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Monday, May 31, 2010

Adivasis trash Morcha’s proposal on statehood...Indo China border is okay.... GJM losing support: Bengal govt

Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay, IE, Kolkata:The proposal for a Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh comprising Darjeeling, Siliguri, Dooars and Terai region that was announced by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung at a Darjeeling rally on Sunday, ran into rough weather today with the Adivasi Vikas Parishad (AVP), an organisation of the adivasis of Dooars and Terai, rejecting the offer. The Morcha is trying to fool its own people by mooting the proposal, said the AVP.
“We form 80 per cent of the population of Dooars and Terai and the Gorkhas form 7 to 8 per cent. Why should we come under them in a new state? It will be a poitical harakiri for us.
They claim that we have agreed for a new state with Gorkhas and adivasis. They are trying to get our support, but their problems and conditions are totally different compared to ours,” said Birsa Tirkey, West Bengal state president, AVP. 
West Bengal minister for Urban Development
Ashok Bhattacharya, who visited the house of slain Gorkha League leader Madan Tamang last week, said today that it is time the state government acted tough in the hills to establish peace, democracy and the rule of law.
“The police will punish all perpetrators of the heinous killing. The police are also determined to provide protection to those who speak against the Morcha,” said Bhattacharya, who today met the chief minister in the morning to discuss the situation in the hills.
Bhattacharya added: “At present, a tripartite meeting is meaningless because people in the hills have lost faith in the leadership of the Morcha.” 
He also questioned the role of General (retd) Vijay Madan as interlocutor in the Darjeeling talks, saying his role was “highly suspicous”.
“Without talking to anybody, he declared the next tripartite meeting will be held on June 7. Who gave him the authority? We are sceptical about his role,” Bhattacharya said.
Tribals refuse to bite ‘Adivasi’ bait- Morcha plea to join movement shunned
TT, Siliguri, May 31: Bimal Gurung’s attempt to woo the tribals in the Terai and Dooars by rechristening Gorkhaland to Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh has been nipped in the bud by the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad.
The dominant tribal organisation in the Dooars has ruled out any understanding with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to join its statehood movement.
Morcha president Gurung while addressing a rally in Darjeeling yesterday had appealed to the Parishad to sit for a meeting soon, “since we have changed the name for them”. Gurung had also announced that he would hold three public meetings in the Dooars jointly with the Parishad.
“We are not ready to render even the slightest importance to what Bimal Gurung said yesterday. And, under no circumstances, will the tribals in the Terai and Dooars join the Morcha or express solidarity (with it) for its so-called demand for Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh,” said Birsa Tirkey, the state president of the Parishad, over the phone from Calcutta today.
The Parishad has already released a map comprising the tribal belts of the Dooars and the Terai demanding Sixth Schedule status, which it believes, will help develop the backward tribal region.
“We will continue to strive for our cause and have already met officials and ministers at the state and Centre-levels. There is no question of changing our stand. The Nepali-speaking people comprise eight to 10 per cent of the total population in these areas. The tribals make up around 80 per cent. It is sheer irrationality on the part of the Morcha leadership to think that the majority population will allow themselves to be governed from the hills by the minority,” Tirkey said.
Asked if the Parishad would attend any meeting if invited by the Morcha, Tezkumar Toppo, state secretary of the tribal outfit, said: “We will not attend any such meeting called by the Morcha. Who are they to call us for talks, that too, on an issue which we are opposing? However, if the state or the Centre invites us to discuss our demands, we will definitely attend it as whatever we have demanded (Sixth Schedule) is under the purview of the Indian Constitution.”
Asked if Gurung’s announcement would influence the tribal population, Toppo said: “The Morcha had managed to convince a section of our people to join them by offering them jobs as Gorkhaland Personnel cadres. But given the present state of affairs and the Parishad’s activities, many have left (the GLP).
“There is hardly any chance for the Morcha to succeed this time. We feel it is a conspiracy to derail our movement and again create tension in the brew belts as we will not part with any portion of the Terai and the Dooars for the separate state.”
Another anti-Morcha forum, the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee, held a public meeting at Hashmi Chowk and burned the effigy of Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh.
“We want him to resign. Despite being voted by the people of Darjeeling district, most of whom are against division of the state, he is openly supporting the Morcha,” said Mukunda Majumdar, the committee’s president. “We also request the tribal people to be on alert and not to step into the Morcha trap.”
Feeler’ to wind up GLP camps
TT, Darjeeling, May 31: Darjeeling police have put out “feelers” to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to wind up the camps of the Gorkhaland Personnel and refrain from deploying them in security fatigues.
The party, however, has decided to ignore the message.
“We have sent feelers to the Morcha to wind up its camps. There could be problems with the deployment of the CRPF personnel in Darjeeling,” a senior police officer of the district said today. The officer, however, added that there was no order from the government to ban the GLP.
The Morcha has recruited around 4,000-odd boys and girls from the hills and the Dooars for the GLP and pays them a monthly remuneration that ranges from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000.
Apart from providing security to Morcha chief Bimal Gurung, the stick-wielding personnel are also seen patrolling the streets in uniform. There are at least five camps in the hills.
The officer who did not want to be identified said the initiative was taken up “on our own” keeping in mind the volatile situation in the hills, particularly after the killing of ABGL leader Madan Tamang. “Also, other political parties from both the hills and the plains have approached us that the GLP should be banned,” he said.
Colonel (retd) R. Allay, the chief of the GLP, admitted to have received the “feelers”. “In Kalimpong, a few police officers came to the camp in Goaskhan on Friday and told the boys to wind up the camp. We inquired with senior administrative officials but they said there was no written order from Calcutta banning the GLP,” Allay said.
The GLP chief ruled out disbanding the squad and listed the “social work” its members were doing. “We see no reason why it should be banned,” said Allay. In yesterday’s rally, the GLP was used to control the crowd and traffic.
Allay evaded a direct reply when asked if the squad would still be deployed in security fatigues. “The government is well aware that no arms training have been given to the GLP. Every party can have its youth cell and this is precisely such a cell of the party,” he said.
K.L. Tamta, the inspector-general of police of north Bengal, today said the CID team probing Tamang’s murder had left for Calcutta on Saturday. “They have forwarded to the police a list of 24 names of those allegedly involved in the killing. Raids will be conducted to catch the culprits,” Tamta said.
Strike to slam police bias 
TT, Siliguri, May 31: The GNLF observed a strike at Panighata today to protest the arrest of 18 of its supporters in Darjeeling last week and accused the state government of adopting double standards while maintaining law and order in the hills.
“Police arrested our supporters in Darjeeling on Saturday for allegedly carrying khukuris while going to a meeting to condole the death of ABGL leader Madan Tamang,” said Rajen Mukhia, the Terai branch convener of the GNLF. “If the police can arrest a few of our supporters for carrying the traditional weapon of the Gorkhas, why can’t they take into custody the people who were involved in the murder of the ABGL leader?”
Tamang was hacked to death allegedly by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters wielding khukuris in broad daylight in Darjeeling on May 21.
“There is no rationale behind letting the Gorkhaland Personnel roam free despite the fact that they carry khukuris. The GNLF feels the state government is acting in a biased manner and demands that our supporters be released immediately. We also want a ban on the GLP,” said Mukhia.
Panighata in Mirik block of Kurseong subdivision wore a deserted look because of the 12-hour strike with shops and offices remaining closed and vehicles keeping off roads. Panighata is located about 40km from here.
The GNLF also attacked the Morcha for renaming Gorkhaland as Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh. “He has come up with a new name simply to exist as a leader. We will be least surprised if he raises the demand for a separate country in near future,” said Mukhia.
K.L. Tamta, the inspector-general of police, north Bengal, denied the GNLF charges.
“After the murder of Madan Tamang, it was decided that nobody would be allowed to attend any meeting or processions with khukuri or any other weapon. The GNLF supporters were arrested for carrying the khukuris. Anybody else flouting the law will face similar consequences,” said Tamta.
Asok salvo
Bengal municipal affairs and urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said in Calcutta today that the Morcha was losing its support base in the hills and people were disillusioned with the party since the assassination of Madan Tamang, reports our correspondent.
According to Bhattacharya, people participated in yesterday’s Morcha rally because of “fear of muscle and money power”.
“The people in the hills want democracy above all now. They want immediate restoration of law and order. They want peace. They now want to resist the autocratic rule by the Morcha,” the minister said.
Gorkhaland renamed to woo tribals
TNN, DARJEELING: After stiff opposition from the Adivasis over the inclusion of Dooars in the interim set-up, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has now decided to change the name of the proposed state from Gorkhaland to Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh (GAP), to gain the former's cooperation in the separate statehood struggle.
Announcing the change of nomenclature at a meeting on the St Joseph's School ground in Singamari on Sunday, GJM president Bimal Gurung appealed to Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad (ABAVP) to sit for talks.
"Both the Adivasis and the Gorkhas have been suppressed by Bengal. Now that the nomenclature has changed, we request the ABAVP to sit for talks to help both of us gain liberation from the imperial rule of the CPM-led government," he said. "People of the Dooars and Terai should not feel isolated as the time has come to start a joint venture. We will hold meetings in Dooars very soon to gain the people's confidence," he added.
Widespread violence had erupted after the GJM tried to enter the Dooars and hold its public meeting there. The Adivasis are opposed to Gorkhaland and are demanding a Sixth Schedule status for Dooars instead.
A sea of GJM supporters from Kalimpong, Kurseong, Mirik, Siliguri, Dooars, Jalpaiguri and even from Kolkata, Dehradun and Delhi thronged the meeting venue. While many of them had started their journey to Darjeeling on Saturday evening, many were seen pouring in even after the meeting ended around 4 pm on Saturday.
"Today's show of support dispenses my fear that people had isolated me. I never believed in violence and worked diligently for 32 months for the people's benefit. This meeting is for peace in the Darjeeling hills and the plains," asserted the GJM chief.
Armed Gorkhaland Personnel (GLPs) were seen manning the streets in camouflage fatigues right from the centre of the town to the venue in Singamari. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and police restricted themselves to checking vehicles near Ghoom and the railway station, but were nowhere to be seen at the venue.
After AIGL leader Madan Tamang's murder on May 21, people had voiced their resentment against Gurung and GJM and had come out in thousands for the funeral procession. They had torn up GJM flags and even a poster bearing Gurung's picture near the Planter's Club in Darjeeling.
"I reiterate that neither I nor my party is involved in Tamang's murder. It is a conspiracy by the state government and some political parties to derail our peaceful statehood movement," Gurung alleged.
The GJM leader said he had already written to the Centre, seeking a CBI inquiry into the AIGL leader's murder. At the same time, he asserted that if any of his leaders or supporters were implicated, they should get punished.
Dwelling on the interim arrangement, which is yet to see the light of day, the GJM chief roared: "The state and Centre want to give us an interim set-up with only 22-23 moujas. But I will not accept anything without the Dooars and Terai. Henceforth all talks will be on Gorkhaland."
The GJM has demanded the inclusion of all those areas in the Dooars and the Terai that have a Nepali-dominated population, from the northern side of NH-31.
Secretarial-level talks were held in April but they failed to yield any result as the GJM leadership stuck to its all inclusive demand. The next round of dialogues, on a political level, is expected to be held by June 10.
The GJM has also suspended its proposed 10-day strike (from June 12-21) in the Hills. The bandh in government offices has also been withdrawn for the talks. "We have decided to suspend our proposed strike in June and the closure of government offices as we have information that the government will announce the date of the tripartite meeting sometime early June," said Gurung.
Prabin Khaling, Gangtok: The  Bhartiya  Janata  Party has asserted that the country’s borders with China are absolutely safe and there are no reasons to worry .  A three member high level fact finding team of the Party led by  former Utterakhand Chief Minister Mr Bhagat Singh Koshyari, BJP National Spokesman Mr Rajiv Pratap Singh Rudi and Party’s National Secretary Mr Tafir Gau ,during their day long visit to Changri at an altitude of about 18,000feet at  the Indo-China border in North district today ,found that the  recent media –reports about the Chinese threat in the region had been unfounded. 
Talking to our Gangtok correspondent over phone  a short while ago, the State BJP President Mr Padma Bahadur Chhettri ,who accompanied his Party’s national leaders during the tour,  described the media reports as an indirect attempt by some vested interests to create an undue  fear –psychosis  about  our northern neighbour in the minds of the people. He told that, however, these leaders strongly felt the need to  further strengthen the infrastructure on this side of the border. 
The team will return back tomorrow after a two day long tour to the State. 
Sikkim Smoke free state
Prabin Khaling, Gangtok:In a landmark  development  towards converting  it  into the healthiest State in the next five years , Sikkim  was declared as A Smoke Free State on the World No Tobacco Day today. With this, the State has become the first ever State of its kind  in the entire country.
Making a formal  declaration  to this effect at a function to mark the No Tobacco Day at the Forests Conference Hall at Deorali in Gangtok , the Health Minister Mr DN Thakerpa described it as a  great achievement of the SDF Government which will  also have a  great impact on the health and economy of the state.  He revealed that  four- fifth of deaths in Sikkim is due to Non Communicable Diseases and Tobacco is the most important preventable cause of death. Mr Thakerpa informed that even among communicable diseases Tuberculosis is  one of the major killer diseases which has strong association with smoking as the Smokers suffer three times more from TB   and  their death rate  too is  three to four times higher.
The function was organized jointly  by the Health Department and the Voluntary Health Association of Sikkim. 
Asserting that Sikkim has made great progress in implementation of Smoke free Laws which has been well appreciated by International Organisations and people across  the border, the Health Minister made it clear that Declaration is based on objective assessment of Smoke Free status as per the norms laid in the National Level Review of Smoke Free Status held at Goa  last year. The Director General Health Services Dr. K. Bhandari, Member Secretary of the State Anti- Tobacco Cell  Dr.PM Pradhan, IGP , Fire Services Mr Akshaya Sachdeva, SP East Dr.MS Tuli and Voluntary Health Association of Sikkim’s Executive Director Dr.BB Rai also spoke on various aspects of Tobacco and Smoking prevention at the function. 
GJMM losing support-Bengal Govt
Kolkata, May 31 (PTI) The West Bengal government today claimed the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is losing its support base in the Darjeeling hills and people are disenchanted with the party spearheading a movement for a separate Gorkhaland state.
West Bengal's Municipal Minister Ashok Bhattacharya said people's participation in yesterday's show of strength by GJM in Darjeeling was "not spontaneous" as during the march taken out after the killing of All India Gorkha League leader Madan Tamang.
"The people in the hills want immediate restoration of the law and order, peace and democracy in the hills to instill confidence among people to resist autocratic rule by the GJM," he said.
"The GJM does not enjoy spontaneous public support any more. They gather people through threat, force and money power." he claimed.
Bhattacharya said he informed Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of the impressions he had gathered from a recent visit to Darjeeling.

Minister rejects Gurung's new formula for Hills
SNS, KOLKATA/SILIGURI, 31 May: The Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJMM) coerced people to participate in yesterday's rally and dismissed Mr Bimal Gurung's proposed Gorkha Adivasi Parishad as an attempt to hoodwink them, said the state urban development minister, Mr Asok Bhattacharya.
 Mr Bhattacharya met the chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, and informed him about the situation at the Hills after meeting a host of leaders in the Hills including the widow of the slain Gorkha League leader, Madan Tamang. The minister had visited Darjeeling last week to pay his respects to Tamang. 
 The urban development minister told the chief minister that  people in the Hills wanted establishment of the rule of law  against atrocities meted out to them by Gorkhaland police. They also wanted more central paramilitary forces in the area.
 The chief minister in turn asked him to ensure that CPI-M activists and leaders in the Hill worked together with other parties to restore democracy in the area.
 Mr Bhattachaya also told the chief minister that people in the Hills did not want any tripartite meetings at this point.
 “Many people have told me that GJMM has lost its support among the Gorkhas. They had attended the candle march to pay their respects to Madan Tamang willingly, whereas yesterday they had been forced to attend the GJMM meeting,” Mr  Bhattacharya said.
All in a name
The Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha's decision to try and shore up further support for its separate statehood claim embroiling the Adivasis indicates the organisation is trying to cosset its stumbling block the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad. Or why else, the GJMM, which so long stood firm change tack to import a partner to its demand?
The ABAVP is understood to have turned down the idea floated by GJMM chief Mr Bimal Gurung in Darjeeling yesterday. The question Mr Gurung and his political friends face now is, what next? Would they continue with the Adivasi angle included in their demand or alter course again? 
Students trek Singalila, spot 58 species- 50 children from 5 darjeeling schools attend three-day workshop on bird watching

TT, Siliguri, May 31: Over 50 students from Classes VII to IX of five schools of Darjeeling have spent three days in the sylvan surroundings of the Singalila National Park learning the tricks of bird-watching and conserving their habitat.
Students of St Robert’s School, Gyanoday Niketan, Sunrise School, BSMI School and Saradeswari Girls’ School participated in a workshop-cum-training programme organised by WWF-India 10 days ago.
All the five institutions have Nature Clubs supported by the WWF-India that had brought together experienced bird watchers to conduct the workshop.
“In the practical sessions, the participants (51 students to be precise) were taken on a two-day trip to Gairibas in Singalila (located above 5,000ft) and were given booklets on birds,” said Sanjeeb Pradhan, a senior project officer of the WWF-India posted in Darjeeling. “We have been organising these workshops to make children aware of the importance of conservation of birds as well as protection of their habitats.”
Darjeeling is house to over 500 species of birds including the elusive ones like the munal or Satyr tragopan.
“The basic focus was to teach the students the techniques of bird watching and correct bird identification,” Pradhan said “During their stay, the students were assisted to develop their bird-watching skills and hands-on experience (like how to handle binoculars). The participants could record 58 species during the workshop and even spotted the Satyr tragopan, a threatened bird that lives in the high altitudes of Singalila.”
The students also trekked to Tonglu to explore the plant and trees of the area, considered important for conservation of birds.
According to Pradhan, about 1,320 species of birds are found in India which is 13 per cent of the world’s winged population.
During the programme, foresters told the students that diverse geographical conditions ranging from the hot foothills to the snow- capped peaks lead to formation of different altitude zones with variation in rainfall, humidity, climate and vegetation. “These factors are responsible for the great variety of birds, thus making the Darjeeling hills one of the richest areas for bird sighting,” a senior forester said.
In the Sikkim Himalayas range of which Darjeeling is a part, about 550 species of birds can be sighted. “Along with the birds, we plan to make the school children aware of conservation of rhododendrons, butterflies, medicinal plants and other forms of biodiversity which is rich in the Darjeeling hills and is in need of conservation,” Pradhan said.
The forester suggested that similar training-cum-workshops could be organised for the guides who accompany tourists to Singalila. “We are working on the proposal as this will help the guides serve better and they will be in a better position to keep tabs on the avian population and contribute to the conservation,” said Pradhan.
Glare on tea trader for ‘child labour’ logo
Bijoy Gurung, TT, Gangtok, May 31: A tea distributor has been accused of using a logo, registered as early as 1996, that goes against the image of today’s Sikkim which claims to be free of child labour.
The distributor, Denzong Tea, has been selling CTC tealeaves in 50gm and 100gm packets that depict a picture of a girl dressed in shining yellow traditional attire plucking green leaves in a picturesque tea garden. The packets with the picture have been on the Sikkim market since 1996.
A decade later, the Sikkim government is determined not to let the picture sully its image as a state that does not tolerate child labour.
“We were not aware of such a picture in the tea packets. The idea of pasting the image of a small girl plucking tea leaves in the packets is definitely harming the image of Sikkim. We have decided to immediately process the matter and put it up before senior officials to take action,” said Bisan Rai, the joint labour commissioner of Sikkim.
“The logo in the packets can also send a wrong message that there is child labour in the Temi tea garden, the sole organic garden in Sikkim owned by the state. The department has been taking strong steps for zero child labour in Sikkim which have yielded very good results,” said the joint labour commissioner. He added that tea packets such as Denzong’s could reach markets outside the state through tourists, tarnishing Sikkim’s image.
Although child labour is absent in the organised sector, many families in the state keep domestic helps who are children. But often the employers cannot be booked as they introduce the children as somebody they have given shelter and taken the responsibility to feed and educate.
M.B. Limboo, vice-convener of the labour wing of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), said the marketing concept behind the logo of the Denzong Tea was wrong.
“The logo sends a wrong message of the existence of child labour in Sikkim despite the efforts of the state government to free the state from child labour,” said Limboo. He added that the company should withdraw such packets from the market.
Curiously, there is no government agency to regulate logos of private companies in Sikkim.
In fact, Denzong Tea proprietor Raj Kumar Prasad had registered the logo in New Delhi in 1996. Prasad said the picture in the packet is a model only and he had no intention to use it against the interests of Sikkim.
“I had used the picture of my niece dressed in traditional attire to highlight the beauty of Sikkim and got the logo registered in New Delhi in 1996. We don’t intend to tarnish the image of Sikkim,” said the proprietor. Denzong Tea gets its CTC leaves from Siliguri and the packaging is done in Singtam, 30km from Gangtok.
Prasad said his tea products were sold in the markets of Sikkim. “Till today no complaint has come and if it does, I will definitely change the logo and use alternative pictures,” he said.
However, Prasad added that time was needed to change the logo, as he would have to get a new registered trademark for his products. “We also have to change the print rolls which I get from Kanpur to package the tea products for the new picture,” he said. Prasad said that once he got official intimation to change the logo, he would do it by March next year, whatever the financial implications.
Denzong sells CTC tea in three categories of 50gm, 100gm and 250gm, retailers here said. Only the first two categories contain the logo of the girl child plucking tea leaves. The retailers here said the products were sold only in Sikkim.
Peace breach cloud on tea strike
TT, Siliguri/Jaigaon, May 31: Stakeholders of the tea industry are apprehending law and order problems with the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad-affiliated Progressive Tea Workers’ Union announcing that it will not participate in the tea strike on June 7.
“We will not join the strike and the movement announced by the Coordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers and the Defence Committee for Plantation Workers’ Rights on June 7,” said Shukra Munda, the chairperson of Progressive Union.
Munda said he had informed the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri, A.K. Singh, about the decision of Progressive Union members to stay away from the strike.
The Coordination Committee and the Defence Committee — two apex bodies of trade unions that have Citu, Intuc and the Hind Mazdoor Sabha as members — in a joint convention on May 25 announced that the workers would demonstrate at the main gates of all tea estates in the region from June 1 to 6, followed by a strike on June 7. The decision comes after the gardens refused an interim hike in wages, which at present is Rs 62 per day. The demand for the hike was made citing the rise in prices of essential commodities.
The Parishad that has been spearheading movements on tribal issues in the Terai and Dooars, had on its own demanded that the wage be increased to Rs 250 per day.
Many fear that this division among the tea trade unions regarding the interim hike, particularly at a time when the Progressive Union has become a cause of concern for established labour bodies like Citu and Intuc, may lead to breaking down of law and order in the tea belts.
“As they are losing base in tea belts, the established trade unions will be desperate to prove their support and discourage workers from joining duty. The Parishad supporters may protest because now they have a significant support base and can afford to defy the strike call,” an observer said.
Progressive Union leaders said their supporters would report for regular duties. “Our members will join their regular work on the day of the strike. If they face any opposition from rival trade unions, it is the administration’s respinsibility to ensure their security or else, there can be worst situations,” a Progressive Union leader said.
Samir Roy, convener of the Defence Committee, said all trade unions were free to decide whether they would join the strike or not. “We had invited them to join our convention, but they did not. Now if they take such a decision, we cannot insist on their participation in the strike.”

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