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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Talks end in deadlock..Protest on shifting of Library Training Institution

Morcha refuses to budge from territory demand, interlocutor stresses ‘flexibility’
Avijit Sinha, TT, Dudhia (Kurseong), April 21: The tangle over the territorial jurisdiction of the interim set-up for the Darjeeling hills has refused to end with the talks between the Centre-appointed interlocutor Vijay Madan and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung ending in a deadlock here this evening.
Emerging from the meeting which dealt mainly with the Morcha’s demand to include Siliguri and some parts of the Dooars in the interim set-up, Madan, a retired lieutenant general, said: “We expressed our views while the Morcha leaders articulated theirs’. The only stumbling block is the issue of territorial jurisdiction. But it is necessary to be flexible to settle such issues. Further talks are required.”
Both the Centre and the state want the interim set-up to be confined to the three hill subdivisions of Kurseong, Kalimpong and Darjeeling.
But Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, who also attended today’s meeting, said his party would not budge from its demand to include the entire Darjeeling district as well as the Gorkha-dominated parts of the Dooars in the new set-up.
“We are adamant that these areas be included in the interim authority which will eventually form a separate Gorkhaland,” Giri said.
Morcha sources said they realised that their demand for both Siliguri and parts of the Dooars was not “realistic” and that the state and the Centre would not agree to it. But, they said, the demand for Siliguri is essentially a bargaining tool to ensure that at least the parts of the Dooars that the Morcha is demanding are conceded.
“Siliguri is Bengali dominated, so the Morcha realises that it would not be possible to include it in the interim set-up,” a Morcha source said. “But Bimal Gurung feels that by consistently demanding it, the Centre and the state would concede its demand for granting those areas of the Dooars, like Jaigaon and Samsing, where the Nepali population is as much as 70 to 80 per cent.”
The source said after having made the demands for both Siliguri and parts of the Dooars, the Morcha leadership would now have to show to the rank and file of the party as well as the hill people that they have extracted “something tangible” from the talks.
“The Morcha leadership thinks the demand for areas in the Dooars where the Nepali population is very high is legitimate,” the source said.
Earlier in the day, Madan told the media that the Morcha would have to “compromise” on its demand for the inclusion of Siliguri and parts of the Dooars in the interim arrangement being worked out for the Darjeeling hills.
Referring to the territorial jurisdiction of the proposed set-up before his meeting with the Morcha chief, Madan said at the 33 Corps headquarters in Sukna that it was necessary for the hill party to “compromise” on its demand instead of “adamantly sticking” to it for an early resolution of the hill problem.
“All three parties involved in the tripartite talks are interested in an early settlement,” Madan said. “We are aware that there have been some problems as far as the territorial jurisdiction of the proposed set-up is concerned. So, I think that it is necessary for the party (Morcha) to compromise instead of sticking adamantly to their demand…People must understand that Siliguri and Darjeeling are not the same.”
Madan said that on his return to Delhi tomorrow he would submit a report to the Centre on the outcome of today’s talks.
“I was here to ensure that the next round of tripartite talks scheduled for mid-May is fruitful. We are interested in anything that will benefit the hill people and not any political party.”
Hill cry against course shift to plains
TT, Darjeeling, April 21: The decision of the directorate of library services to shift a course from the Kalimpong People’s (Janta) College to Siliguri has created an uproar in the hills which threatens to spiral into a mass movement against the state government.
The directorate had cited the administrative turmoil in Darjeeling hills to shift the library science course to the plains.
The Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation and other frontal units of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today announced that all government offices and educational institutions would be shut down on Friday to protest the decision.
The director of library services in a letter, a copy of which is with The Telegraph, has directed the secretary of the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad and the district library officer, Jalpaiguri, to organise the certificate course using the infrastructure of the office of additional district library in Siliguri.
“The government…has decided that one training course may be organised at additional district library, Siliguri instead of Kalimpong Peoples’(Janata) College, due to present administrative turmoil in Darjeeling,” the letter reads.
Even though the opening paragraph talks only about one course, the subsequent content of the letter states that the courses may be organised in Siliguri “until and unless the situation of DGHC area of Darjeeling becomes normal”.
The 16th certificate training course in library science in Kalimpong has also been declared “cancelled due to non-availability of required panel of candidates from the DGHC area” and a direction has been issued to start a fresh course in Siliguri from May.
“There is no doubt that the college is being shifted and we will not take things lying down,” alleged Hari Dahal, the JSTO secretary.
The Morcha frontal organisations have decided to close down all government offices and education institutions in Kalimpong and hold a rally there on Friday.
“The Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha will also organise rallies across the hills on Monday to protest the decision. This is a ploy of the state government to deprive the hill people. If they shift the college, the state must also shift all the SDO offices to the plains,” said Keshav Raj Pokhrel, the general secretary of the students’ organisation.
The college was set up in 1950 to teach social services. Library science was introduced in 1977. “Even when a violent agitation took place in the hills during the 80s there was no talk of shifting the college,” said Dahal.
Darjeeling district magistrate Surendra Gupta said: “We have apprised the higher authorities of the situation in Darjeeling. However, it has to be understand that if government vehicles and offices are constantly targeted, things do get difficult.”
The Morcha has currently banned the movement of government vehicles in the hills.
Gutka ‘ban’
The Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha has decided to “ban” the use of polybags (made of plastic) and sale of gutkas in Darjeeling from May 1. “The decision has been taken following complaints from parents over the use of gutkas by students. We also want to ban the use of polybags,” said Pokhrel.
The students’ body has also demanded that the reservation for local students at the Kurseong Polytechnic College and the Industrial Training Institute at Tung be increased to 90 per cent from the existing 60 per cent.
‘Protest’ zone schools hope to be spared
TT, Siliguri, April 21: Educational institutions along NH55 here are hoping that this time they will not have to adjust their routines and holidays to the whims of the pro and anti Gorkhaland forces, like they had to last year.
In the 2009-2010 session, the 7-km stretch between Darjeeling More and Sukna had emerged as a favourite haunt for those agitating for and against statehood, earning the area the tag of a disturbed zone. At the receiving end were nearly 10 schools and colleges, mostly concentrated in the Salbari area.
“We run the school five days a week and usually shut down the institutions whenever there is a strike to avoid any untoward incident. But to compensate for the shutdowns, classes are held on Saturdays. Students do complain about coming to school on a holiday, but we are left with no option if we are to complete the syllabus on time. We have kept our fingers crossed this year,” the managing director of a school said.
Gyan Jyoti College, IIAS School of Management, GD Goenka Public School, Delhi Public School, Campion International School, Mahbert School, Ila Palchowdhury Memorial Hindi High School and BB Gurung Memorial School are some of the institutions on the Darjeeling More to Sukna stretch which bore the brunt of last year’s agitation. The Siliguri Institute of Technology and Surendra Institute of Engineering and Management, the two private engineering colleges in Siliguri, are also located in this area.
With the student wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha choosing the Terai for protests, the region had become highly volatile during the winter months. A series of blockades and strikes were organised in December, January and February. Not to be left behind, anti-Gorkhaland forums — like the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee and Amra Bangali — countered the Morcha by demonstrating on the same stretch.
This happened in March, at a time when the board and annual exams of the schools are usually held.
“It was an unfavourable situation especially when the board exams for Standards X and XII were round the corner. We were holding remedial classes for the weaker students so that they score good percentages in the board exams at that time. Agitation in the forms of strikes is not desirable at such times,” the director of a school said.
Institutions also hope that they will not have to cut short their holidays this year like they had to the last time.
“In the last academic session, we had to cut short the holidays by four or five days to compensate for strikes on school days. We hope we do not face a similar situation this year too,” the director said.
A combined effort to approach the parties concerned to keep educational institutions out of the purview of bandhs is apparently lacking.
“Two or three institutions had got together and approached the Morcha leaders a few times. After that, all efforts to negotiate with the party leaders have taken place on an individual basis. A united front has never been put up,” the principal of a school said.
Director’s cut: a debut & homage
TT, Gangtok, April 21: After making it to the finals of the reality show Gateway in 2008 and working as an assistant director in the upcoming Hrithik Roshan starrer Kites, Prashant Rasaily is ready with his first full-length directorial venture, Acharya.
It is a Nepali feature film based on the life of legendary Nepali singer Bhakta Raj Acharya.
“We have just wrapped up the shooting and the post production work will start soon. The initial work will be done here in Gangtok and the final sound mixing and colour treatment will be done outside India,” the Sikkimese filmmaker told The Telegraph in an interview.
Acharya was born in the Dooars in Bengal and moved to Nepal in 1974 where he wrote and sang over 400 songs for Radio Nepal, said Rasaily.
Popularly known as the Bhajan Samrat, the 68-year-old musician cannot sing anymore because he lost his tongue after he was detected with cancer in 1993.
The movie portrays the life of the singer from his early days to the time when he was struggling in Nepal after which he found success before his career ended on a tragic note, said Rasaily who has also written the script for the film.
The final draft has been scripted by award winning writer Rick Baraff who is based in San Fransico.
Satya Raj Acharya is playing the role of his father in the film. The rest of the cast is from Sikkim, Darjeeling and Nepal.
“We have used SI2K camera which is a digital cinema camera that was also used for shooting some parts of Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire,” said the 31-year-old director.
The film that will have subtitles in English is being produced under the banner of Silk Route Pictures and should be ready by September.
Rasaily shot to limelight in 2008 when he became one of the two finalists in the film-making reality show Gateway, where ace directors like Anurag Basu and Rajat Kapoor were among the jury members.
“I had received Bollywood offers but I chose this project because it is about a musician and I am also a musician. Also, I wanted to do a unique project and not a regular film. This was more of what I wanted to do and as a director, I got what I wanted from this film,” said Rasaily who has been making films since 1988.
He had earlier written the script for Kagbeni, the first film from Nepal that was screened at the Shanghai International Film Festival and the Mami International Film Festival in Mumbai in 2007.
Rasaily also has eight short films in English and Nepali and a couple of documentaries under his belt.
“There are lot of extremely talented people in the hills. It is just that they don’t get a break,” the director said.
Double storm blow, but no aid yet
TT, Alipurduar, April 21: Workers of the closed Kalchini and Raimatang tea gardens, hit by the hailstorm on March 31 and a tornado-like phenomenon on April 13, have been waiting not only for relief but also for the monthly compensations announced by the Centre for shut estates.
Whatever makeshift arrangements the labourers made after the hailstorm had damaged their houses were destroyed in the April 13 calamity. Even since, they have been living in the houses of neighbours or relatives.
After each family in Kalchini and Raimatang received six kilos of rice about 15 days ago, no succour has reached them. More importantly, for the past four months, the workers have not been receiving the Rs 1,500under the financial assistance promised by the central government to the workers of closed industries in the country.
The pradhan of the Kalchini gram panchayat, Chandre Lama, said the administration had done little to provide help to the workers of the two closed gardens. “We required 5,200 tarpaulin sheets, but only 1,600 came from the block development office. The block development officer had also promised to release funds under the Indira Awaas Yojana to rebuild the houses,” said Lama.
Bijoy Rana, a worker of the Kalchini tea estate, said he and his family had taken shelter with a relative after a huge tree flattened their house on April 13.
“I had received a plastic sheet after the March 31 hailstorm but it was blown away in the next calamity. A relative is providing us with food and shelter. My wife used to earn some money by making and selling puffed rice, but she cannot carry on the business now,” said Bijoy.
R. Sundas, the Kalchini block development officer, said he would once again contact the departments concerned and ensure that the workers got their dues.
“We are compiling a list of damaged houses so that they could be rebuilt with funds under the Indira Awaas Yojana. The list has to be first sent to the district headquarters for sanction,” he said.
Bhutan gets a feel of Saarc summit
Bappaditya Paul, SNS, SILIGURI, 21 APRIL: For the first time ever, world’s tiniest democracy Bhutan is gearing up to host the 16th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) next week.
The two-day Saarc summit, slated for 28-29 April, would take place in  picturesque Thimphu ~ the capital of Bhutan. Significantly, climate change has been selected as the theme of the 16th summit which also marks the silver jubilee of Saarc, founded on 8 December 1985.
The Saarc summit would be attended by the heads of the eight member countries ~ India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan. Afghanistan became a Saarc member in 2007.
The 15th Saarc summit was held in Colombo from 1 to 3 August 2008.
Mr Tsering Wangda, the Consul-General of the Royal Bhutan Consulate in Kolkata, said delegations from the member countries would start arriving in Thimphu from 23 April itself.
“The foreign secretaries and other delegates would land in Thimphu from 23 April onwards. This would be followed by the arrival of foreign ministers on or around 25 April. The summit would formally open on 28 April and the heads of the Saarc nations would grace the day-two ceremony, that is on 29 April,” Mr Wangda said over the telephone.
According to the Consul-General, Thimphu is being spruced up and decorated to match the stature of the grand event. Several decorative welcome gates are being erected right from the Paro airport to the summit venue Gyalyong Tshokhang in Thimphu to give the delegates and Bhutan residents a feel of the grandeur, he said.
Meanwhile, the West Bengal Police have sounded an alert following Intelligence reports that the Bhutanese refugees living in the eastern Nepal camps may try to march into Bhutan via Indian territory during the Saarc summit. “Very recently we held a meeting in Siliguri with some senior officials from Bhutan and following the apprehension of trouble by the Bhutanese refugees, it was decided to put some preventive measures in place. Thus, from 23 April, we would put up three checkpoints at Panitanki on the Nepal border in Siliguri, at Birpara-Madarihat in the Dooars and at Jaigaon on the Bhutan border. These checkpoints would be manned by a sizable number of the state police personnel,” said the IG of police (north Bengal), Mr Kundan Lal Tamta.
Besides this, Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB) jawans are already on vigil both along the Nepal and Bhutan borders in the region.
As a precautionary measure, Bhutan has stopped the entry of tourists in the country since 15 March and the restrictions will be in place till 2 May.

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