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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Battle of numbers at May Day meets - Security at venues to prevent clash ..Funds misuse to dominate talks: Asok

TT, Darjeeling, April 30: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the CPRM, the two largest parities in the hills, will organise May Day celebrations here tomorrow, raising a possibility of confrontation between their supporters.
As both the parties have pledged to ensure the participation of as many people as possible, police have decided to post adequate forces at the venues where meetings will be held.
The CPRM had announced its decision to organise May Day programme more than a fortnight back. The Morcha-affiliated-Janmukti United Labour Welfare Organisation (JULWO) announced its plans today but claimed that the decision had been taken much earlier.
“We had decided to hold a meeting sometime back. We were working on a handbook for the labourers titled Unmukti and it will be released at the meeting. We have been organising May Day celebrations for the past two years,” said David Rai, the president of the JULWO.
The Morcha meeting will be attended by party president Bimal Gurung, along with general secretary Roshan Giri and another senior leader Amar Lama.
While the CPRM meeting will be held at Chowk Bazar, the Morcha has chosen Chowrastha, less than a kilometre away, for its programme that will begin at 10.30am.
The two hill outfits have also decided to take out rallies which will start from the Darjeeling railway station, but at different times.
“We will not go in for any confrontation and there is no reason to fear any law and order problem,” said D.S. Bomzom, the spokesperson for the CPRM.
The ABGL has also decided to support and attend the CPRM’s meeting. In the recent past, the ABGL had to call off two meetings at Chowk Bazar after the Morcha decided to hold rallies at the same venue.
The CPRM central committee is holding May Day function for the first time after the Morcha was formed in October 2007 and many believe that the party is trying to show its strength.
“In 2007, the party’s central committee had organised the celebration in Kalimpong and in the past two years, our regional committees were organising (the programmes) at their respective places. This year, the central committee has again decided to organise the function,” said Bomzom.
In the past two years, the CPRM and the Morcha have had their fair share of problems. The Morcha had at times openly criticised R.B. Rai, the general secretary of the CPRM, alleging that the communists were responsible for the death of the hill people during the 1986 Gorkhaland agitation.
The CPRM was formed in 1997 by a group of hill leaders who had left the CPM.
Also, the Morcha had opposed a 12-hour strike called by the CPRM on August 22, 2008, to demand the speedy trial of Chattrey Subba, who had been accused of masterminding an attack on GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh on February 10, 2001, at Saat Ghumti near Kurseong. Even though the Morcha opposed the strike, it, too, had been demanding a speedy trial for Subba.
The respective parties are expected to bring in as many supporters as possible. “Our members from the town will definitely be attending the meeting and we are trying to get in supporters from tea gardens as well,” said Rai.
The CPRM has said they, too, have appealed to all their supporters to attend the meeting that will kick off at 11.30am.
K.L. Tamta, inspector-general of police, north Bengal, who was in Darjeeling today to attend the closing ceremony of Traffic Safety Week, said adequate police would be posted for both the programmes.
Amalkanti Ray, the subdivisional officer of Darjeeling, said permissions had been granted to the two parties, as the venues were different. 
KalimNews: Bimal Gurung President of GJMM will speak among party workers of GJMM in a meeting at Salugara, Siliguri at 1 pm. Gurung is now camping at Salbari of Sikkim.
Funds misuse to dominate talks
TT, April 30: The misuse of DGHC funds by the frontal organisations of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, as alleged by the council’s administrator B. L. Meena, will be discussed in detail at the next round of political-level talks in Delhi, according to Bengal municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya.
Meena had told the media on April 23 that the Morcha’s frontal organisations like the Nari Morcha and the Yuva Morcha were directly controlling the implementation of the DGHC’s development schemes.
Bhattacharya — who is tasked to represent the state government, along with Bengal health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra, at the political level meeting — said in Gangtok today: “We will discuss the matter in an elaborate manner during the tripartite talks, as the charges are very serious.”
Bhattacharya is on a three-day visit to Sikkim to oversee the organisational work of the CPM in the state. He, however, did not comment when asked how a party that had no electoral mandate could dictate the use of the DGHC funds.
He iterated the Bengal government’s position on the Morcha’s Gorkhaland demand and said the party should accept the proposal for a more empowered council as an alternative to the statehood for the hills. “The proposal sent by the Centre and the one we will place at the next round of talks are better and more viable than the Morcha’s document on an interim set-up,” said the minister.
Meena’s allegation prompted the Gorkha Janmukti Nari Morcha to file a Rs 10 crore defamation suit against him in the court of the Darjeeling civil judge (senior division) today. “The case has been admitted and will come up for hearing on May 29,” said Taranga Pandit, a lawyer representing the Nari Morcha.
When told about the defamation case, Meena said he had enough evidence to show the direct involvement of the women and youth wings of the Morcha in the execution of the DGHC projects.
“I have inspected two sites where work is going on and I have specific written proof that the Nari Morcha and the Yuva Morcha are engaged in two projects being undertaken at Sukna High School. When I visited the spot, some eight to ten students (of the Yuva Morcha) admitted that they were doing work worth Rs 40 lakh. I have spoken only about two projects in Sukna and I have papers with which I can go anywhere,” said Meena.
He said while one project was on infrastructure development of the school, entailing an expenditure of Rs 18 lakh, the other was the erection of a boundary wall and development of a playground worth Rs 40 lakh.
Meena, who has been accused by the Morcha of trying to derail the Gorkhaland movement, said today: “I have nothing against the ongoing movement and I am simply doing my duty. Whatever I have said is based on my findings and not to malign or implicate anyone or any forum. But if anyone blames me for making baseless comments, I am not ready to digest them. The jobs in Sukna were assigned to a DGHC-empanelled contractor of the same locality, but were eventually taken up by the frontal organisations of the Morcha.”
With Meena standing by his accusations, the Morcha again said he was doing so to hide his “own incompetence”.
“Our first question is if he has proof, what is he waiting for? By making these statements, he has virtually spoken of his own incompetence and he should resign. We want to make it clear that in no way is the Morcha or any of our frontal organisations involved in the execution of DGHC work,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha.
Legal threat to restore hill peace
TT, Siliguri, April 30: GNLF leader Dawa Pakhrin today threatened to move Calcutta High Court against the state and central governments for their alleged failure to restore normality in the Darjeeling hills.
A former GNLF branch president of Kalimpong, Pakhrin also admitted a “difference of opinion” within the party, which he said, had been affecting its activities in the plains and the hills.
“We have repeatedly written to the Centre, state and both the human rights commissions, highlighting the atrocities of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. It is unfortunate that nothing has been done to restore normality in the hills, resulting in eviction of over 250 families who are spending days in the plains in pitiable conditions,” said Pakhrin, who gave up his party post on April 20, at a media conference here.
“We have decided to write a final letter to the chief minister and the Union home minister. If they continue with their silence, we will file a suit in the high court.”
Pakhrin said: “The GNLF chairman (Subash Ghisingh) is harping on the implementation of the Sixth Schedule, while we are in favour of Gorkhaland, our ultimate goal. This difference of opinion is affecting our activities.”
Foreign pat for green care
TT, Gangtok, April 30: Foreign delegates who participated in an international seminar on rhododendron conservation and sustainable use here yesterday lauded the Sikkim government for its efforts to protect the state’s bio-diversity.
Experts from Germany, Holland, Sweden and Bhutan are here to participate in the Rhododenron Festival organised by the state government this month.
“In Europe, we have rhododendrons cultivated for collections and parks but here in Sikkim, the plant’s various species are found in the wild and in their natural form,” Wolfgang Spethmann from Germany told The Telegraph. Spethmann is a researcher in woody plants like rhododendrons.
“It was a nice trip to Yumthang Valley. We saw more than a dozen species of the plant in bloom; the flowering was excellent and it was a wonderful sight. It is good to see that they are protected in the wild,” said Spethmann.
Lau Trass, who is a member of the Dutch Rhododendron Society, has said it is always a wonderful experience for Europeans to see rhododendrons in bloom in their natural habitat.
“There is a special support from the Sikkim government for the conservation of rhododendrons and it makes the state one of the central places in the world where one can see and study the different species of the rhododendron growing in their natural best,” said Trass.
Rebacca Pradhan from the Royal Society for Protection of Nature in Bhutan said bio-diversity conservation programmes in Sikkim would be successful, as the government itself was committed towards the environment.
Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling, while inaugurating the seminar yesterday, said the state had over 30 per cent of its total area protected under environment rules.
“I feel that conservation of the rhododendron within the natural habitat is the best approach. The state government has been successful in maintaining the natural habitation of the floral species,” said Chamling.
The chief minister also pointed out that the Kanchenjungha Biosphere Reserve and seven other wildlife sanctuaries have rhododendrons in their pristine state.
Two of them, the Singba and the Barsey sanctuaries are fully devoted to the conservation of one of the most
beautiful wild genetic resources, (the rhododendron), he said.
“My endeavour has been to promote a balanced growth in Sikkim by duly preserving everything in nature and bringing in the best practices of modern development instruments available in the world. This also means bringing in a paradigm shift in people’s mindset and way of life to harness the natural resources in a sustainable manner,” said Chamling.
SSB protectors for Singalila forest species- WWF trains border guards to conserve park & keep away smugglers
Abhijit Sinha, TT, Siliguri, April 30: The forest department is trying to bring in the Sashastra Seema Bal to check the smuggling of rare medicinal plants from the Singalila National Park to Nepal.
The 78.6sqkm park is on the Indo-Nepal border in Darjeeling district.
Singalila, at an altitude of 7,000ft, is a storehouse of rare medicinal plants that have great demand both in the national and international markets.
“Considering the proximity of the park to Nepal, smuggling of medicinal plants from Singalila was prominent even a few years back,” said Sumita Ghatak, divisional forest officer, wildlife-I.
According to her, the practice has been checked in recent times.
“But I cannot say that it has completely stopped. The SSB has eight camps inside the park and they are engaged in round-the-clock patrolling on the border. We thought it was wise to take their help in monitoring the park, along with our staff,” said Ghatak.
If guards spot any irregular movements inside the park they can immediately inform the foresters.
According to Ghatak, the SSB has better resources in terms of manpower and equipment than the foresters who are in charge of the park. “They can keep tabs on the park in a better way,” she said.
With Sikkim in the north and Nepal in the west, the park is known for housing the red panda, which was reintroduced successfully from Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling in 2004. The park is also home to the flying squirrel, leopard cat, yellow-throated marten, clouded leopard and takin.
The foresters had also approached the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to conduct training camps for the border guards.
Sanjeeb Pradhan, a senior project officer of WWF-India, recently visited 12 SSB camps in and around the park and has briefed the border guards on conservation of flora and fauna and vulnerability of the park owing to its proximity to Nepal.
“The SSB patrols the entire 105km stretch around the park from Mirik-Chabbesay to Phalut. They have better professional excellence and are better equipped than the foresters with improved modes of communication. This will help stop smuggling of medicinal plants to Nepal,” said Pradhan. According to him, training-cum-awareness sessions on controlling wildlife crime and illegal smuggling along the border were being organised for the SSB since April 15. At the camps, the border guards were sensitised about their role and responsibility in conserving the park. They were also made aware about the possible methods of smuggling herbs, major species that are found in the park and the main areas from where they are smuggled,” said Pradhan.
Some of the rare medicinal plants that fetch high prices in international market and are found in Singalila are chirata (Swertia chirayita), monkshood (Aconitum napellus), jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi) and kutki (Picrorhiza kurroa).
The jawans were given a biodiversity monitoring field notebook. “They can put down any information that they find in it. After a couple of months, we will collate and analyse the data,” the DFO said.
Rhino Bison Dead
TT, Alipurduar, April 30: A bison and a rhino were found dead in the wildlife III division today. Workers of Lankapara Tea Estate spotted the carcass of the bison — a fullgrown male — in the drain of Section 17 of the garden.
They informed the forest staff who took away the carcass for post-mortem. The body of the rhino was found in the Jaldapara sanctuary by foresters on patrol. A post-mortem has confirmed that death was from snake bite. S.B. Patel, the chief conservator of wildlife (north), said the snake had bitten the rhino on the lower lip. “It was almost 20 years old and a female. I think the snake struck when the rhino was eating grass.”
TT, Siliguri: Matigara and Pradhannagar police have arrested four persons in the past 24 hours. Three firearms, ammunitions, crude bombs and valuables have been recovered from them. On April 12, the house of a brigadier was robbed in Sukna. The Police said three members of the gang, Jayanta Sarkar, Nripen Lohar and Bablu Burman, all from Matigara, were arrested on Thursday. A cellphone, a camera, around 70 grams of gold, 150 grams of silver, two pipe guns and six rounds of live cartridges were recovered from them. In another raid, Samir Goala was arrested from Khaprail on Friday. An improvised firearm, two live cartridges and five crude bombs were recovered from him.

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