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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Jaswant caution on state creation

Go-slow (on Gorkhaland) message for Bimal Gurung
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, May 4: Darjeeling MP and former BJP leader Jaswant Singh today made it clear that a separate Gorkhaland state would take a long time to happen and cautioned the leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha against expecting it to be created overnight.
On a visit to his constituency, Singh told The Telegraph that what he was advocating for the moment was the creation of “a state within a state” till such a time that the situation was politically conducive for the creation of a separate state.
In fact, what the Morcha had demanded in its “secret document” sent to the Centre was akin to Singh’s formula to resolve the Gorkhaland issue at least for the time being.
Morcha leader Bimal Gurung had made demands ranging from a separate high court to a body similar to the Assembly in the interim arrangement for the hills, though he had been careful to keep police out of the purview of the set-up.
“I have also been ceaselessly working with the Union government, (and the) home ministry, for the concept of a state within a state. The governor (in the new set-up) will be there to represent the Centre and should not be answerable to the state government,” added Singh.
As if to caution the Morcha leadership, Singh said today: “For Gorkhaland, learn from the historical experiences of creating states in India. In all such demands for bifurcation of states, there have always been stages. For example, how many years did it take for Mizoram and Nagaland to come into being?”
Only too aware that neither the Centre nor the Bengal government are in any mood to concede to the Morcha demand for a separate state, Singh said: “During the formation of a new state or a new territory, there will not be a straight line. There will be stops and pauses.”
The movement, in fact, is currently going through a phase of “stops and pauses” in its quest for a separate state. The Morcha has said it will not settle for anything less than the inclusion of the Dooars and the Terai in the interim set-up, which will form the geographical boundary of the separate Gorkhaland state, if and when it comes into being.
In fact, the Morcha has said this demand will form the only agenda during the next rounds of bureaucratic and political-level tripartite talks. The state and the Centre, however, have so far refused to concede to it, leading to a deadlock.
Appearing to be advocating patience for the Morcha leaders, Singh said: “Nothing can be achieved at one go, get the government (interim set-up) in your hand, administer the area and then after, build on. Everything has to take place stage by stage.”
Giving instances of similar disputes that have arisen during the creation of other states in the country, Singh said “such things happen” but are eventually resolved.
“The creation of Uttarakhand was always accompanied by territorial problems,” Singh said. “The state was formed, protests continued and later the disputed areas were added. Jharkhand was created after much protest from Bihar. These things happen.”
But for the moment, Singh wants to utilise his MP local area development funds to bring development and amenities to the Darjeeling hills.
School job panel delay irks Morcha
TT, Kalimpong, May 4: The Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation (JSTO) has expressed concern at the delay in initiating the process to regularise the services of ad hoc teachers at hill schools. The organisation, an affiliate of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, blamed the government for the DGHC’s laxity “in attending to burning issues of education”.
In a letter faxed to school education minister Partha De last night, JSTO secretary Bejoy Pradhan regretted that the DGHC was yet to forward a proposal for the constitution of the temporary recruitment board. The proposal had been agreed upon at the two meetings that the organisation had with senior officials of the state education department in Calcutta in March.
On March 25, additional chief secretary (education) Bikram Sen had directed the DGHC authorities to send a proposal for the constitution of the board at the earliest.
The five-member board comprising two members from the field of education, two others recommended by the DGHC and a person of eminence from the hills was expected to scrutinise the qualifications of the ad hoc teachers and recommend their appointments for permanent jobs.
The JSTO said although it had suggested the names of the board members long back, the DGHC was yet to take follow-up action. At the meetings, the government had said the JSTO was free to recommend the names of the members, which the DGHC could accept or ignore.
“The organisation has lost its confidence in the delivery mechanism of the DGHC. Since the administration of DGHC is being run by officials appointed by the government of Bengal, the government cannot absolve itself of the laxity shown by the DGHC in attending to and pursuing the burning issues of education in the hills,” said the letter.
The JSTO has pointed out that the education department of the DGHC has had five secretaries in 18 months, and such frequent changes were seriously hampering the execution of administrative decisions.
“Our concern regarding this matter was communicated to the principal secretary, DGHC (Surinder Gupta),” said Pradhan.
The meeting with Sen was a follow-up to the March 16 talks the JSTO had with the education minister. Dey had then agreed to regularise the services of 474 teachers and 78 non-teaching staff members working in the hill schools.
The assurance followed the non-co-operation agitation launched by the JSTO to fulfil its demands which, besides job regularisation, included recognition and upgrade of schools, and confirmation of teachers in-charge (read acting headmasters) as permanent school heads.
Rohini loses sheen, tourists few nowadays 
TT, Siliguri, May 4: Rohini, once a famous tourist spot en route to Kurseong from Siliguri, attracts very less visitors these days.
A dried-up lake, a gutted DGHC bungalow and an ill-maintained Jagadamba Park are all that remain at Rohini.
According to local people, Rohini, located around 25km from here, used to draw a lot of people from the plains — because of its short distance from Siliguri — at all times irrespective of the tourist season.
“Rohini was a place which was teeming with tourists throughout the year. It was a place for family outing during weekends and holidays. But in the past two years, very few people have visited the place. There were just a few picnickers at Rohini last winter,” said Ashok Rai, a DGHC employee engaged in the maintenance of the park.
The local people cited the apathy of the DGHC authorities as the main reason for the dwindling tourist influx.
“Earlier, there were more than 20 people employed in the upkeep of the park and the lake. At present, there are just 13 employees here. They live in far-flung places and do not come to work daily. This has affected the maintenance of the tourist spot,” said a resident.
Rohini, a picturesque village with its slopes of terraced farms, received the attention of GNLF chief and former DGHC administrator Subash Ghisingh when he built the Jagadamba temple there with a beautiful park surrounding it in the late 1990s. The place offers magnificent views of the meandering Balasun river in the plains below and the lush green hills of Kurseong above.
Another initiative to boost tourism at the spot was when the lake and the DGHC bungalow were built seven years ago.
The lake with boating facilities, however, dried up three years back.
“The lake developed a leak and was not able to retain water. No effort has been made to restore it after that. We had taken up the matter with the authorities but instead of fixing the leak, the boats were sent to Gangamaya Lake and Mirik Lake,” said another resident.
In 2007, the Rohini bypass was inaugurated, reducing the travel time between Kurseong and Siliguri by half an hour and further enhancing the popularity of the tourist spot. As more vehicles travelled on that route, local people did brisk business by running small shops and eateries along the bypass.
The bungalow was torched on January 1, 2009, in the aftermath of a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader’s murder the previous night.
“At present, tourists generally prefer to visit Mirik and its adjoining areas like Bunkulung for daylong outing,” said a Siliguri-based tour operator.
Last week, Morcha president Bimal Gurung organised a “sapta puraan” (seven days puja) at the Jagadamba temple to restore “peace” in the place.
When contacted, DGHC administrator B.L. Meena said the executive engineer of Kurseong subdivision had been asked to look into the restoration of the lake. Asked about the repair of the bungalow, he replied: “We will restore that too.”

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