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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

TT, Darjeeling, March 9: BJP Rajya Sabha member Rajiv Pratap Rudy will move a private member’s bill seeking the creation of Gorkhaland in the Upper House of Parliament on March 12.
“I was told by Rudy’s private secretary that the MP would move a private bill in the Rajya Sabha on March 12 seeking the creation of a separate state for the Gorkha people. The bill is of immense importance for us and we thank Rudy for his consistent effort to highlight the issue in Parliament. The statehood issue will again be highlighted when Rudy moves the bill,” Roshan Giri, the Morcha general secretary, said here today.
The bill, which has no backing of the ruling UPA, is most likely to be defeated but the Morcha believes that it will once again bring the statehood demand under focus at the national level. It is also not clear whether the BJP which had agreed to “sympathetically” look into the demands of the people of Darjeeling and the Dooars in its election manifesto will issue a whip to all its MPs to vote for the bill.
A private bill on Gorkhaland had been moved in Parliament before also. Dawa Lama, a CPM leader who later joined the CPRM, moved the bill in 2000, but it was defeated.
Threat to shun exam duties 
- Protest to fulfil hill school wish-list
Darjeeling, March 9: The Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation has decided not to evaluate the answer scripts of the Madhyamik candidates this year and has threatened to abstain from invigilation during the coming Higher Secondary examinations unless its demands are fulfilled.
Bijay Pradhan, the general secretary of the union affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, said: “We had submitted a list of demands to the state government on June 30, 2009 and had met bureaucrats, including the additional chief secretary. These officials are passing the buck between the DGHC and the state government. We strongly believe that the government is responsible for all that ails the education system in the hills.”
The union had last year demanded that an adhoc board be formed to recommend regularisation of contract teachers, appointment of headmasters, recognition and upgrade of junior high schools.
“Since our demands have not been fulfilled, we have decided to boycott the evaluation of the Madhyamik answersheets and will not invigilate in the Higher Secondary examinations,” said Pradhan.
The DGHC area has 41 high schools, 53 junior basic schools and 34 higher secondary schools with 1,350 teachers, of whom 450 have been recruited on an adhoc basis. The union wants these teachers to be regularised as they are already appointed against sanctioned posts.
“More than 50 vacancies of headmasters have not been filled up. The teachers-in-charge have been asked to undergo the headmaster’s training in Kalimpong from tomorrow but when it comes to their appointment, the government is developing cold feet,” said Tshering Tamang, a member of the union.
Most of the adhoc teachers have been appointed largely because Subash Ghisingh’s regime did not accept the School Service Commission. “Once the interests of the adhoc teachers are taken care of, the government can come up with its own policy of recruitment,” said Pradhan.
Bhisan Roka, the media and publicity secretary of the union, said: “Even junior high schools are not being recognised. A district like North Dinajpur, which is smaller when compared to the DGHC, has 106 high schools, whereas the hills have only 41. They, however, have only 20 junior basic schools compared to 53 such institutions in the DGHC area. This clearly shows that the government does not even want to upgrade the hill schools.”
The union said the demands had already been endorsed by the DGHC and forwarded to the education department on November 30.
Students awarded and encouraged to join force
TT: Maj. Gen. B.K. Sharma, General-Officer-Commanding (GOC), Striking Lion Division, felicitated meritorious students of Rockvale Academy in Kalimpong during the institution’s silver jubilee celebration on February 27.
The GOC advised the children to dream big and put in systematic hard work to achieve their goals.
The army offers good opportunities to build a career and all assistance and guidance will be provided to those desiring to join the force, Sharma said. He also stressed the role of parents and teachers in shaping the children’s character.
Bid to erase groupism
TT, Kalimpong, March 9: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has divided the Kalimpong municipality area into four zones and formed committees as part of its ongoing exercise to restructure the party and extirpate factionalism.
The four committees — urban zonal committee (UZC) I, UZC II, semi-urban zonal committee (SUZC) I and SUZC II — will replace the earlier town committee. UZC I will comprise municipal wards 1, 2, 3, 4, 11 and 12, while UZC II will consist of wards 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Wards 13, 14, 15, 16, 18 and 23 form SUZC I and wards 17, 19, 20, 21 and 22 are part of SUZC II.
The Morcha held a public meeting here today to select the office-bearers of UZC I. D.C. Khati was chosen the president of the committee in the presence of the party president, Bimal Gurung. Tara Lohar and Anand Garg were selected vice-presidents and Pratibha Kumai named the secretary.
“The office-bearers of the other three zonal committees will be selected over the next three days,” said Binay Tamang, the Morcha assistant secretary.
The Morcha had embarked on the exercise to restructure the party in the subdivision more than a month back. So far, 26 zonal committees have been formed by primarily dividing the DGHC constituencies, also called samastis, into a minimum of two and maximum of four zones, depending on their size in terms of area and population. That means the zonal committees are being formed in place of the samastis and the lone town committee.
For instance, Samasti 24 now has four zonal committees in Sinjee-Samthar-Yangmakum, Gitdabling, Loley-Kafer-Khani and Pabringtar-Nimbong-Pemling; while the smaller Samasti 26 has been divided into Sangsay and Mungpong zonal committees.
Explaining the rationale behind the new structure only in Kalimpong, Morcha spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri said unlike in the Darjeeling and Kurseong branches, factionalism had been the bane of the party here. “The existence of different groups is hurting the image of the party. This exercise is aimed at giving a more cohesive look to the party.”
Once all the committees are formed, the party will allow them gestation period, and depending on the response of the people, the subdivisional branch will be formed.
Para-teachers seeking jobs caned 
- Hill cart road blocked for three hours
Siliguri, March 9: Around 400 primary para-teachers were lathicharged this afternoon when they forcibly tried to enter the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad premises to submit a memorandum demanding that they be made permanent.
In protest, the agitators, under the banner of the All Bengal Primary Para-teachers’ Association, set up a blockade for nearly three hours from 2.15pm on Hill Cart Road at Hashmi Chowk. They demanded that policemen responsible for the lathicharge be arrested and two para-teachers detained by the police be released.
The para-teachers alleged that about 50 of them, including a pregnant woman, had been injured in the lathicharge. However, sources at the Siliguri District Hospital said 11 had suffered injuries. Of them, one has been admitted with a head injury, while the rest were discharged after first aid.
“We have been working in different primary schools across Siliguri subdivision for more than five years and have been getting Rs 4,000 per month. The state government has not taken any initiative to make our jobs permanent. Moreover, some schools in Phansidewa and Bidhannagar have refused to renew contracts of five-six para-teachers,” said Abhijit Nag, the Darjeeling district secretary of the association.
He said the members of his organisation had wanted to submit a memorandum to the SMP sabhadhipati, Pascal Minj, but the police wouldn’t let them enter the premises. “As we tried to negotiate, they suddenly resorted to lathicharge.”
At present, 441 para-teachers are working on contract in the primary schools of the subdivision. Their contract is renewed every year.
Today around 12 noon, the para-teachers took out a rally from Baghajatin Park and headed towards the SMP, a kilometre away. Nearly 50 personnel of the district commando force and a few women constables were deployed at the Parishad entrance.
On reaching the SMP, the protesters squatted in front of the gate, blocking movement of vehicles to and from the premises. Around 1.15pm, they demanded entry to the building to submit a memorandum.
The police immediately formed a barricade at the entrance. A negotiation began on how many protesters should be allowed in.
“We were ready to allow 15 of them (the protesters) to enter the premises. But they insisted that all of them be allowed. When we refused, they heckled our personnel and tried to break the barricade. Some of them even threw stones at us. This prompted us to resort to lathicharge,” said Alok Dasgupta, the inspector-in-charge of Siliguri police station.
Sufala Burman, a member of the association, alleged that around 50 women protesters had been injured. “Lipika Barman, who teaches at Patharghata Junior Basic School and is pregnant, was hit on the back and the arm,” she said.
The SMP member in charge of education, Sudhir Barman, said the saha-sabhadhipati was ready to receive the memorandum.
“The sabhadhipati was not present today. He had asked me, the district project officer (DPO) of the Sarva Shiksha Mission (SSM) and the saha-sabhadhipati to accept the memorandum on his behalf. The appointment was fixed at 2pm but nobody came to meet us,” said Barman.
Sumedha Pradhan, the DPO, said the SMP could do little to help the para-teachers. “This is a policy decision and nothing could be done at our level,” she said.
As the para-teachers blocked Hill Cart Road at Hashmi Chowk at 2.15pm protesting the lathicharge, senior police officers and an executive magistrate tried to persuade them but to no avail. However two hours later, a delegation of five para-teachers was allowed to meet the sabhadhipati, who came to the office after the trouble broke out.
“We have listened to their grievances and will raise the issue of automatic renewal of the para-teachers’ contracts at the next meeting of the SSM,” Minj said.
“Within a fortnight, myself and two representatives of the association will go to Calcutta to meet the school education minister to discuss the demands raised by them.”
On the lathicharge, the sabhadhipati said he would talk to the senior police officers. He also said two members of the association detained by the police were released. The meeting ended at 5pm and the blockade was also lifted.
Highways to be renumbered
The Government has decided to renumber the National Highways across the country as the system of numbering of National Highways (NHs) presently being used is not on scientific method. The Government has accepted the recommendations of the Committee set up by it in this regard in 2009. As per the modified numbering system of National Highways, the NHs predominantly along the North-South direction and along the East-West direction are considered as Primary Routes. The Primary Routes along the North-South direction are being numbered in increasing order from east to west direction as even numbers in 2 digits and the Primary Routes along the East-West direction are being numbered in increasing order from north to south direction as odd numbers in 2 digits. The Secondary Routes are considered as those routes which are either circumferential routes around a Primary Route or a Spur Route originating from a Primary Route. The Secondary Routes are proposed to be numbered in 3 digits, with 2 digits as same as that of the Primary Route Number and the third digit prefixing the 2 digits as either even number or odd number depending upon whether it is a circumferential route around the Primary Route or it is a spur route originating from the Primary Route. Suffixes, such as A, B, C, D, etc. have also been proposed to be used for Secondary Routes with gap numbering in order to accommodate present as well as future such routes. 
R.P.N.Singh, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways informed the Lok Sabha today.(PIB)
Wham! Bodily lifted and then passed
A battle won, Sonia braces for risks
Shankarshan Thakur, TT, New Delhi, March 9: Sonia Gandhi pulled out all stops to trigger an historic stride towards 33 per cent reservation for women in legislatures today but flung the future of the UPA government in the pit of intensifying tumult, making it plain to reluctant sections of her own party that some political risks were worth taking.
Unrelenting Upper House dissenters muscled out by marshals, the Rajya Sabha passed the reservation amendment by a merciless 186-1 vote this evening, but the weight of that majority barely reflected the resistance the move is up against.
Apart from the Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and a section of the Janata Dal (United), Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress, too, broke away late in the day, protesting that it had not been consulted and insisting on a quota for minorities.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government was liberally lauded by the bill’s many proponents — the majority of them from the Opposition BJP and Left — but the clamour of trouble rang loud above the cheer.
Even so, it was clear Sonia was determined to push through her initiative, even at the risk of jeopardising UPA II. Asked whether the move was worth risking the life of the government, Sonia told NDTV: “Well, we are aware of the risks. Whenever revolutionary steps are taken, there are risks involved and we have taken them into account. But some things are more important.”
Sonia also made to dispel the impression that her personal choices had run ahead of political imperatives and that she overrode influential sections of her party, including the Prime Minister and several senior ministers, who were in favour of factoring in immediate and long-term risks to the government before proceeding with the bill.
“It is not only my decision, there are senior party leaders, the Prime Minister, Pranab Mukherjee…. In politics, there are always risks… things may go one way or the other… but the larger picture has to be taken into consideration,” she said.
But nerves have been jangled in the Congress, Sonia’s que sera sera confidence notwithstanding. She herself admitted indirectly that sections of the party were not in favour of bulldozing the legislation through at the cost of losing key allies in the Lok Sabha.
Off the record, Congress leaders poured forth their apprehensions. “We have just about started the second term of this government and we are faced with a massive crisis that could eventually bring the government down; after all, the BJP and the Left are not going to bail us out from future trouble.”
Prime Minister Singh appeared visibly cognisant of the dark cloud attached to the silver lining his party boss had resolved to etch on legislative annals. His demeanour in the Rajya Sabha today was a stark contrast to the beaming champ who emerged from the nuclear deal trust vote two summers ago flashing a Formula One V-sign.
He sat sullen in his chair, belying any sense of history erupting around him, haunted by the crises that now await him within and outside Parliament.
For a start, the budget needs to be passed. The rupture with the SP and the RJD will most certainly become a recurrent headache in the Rajya Sabha where the Congress does not even enjoy the thin excess of numbers it still has in the Lok Sabha.
loadingTomorrow, Singh’s majority in the Lok Sabha will be formally slashed when Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh post their withdrawal of support to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Mamata’s Trinamul, worried over the bill’s impact on its minority votebank in Bengal, is in a fit that could take unpredictable turns, though she is unlikely to withdraw support. Individual supporters like Asaduddin Owaisi of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen have turned their backs firmly on the government.
That’s only the story of allies Manmohan Singh has. Come key discussions on the budget — or the raging price rise — and the UPA will find itself matted by the BJP and the Left.
As the bill was being put to vote before a kangaroo court-like Rajya Sabha, Lalu Prasad stepped down the Parliament stairs to call all-out war against the Congress and the UPA. “The way they have behaved today, dragging MPs out of the House, reminds us of the Emergency. Parliament has been turned into a thana (police station).”
The RJD leader, flanked by Mulayam Singh, left few in doubt they would make the Lok Sabha an even more intense barrier for the bill. “At the moment they are passing it in a House where the reservation does not even apply,” he said mockingly of the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha. “Let it come to the Lok Sabha, we shall see. Dilli abhi bahut door hai.”
But it isn’t merely a parliamentary battle that worries large sections of the Congress and the UPA; it is the possibility that OBC and minority protagonists like Lalu Prasad and Mulayam could use this opportunity to unleash a new tide in the Hindi heartland and upset the Congress’s rebuilding plans.
OBCs have never been traditional votaries of the Congress but the party is eager to win back the support of Muslims as part of its bid to regain foothold in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Congress managers, Sonia included, were at pains to stress that the law in the making “does not prevent backward or Muslim women” from taking advantage to seek empowerment, but many in the party fear that the argument is already being won by Lalu Prasad and Mulayam.

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