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Saturday, March 27, 2010

GNLF cries govt apathy to plight - 200 families hounded out: ghisingh party

TT, Siliguri, March 26: The GNLF today accused the state government of ignoring the plight of its supporters, alleging that around 200 families had been hounded out of the hills and their houses ransacked or torched by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha ever since its emergence almost three years ago.
It also said the government had trashed the order of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) directing the administration to ensure that all GNLF supporters returned home safely.
“The Morcha leaders and their followers have either torched or ransacked at least 65 houses of our supporters spread across the three hill subdivisions. Also, more than 200 families have been terrorised and forced to leave the hills by the Morcha. They are spending their days outside their homes, and the state government and police remain mute spectators,” said the GNLF’s Kalimpong branch president, Dawa Pakhrin.
Pakhrin threatened to sit on an indefinite hunger strike in front of Writers’ Buildings in Calcutta to protest the state government’s inability to arrest the culprits responsible for the crimes against GNLF supporters.
“Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is our chief minister as well and he cannot shun his responsibilities. We want the state to immediately establish the rule of law in the hills and take punitive action against those guilty of attacking the GNLF workers and torching and looting their houses. If he continues to remain silent to our requests, we would have no other option but to launch an indefinite hunger strike. Our party leaders will sit within a fortnight to chalk out the final plan for agitation,” he added.
According to Pakhrin, GNLF supporters have been crying hoarse over the issue since 2008 and had approached Bhattacharjee, Union home minister P. Chidambaram and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Pakhrin’s house in Kalimpong was torched along with the homes of several other GNLF leaders on July 26, 2008. The arson followed the death of Morcha supporter Pramila Sharma from a bullet fired allegedly from the house of the GNLF Darjeeling branch president Deepak Gurung a day earlier. The latest victim of alleged Morcha atrocity is Kurseong GNLF MLA Shanta Chhetri, whose house was set on fire on February 18.
“We had also filed petitions with the National Human Rights Commission, mentioning our plight. The NHRC had sent orders in December 2008 to the Bengal chief secretary and the director-general of police, directing them to take action against those who had indulged in these crimes and make arrangements so that we can return home. Nothing, however, has happened so far and we are still staying in Siliguri and in the plains,” the GNLF leader said.
The orders, issued by the assistant registrar (law) of the NHRC asks “……the state government of West Bengal to provide adequate protection to the leaders and members of GNLF and to take appropriate action against those who indulge in criminal activities…”.
It was further mentioned in the order that “…the state cannot abdicate its constitutional duty to protect the life and liberty of citizens. Omission to take action against persons indulging in crime amounts to negligence in prevention or violation of human rights…”.
Asked about the future plans of the GNLF, Pakhrin said: “We are not getting minimum legal support from the state or the police. There is no democratic ambience that allows the coexistence of all political parties in the hills. That is why we plan to go to the chief minister. Our party leaders are also contemplating holding a public meeting in Calcutta to apprise the residents of the state of the atrocities of the Morcha and the apathy of the state.”
Morcha leaders, however, have denied the allegations levelled by the GNLF. “They must not forget that they were responsible for the deaths of more than 1,200 people in the eighties when Subash Ghisingh led the bloody movement for Gorkhaland,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha.
“We feel they are poor in statistics and are furnishing irrational figures. Forget 200, let them just name 20 families whose houses were torched and they were shoved out of the hills.
“It is better that the GNLF does not speak of democracy as, any party or individual in the hills, can voice his/her stand now, while during the GNLF era, nobody dared to speak out,” Chhetri added.
Muddy Coal stops Toy Train on track in hills
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, March 26: A Darjeeling Himalayan Railway toy train stopped midway today because coal with a higher mud content had been shoved into the engine.
In recent times, the joy rides operated by the century-old DHR have been frequently disrupted for one reason or the other, leaving visitors as well as tour operators livid at the way the services are conducted.
So much so that the Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents today asked the railways to “completely shut down the services if they cannot maintain the heritage property”.
The 10D train hauled by a steam engine left Darjeeling for Kurseong at 10.15am, but it could not proceed beyond Bokshijhora in Dali, about 3km from the terminal point.
“The steam engine is propelled by coal. However, when the coal was dropped in the engine, the fire itself got doused as the amount of mud was more than the fuel,” said a source.
As Dali is at a higher elevation than the Darjeeling railway station, the train could return to the starting point. Because of the coal with inferior quality, the DHR cancelled the other two rides also.
“A steam engine can haul three bogies, but only two are attached nowadays because of adulterated coal,” said a tour operator. A standard compartment carries 24 passengers who shell out Rs 240 each for a two-hour ride.
The DHR officials at the Darjeeling station refused comment on the incident.
Sources, however, said seven tonnes of “poor quality coal” are presently lying at the railway station. “Coal is brought from the Siliguri Junction as and when the stock is used up,” he said. Last month, the steam service had come to a halt because of coal shortage. Around 3.2 tonnes of coal are needed a day
Not that just coal is halting the services.
Two days ago, a ride was delayed because of lack of water. “It was 1pm when the 10.40am train left the station. There was no water at the railway station and officials were seen pumping water from private tankers. The Darjeeling loco shed does not have even a proper water storage facility,” said the source.
Around 2,000 litres of water are required for each ride. “Even the refilling outlet at West Point Water Column near Dali has no constant source to fill up the tanks,” said an official.
Pradip Tamang, the secretary of the Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents, said: “We are fed up with the DHR services. At times they don’t have enough water to run the engines, while on other occasions, they do not have coal. This time, the quality of coal was so bad that the engines cannot be fired. The government should completely shut down the services if they cannot maintain this heritage property.”
“A chartered service from Siliguri to Darjeeling was delayed by almost four hours in December because of water shortage at Rongtong station,” added Tamang.
The DHR services are affected for days, sometimes even weeks, by landslides during the monsoon. Frequent bandhs called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha also hit the rides.
R.K. Roy, additional divisional mechanical engineer (Tindharia), admitted that the coal supplied to the DHR was lacking propulsion. Asked if the stock would be replaced, he said: “I cannot say anything. We just hope that the trains can run tomorrow as we will try to mix rock-like coal with the powdered coal that has been recently supplied to run the engine.”
However, there was no sight of solid coal in Darjeeling. “All the lumps of coal that we had have already been used. That is why we faced problems today,” said a railway employee.
Garden closed after threat
TT, Alipurduar, March 26: The management of Debpara Tea Estate in Banarhat today put up a notice of suspension of work, a day after an assistant manager was threatened allegedly by a group of workers.
“Around 4.30pm yesterday, assistant manager P. Jha was surrounded by a group of youths at Rangati Busti, a workers’ colony, and was threatened that unless all houses were built anew, no construction would be allowed. The agitators also damaged the pillars that were being built,” said Subrata Saha, the manager. With Debpara, the number of closed gardens in the Dooars stands at 11.
Cop dead
Darjeeling: Shankar Nath Roy, 45, a constable of the state armed police, was killed when a bullet accidentally went off from his service revolver at the police camp in Gayabari on Friday. The 45-year-old cop was a resident of Kotwali in Cooch Behar.

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