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Monday, April 26, 2010

Morcha will not budge from Siliguri corridor demand,will seek more power in interim set-up: Asha Gurung,,, downpour in Sikkim disturbs life

ENS, Kolkata: Making it clear that there has been no softening in its demand of including Siliguri, Dooars and Terai in the proposed interim set-up of Gorkhaland Regional Authority, Asha Gurung, wife of GJM chief Bimal Gurung and president of the outfit’s Nari Morcha, said they would not budge an inch from its stated position.
Agreeing that the Siliguri corridor was strategically important, she said: “If our demand is not accepted, we will realise our goal through a forceful agitation.”
She said the GJM would also bargain for allocation of powers to the interim set-up similar to that of a state.
“The interim set-up, which would function till December 31 2011, should have no interference from the West Bengal government. It should be given authority to look after law and order,” she said.
She added that the Centre’s response on this was “positive” but refused to elaborate. This comes ahead of the sixth round of tripartite talks scheduled for May 14.
The GJM leader denied having any truck with the Maoists in Nepal, and said neither did her outfit subscribe to the Maoist brand of politics in India.
“It is shocking that so many CRPF jawans were killed by them in Chhattisgarh. We condemn the killing of EFR jawans at Silda,” she said.
According to her, the GJM was now maintaining a distance from both Kamatapur People’s Party and Greater Cooch Behar Democratic Party after it had forged ties with them. She said the GJM would strive to achieve its statehood goal through the Gandhian principles of non-violence and by keeping within the provisions of the Constitution.
TNN, KOLKATA: Gandhibad and woman power this twin force has helped keep the current phase of the Gorkhaland agitation led by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) peaceful, said Asha Gurung, the party's Nari Morcha president and wife of GJM president Bimal Gurung.
Asha, who has been trying to build GJM's organisation in Kolkata, spoke to TOI on Sunday about the party's future plans.
The earlier phase of the agitation led by the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) had been violent, she pointed out. But GJM's agitation since 2007 had been mostly peaceful. "We believe in the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. We preach non-violence to our people," she said.
"We want to achieve Gorkhaland the same way Gandhiji had achieved freedom for India. Whether it takes five years or 10, we will continue in our peaceful way to free ourselves from the yoke of Bengal."
According to her, the leading role of women in the current phase of the Gorkhaland agitation had helped keep GJM's movement peaceful. "During the GNLF movement, only men had led the agitation. They are more volatile by nature, which is why the earlier phase of the movement had been violent."
From enforcing closures to liquor bans, members of the Gorkha Nari Morcha are now taking the lead. Asha did not deny the role of the menfolk in the agitation. "The youths form the backbone of the movement. But we women keep them under control and cool them down when they tend to become violent." According to her, for the past one month, GNLF supporters were engineering clashes in the Hills to "sabotage the non-violent nature of our movement."
During GJM's liquor ban the Hills last November, groups of women carrying party flags would stop cars on way to Darjeeling and look for liquor bottles being carried up. Though the ban has been lifted, Nari Morcha members were still carrying out an anti-liquor campaign in the hills, she said. "Liquor is a social evil. Our boys do not get employment after completing their education. Then they start drinking. Their mothers and the women in their houses are the worst sufferers."
According to her, another feature of the current phase of the agitation was complete communal harmony. "People of all communities and linguistic groups in Darjeeling are support us," she claimed. "In an effort to establish that Gorkhas are tribals, Subash Ghisingh had interfered with the religious practices of people, but we have stopped all that."
She demanded adequate compensation for the families of 24 Eastern Frontier Rifles jawans slain in Silda. "The government had promised Rs 15 lakh to each family, but the full amount is not being given. Also, the government should arrange jobs for their dependants."
The interim council for Darjeeling would not be accepted unless it had jurisdiction over Siliguri, Terai and the Gorkha-dominated parts of Dooars, she said. "We would not accept the Sixth Schedule under any circumstances," she added. 
Army rescues tourists
TNN, GANGTOK: The Army came to the rescue of 1,500 tourists, including many from Bengal, who had been stranded in the upper reaches of East Sikkim due to a severe hail-and-snow storm on Saturday evening.
The sudden downpour resulted in multiple landslides and ice formation at many places along the Jawaharlal Nehru Marg in the Mile 17 area and Kyangnosla village, which severed both road and telephone links. The Black Cat Division immediately mobilized rescue teams from the nearby Army units to rescue the stranded tourists and drivers of the 250 tourist vehicles to safety as also to provide food and shelter to them for the night.
The task of rescuing the tourists continued well into the night and by about 3.30 am, all tourists had been rescued and moved into the safe hands of the Army. The task was challenging because of the poor visibility and heavy snowfall. The tourists were provided medical attention, warm clothing, tea and refreshments before they were safely evacuated to various Army units located at 17 Mile and 13 Mile areas.  
Forest hurdle to highway widening 
TT, Gangtok, April 25: The double-laning of NH31A, the lifeline of Sikkim, has hit a hurdle as the Bengal forest department has not yet granted permission to the Border Roads Organisation to work on the stretch that runs through Darjeeling district.
The chief engineer of BRO’s Project Swastik, Brigadier R.K. Patyal, will meet Bengal chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti in Calcutta tomorrow to discuss the NH31A project and the improvement works along the 92km stretch from Gangtok in East Sikkim to Sevoke in north Bengal.
“We are having forest clearance problems on the Bengal side and the meeting on Monday seeks to resolve this issue,” said the brigadier.
A senior forest officer of Bengal, however, said until the BRO completed a survey of the stretch, the process of granting permission could not begin. “We understand that the BRO is coming to meet the chief secretary, but nothing can be done unless the survey is completed,” the forest officer said.
He said once the survey report was on the table, it would be scrutinised and then sent to the ministry of environment and forests for the final clearance.
“We will be talking about the progress (made) so far and the pending forest clearance,” said Patyal.
Of the 92km stretch of the NH31A, 51.7km falls on the Bengal side. On the Bengal side, the survey is being done jointly by the BRO engineers and the Darjeeling district administration. The survey that had begun sometime last year has not been completed, conceded Brigadier Patyal.
“We have two responsibilities, to maintain and improve the trouble spots, and double lane the highway,” said the BRO chief engineer.
Project Swastik has identified 69 trouble spots (where there are repeated landslides) along the highway. Forty-one of them are on the Bengal side and 28 in Sikkim. In Bengal, the vulnerable spots include Lohapul, Rambhi Bazaar, 27th Mile, Lukhbir, Lepcha Jhora and Melli Bazaar. Rangpo town and 9th Mile are some of the trouble zones in Sikkim.
It is estimated that Rs 45.95 crore will be required to maintain these spots, BRO sources said. Work is in progress in 31 such hazard zones — 14 in Bengal and 17 in Sikkim.
The Swastik chief engineer also said Rs 73.9 crore had been cleared for double-laning the Sikkim side of NH31A in January — 81km from Ranipool below Gangtok to Sevoke.
Tomorrow’s meeting between the Project Swastik head and the Bengal chief secretary follows the understanding that evolved during Chakrabarti’s visit to Sikkim on February 26.
Chief secretary Chakrabarti had during his trip met his Sikkim counterpart T.T. Dorji and Brigadier Patyal to deliberate on NH31A which had been facing political disturbances. Bandh enforcers of pro and anti-Gorkhaland outfits in neighbouring Darjeeling district of Bengal in recent times often blocked the national highway, Sikkim’s only road link with the rest of the country.
West Bengal government regularises 75,000 + teachers
BN, Kolkata, 25 April : At least 75,000 part-time schoolteachers in West Bengal will now have a permanent job with the state deciding to create a new education board. The proposed board will come into effect on 1 July.
These teachers, appointed under the panchayat department’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), will now have a renewable five-year contract instead of the annual contract. They will also get a 35 per cent salary hike. “The SSA teachers have been made permanent. All schools under the new board will have a different status,” state Panchayat and Rural Development Minister Anisur Rahman told Bengal Newz today.
Train hits scooter, 1 dead & 2 missing
TT, Siliguri, April 25: One person was killed and two went missing when their scooter was hit by a New Jalpaiguri-bound train at an unmanned level crossing near Canal More on the outskirts of Siliguri today.
Police said Sukomol Saha, 23, of Surya Sen Colony, Subrata Mondal, 22, of Bhaktinagar and Ramnarayan Choudhury, 23, of Tinbatti More, had been returning from Paramudda, a swimming spot in the Mahananda canal. Sukomol died on the spot near the canal, while the others are suspected to have fallen into the river.
OBC Made easy
Pranesh Sarkar, SNS, KOLKATA, 25 April: Soon after announcing ten per cent reservation in jobs for Muslims in the other backward class (OBC) category, the state government is now all set to make the eligibility for applying for OBC certificates more flexible only to bring maximum possible number of Muslims under the category.
The state backward class welfare department and the West Bengal Commission for Backward Classes have already held two meetings in this month to finalise the new set of guidelines based on which OBC certificates will be issued in the future. Senior officials at Writers’ Buildings said that the government may come up with the new set of guidelines within a couple of months.
Senior officials at Writers’ Buildings told The Statesman that this is aimed at bringing maximum possible number of Muslims under the category so that they can avail the job reservation facility. As almost all eligible Hindus have been included in the OBC category, the changes will benefit the Muslims who often face trouble in getting into the category due to lack of documents. 
The major decision, which the state may take, is to do away with the upper age limit to apply for OBC certificate. Currently, people in the age group of 4-40 years can apply for OBC certificate. But the state government has decided that there will be no age bar and anybody can apply for the certificate at any age.
This apart, applicants need to submit a series of documents to prove their permanent residence and citizenship. But the process would be made more simple as the government has decided that submitting any of the documents like bank passbook or driving licence would be good enough to establish one's residential address.
The state also decided that if one's parents have OBC certificate, he can be issued an OBC certificate directly. But those whose parents don't have the certificate, can issued the certificate if they produce any government documents, like land deed, mentioning that they belong to the OBC category.
Those who don't have any kind of document, but feel they are eligible for OBC certificate, can apply too. But in this case, a hearing and enquiry would be conducted by the commission. The state government is initiating a plan to hold the hearing even in remote areas by setting up camps.
Meanwhile, the commission has expedited the process of bringing in more Muslim communities under the OBC category. Recently, eight more Muslim communities have been included in the OBC category. Officials said four more Muslim communities would be brought in under the category soon. This apart, hearing is on to include another 15 Muslim communities under the OBC category.
Officials said, the state expects to bring 50 per cent of the total Muslim population in the state under the OBC category. To achieve the target, the eligibility for applying OBC certificate to an individual is required to be made flexible apart from including new communities into the category. 
Bodoland Peoples Front sweeps in Bodoland Teritorial CouncilPTI, Guwahati, 23 April : The ruling Bodoland Peoples' Front (BPF) led by Hagrama Mohilary swept the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) polls winning 31 of the 40 seats.
Official sources said in Guwahati on Friday that the BPF won nine seats each in Kokrajhar and Baksa, six seats in Chirang and seven seats in Udalguri while Congress, its ally in the state government, which had entered into a friendly contest in the BTC polls, won three seats. The opposition Bodoland Peoples' Progressive Forum (BPPF) and its ally United Democratic Peoples' Front (UDPF) won a seat each while four independents also made it to the Council, sources added. BTC Chief Hagrama Mohilary told reporters at Kokrajhar that his party would form the Council in alliance with the Congress and strive towards development.

Crack cause of concern for villagers
 BN, Rajshahi, 22 April : A 300-metre long crack has developed at Nawpara village under Mohonpur upazila of Rajshahi district.
People of all 30 houses at the village fear that their houses and farmlands may subside any time as the crack is getting longer and deeper. Experts said extraction of excessive ground water might have caused such incident at the village. While visiting the tiny Nawpara village yesterday, some 30km from Rajshahi city, this correspondent found hundreds of people from neighbouring villages and distant places were visiting the village. The villagers said they did not care the 20 feet long crack that appeared first at the mango orchard of one Taser Mia near Barnoi River a year ago. After Thursday night's nor'wester, the villagers found the crack extended. It was over one foot wide at some places while it looked like hairline at other places.
STAR correspondent measured the length of the crack by his motorbike's mileage meter to be over 300 metres. When contacted, Dr Chowdhury Sarwar Jahan of geology and mining department of Rajshahi University said the crack might have developed at the village due to its location close to a river bend. Geography teacher Dr M Shamsul Alam Bir Protik said excessive extraction of underground water can result in cracks and cause land subsidence. News and Photo : STAR
IUSY writes to SAARC International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) has recently sent a letter to SAARC secretariat through IUSY Asia Pacific Committe on April 21, 2010. At times when the socio-political issue of Bhutanese Refugees is in a state of depletion, IUSY has tried to bring this crisis once again onto the tribune of global political discussions through this letter which is meant to hold a significant consideration during the upcoming SAARC session to be held in Thimphu, Bhutan from April 28-29, 2010.
According to Machris Cabreros, vice president of IUSY ( Philipines), the letter has been revised, with help from Akbayan Youth comrades, considering the factors like introducing IUSY to SAARC as it is the first time the committee has adressesdthe South Asian Associaton; stating institutions attending to the Bhutan issue; toning down “demands” as it is just the first time to engage them; and not stating anything about the monarch as they really don’t hail him at any way.
The signatories in the letter are Macris, Mook and YOB President Rajen Giri. Patrick, Med, Akaash and the rest of YOB deserve special thanks as they have made valuable contributions in the letter.
IUSY, which is fighting for freedom and human rights on the global perspective, is a global NGO made up of 150 socialist, social democratic and labor youth organisations from over 100 countries.
UK to resettle Bhutanese refugees Kingdom has expressed its willingness to help resettle Bhutanese refugees living in seven camps in eastern Nepal.
Officials at the Home Ministry said UK will be resettling the refugees as part of Gateway Protection Program operated by the UK Border Agency in partnership with the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“Necessary preparations are underway in the context of UK expressing its willingness to help resettle Bhutanese refugees,” said Under Secretary Prahlad Pokharel at Home Ministry.
Pokharel said International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, the UK government and the ministry will jointly work to expedite the process.
The UK government has announced to resettle up to 750 refugees in 2010/2011 from different locations including eastern Nepal. It plans to take in around 100 Bhutanese Refugees from Nepal in the year 2010.
Ministry officials said UK Boarder Agency is expected to send a Refugee Resettlement Mission to Nepal sometime in May to conduct preliminary interviews for departure at a future date to expedite the resettlement process in the UK.
The UK is the eighth country to join hands to help resettle the Bhutanese refugees who have been languishing in seven camps in eastern Nepal for almost 20 years now. Altogether seven countries including the United States of America, Australia, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Denmark and the Netherlands have already started taking in the refugees.
The first batch of 100 refugees left for Arizona in the US in March 2008.According to figures provided by the Home Ministry, the IOM has already helped resettle 28,974 of the total 108,000-plus Bhutanese refugees in third countries as of March end. These include 25,401 in the US, 1,298 in Australia, 407 in New Zealand, 326 in Denmark, 319 in Norway and 129 in the Netherlands.
The IOM has been working with UNHCR and the countries concerned to facilitate refugee departures from Nepal since October 2007. This includes the processing of cases for resettlement countries as well as medical screening, cultural orientation and travel arrangements.
The refugees are Bhutanese citizens of Nepalese origin and are known as “Lhotsampas” in Bhutan. They have been living in the camps since being evicted in 1990 from their homes by the Bhutanese government, which introduced a law stripping them of their citizenship and civil rights on the ground of their ancestry.(republica)

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