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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kanu Sanyal Dead...For SC interest, Morcha to revise proposal

Breaking News:Veteran Naxalite leader Kanu Sanyal is dead. Kanu Sanyal, a founding member of the Naxalite movement, was found dead at his residence in Seftullajote village, near Hatighisa 25 km from here, today. Sanyal, 78, was found hanging at his home, police said. He was suffering from old age related ailments.The body has been sent for post-mortem, Inspector General of Police (North Bengal) K L Tamta said. Sanyal was a founder of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) formed in 1969. The Naxalite movement started from Naxalbari, a small village in North Bengal on May 25, 1967. Born in 1932, Sanyal claimed to abandon the violent means of revolution after the death of his colleague Majumdar. He was arrested in 1970, sparking off violence by the CPI(ML).
Even during the 2006 Singur agitation over land acquisition, Sanyal played a key role. He also took part in protests against the closure of tea gardens in north Bengal. It was led by Charu Majumdar and Sanyal. He was a bachelor. With inputs from PTI and India Today. Read More about Kanu SanyalCLICK HERE
Titbits: KalimNews,23arch 5.00pm:ABGL Office in Darjeeling ransacked allegedly by GJMM supporters
Promise to reserve status

TT, Darjeeling, March 22: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is set to “revise” the “secret proposal” sent to the Centre on the interim arrangement for the hills to safeguard the interests of the Schedule Castes.
The Morcha, in its proposal to Union home minister P. Chidambaram, had said “all Gorkha communities should be given Schedule Tribe status”.
Today, Morcha president Bimal Gurung while addressing party supporters at Mahanadi in Kurseong said: “We will make some revisions in the proposal largely to safeguard the interest of the Schedule Castes in the hills. The privileges the community is currently receiving should not be diluted. We will write to the Centre soon.” The details of the content of the letter have not been spelt out.
Observers say that since the SCs already have safeguards through job reservation and reserved seats during elections, they would gain little through conversion to STs. In fact, they would stand to lose much as they would have to share the reservation with the entire hills if all the communities there were made STs.
In the past, when GNLF president Subash Ghisingh signed an agreement with the Centre and the state for the inclusion of the Darjeeling hills in the Sixth Schedule, the Scheduled Castes had openly opposed the agreement, demanding safeguard of their rights.
The opposition was led by the Akhil Bharatiya Nepali Anushuit Jati Sangh, an organisation fighting for the rights of the SCs. Even though the Sangh was not directly against conferring the Sixth Schedule status on the hills, it wanted a special mention of the SCs, saying otherwise their rights would be diluted.
The demand was made as the new council under the Sixth Schedule — to be called the Gorkha Hill Council Darjeeling — had 10 seats reserved for the STs and three for other unrepresented minorities in the proposed 33-member body.
The SCs wanted a special reservation on the lines of the STs in the GHCD till the process of conversion of the Scheduled Castes to Scheduled Tribes was over. The Scheduled Castes believed that conversion to STs was a long and arduous process, as they had to be first de-notified from the SC list and then included in the ST list after much research.
While Schedule Tribes constitute 34 per cent of the hill community, 9.7 per cent comprise the SCs.
Such was the anger against Ghisingh’s Sixth Schedule proposal that the late K.S. Ramudamu, who was the president of the Sangh, joined the Morcha when it was formed to become the party’s vice-president.
Hill welcome for CM, flak from tour agents
TT, Siliguri, March 22: Bimal Gurung’s party today said the chief minister was welcome to watch the Kanchenjungha from Darjeeling even as tour operators alleged that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s “limitations in visiting the hills” would affect tourist flow to the region.
“Politically, our positions might be different, but in general, he (chief minister) has been always welcome in the hills,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media and publicity secretary of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
“He might have some compulsions and further, he has to stick to a routine (which is why he cannot visit). But from our side, there is no question of stopping him,” he added.
The Morcha assurance comes a day after the chief minister said in Siliguri that he “misses seeing Kanchenjungha from Darjeeling”.
“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. There are certain compulsions and whenever I get the opportunity, I will definitely visit Darjeeling,” he told reporters here yesterday.
Chhetri said the chief minister’s missing-the- Kanchenjungha statement “indicates the change in the state government’s mindset”. “Through this comment, he has made it clear that Darjeeling is different from any other place of Bengal,” Chhetri said. “His comments do prove that Darjeeling is not like any other part of the state (and so he has his compulsions visiting the hills).”
While the Morcha welcomes the chief minister — two years back they had threatened to stop him from entering the hills and the Darjeeling district CPM had to shift the venue of their district conference to the plains — tour operators of the region expressed dissatisfaction.
“It is unfortunate that even though Bhattacharjee is the constitutional head of the state, he spoke of limitations in visiting Darjeeling which is very much a part of Bengal,” said Raj Basu, the working president of Eastern Himalaya Travel & Tour Operators’ Association. “If the chief minister shirks from visiting Darjeeling, it is natural that it would impact negatively the tourist flow.”
“We feel it is imperative that the state government hold dialogues with the political leaders of hills solely on tourism. If the chief minister does not go to Darjeeling, how can he instil confidence in others? It is, like, if I cannot go to my own house, how can I ask my family members?” Basu added.
Rival spews ‘mislead’ fire
TT, Darjeeling, March 22: The ABGL has been accused of “misleading” the people and trying to create a law and order problem in the hills, a day after its supporters burned the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s proposal for an interim set-up.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: “Madan Tamang is misleading the hill people over our demand to grant tribal status to the hill people. Granting tribal status and including the region (under Sixth Schedule) are two different issues which Tamang has not understood.”

“The Nagas are tribals but Sixth Schedule is not applicable there (in Nagaland). The same holds true in Arunachal Pradesh. In fact, the Sixth Schedule is applicable to only four of the eight northeastern states. Tamang is deliberately trying to mislead the people and create a law and order situation so that our proposal for a state within a state is affected,” Giri added.
Tamang had yesterday organised a rally in Darjeeling where copies of the Morcha’s proposal for an interim arrangement were burned. Tamang accused the Morcha of trying to hoodwink the people by settling for a special status under the Sixth Schedule. “The Morcha’s demand to grant ST status to all Gorkhas and to set up a tribal research institute are a sure give away that its proposal is nothing but the Sixth Schedule status,” he said.
Today, the Morcha leadership iterated that they had little interest in the special status. “Our proposal is far stronger than the Sixth Schedule. Ours is a state within a state for which we have demanded legislative and judiciary powers also,” said Giri.
Describing Tamang as a failure in politics, Giri said: “The people have never accepted him. Moreover, in his long political career he has done nothing but criticism. He has never raised any issue at a proper forum like Delhi but only speaks at the Motor Stands of Kalimpong and Kurseong and in Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling.”
Tamang should also understand that the proposal is not a final settlement, said Giri.
Tap woes to stay till plans turn realities
TT, Kalimpong, March 22: The Kalimpong municipality is facing acute water shortage because of a prolonged dry season and although the civic body has charted contingency plans to tackle the scarcity, most measures seem to be long term and are not expected to be of immediate help.

As there has been no rainfall since October 15, rivers have dried up and the municipality and the water works department of the DGHC are depending on small streams to meet the water demand.

“As much as 60 per cent water has dried up in the Neora Khola, Relli Khola and the Thukchuk Khola because of lack of winter rain,” said Anil Chhetri, the executive engineer of PHE (water works), which supplies water to the municipality area.
The Neora, Relli and the Thukchuk are the three main sources of water in the town. “To solve the scarcity, we have started pumping water from the jhoras. However, the water we draw from the jhoras (streams) is not enough to meet the demand,” said Chhetri.
Seeking the co-operation of the people to tide over the crisis, the executive engineer said it would help if the consumers ensured that there was no leakage of water from faulty pipes. “Many consumers use poor substitutes of galvanised iron pipes, resulting in colossal leakage of water. In our estimate, as much as 70 lakh litres of water are lost a year because of faulty pipelines,” said Chhetri.
The water works department supplies water to 5,000-odd households in the municipality area for about 30 minutes on alternate days. However, nowadays the residents are being provided with water for half an hour once in three days.
“We will be doing a few things to augment the water supply in the town: the second reservoir at Deola will be repaired and new pipelines with a thickness of 10-12 inches will be laid from the Neora to the reservoirs,” said Chhetri.
Till that happens, the residents will have to continue making their own arrangements for water. In fact, even during the best of times, the residents pay Rs 150 to Rs 200 to buy 1,000 litres of water from the market. “I am buying water at Rs 170 per 1,000 litre. Even that is difficult to get because of the increase in demand,” said Nilesh Khadka, a resident of BL Dixit Road.
Amyas Tshering, the subdivisional officer of Kalimpong, said the civic body was working on a contingency plan to tackle the situation. “Like in Darjeeling, we are thinking of supplying water to residents on vehicles. The department concerned has already talked to the DGHC in this regard.”
Allowance hiked in shut gardens
Avijit Sinha, TT, Siliguri, March 22: Workers of shut tea gardens in the Dooars have been promised 50 per cent increase in the monthly financial assistance in this year’s budget.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta, in his budget speech, said money given to the workers of the closed estates under the Financial Assistance to Workers of Locked Out Industries scheme would be increased from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500. The move would benefit 34,527 workers of the industry. He said of the 16 closed gardens in the region, eight were opened through joint initiatives by the state and the Centre. To expedite the reopening of the remaining ones, the state has granted tax and duty relief to both new and existing buyers.

The minister has also announced waiver for education and rural employment cess — charged seven paisa and five paisa respectively on every kilo of tealeaves — in the next financial year (see chart) in the tea estates of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and North Dinajpur districts.

Prabhat Mukherjee, the general secretary of the Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers, while appreciating the decision to increase the monthly assistance, said it was unfortunate that the finance minister evaded two primary issues. “We had asked for continuation of payment of financial assistance to those who have crossed 58 years during the period of closure as the assistance is not paid when they retire. Secondly, he hardly touched on the proposal to provide land rights to the the tea workers,” he said.
The general secretary of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha-run West Bengal Cha Mazdoor Sabha, Samir Roy, however, apprehended that the waiver and relief might encourage closure of more estates. “A section of unscrupulous tea planters may take the opportunity and close down estates only to get the benefits of reopening,” he said.
Planters have hailed Dasgupta’s announcement. “It is good to hear that the cess has been waived for another year. This will surely help the tea industry to grow,” said Mohini Das, secretary, Terai Indian Planters’ Association.
But small growers, who account for about 30 per cent of north Bengal’s tea production, were not happy. “We had asked for abolition of the cess in our sector and waited to hear from the government,” said Bijoygopal Chakraborty, the chairman of the United Forum of Small Tea Growers’ Associations. “It is disappointing that nothing as such has been spelt out by the minister today.”
NBU to monitor Sarva Siksha
TT, Siliguri, March 22: Three experts from North Bengal University will monitor the implementation of the Sarva Siksha Mission in six districts of the region according to a decision taken by the state government.

The government has recently decided to involve four varsities and two research institutes to monitor the implementation of the centrally-sponsored scheme, said an official of the district SSM office at the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad.

Calcutta University, Burdwan University, Vidyasagar University have also been involved in the job that entails providing expert opinion to the government on how to increase enrollment and curb the dropout rates of students at the elementary level (Classes I to VIII) in the state.

The Institute of Development Studies Kolkata (IDSK) — an autonomous centre of excellence in social sciences — and the Pratichi Trust (a body set up by Amartya Sen for research in health, education and gender inequality) are the two research institutes.
Earlier, Visva-Bharati and the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta were the two institutes appointed by the Centre to evaluate the success of SSM schemes in 20 districts of the state.
While Calcutta University will look after Calcutta, Howrah, North and South 24 Parganas, Burdwan University will supervise Bankura, Purulia and Burdwan and East and West Midnapore districts. IDSK and Pratichi Trust will monitor Birbhum, Murshidabad and Nadia.
“Three representatives have been selected from NBU,” the official said.
A meeting of the district officials with state education secretary Vikram Sen was held at Bikas Bhawan in Calcutta on March 6. “The meeting was convened to prepare the annual work plan. The work will begin from April and will be in co-ordination with the district SSM office,” said a member of the state SSM from NBU.
Sources at NBU said the state government wanted a pool of experts to provide suggestions that would ensure a high literacy rate in the state. “The representatives’ role basically will be to examine problems that prevent children from getting enrolled in schools. If they get admitted, what prevents them from continuing with their studies. The experts will offer suggestions on ways to retain the students in schools,” a source said.
The six north Bengal districts have different socio-economic background and the causes of illiteracy and drop outs in each case would be different. The university representatives would be engaged in finding out the reasons, the source added.
On the current situation of the Siliguri educational district, the SSM official said Kharibari and Phansidewa were the two educationally backward blocks in the district.
“However, the four blocks of the Siliguri subdivision along with the Siliguri Municipal Corporation area registered the highest enrollment of female students in the state in 2009-10,” he said.
Pay hike and more posts for teachers
TT, Calcutta, March 22: From increasing emoluments of part-time school and college teachers to enhancing pay of the permanent employees of schools, colleges and universities, from creating new teaching posts to setting up new institutions, the budget promised every attempt to keep the teaching community happy.
There is a proposal to create 60,000 new teaching posts in primary schools and 1,500 in undergraduate colleges.
The CPM has in the past banked on the support of party-backed teachers’ lobbies such as the All Bengal Teachers’ Association and the West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association to win elections. The move to create such a large number of posts is also being seen in the context of the forthcoming elections.
“The announcements will give a boost to the CPM-backed teachers’ lobbies,” said a college principal. “Especially so as CPM supporters hold an edge during any recruitment.”
The government hopes to appease nearly 5,500 part-time teachers working in over 500 state-aided and state-run colleges with the promise of a 35 per cent hike. The part-timers had been up in arms against the government because of the absence of a proper recruitment policy for them.
A 35 per cent hike has also been announced for part-time teachers in government-aided schools.
There is good news for over 12,000 teachers in the 400-odd colleges and 16 universities. After the University Grants Commission had recommended a hike in their salaries, the state had agreed to it in principle but not implemented it.
The finance minister assured the teaching community today that the UGC recommendation would be implemented soon.
The government will set up 20 degree colleges, 1,000 primary schools and 2,900 junior high schools.
“The junior high schools have become a necessity as the dropout rate at the primary level has gone down considerably,” a school education department official said.
In an attempt to offer more opportunities to students in technical education, the government plans to set up 2,000 vocational training centres and 25 industrial training institutes.
“We also welcome the proposal to allow more general degree colleges to run courses in IT and management,” said the principal of a college in North 24-Parganas.

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