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Friday, April 23, 2010

Murder spurs Morcha members to resign - Party flags removed in protest..DGHC head hints at nexus

GJMM Leader resigns
TT, Darjeeling, April 23: Around 250 members of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, all residents of a tea garden here, announced their resignations from the party today to protest the murder of a GNLF sympathiser last evening.
The angry residents of the Chungtung tea garden, about 30km from here, also removed the Morcha flags from their rooftops in protest.
Pushpa Jung Thapa, 55, was on his way home in the garden when he was accosted by a group of five to six youths at the Sallabari division of the estate around 6pm yesterday. The gang dragged Pushpa out of the jeep and stabbed him to death.
The president of the Morcha’s trade union in Chungtung, Hijjan Thapa, said: “My brother was not involved in any political activities at the moment. He had started a vegetable business and used to bring supplies from Siliguri. He had gone there for the same purpose but was killed without being given a chance to defend himself.”
Hijjan named three Morcha members in the FIR he has filed. “Suman Rai, Saran Lama and Govind Thapa had led the murder. My brother had just alighted from the vehicle to stop at his daughter’s house when he was killed. I have filed an FIR (with Pulbazar police station) against the three,” he said.
Kham Kumar Chhetri, the Morcha president of the 86 Division Lalmandhura — a labour line of the garden — was more critical. “We want to tell the Morcha leadership that we no longer believe in their movement and we are announcing our resignation from the party. They term their (statehood) movement as Gandhian but a person is killed without a chance to defend himself,” he said. There are about 260 households in the 86 Division.
Pushpa had been arrested along with 13 other GNLF leaders following the death of Pramila Sharma, a Morcha activist, in Darjeeling on July 25, 2008. The incident had set the hills on fire as the shot that killed Pramila was allegedly fired from the house of Deepak Gurung, the GNLF’s Darjeeling Branch Committee president. Senior leaders like Gurung, A.R. Dewan and N.K. Kumai were arrested, while the houses of many other leaders were torched.
“Some people probably thought that he was a GNLF cadre because of his arrest,” said Hijjan.
Sources said the murderers were on the lookout for people who had gone down to Siliguri to meet GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh yesterday. “There were rumours in the area that a few people had been to Siliguri to meet Ghisingh who is planning to stage a comeback to take on the Morcha. They saw Pushpa coming from Siliguri and hacked him to death since he was once with the GNLF,” said a source.
Pemba Tshering Ola, the president of the Morcha’s Darjeeling subdivisional committee, denied the party’s involvement in the attack. “The party is not involved in the attack. We have not given any instruction like this and we condemn the incident,” he said.
Asked about the resignation, Ola said: “Emotions are high now. We will talk to the leaders later who have resigned.” 
KalimNews: 18 families of CPRM and 4 families of CPIM of Rungbulk, Chandraman Dhura of Sonada, were given membership of GJMM after their willingness to join GJMM. 
Jaldhaka included in Panchayat
KalimNews:The Government of West Bengal has decided to include Jaldhaka Hydel Project area and the people living in this area into Panchayat  during the Census 2010. So long the area was considered as Industrial area and the people residing in the Hydel Project were deprived of Panchayat facilities stated GJMM source but GJMM had demanded for inclusion of area of JHP into Panchayat. 
Earlier the Telephone department too had included this area into Urban area. and the consumers were charged higher rates f urban category. Later with the demand to include and categorise into Rural area by Jaldhaka Telephone Consumer Association the demand was fulfilled and  the  telephone department of BSNL categorised it into Rural, said A.K.Rai Secretary of JTCA.
Meena blames morcha
TT, Siliguri, April 23: DGHC administrator B.L. Meena today accused the leaders of the frontal organisations of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha of usurping DGHC tenders in connivance with contractors and doing substandard work across the hills.
Meena said only 30-35 per cent of the funds disbursed for the projects was being utilised for their execution. “I better not comment on the remaining portion (65-70 per cent) of the disbursed funds because everybody is aware of what is happening in the hills,” the administrator said.
He said he was not satisfied with the progress and the quality of work executed by the contractors in the DGHC area.
“In many cases we have found that organisations like the Gorkha Janmukti Nari Morcha and the Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha are executing the projects (instead of the contractors who had been given charge),” Meena told journalists at his office in Pintail Village on the outskirts of Siliguri.
“We are following government norms while issuing tenders, finalising the lowest bidder and making payments to the contractors. But on their part, the contractors are not executing the works properly. I have inspected two schemes in Sukna. There, I was told that it was the local leaders of the Nari Morcha and the Yuva Morcha, not any of the eligible contractors, who were in charge of the projects,” he added.
Meena’s sudden attack on the Morcha seems to be a two-pronged strategy of the state government. “On one hand, this will stop the cries of the anti-Morcha parties, which have been saying that the government is silent while crores are being misappropriated. On the other hand, it will create pressure on the Morcha leaders who need to prove that they have no connection with the DGHC, financially or politically. The Morcha has to show that it has severed all ties with the council, which it feels is inadequate to meet the people’s aspirations,” an observer said.
Meena, who took charge as DGHC administrator on May 11, 2008, said since then, the council has received Rs 260.53 crore from the Centre and state for “specific as well as non-specific” purposes. “Of this, we have Rs 56 crore unspent under the planned heads while there is a liability of Rs 67 crore,” he said, reeling off figures from the accounts book.
Meena said the security money of at least one contractor who had done a poor job of the repair of Rohini Road in Kurseong subdivision had been held back. “We had to issue a new tender and do the work again. We understand that if any harsh step is taken, it will only stop the ongoing works, thus adding to the plight of people.”
According to him, the money is lying unspent because of late receipt of funds and some other factors. “Government offices are often shut down, affecting the monitoring mechanism and delaying the utilisation of funds. Moreover, funds had reached us in March, which was the end of the financial year,” the DGHC administrator said.
Meena said running his office from Pintail Village was convenient. “My perception is that in the present state of affairs, if I move to Darjeeling, I might encounter problems,” he said. “It is always convenient for me to work from Pintail Village or Siliguri.”
Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha, has hit back at Meena. “He himself is staying away from the hills and is in no position to monitor the ongoing projects of the DGHC. How can he level allegations against us,” Chhetri said.
Cops offer student solution to traffic woes
A newly painted traffic booth on a Darjeeling road. Picture by Suman Tamang.
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, April 23: Darjeeling police have decided to involve students to streamline the flow of traffic in the hill town.
The Telegraph in its April 16 edition had highlighted the traffic problems in Darjeeling because of lack of parking spaces. Even though the bigger issue of creating more parking lots cannot be solved immediately, the police are trying to smoothen the traffic flow with the existing infrastructure.
Darjeeling today is the most densely populated hill town in the world. According to statistics compiled by the state government in 2001, the tourist destination has the highest human density among all mountainous regions of the world with a population of 1,266 persons for every square km.
The police have introduced one-way routes but that has not helped much. “The traffic is so huge that there is no space for the vehicles to move about freely. So let us not talk about the predicament the pedestrians have to face as they, too, have to use the same road because of lack of pavements,” said a resident.
Kunal Agarwal, the additional superintendent of police of Darjeeling, said: “Considering the present traffic woes in town, especially with the onset of the tourist season, Darjeeling police are taking enthusiastic measures to improve the overall situation.”
A coordinated public-police partnership is mooted for streamlining the movement of vehicles inside the town and creating awareness on traffic signals and rules among the people, the police officer said.
To start with, the police will organise a traffic safety week from April 26 to 30. “On April 28, we will organise a workshop in collaboration with the motor vehicles department for motorcyclists at the Red Cross Hall,” said Mitra Rai, the officer in-charge of the traffic department.
Educational institutions have been asked to send a list of students owning motorcycles so that young bikers can be taught the basic safety rules.
“We will also set up booths at nine points across the town and these will be manned by the students along with our officials for two hours from 11am to 1pm for three days. The students will haul up errant drivers. Even though we will not start any specific cases against the drivers, the students will hopefully ensure that those on the wheels think twice before they start driving rashly,” said Mitra.
Rallies and elocution competitions on “how to improve traffic system in Darjeeling town” will also be organised as part of the traffic safety week. On the opening day, the rally will start from Chowrastha and criss-cross the town before ending at Sadar police station.
As part of the preparations, the authorities have started painting the traffic booths. “If the students come up with good ideas in the elocution competitions, we can implement the same,” added Rai.
During the traffic week, the police will also distribute prizes for the best slogan on the placards, traffic management by students, and to elocutionists and the best kept parking lot in town.
Double boost to Dooars
TT, Alipurduar, April 23: The departments of forest and tourism will jointly launch projects to attract more visitors to the Dooars, where lack of infrastructure is blamed for the thin footfall.
Introduction of horse riding, repair of bungalows and construction of cottages are among the projects the forest and tourism ministers have announced during their visit to the wildlife sanctuaries in the Dooars in the past two days.
Last evening, the ministers had a meeting with the forest officers of Buxa Tiger Reserve and decided to renovate two bungalows at Rajabhatkhawa, Leo and Tiger. Both are made of wood and they are in deplorable condition.
In the past, tourists flocking the reserve used to stay in these bungalows. But over the years, poor maintenance have left the structures unsuitable for the stay and visitors are not allowed entry nowadays.
“Leo and Tiger will be spruced up. We will increase the number of rooms and all modern amenities will be put in place to provide better hospitality to the guests,” said tourism minister Manab Mukherjee.
There are also plans to pull more tourists to the Buxa Fort.
“As a large number of people are coming to the Dooars, there should be proper infrastructure to satisfy them. Buxa Fort is a place where our freedom fighters had been detained during the British Raj. It has a lot of historical importance and many people like to visit the place. A museum, trekker cottages and a small cafeteria will come up at the fort,” said Mukherjee.
This morning, Mukherjee and the forest minister, Ananta Roy, went to South Khayerbari Eco Park, where rescue centres for tigers and leopards are located.
“South Khayerbari has a lot of potential and we are giving a highest priority to the place as it is adjacent to Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary. Six jungle tents will be erected and modern facilities will be put in place in the three existing cottages. The tourism department has also plans to construct new cottages on the bank of the Bala Torsha. Horse rides on a 10km road will also be introduced in the park,” said the tourism minister.
Roy said: “The tourism department has a lot of funds, but lack of infrastructure is the major impediment to the flow of visitors to the Dooars. We will give them our land to set up bungalows and cottages. The main attraction of the Dooars is the forest and we invite people to cherish its beauty without disturbing the area’s bio-diversity.”
Shutdown to slam course shift
TT, Darjeeling, April 23: Educational institutions and government offices remained closed in Kalimpong subdivision today to protest the decision of the directorate of library services to shift a library science course from Kalimpong Peoples’ (Janta) College to Siliguri “due to the present administrative turmoil in Darjeeling”.
The bandh had been called by the Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation (JSTO), the Gorkha Primary Teachers’ Organisation and the Janmukti Karmachari Sangatan — all affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
Hari Dahal, the secretary of the JSTO (Kalimpong), said: “The three organisations jointly brought out a rally from the Mela Grounds to the subdivisional officer’s chamber, where we shouted slogans against the government’s decision,” said Dahal.
The organisations have asked for a written assurance from the state government that the order to shift the courses to Kalimpong will be revoked by April 30. “If a written order is not issued, we will announce a mass agitation after April 30,” said Dahal.
In a letter, the director of library services has asked the secretary of the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad area and the district library officer, Jalpaiguri, to organise a certificate course in Siliguri using the infrastructure of the office of the additional district library there.
The 16th certificate training course in librarianship at Kalimpong has also been declared “cancelled due to non-availability of required panel of candidates from the DGHC area” and a directive has been issued to start a fresh course in Siliguri from May 2010.
Dahal, however, blamed the state government for the state of affairs. “Classes could not be held because of the government’s negligence. A proper committee was not formed to run the college since 2007. Only one permanent teacher has been recently appointed. When there are no teachers why will students enroll in the college?” questioned Dahal.
GJMM bite slackens, Hill beckon tourists
Pranesh Sarkar,SNS, KOLKATA, 23 April: No adverse condition can deter a holidaymaker, atleast those from Bengal. As the movement of the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJMM) have started losing its bite over the past few months and the blazing sun continued to make the situations for the citizens here almost unbearable, the Hills in Darjeeling once again seem to be beckoning its admirers. Senior officials of state tourism department said most of its tourist lodges located in Darjeeling and Kalimpong have already been booked till the end of May. Not only the tourist lodges owned by the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC), private hotels and lodges have also been booked till the end of May.  
“Darjeeling is the most favourite tourist spot during summer. For the past couple of years, tourism industry was hit by the Hills siege. Last year, the lodges of WBTDC remained vacant during the summer and only 30 per cent rooms were booked during this season. As the intensity of the agitation has died down considerably, the Hills seem to have ” said an official. 
Officials also said, as a large parts of the state is reeling under unbearable temperature and schools are likely to declare summer vacations in May, people in the state have started planning to have a long trip to this serene place.  
Officials at WBTDC said they have one tourist lodge in Darjeeling which has nearly 30 rooms. Majority of the rooms have been booked till the first week of June starting from the last week of April. Similarly, the WBTDC has two lodges in Kalimpong. Last year, one lodge was closed down for renovation but this year both the places have been kept open anticipating huge tourist demand. And in Kalimpong too, majority of the rooms of both the lodges have been booked during the summer.  
Not only hotels and tourist lodges, trains to North Bengal are already full to their capacity during the summer. Bengalis are really back to their habit of spending some summer days in the hills of Darjeeling.

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