying what they want to mean by ‘interim arrangement’,” Mr Bhattacharjee said, deftly deflecting a query whether the state has any problem with the “interim” solution as the Hill party is asking for. 
When asked about the GJMM leadership's insistence for inclusion of the Dooars-Terai region in the demanded set-up, the chief minister said that he too has read about their stance in newspapers. 
“I know what is being reported in the newspapers,” the chief minister said, indicating that unlike its public stance, the GJMM was probably flexible on the issue. 
Responding to media queries on the Akil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad's floating a new tea trade union in the Dooars-Terai, Mr Bhattacharjee iterated his previous stand that too many unions would have a negative bearing on the tea workers’ interests.
ABGL burns Morcha proposal 
TT, Darjeeling, March 21: Supporters of the ABGL here today burnt copies of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s proposal for an interim arrangement, saying it was no better than the Sixth Schedule status demanded by the GNLF earlier.
Around 60 people led by ABGL president Madan Tamang took out a rally from the party office at Ladenla Road to Club Stand, where the copies were burned around 2.10pm. The supporters shouted slogans against the interim set-up and for Gorkhaland.
At a media conference, Tamang accused the Morcha of trying to hoodwink the people by settling for a special status under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution on the pretext of the interim set-up.
“The Morcha’s demands to grant ST status to all Gorkhas and set up a tribal research institute are a sure give-away that its proposal is nothing but the Sixth Schedule status,” he said.
Tamang said an ABGL delegation would meet the Union home minister in Delhi before April 15 and submit a memorandum to him, seeking the separate state, and if an audience was not granted because of pressure from the Bengal government, he would sit on a dharna in front of the home ministry in the capital.
The Morcha on many occasions in the past had stopped the ABGL from taking out processions, but no such opposition was visible today.
However, Tamang alleged that many supporters had been prevented from attending the rally by the Morcha in different parts of Darjeeling district.
An ABGL member, Ramesh Rai, filed an FIR with Darjeeling Sadar police station, accusing Puran Thamy, the town committee secretary of the Morcha, and another person of assaulting him while returning from the rally.
Adivasi union barb
TT, Siliguri, March 21: The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad today said the decades-long deprivation of tea workers had led to the formation of its trade union in the Dooars.
“Workers in the tea estates in the Dooars and Terai have been deprived of their rights and basic amenities for the past 62 years. Their relationship with planters is worsening day by day and the existing trade unions, which are politically biased, have not done anything for their socio-economic development and have amassed money in the name of membership fees and subscriptions,” said Tezkumar Toppo, the state general secretary of the Parishad and its trade union Progressive Tea Workers’ Union (Dooars-Terai).
Reacting to the chief minister’s comments on the floating of the PTWU, Toppo said whatever Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said was his personal opinion and “we do not agree with him”.
Bhattacharjee, while speaking to the media here today, had said the formation of another trade union did not mean that it would solve all problems of tea workers.
Toppo said the state committee in its meeting in Calcutta yesterday had endorsed the decision to form the trade union. Representatives of the Dooars-Terai unit were also present in the meeting.
Toppo denied any rift between the state and the Dooars leadership after a meting with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. On March 15, some of the Dooars leaders had reportedly agreed to the hill party’s proposal of setting up an interim autonomous authority. “There was a minor communication gap which has been sorted out. We have got the explanation from the regional unit members and have told them that in case of such issues, the state leadership will take the final decision,” Toppo said.
Rajesh Lakra, the general secretary of the regional unit of the Parishad, echoed Toppo. “We have clarified to our state leaders that our representatives simply told the Morcha leaders that they were ready to cooperate in case any initiative for development of the Dooars was taken up,” he said. “However, it is always up to the state committee to take decisions.”
Following the change in stance by the Parishad, the Morcha is cautious about meeting the tribal leaders in future. “We will take into account formal assertions made by them and our leadership will judge them before we plan to sit with them,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the Morcha spokesperson.

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