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Monday, March 29, 2010

Hill Team off to Delhi

TT, Darjeeling, March 28: A six-member delegation of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today left for Delhi following a sudden invitation from the Union home ministry, an indication that the Centre is hoping to tie up the loose ends of the agreement for the interim set-up so that a deal is inked — or a concrete result announced — at the next round of talks in May.
In the meeting to be held tomorrow with home ministry officials, the Morcha will, on its part, convey the “revisions” it wants in the “secret proposal” — submitted to home minister P. Chidambaram earlier — and discuss the territory that will come under the interim set-up. The hill party wants the interim arrangement to remain in place till December 2011, after the elections to the Bengal Assembly are over.
“All key issues on the interim council will be discussed. Apart from the territory, we will also place a demand that the interim authority should have legislative powers over 124 subjects,” said Morcha president Bimal Gurung at a public meeting in Kurseong today.
In its “secret” document, the Morcha had demanded legislative powers over 102 subjects. Even though Gurung did not spell out the additional subjects the party has included in its “revised” document, he said a special mention of tea and cinchona would be made. In the amended proposal, the Morcha will also ask the Centre not to convert the Schedule Castes in the hills to Scheduled Tribes, contrary to the demand in the “secret” document.
On March 22, Gurung had said the secret proposal would be amended so that the interests of the Scheduled Castes were not hurt. “We will write to the Centre to safeguard the privileges they are currently enjoying,” Gurung had said.
The SCs, who already have safeguards through job reservation and reserved seats during elections, 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 hill population if all the communities were made STs.
The delegation that left for Delhi today includes Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, central committee members Amar Lama and Harkha Bahadur Chhetri and three members of the Study Forum Amar Rai, L.B. Pariyar and Kitap Singh Rai. Sources said the letter inviting the letter to Delhi had been sent by N.S. Kalsi, joint secretary, Union home ministry. “It is a preparatory dialogue before the next tripartite meeting (scheduled to be held before May 14). The state officials will also be present,” said Gurung.
Bengal municipal affairs minister and Siliguri MLA Asok Bhattacharya, however, said in Calcutta that he had no information about tomorrow’s meeting in Delhi. “We have not received any letter from the Centre and I have no further information,” said Bhattacharya, one of the two ministers who represented the Bengal government in the last round of talks held at the political level in Delhi on March 18.
Observers, however, believe that more than the transfer of subjects, it is the territory to come under the interim council that will be discussed at length tomorrow. The Morcha has already made it clear that it will not compromise on the “revised” territory.
For Gorkhaland, the Morcha had wanted the entire Dooars, Terai and the Darjeeling district. However, when the party submitted a proposal for an interim arrangement – the details of which were made public on March 15, three days before the fifth round of talks — it left out a large chunk of the Dooars, sticking to areas dominated by Nepali-speaking people.
After the new demarcation proposal, the Morcha is determined not to compromise on the territory any more. “Even if they (government) give us Gorkhaland without the areas we want (in Dooars and Terai), we will not accept statehood,” Gurung had told party workers in Kurseong recently.
The state government has strong reservations about the Dooars, Terai and the Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling district being made part of the proposed interim arrangement.
“However, tomorrow’s meeting is a clear indication that the Centre wants to tie up all loose ends before the next political-level talks where an agreement can be reached,” said an observer. 
On Table Today map of hill authority
Sabyasachi Bandhopadhyay, IE, Kolkata:Ten days after the fifth tripartite meeting, the Ministry of Home Affairs has called the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) leaders and West Bengal Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen for a meeting in New Delhi on Monday.
The concerned parties will be discussing the territorial boundary of the proposed Darjeeling Regional Authority and also the revised proposals of the Morcha.
The Morcha will be represented by a five-member team headed by Roshan Giri, general secretary of the GJM.
The Morcha had presented a draft proposal on March 18 demanding for a Darjeeling Regional Authority with powers similar to that of a state. The Morcha will present a revised proposal in the meeting on Monday.
In the revised proposal, the Morcha, which had earlier demanded 102 departments under the interim council to be effective till December 2011, has now demanded 120 departments under it. 
The other demands include reviving the tea industry in the Hills, inclusion of all Gorkhas and non-Gorkhas in the list of Scheduled Tribes and setting up a medical college at Darjeeling.
“We received a note from the Union Home Ministry requesting us to send a team to Delhi to discuss the territorial boundary of the proposed regional authority,” said Bimal Gurung, president of GJM, who addressed a rally at Kurseong on Sunday.
“We want to make it clear that we will not deviate from our claim over Siliguri, Dooars and Terai,” added Gurung.
Ashok Bhattacharya, Minister for Urban Development, who led the state government delegation at the fifth tripartite talks in New Delhi, expressed his happiness at the turn of the events. “There can be talks on everything. We hope something positive will come out,” he said.
Alter-rule call for hill govt schools
Rajeev Ravidas, TT, Kalimpong, March 28: The Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation has called for changes in the rules for the recruitment of teachers to the three schools wholly run by the government in the hills.
In a memorandum faxed to education minister Partha Dey today, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-affiliated union said in the absence of permanent teachers in Darjeeling Government High School, Kalimpong Government High School and Saradeshwari Government High School in Darjeeling, ad hoc teachers had been appointed with the approval of the DGHC.
“Since the ad hoc teachers have put in years of service, we would like to request the (education) department to safeguard their interests as much as possible by incorporating appropriate changes (in the recruitment rules),” said the memorandum.
Bhisan Roka, the JSTO spokesperson, said a delegation of the union had been told by the state Public Service Commission (PSC) officials that they conducted recruitment according to the rules notified by the education department and they could be altered only by the state government.
The JSTO said there was a backlog of 45 vacant posts in the three schools.
“During our meeting with the minister and senior officials of the education department on March 16, we were given to understand that the appointments in government schools fell within the purview of the PSC. Now that the matter has been clarified by the PSC, we hope the government will take note of our concerns and accommodate them while notifying the recruitment rules,” said Roka.
In government-aided schools, appointments are carried out by the School Service Commission. Roka also demanded that teachers from the hills be appointed the heads of the three institutions. 
Sikkim child labourer ‘freed’
TT, Imphal, March 28: A seven-year-old boy from Sikkim engaged as a domestic help at the house of a school principal in Imphal city was rescued along with a girl yesterday.
The Childline Imphal activists, led by its co-ordinator Mala Lisam, rescued the boy and the five-year-old girl from Manipur’s Ukhrul district during a raid on Narmada Rana’s residence.
Rana, a Nepali, is the principal and the owner of the Narmada English School at Zomi Villa of Imphal city.
The raid came after another girl, aged eight, had fled the principal’s house and was rescued on March 26. She is the elder sister of the girl rescued yesterday. The raid was conducted with the permission of the state welfare department and Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Imphal West.
Child rights activists said all the three children were Nepalis. The activists said there were signs that the children were employed as domestic help and were being ill-treated.
The principal claimed that the children were relatives and were being educated at her school.
However, activists said the children did not seem to be relatives. Members of the CWC Imphal West held a meeting yesterday to discuss their course of action. “We will make inquiries into the case and take the necessary steps. We made spot inquiries yesterday but are yet to know everything,” said Annie Mangsatabam, the chairperson of the Imphal West CWC.
She said the CWC requested the social welfare department to contact the Sikkim government to trace the boy’s relatives. 
Cops suspect Kishan shot at
TT, Calcutta, March 28: A string of telephone intercepts from Jungle Mahal have led police to believe that Maoist leader Kishan has been trying to sneak into Jharkhand for emergency medical attention after being hit by two bullets in a fight with the security forces.
According to sources, Kishan took part in the encounter on the outskirts of Lalgarh while the security forces were advancing towards a suspected guerrilla base on Thursday morning.
“We didn’t face such intense firing in recent times. It was clear that there was a big leader there. We think it was Kishan,” said an officer who was part of the operation.
Although the police could not find a body in the forest, they were sure of some casualties as the Maoists beat a retreat in the face of the assault by over 1,500 state and central personnel in what was said to be the biggest assault on the rebels in Bengal.
While the forces were advancing towards a deserted Lakshmanpur village on Friday afternoon, their telecom wing recorded conversations on “bullet injuries to Dada”.
People in the region are known to address Kishan, 58, chief of the Maoist guerrilla wing and a politburo member of the CPI (Maoist), as Dada.
Several factors — heightened resistance, telephone intercepts and local intelligence — suggest to the police the Dada in the conversation was Kishan. He is believed to have been hit in his shoulder and leg.
Kishan and his aides were not reachable over the phone. For over a month — since the offensive gained momentum — Maoists have slipped into the silence mode.
The police have apparently learnt from the intercepts that Dada has been moved to somewhere in Belpahari, about 20km from the Hatishole forest where the encounter took place, in the past 24 hours.
“Jharkhand is just a few kilometres from Belpahari (see map) and it appears he is trying to sneak into the neighbouring state. Ferrying him in a motorbike will be risky and he can’t walk on his own. So, they are taking time,” an officer said.
Security forces have found empty medical kits near a deserted irrigation department building in a forest adjacent to Lakshmanpur. The guerrillas carry medical equipment with them.
“But it is not possible to handle bullet injuries in a forest.… We have checked all nursing homes and health centres in the region and so crossing over to Jharkhand seems to be his only option,” said the officer.
The forces have moved into the region and are trying to close down the possible escape routes.
“The forces have fanned out to prevent Kishan from crossing the metalled road between Belpahari and Banspahari on his way to the Jharkhand forests,” the officer said.
The police in Jharkhand and Orissa have been put on alert.
KalimNews Adds: An email is received by Navin Patnaik, Chief Minister of Orissa from Maoists. “Every bullet fired on Kishanji and Bikram alias Abhisek Mukherjee will cost a lot,” warned the mail, purportedly sent by the central military commission of People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA). Though there was no official confirmation on the health status and whereabouts of the top rebel, the mail reinforced police suspicions that Kishanji had indeed suffered bullet injuries while his close aide Bikram was shot dead.  

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