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Friday, May 7, 2010

Morcha gets ready to prove mettle

Rivals plan to put up resistance to plains rally  
TT, Siliguri, May 7: The Darjeeling district administration today granted permission to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to hold a rally in Sukna tomorrow despite stiff resistance from the anti-Gorkhaland outfits in the plains who have decided to oppose it tooth and nail.
The permission for the rally at the BB Gurung Memorial High School grounds, around 10km from here, came in the evening.
This is supposed to be the second largest public meeting of the Morcha to be held in the plains. After the first one was held at Indira Gandhi Maidan on the outskirts of Siliguri in July 2008, the administration had refused to allow the hill party to hold any rallies in the plains citing law and order problems.
“We have received the permission from the subdivisional office in Kurseong to hold the public meeting,” said Raju Pradhan, the assistant general secretary of the Morcha. “Our party president Bimal Gurung, general secretary Roshan Giri and all other top leaders will address the meeting, scheduled to start at 11am.”
Kurseong subdivisional officer Suden Tshering Bhutia has confirmed that the permission has been granted.
According to Pradhan, the meeting will be attended by Morcha workers and supporters of the Siliguri subdivision, that is, the town and the Terai region, with an expected audience of around 40,000.
The threat of a confrontation, however, continues to loom over the rally as Mukunda Majumdar, the president of the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee, today iterated that it would organise a march to Sukna to voice protests and campaign against the statehood demand of the Morcha.
“We want to make it clear that police had once intercepted us at Dagapur on the outskirts of the town, but tomorrow there will be no stopping us. We are determined to walk up to Sukna and stop Bimal Gurung and his men from holding the meeting.
“We have been repeatedly telling the administration that the Morcha should not be granted permission to hold any public activity in the plains. Now that the administration has granted the permission, we have no other option but to take to the streets to vent our protests,” said Majumdar.
On February 4, when the Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha, the Morcha student wing, had resorted to road blockades at Darjeeling More after a police lathicharge, more than 300 Bhasha Committee members had marched towards Panchnoi with the intention of clearing the blockade.
However, the police had prevented the confrontation by stopping the Bhasha Committee protesters at Dagapur.
Morcha leaders, however, are firm about making their rally a success.
“We do not have any clue about what the Bhasha Banchao is planning,” Pradhan said. “Moreover, it is for the police and the administration to take care of law and order as we, being a political party, have the right to organise public meetings.”
The rally is significant for the Morcha. For unlike the meeting at Indira Gandhi Maidan where people from the hills had come as well, the rally this time is only for the people of Siliguri subdivision, where the party is yet to prove its clout.
“It is definitely a challenge for the Morcha leadership to prove their support base in the Terai and they will desperately try to bring in as many supporters as possible,” a political observer said.
Moreover, the Morcha will in all probability use this meeting to voice its displeasure and announce new plans in the wake of the state government’s hint that it would like to involve other political formations in the next round of hill talks.
The Madan Tamang-led ABGL, GNLF and the CPRM in the hills and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad in the plains have welcomed the government’s move.
The Morcha wants some parts of the Dooars where the Gorkhas are in majority and the Terai, besides Darjeeling district, to be brought under an interim set-up for the hills. The geographical boundary for the new set-up will define the shape for Gorkhaland, which the Morcha wants in the long run.
Sources in the government said since there are other political outfits in the areas the Morcha wants, it is only fair to include the them in the talks.
State urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said the next round of talks might be held in the first week of June. “Considering the civic polls, I have asked the chief secretary and the home secretary to request the Centre to hold the talks on the first week of June,” the minister said.
The threat from the Bhasha Committee has put the police on their toes.
“We will deploy adequate forces at all important road crossings and routes. There will be mobile police teams at strategic locations. The district commando force will be deployed along with the district police,” said Gaurav Sharma, the additional superintendent of police of Siliguri. 
Hills ailing, tourists turn other way- Rock garden destroyed & ropeway defunct 
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, May 7: Brand Darjeeling has failed to deliver, tour operators feel.
The looming Himalayas are still there and so are the tea gardens carpeting the verdant slopes and the tiny train negotiating the breathtaking loops, but all of them are either suffering from too much exploitation without an infrastructure to tackle it, or too little leaving much to be tapped.
Rock garden and Gangamaya Park have been consigned to the pages of history following the devastating landslide caused by Cyclone Aila last year. The Darjeeling Rangeet Valley Ropeway has not reopened since the fatal accident on October 19, 2003, in which three cabins jumped the cable, killing four tourists.
Visits to tea gardens depend on luck, while stay in the colonial garden bungalows is almost impossible. The famed Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has failed to live up to its expectation as an international tourist attraction.
“International tourists nowadays stay in Darjeeling for two days only. Earlier, it was three days. Something needs to be done urgently,” said Suresh Periwal, the chairman of the north Bengal and Sikkim chapter of the Indian Association of Tour Operators.
“In the mornings, we take the tourists to Tiger Hills and a monastery in Ghoom. This is followed by a train ride and visits to Darjeeling zoo, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the Tibetan Refugee Centre. The second day is reserved for a tea garden visit, which depends on a lot of factors,” said Periwal.
Till a few months ago, gardens did not allow visitors to enter their factory. “Visiting a garden to see the manufacturing process entirely depends on luck as the management might suddenly decide against allowing any visitors.”
The DHR was not able to operate its steam engines recently because of poor quality of coal. “Apart from the bare minimum facilities, the DHR has nothing to flaunt,” said a visibly upset Periwal.
Nobody is sure why the ropeway has not yet been reopened. A WBFDC official said the repair of the ropeway had been completed and the matter lies with PWD. “The matter has even reached the chief minister and the chief secretary’s desk. We are unaware of the final decision,” said a forest official.
Tea garden officials agree that many estates wanting to use their bungalows for tourism have either not received all required permissions or have developed a cold feet because of the political turmoil in the hills.
Only three gardens, Tamsong, Ghoomti and Glenburn, have opened up to tourism. “But these estates have only 4-6 rooms each, which is insufficient to meet the demands,” said a tour operator.
One of Darjeeling’s biggest attraction, a trek to Sandakphu — the only place on the earth from where four peaks above 8,000 meters, Mt. Everest, Mt Kanchenjunga, Mt Lotse and Mt Makalu — can be viewed, has failed to tap its potential. Once Singalila, where Sandakphu is located, was declared a national park, the forest department ordered that trekkers could not pitch a tent in the area. “What is the charm if the trekkers can’t stay in tents?” asked Periwal.
The lack of a specific tourism policy is hitting Darjeeling hard. The Telegraph has found that every work related to tourism brings a host of state departments in play, like the DGHC, tourism, forest, PWD and land and land reforms (for tea gardens). “Yes, a single window system for addressing all tourism-related issues is the only solution,” said a tour operator.
Many have suggested that state should form a specific board for the Darjeeling hills, which would include the district magistrate, principal secretaries of all the tourism-related departments and the DGHC so that the irritants can be removed. “Even if the heads of all the departments meet twice a year, a lot of issues can be solved,” said another tour operator.
Parisangh to observe Urja Sanchay Diwas on Sunday
KalimNews:The Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh will observe Urja Sanchay Diwas on Sunday, May 9. The most important activity that day will be putting off lights in homes and establishments between 7 pm and 8 pm. The Parisangh urges all Gorkhas to participate in the programme and do their bit for the environment. 
By observing Urja Sanchay Diwas in all the 22 states of India where the BGP has units, the organisation felt that the Gorkhas would show the world that it is a responsible community that is willing to take steps to fight against environmental degradation. The Parisangh has earmarked the second Sunday of May every year for organizing programmes to highlight the dangers that Planet Earth is facing from global warming. 
The Parisangh has appealed to all Gorkha individuals and organizations to come out in large numbers to involve themselves in this initiative. Every step, however, small is important, feels the BGP. As a community, the Gorkhas have always been close to Mother Earth, with many of their unique rituals involving the veneration of  nature. Urja Sanchay Diwas would proactively channel their respect for land and nature into action that would help save the planet.
Other activities planned on Suday, besides putting off lights for one hour from 7 pm,  include talks on conservation, rallies on eco-protection and essay competitions across many states of India where Gorkhas are resident.
The BGP also believes that holding such programmes will give Gorkhas the opportunity to interact with non-Gorkha scientists, environment activists, administrators, NGOs, governmental agencies and schools. It will also provide a first-time opportunity for Gorkhas to acquaint other communities about our culture, history and issues.
Course shift protest in hills
TT, Kalimpong, May 7: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s four frontal organisations today enforced a five-hour pen-down strike in the subdivisional office here to protest the shifting of a library science course from Kalimpong Janata College to Siliguri.
Representatives of the four organisations — the Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation, Gorkha Primary Teachers’ Organisation, Janmukti Karmachari Sangathan and the Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan — reached the subdivisional office before 10am to enforce the strike.
Since the agitating organisations had issued a prior notice on the strike, the employees had not turned up for duty. When The Telegraph visited the office in the afternoon, it wore a deserted look.
Hari Dahal, the Kalimpong unit secretary of the JSTO, said the organisations have called for an hour-long chakka jam in town from 11am tomorrow and on Sunday. “We will continue with our protest till the director of library services rolls back his order to shift the college from here to Siliguri,” he added.
A delegation of the four organisations met Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh, who is in town, last night and apprised him of the developments. “Mr Singh gave us a patient hearing and said he would take up the matter with the appropriate authorities,” said Dahal.
The directorate of library services had decided to shift the 16th batch of the library science course from Janata College to the additional district library in Siliguri citing the “present administrative turmoil in Darjeeling”.
A letter sent by the director of library services to the secretary of the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad and the district library officer of Jalpaiguri reads: “The government has decided that one training course may be organised at additional district library, Siliguri instead of Kalimpong People’s (Janata) College, due to the present administrative turmoil in Darjeeling.”
Even though the opening paragraph talks only about shifting one course (library science), the subsequent content of the letter says “the courses” may be organised in Siliguri “until and unless the situation of DGHC area of Darjeeling becomes normal”.
Asian woman MPs create history in UK poll, Rushanara won
BN, London, 7 May : A new record has been set with the election of several woman candidates with origins in the Indian sub-continent, including the first Muslim woman MP Shabana Mahmood, who won on a Labour ticket.
Among the woman winners were Indian-origin Priti Patel (Conservative) and Valerie Vaz (Labour). The latter's brother, Keith Vaz, was once again elected from the Leicester East constituency. Results indicate that the number of MPs from ethnic minority background will break the previous record of 15 in the 2005 election. Bengalee lady Rushanara Ali (Labour)  romped home victorious from the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency with a majority of over 11,000 votes.
Pix- Rushanara Ali
Sheem: Roshan Giri, Dr.HB Chhetri and others left for Guwahati to attend a NE level GJMM meeting to be held on 9th May.
Shiva Thapa (54kg) silver medalist in the latest Junior Boxing Championship held in Azerbaijan  is participating in Youth Olympics scheduled for August-September in Singapore.
No Doctors for Shiva
imagePTI, May 5, NEW DELHI: It was the most draining tourney of their nascent boxing careers but World Youth Championships gold-medallist Vikas Krishan and silver-medallist Shiva Thapa didn't have a doctor to take care of their niggles ahead of their summit clashes in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The volcanic ash cloud over Europe that disrupted air traffic for a week meant that the championships started a couple of days later than scheduled, thereby sending the participating teams' travel plans haywire.
Most of the teams had their return tickets booked for May 2, as per the initial schedule, but after the revised schedule made May 3 the day of the finals, the organisers decided that those boxers who didn't make the semifinals be sent back as per the original plan.
Seven of the nine Indians in fray had crashed out by the quarterfinal stage and they departed on May 2 accompanied by team doctor Nirmolak Singh as "the boys could not have travelled alone."
That was the day of semifinals and Shiva (54kg) ended up hurting his right hand during the exhausting 11-3 win over a Russian opponent and didn't have a doctor to get himself checked.
"But even if a doctor had been there, it wouldn't have made a difference as the injury wouldn't have healed in such a short time. A doctor from some other team checked Shiva and helped in whatever way possible," said coach G Manoharan.
Shiva eventually succumbed to a crushing 1-14 defeat in the finals against a Cuban rival.
Back from the tournament, the two boxers, who also qualified for the Youth Olympic Games after making the semis of the World Championship, are now looking forward to a break.
"Some 20-odd days with my family and then I will be back in the camp to train for the Youth Olympics," said Vikas (60kg).
"Looking forward to go home after eight months. I can't wait to have some home-cooked food. I will have fun for about 15 days before the camp and then it's back to the grind," added Shiva.
They had never competed in an international tournament where the draw was as big as the one in the Championship.
"It was six rounds in my case as I didn't get a bye and when I first looked at it, I thought may be I will clear three rounds but I managed a gold," said Vikas, who had also won a gold at the Asian Youth Championships in Iran last month.
"It was a draining but unforgettable experience," said Shiva.
While Vikas idolises home-grown star Vijender Singh, Shiva looks up to controversial American Mike Tyson.
"He was a great boxer and I don't have to look at his bad side. I just need to take inspiration from the fact that he was an excellent boxer. After all, It's up to me which side of him I should look up to," Shiva said
Rain or Thundershower.  
 Thunder squall with wind speed reaching between 50-60kmph at isolated places ofWest Bengal & Sikkim.

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