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Friday, April 9, 2010

Gurung refuses to budge on territory

Gurung- Off to Delhi for meeting with Chidambaram
TT, April 8: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung today said “under no circumstances” would his party agree to leave out portions of Darjeeling district or the Gorkha-dominated areas of the Dooars from the ambit of the interim set up for the hills during the meeting with P. Chidambaram tomorrow.
“Our initial concern is earmarking the jurisdiction of the proposed interim set-up. In tomorrow’s meeting, we will insist that the Centre fix the jurisdiction of the set-up, which in turn will form the geographical boundary of a separate Gorkhaland state when it is created,” Gurung told reporters at Bagdogra airport before leaving for Delhi for the meeting with the Union home minister.
However, he emphasised: “We would like to make it clear that under no circumstances will we agree to leave out the Terai, Siliguri or specified portions of the Dooars from the ambit of the interim set-up.”
Senior ministry officials in Delhi today said the meeting with Chidambaram was fixed at Gurung’s initiative.
“It is a courtesy call,” said an official.
However, another official involved with the tripartite talks process said Gurung wished to meet Chidambaram to impress upon him the rationale behind the Morcha’s demand for the inclusion of a portion of the Dooars and the entire Darjeeling district in the interim set-up.
Although the Morcha had initially insisted on including the entire Darjeeling district and the Dooars comprising the seven blocks of Jalpaiguri district in the proposed Gorkhaland, it had later climbed down and said it was willing to accept only the Gorkha-dominated areas of the Dooars. Darjeeling district in its entirety, however, continued to be within the redrawn map.
“Our delegation is carrying all relevant documents for the proposed set-up and in support of our demand to include the stipulated areas,” Gurung said. “The demand for Gorkhaland continues to remain our main demand but as of now, we want an immediate solution on the jurisdiction of the proposed interim set-up.”
Both the state and central governments have made it clear that the interim arrangement will be confined only to the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.
Gurung, however, said there was “no way” that he would accept this.
“There is no question of agreeing to the Centre or to the state’s proposals and not demanding these areas. We have been harping on the inclusion (of these areas) and will iterate it tomorrow at the meeting,” he said. “But we cannot specify when the proposal (on the interim set-up) will take a final shape as a number of issues are to be sorted out.”
Home ministry officials said the set-up’s territory was one of the most “contentious” issues, and Gurung wanted this to be resolved speedily. They said that once it fell into place, the rest would follow smoothly.
“The Morcha wants a solution early as time is running out,” said a government source. “Any agreement reached barely months before next year’s Assembly elections in Bengal will become difficult to implement for the Centre and the Bengal government.”
Gurung, who is accompanied by party general secretary Roshan Giri and two other leaders, said: “We have initiated a drive to increase communication with the common people in the hills. Similar drives would be undertaken in the Terai and the Dooars soon to augment public relations.”
The move, Morcha sources said, is to rejuvenate the support base in the two areas where, unlike the hills, the activities of the Morcha are comparatively less.
Rival censures closure during census
Rajeev Ravidas, TT, Kalimpong, April 8: GNLF (C) president D.K. Pradhan today said the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s indefinite shutdown of subdivisional and block offices in the hills could not have been so ill-timed for the Gorkhas when an important exercise like the census held once in 10 years was going on.
Pradhan told The Telegraph that the Morcha was committing the same mistake the GNLF had made 10 years back when it had called strikes around the same time the enumeration exercise was being conducted. “Census is very important for every Indian citizen, and instead of creating disruption, we should all be lending our hands to ensure smooth and proper conduct of the exercise,” he said.
Pradhan said at a time when the Gorkhas across the country were demanding a separate state for themselves to protect their identity and culture, it was even more important to ensure that no member of the community was left out of the head count. “Isn’t it surprising that the last census put the total number of Gorkhas in the country at about 28 lakh when we all, including the Morcha and the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisang, claimed that the figure was 1 crore?” he asked.
The Morcha began its shutdown yesterday ostensibly to stop the collection of taxes as well as to protest the alleged tardy progress in the implementation of the 100-days’ work scheme in the hills. But observers say the shutdown is part of the Morcha’s tactics to build up pressure on both the state and central governments to yield ground on the territorial jurisdiction of the interim set-up.
The GNLF (C) president, however, said both the reasons the Morcha had cited for the closure did not hold much water. “Which taxes is the Morcha talking about when it has not allowed the people to pay even their telephone and electricity bills. The slow progress in the implementation of the 100-days’ work is not because of official lethargy, but because of the unwarranted interference by anti-social elements at every stage of the scheme,” he alleged.
Pradhan said the shutdown could not be part of the Morcha tactics to extract concessions from the governments during negotiations on its demand to include Gorkha-dominated areas in the Dooars in the interim set-up.
“The Morcha is closing down the SDO and BDO offices in the hills, not in the portions of the plains which it wants included in the new arrangement. If they are serious and sincere on the demand, they should shut down the offices in the plains also,” he said.
Interim jurisdiction, a Morcha priority Staff to council head: Work from hill office
TT, Darjeeling, April 8: The Janmukti Asthahi Karmachari Sangatan has demanded that DGHC administrator B.L. Meena work from his Darjeeling office, failing which it will start an agitation.
Meena has been working from Pintail village at Salbari near Siliguri since November 16, 2009.
Deepak Sharma, the spokesperson for the JAKS, an association of contract workers of the DGHC, said: “The atmosphere in the hills is conducive for him to work. The people are facing a lot of problems, for all those who need to meet him have to go down to Siliguri on hired vehicles. We request Meena to attend to his office from Darjeeling, failing which we will take a stand on the matter.”
The main office of the administrator is at Lal Khoti in Darjeeling but Meena has chosen to stay in Siliguri ever since the hills erupted over the issue of regularising the casual employees of the DGHC.
On October 30, 2009, Meena had given a written assurance to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha that “the appointment of casual workers against existing sanctioned vacancies (numbering 3472) will be issued from 17 November 2009 onwards observing all formalities”. The total strength of casual workers stands at 6,287.
However, the state government did not fulfil its commitment. Home secretary Ardhendhu Sen later told the Morcha — the JAKS is an affiliate of the party — that the government would not be able to spell out any timeframe to complete the regularisation.
Even though Meena refused comment today, sources said the administrator was staying in Siliguri to avoid any untoward incident. “The situation could turn volatile any time if Meena goes to the hills as the state government has not yet started the regularisation process. Until the core issue of the workers being made permanent is settled, it makes sense to be in Siliguri especially when the talks (regarding the interim settlement) are moving in the right direction,” said a source.
The JAKS, however, insisted that the situation in the hills was at the moment peaceful.
Sharma said that in the absence of Meena in Darjeeling various issues like providing winter allowances to the hill workers had not yet been solved. “In the last financial year (2008-09), we had received Rs 800 as winter allowance. This time it has not been distributed till date. Everyone is facing a lot of problems and if Meena fails to turn up in Darjeeling, we will announce our stand during a public meeting in Kurseong on Saturday.”
Kidnapped Girls rescued
Lucknow, Apr 8 (PTI) Three girls, kidnapped from south district region of Sikkim, were rescued from Maharajganj district in a joint operation by Sikkim and Uttar Pradesh police, a senior officer said today.
Ama Lam Sherpa, Doma Lepcha and Kajal Gupta were recovered from the house of a dance party operator in Bari village in Maharajganj in a joint operation by Sikkim and Gorakhpur police, Additional Director General of Police Brij Lal told reporters here.
He said the operator of the dance party Rajendra Gupta was absconding.
"These girls were duped by Gupta on pretext of providing employment. Later, he forced them to dance in parties," the ADG said.
He said it was a well-organised gang involved in human trafficking.
Man weds daughter’s mom in jail
TT, Siliguri, April 8: A 24-year-old youth from Malbazar today married his girlfriend in jail, almost a year after he had refused to accept the woman, who claimed she was carrying his child, as his wife.
The woman came to Jalpaiguri Central Jail with her 10-month-old daughter, relatives and lawyers to register the marriage.
Neighbours accompanying Rezina Khatun said she is from the same village as Ahidul Islam, who lives in Bidurerdanga.
“Early in 2009, we came to know that she was pregnant. When we grilled her, she broke down and said Ahidul was the father of the child,” said Rafikul Islam, the girl’s father. Ahidul was arrested and jailed in May after Rafikul filed a police complaint that he had refused to marry her. “He told me that his family was opposed to the marriage,” said Rezina.
She gave birth to the child in June after which her family deserted her. The Malbazar SDO Nilkamal Biswas then sent her to a government run home. The home authorities mediated between the two families and marriage arrangements were made after court approval. “We will place the updates about the marriage before the court to facilitate Ahidul’s release,” said Keta Ahmed, his lawyer.
Girl rescued
TT, Jaigaon: GRP officials rescued a minor girl when two men tried to molest her on a train at Dalgaon station on Wednesday night. The 11-year-old girl was travelling to Katihar from New Jalpaiguri when Munna Mahato and his friend tried to sexually abuse her. Mahato has been arrested but his friend escaped.

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