To contact us CLICK HERE
View Kalimpong News at
Citizen reporters may send photographs related to news with proper information to

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Morcha to knock homes for funds

TT, Darjeeling, April 19: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has decided to collect Rs 5 a week from every household within the area it wants as Gorkhaland to raise a “fighting fund”.
The decision, taken at a central committee meeting of the Morcha in Kurseong today, is an indication that the hill party is preparing to step up its agitation as talks on an interim set-up are likely to hit a wall over the territory issue.
Roshan Giri, general secretary of the Morcha, said: “The party has decided to raise a fighting fund and collect Rs 5 from every family per week for four months. We have already formed a 17-member committee for the purpose.” He added that the funds would be used for party activities.
The Morcha is also determined to pursue the promises made by the NHPC Ltd about a year ago.
“The NHPC had promised to set up an engineering college and carry out various development works in the hills. However, they have not yet done anything. The party will meet NHPC officials soon and if they fail to start the work within the next 15 days, we will call a strike at their project sites,” said Giri.
The NHPC is setting up hydel power plants on the Teesta at Kalijhora and 27th Mile in Kalimpong subdivision. The projects are being carried out at an estimated cost of Rs 2,000 crore and are expected to be completed within two years.
The Morcha had called a strike at the NHPC sites in 2009, forcing Jairam Ramesh, the then Union commerce and industries minister, to visit Darjeeling and announce that the NHPC would set up an engineering college, probably in Kurseong.
The Morcha has also decided to send a team to the Northeast later this month to strengthen the party in the region. “Another delegation of the party will leave for Bhaskhu in Himachal Pradesh to attend a seminar on Gorkha language on April 25,” said Giri.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari and the leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, will also be visiting Darjeeling soon. “They will be addressing a public meeting and we are working on the dates,” said Giri.
Boycott withdrawn
The Morcha has withdrawn the economic boycott of traders in the Dooars, Malbazar in particular, following a meeting held at the initiative of Focin at Kalchini yesterday. The boycott was called to protest against the attack on Morcha supporters at Kalchini on April 6, allegedly by the local people.
“The attack was condemned by all at the meeting. The Focin has decided to organise a peace meeting at Malbazar and local traders and parties, including the Morcha, have been asked to participate in it,” said Sadhan Ghosh, the secretary of the Jalpaiguri District Merchants’ Association. 
Ghising rejects Interim setup 
KalimNews: There is no provision for Interim Setup like body in the Indian Constitution but there is provision for Sixth schedule which is very much constitutional said Subash Ghising. He said that Gorkhaland is impossible and the only alternative is VI th schedule.The proposal of inclusion of Dooars and Terai is also a political gimmick which is understood by the hill people he added. He further claimed that more than 300 branch commitees of GNLF has already been formed in the hill.
May Day meet to prove count
TT, Darjeeling, April 19: The CPRM, considered the second largest party in the hills, has decided to organise a public meeting on May Day in a move seen as an attempt to make its presence felt in the hills.
D.S. Bomzom, the spokesperson for the CPRM, however, said: “We have decided to organise a public meeting on May Day in Darjeeling, this is a normal political activity of the party.”
However, since May 1 was last observed by the CPRM in Kalimpong in 2007 — before the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was formed — many believe this year’s programme is meant to make people aware of the party’s presence as well as support base in the hills.
Asked about the CPRM’s failure to organise a major programme in the past two years, Bomzom said: “Sometimes the central committee of the party organises the show while at other times it is the regional committees or the village units. Last year, it was the regional committees that had organised the function (and therefore low-key) and this year the party’s central committee has decided to hold the show.”
The CPRM meet is likely to be followed keenly because despite having a sizeable support base, of late the party has not actively voiced its opinion on the Morcha’s statehood movement.
Although other outfits like the ABGL and to some extent, the GNLF (C), have been decrying the Morcha agitation, they have not yet been able to show their support base in public meetings.
But the CPRM and the Morcha have had their fair share of bickering in the past. The Morcha had at times come down heavily on CPRM general secretary R.B. Rai, alleging that the communists were responsible for the death of the hill people during the 1986 Gorkhaland agitation. Most of the CPRM leaders were with the CPM in 1986 and it was only in 1997 that the CPRM was formed.
Also, the Morcha had opposed the 12-hour strike called by the CPRM on August 22, 2008, to demand a speedy trial of Chattrey Subba, who has been accused of masterminding the attack on GNLF president Subash Ghisingh on February 10, 2001. Even though the Morcha opposed the strike, it, too, had been demanding a speedy trial of Subba.
“It is not true that we have not been holding political activities. Apart from the strike that was opposed by the Morcha, we had held rallies and dharnas in Calcutta and Delhi,” said Bomzom.
Observers, however, believe that there is a marked difference in organising rallies in Darjeeling and outside the hill town (like the one in Kalimpong in 2007). Effectively, the May Day rally will be the first major political activity of the CPRM after the Morcha was formed.
“All our supporters are expected to attend the meeting,” said Bomzom.
It is largely believed that the CPRM will not openly confront the Morcha on May 1 but will send a subtle message that if there is any opposition in the hills right now, it is the CPRM. 
Landslip toll on toy train in tourist season
TT, Siliguri, April 19: An unseasonal landslide has forced the authorities of toy train to run a truncated daily service from Kurseong to Darjeeling at the onset of the tourist season. At other times, the service is from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling.
“There has been a bad landslip between Gayabari (36km from Siliguri) and Mahanadi (3km away) on Friday and since then we have halted operations on the NJP-Kurseong stretch,” Darjeeling Himalayan Railway director P.P. Roy said today. As a result of the landslide, eight-metre-long tracks have been hanging as earth has caved in from beneath the lines.
“The landslip is about 15 metres (in depth) and our engineers have already started work. The spot is in a low-lying area and it’s quite cumbersome to carry out the restoration in such a location. We are hopeful that the job will be completed in a fortnight,” the DHR director said.
Disruption of toy train services because of landslides, usually a monsoon phenomenon, is a crisis that the DHR faces almost every year. Last year, landslides along the tracks took place towards May-end. The NJP-Darjeeling services were suspended throughout the monsoon and resumed in September.
“The impact was not felt much last year because the calamity occurred during the lean season when not many tourists visit the hills,” a DHR source said.
This year, though, the crisis began at the onset of the tourist season, which starts from April and continues till mid-May. The passenger traffic on the 1D and 2D services that are run by diesel regularly from NJP to Darjeeling and vice versa is the highest during the tourist season.
The DHR authorities said following the landslide on Friday they were forced to run the diesel service between Kurseong and Darjeeling. A daily steam service 9D also operates on the route.
“We are definitely incurring losses but to tap the current tourist inflow we are running 1D/2D on the Kurseong-Darjeeling section. The other services in this section are running as usual,” Roy said.
The director, however, refused to spell out the quantum of losses incurred daily.
For chartered rides, too, tourists have to contend with the toy train journey from Sukna (10km from Siliguri) and Tindharia (20km away).
“There are three chartered rides lined up for the coming week. We will run them between Sukna and Tindharia,” the director said.
The stakeholders associated with the tourism sector, however, think that the move to run the diesel service from Kurseong will not benefit the DHR much.
“Tourists generally prefer to board the 1D train from NJP or Siliguri Junction so that they get to enjoy the landscape and the forests through which the toy train passes on its uphill journey. They wouldn’t want to travel to Kurseong by road and then board the Darjeeling-bound train from there,” said a Siliguri-based tour operator.
“Moreover, when the 9D (steam service) is already in operation in that section (Kurseong-Darjeeling), an additional pair of train is not required. The DHR authorities seem to be doing their best under the circumstances, but I don’t think it’s a viable alternative. 
Pact to pull tourists from Goa beach to Himalayas
Bijoy Gurung, TT, Gangtok, April 19: Goa blessed with its sun-kissed beaches and Sikkim, endowed with towering peaks, are set for a rewarding marriage where both the premier tourist destinations will promote each other at their respective ends to ensure more visitors.
An agreement between the tourism development corporations of Goa and Sikkim to achieve the common goal of more tourist footfalls is slated to be inked by the end of this week.
“The idea is to have an agreement to promote tourists from Sikkim in Goa and vice versa. We want to tie up with tourism stakeholders here and come up with a sustained relationship where both Sikkim and Goa tourism will benefit,” Nikhil Desai, the managing director of the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC), told The Telegraph recently.
Desai was leading a GTDC team to Gangtok to showcase Goa’s tourism potential in the Himalayan state.
“Goa, though has seen a manifold rise in foreign and domestic tourists in recent years; wants to pull visitors from Sikkim and other northeastern states,” he said at a promotional event here.
The GTDC managing director said the proposal was to have Sikkim tourism offices to provide promotional items (brochures and leaflets) on Goa to tourists from within and outside the country. “We are very serious about this and we hope to ink a pact soon,” he added.
Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation (STDC) chief executive officer S. Anbalagan echoed Desai.
“We are positive on this agreement. Since Goa draws more foreign tourists than Sikkim, we plan to pull some of them to our state,” said Anbalagan. He added that Sikkim would benefit more in terms of foreign tourists, if the agreement clicked. “It will be like Sikkim tourism in Goa.”
Anbalagan said both the states would be signing agreements after all the formalities were completed.
If Sikkim is eyeing foreigners visiting Goa, the coastal state is interested in tapping the local people here and the domestic tourists visiting the Northeast.
“We expect people from here and the Northeast to visit Goa in large numbers in the next five years. There are many people from Goa visiting Sikkim and we are looking to have people here to visit Goa,” said Desai.
He added that Sikkim and the hilly district of Darjeeling are favourable destinations for Goans.
Nathu-la trade in 5th year, items on lists same
TT, Gangtok, April 19: The Nathu-la border trade with the Tibet Autonomous Region of China is set to start on May 3, but with the same list of obsolete items that traders on both sides of the border have been complaining for the past four years.
The trade will continue till November 30 when the pass at 14,420ft closes down for winter.
Under the bilateral agreement between India and China, there are 29 exportable items. Sikkim traders are allowed to export them to TAR. But the Indian business community can import only 15 items some of them as obsolete as goatskin and sheepskin.
From the time trade through the pass started in 2006, the traders have been demanding that the Centre let them do business with more feasible and marketable commodities. The state government, too, had demanded the inclusion of local products like handicrafts and cash crops in the border trade.
Sikkim Chamber of Commerce president S.K. Sarda said: “Whenever we approach the Union commerce and industries ministry regarding the revision of trade items, the officials tell us that the file is being processed.”
However, local trader Anil Kumar Gupta is optimistic that it will be a good season this time in terms of volume and participating traders. Both have increased, he said.
The export figure for the last season was Rs 135 lakh while import stood at Rs 2.96 lakh. “We are expecting the export figure to cross Rs 2 crore this time,” said Gupta.
A section of traders expects the list to be revised after the border infrastructure is completed on the Indian side.
Currently, the Border Roads Organisation is widening the 51-km-long Jawaharlal Nehru Marg that connects Gangtok with Nathu-la. The double-laning of the road started in 2007 and is estimated to cost around Rs 780 crore.
Sarda said traders will benefit more from the next season when the Nathu-la trade completes five years. According to the bilateral agreement, he claimed, the border trade is supposed to be declared “international” then, which would mean more import and export.
A state government press release said trade would be allowed from Monday to Thursday from 730am till 3.30pm.
Since “border trade” can be done only with items produced near the border, the Centre has fixed a limited currency of Rs 1 lakh per day for each trader.
This year, till today, 135 traders have applied for trade passes with the East District collector. Every year, the traders have to apply afresh. 
On nature’s lap without green- Parks lose footfall in Darjeeling for lack of maintenance 
VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Darjeeling, April 19: Darjeeling today has no green breathing space, though situated on the verdant slopes of the Himalayas.
Along the 15km stretch of Darjeeling, there is virtually no place where the young and old can spend some time with nature — a complete turnaround for a town that once had many parks for rendezvous for the hill populace.
Donovan Park with a well-laid tennis court and manicured lawns was the pride of the town till the late 60s. Today, along the busy NH55, the only remnant of the park is a concrete portico, which seems to be constantly fighting for space with the mushrooming shops, many of which open right into the pavement, much to the chagrin of the pedestrians.
“It actually was a lovely park with tennis court and wide spaces. Children used to play and I remember it was very clean,” said Nayan Prakash Subba, a retired police officer and a well known columnist in Darjeeling.
So was Victoria Park —later renamed Mahatma Gandhi Park, where a monstrous Gorkha Rangamanch Bhawan, which virtually blocks the sight of the Kanchenjungha, is presently situated.
“Victoria Park was simply great. It had a band stand, there were swings, merry go rounds and huge open spaces. I remember, Satyajit Ray had shot extensively in the area for his film Kanchenjungha,” recalled Subba.
The park was literally mauled to set up Rabindra Bhawan. Later, the name was changed to Bhanu Bhawan, which housed the paramilitary forces during the mid-80s, before the entire structure was dismantled by the DGHC for the seven-storied Gorkha Rangamanch.
The story of Albert Park, which was built in 1916, is no different from Donovan. Only a rusty iron gate — symbolic of Darjeeling’s lack of concern for green covers, bears testimony to this once beautiful space. “Near Albert Park there was a Bengali gentleman who had a private zoo. They were lovely cottages around, and in his private zoo, there were deer, wild cats and a number of birds. I remember coming to this zoo with my friends during lunch breaks,” said Durga Kharel, a lawyer in town.
Much of these parks were owned by the Darjeeling municipality, the second oldest civic body in Bengal, which was established in 1850. The municipality is finding it difficult to maintain one park it still has in its possession — the Barbourne Park at Chowrasta which has been renamed Janga Bahadur Park.
The DGHC had constructed a much hyped musical fountain in the park at an estimated cost of Rs 20 lakh. The fountain needed 10,000 gallons of water, which could be recycled. But with the Darjeeling municipality unable to supply potable water to its residents, the fountain was bound to go dry.
In 2008, the municipality started to renovate the park but the project has been stopped because of lack of funds. What remains now is a slushy ground.
The state of affairs is no different at the Shrubbery Nightingale Park. Built at an estimated cost of Rs 1.2 crore by the DGHC, the park has a bullet-proof dais and a statue of Lord Shiva, beneath which water used to constantly flow. Audio systems used to replicate the chirps of various birds and cultural shows were a regular affair.
At the moment, a little more than five years after the park was renovated, weeds have overgrown, the fountain and the pool are dry and paints are peeling off chairs.
Efforts to renovate the park have not been helped by the constant strikes in the hills and the lack of administration at the DGHC. “Things have to be normal for such places to be renovated. The offices are being closed constantly and DGHC is not fully functional,” said an officer.
The only saving grace for Darjeeling is the Lloyd Botanic Garden, which was set up in 1878 and is presently run by the forest department.
“The loss of parks to urbanisation is a sad commentary of affairs in town. Children hardly have space to play. We can take a stroll at the Mall, which still has a decent amount of open spaces but children cannot play there,” said Subba.
It is definitely Darjeeling’s loss and there is no hope given the lack of space. “Unless of course we come up with a satellite township with long term planning,” said another officer.
Cops fire to disperse relief-seekers- Storm struck villagers attack police & their cars
TT, Raiganj, April 19: Police fired three rounds in the air and burst tear-gas shells after they were attacked by angry storm-hit villagers who laid siege to the Sitgram gram panchayat office this evening, demanding relief.
Trouble broke out around 5.30pm when the mob of about 1,500 who had regrouped after being dispersed earlier attacked the police from all sides at Sitram on NH34, 12km from here.
Sujit Ghosh, the inspector-in-charge of Raiganj police station, said his force had no option but to fire in the air, as the mob was targeting the men in uniform, several of whom had been seriously injured. The mob also damaged a police van and a jeep that were rolled off the road into a ditch along the highway.
The subdivisional officer in charge of Raiganj, Pradip Acharya, said three rounds were fired in the air. Sub-inspector Tapan Sen and assistant sub-inspectors R. Mondol and Narayan Das suffered deep cuts on their heads, faces and bodies after they were mercilessly beaten up by the mob, the SDO in charge said. “These policemen were lucky as they were rescued in time,” he added. All three officers have been taken to the district hospital.
A large force, led by deputy superintendent of police Amlan Ghosh, is camping in the area.
The police said about 700 men had arrived at the gram panchayat office at 1pm, demanding tarpaulin sheets. More than 50,000 huts were completely destroyed and 43 people died in the killer storm that struck the five blocks of North Dinajpur on the midnight of Tuesday.
Since then, the affected areas have seen violence that forced the panchayat functionaries to flee their homes for fear of reprisal from the storm-struck people. In the past six days, the gram panchayat offices in Karandighi I and Raniganj, and the block office in Hemtabad have been besieged by the people who complained about a tardy distribution of relief. Even relief minister Mortaza Hussain had to face angry demonstrators during his visit to the storm-hit blocks on Saturday.
Today, however, the panchayat office staff informed the police around 1pm that the crowd of relief-seekers were getting restive outside the office. Soon a force came to the area and asked the crowd to disperse. The protesters, demanding relief, instead set up a roadblock on NH34 in front of the office, but were dispersed by baton-wielding men in khaki.
One of the two persons detained by the police, Sajidul Haq, a resident of Kasimpur village, said he and Mohammed Fatibul, were in no way involved in attacking the police. “We had come with the others for tarpaulin sheets as we have been living in the open ever since the storm, the others got incensed when they saw the police and were lathi-charged while demanding relief,” said Sajidul.
District magistrate Ramanuj Chakrabarty said the attack on the police was motivated by political interests. “The distribution of relief had picked up and today’s incident is politically motivated,” Chakrabarty said.
The Congress gram panchayat pradhan of Sitgram, Nabakumar Roy, said the attack was instigated by the CPM.
“The people who attacked the police are all outsiders and were sent by the CPM to discredit us,” Roy said.
The CPM’s Raiganj local committee secretary, Nilkamal Saha, countered the Congress pradhan’s charge. “It is their own people who had gone to the panchayat office demanding relief. The panchayat members are looting the material meant for the storm-hit. We only demonstrated in the block development offices demanding proper distribution of relief. None of our supporters were involved in the attack today,” Saha said.
Volcano in Iceland, Ash Cloud over Europe
As the ash cloud from Iceland's volcanic eruption continues to hover over the European skies, flights to and from Europe remained suspended.
The closing of European airspace has dealt a severe blow to the beleaguered airline industry. The crisis has cost the airlines at least $1 billion so far in lost revenue and could wipe out weaker carriers if it continues much longer, analysts say. Scientists say that because the volcano is situated below a glacial ice cap, magma is being cooled quickly, causing explosions and plumes of grit that can be catastrophic to plane engines, depending on prevailing winds.

A car is seen driving near Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Iceland, through the ash from the volcano eruption under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland.
The volcano erupted for the second time in less than a month, melting ice, shooting smoke and steam into the air. (AP Photo)
The Icelandic volcano that has kept much of Europe land-bound is far from finished spitting out its grit, and offered up new mini-eruptions that raise concerns about longer-term damage to world air travel and trade. (AP Photo) An aerial view of the glacier where the flood water, lower right, was flowing into the Markarfljot  river from the glacier, volcanic eruption and the cracks in the Eyjafjallajokull glacier. The volcano in southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier continued to send ash into the air. The Icelandic volcano that has kept much of Europe land-bound is far from finished spitting out its grit, and offered up new mini-eruptions that raise concerns about longer-term damage to world air travel and trade. (AP Photo).
Volcanic ash seen over Iceland´s main ring road near Skogar, east of the eruption as the volcano in southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier sends ash into the air. (AP Photo)
 This aerial image shows the crater at the summit of the volcano in southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier. A lingering volcanic ash plume forced extended no-fly restrictions over much of Europe, as Icelandic scientists warned that volcanic activity had increased and showed no sign of abating - a portent of more travel chaos to come. Although the ash plume has grown, a northerly wind was expected to allow enough visibility for scientists to fly over the volcano. (AP Photo)
Hay rolls covered by volcanic ash are seen on a farm located east of the eruption in Reykjavík, Iceland. Farmers across the region where the volcano erupted last week under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier have been scrambling to protect their herds from inhaling or ingesting the ash, which can cause internal bleeding, long-term bone damage and teeth loss.(AP photo)

No comments:

Post a Comment