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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Attack and arson bid in Gurung den - Bank and post offices to remain open: Morcha

TT, May 9: A house whose occupants claimed they had no political affiliation was vandalised last night with an attempt to torch the wooden structure after locking up the family inside the kitchen which is not part of the main house.
Palden Lama of Darjeeling’s Ramitay Dhara said a gang of 15 men barged into his house at 8.30pm and terrorised his family. The area is part of the constituency which Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung once represented as the DGHC councillor. Gurung’s house is 500 metres from the Lama residence.
The party today announced that it would allow work under the NREGS, Indira Awas Yojna and the Integrated Housing Scheme Development Programme besides the census. Banks, post offices, and municipalities will also be allowed to function.
The Morcha while announcing the two-day strike in the hills — on May 15 and 16 — yesterday had said all state and central government offices would remain shut from Monday.
Last night’s attack is being seen as a ripple effect of the clash between the student wings of the GNLF and the Morcha yesterday when posters demanding Sixth Schedule status were pasted by the Gorkha National Students’ Front in Damber Chowk in Kalimpong.
“The gang of 15 went about systematically vandalising the entire house. They even poured petrol and tried to torch the house. The flames had just started licking, but we managed to douse them. We were terrified,” said Lama.
The latch on the kitchen door had been loose and Lama, his wife and seven-year-old daughter were able to come out on their own.
Neighbours said the gang was not from the locality. A relative of Lama who did not want to be named said: “Lama is not involved with any party.” The family alleged that the gang decamped with Rs 40,000 and six tolas of gold. Lama has filed an FIR at Darjeeling Sadar police station against “unknown miscreants”.
In Kalimpong, where the Morcha took out a rally today, its leaders accused the state government and the GNLF of working hand in glove to impose Sixth Schedule on the hills, even though the people have already rejected it.
KalimNews: Several incidents of attack and damaging of house and property is being received in Kalimpong said KL Tamta, IG of Police who is in Kalimpong. A house in Bom Busty , Kalimpong of John Poudyal was damaged by some miscreants in the midnight. It is alleged that a group of people belonging to GJMM were searching for Poudyal, a contractor was not present in the house at the time of the incident, the group damaged house property and looted about Rupeese two lakh. 
Sikkim’s saviour & ‘undertaker’- tour operators known for their extra activities 
TT, Gangtok, May 9: They are experts in their own rights in fields like skiing, botany, rock climbing, mountaineering, rafting and bird watching, transforming Sikkim into a multi-faceted tourist destination over the past 21 years.
Even as the travel agents are reaping the golden harvest of a booming tourism industry, they have found time to provide an all out assistance to visitors caught in unfortunate situations in the Himalayan state dotted with hills and ravines.
Their umbrella organisation, the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim (TAAS) has earned a rather unflattering sobriquet of “the undertaker” over the years as its members have recovered bodies of unfortunate tourists from deep gorges and cremated them here with full rituals or airlifted the coffins to the bereaved families.
In October 2000, five members of a tourist group from Calcutta were killed when their vehicle crashed while travelling from Gangtok to Yumthang along North Sikkim Highway.
Working along with police and other government authorities, the TAAS members, led by their president Paljor Lachungpa, recovered the bodies and arranged for transport and medical facilities for the other three injured tourists. The TAAS also bore all the expenses, including the injured visitors’ journey back to Calcutta.
The operators cremated the bodies of the four tourists at Ranipool cremation ground here in the presence of their relatives and sent the body of the fifth victim to his hometown of Behrampore.
The TAAS, which has 245 members, came forward with help when a road accident at Burtuk on the outskirts of Gangtok in July 2003 killed five persons, four of them belonging to a single family, from New Delhi.
While similar services were being rendered by it in several accidents involving tourists in the past few years, the TAAS was also part of most rescue missions where visitors were stranded in remote areas of North Sikkim or in snow clad corridor of Nathu-la border because of inclement weather.
“During such times, the TAAS is always in the forefront to support the stranded tourists and their families. Immediate medical relief, accommodation and transportation are provided to the tourists. In case of deaths, we work closely with police and provide help in getting the body released after post-mortem, get documents from the authorities and cremate the body here or provide coffins to reach the body right their homes,” said TAAS general secretary Lukendra Rasaily.
“We are sometimes called the undertaker but we don’t mind and we do all we can for the tourists,” said Rasaily, one of the founder members of the TAAS.
The TAAS had been formed in 1989 with the guidance of the then state tourism secretary, Karma Gyatso (now additional chief secretary). Today, 12 members of the TAAS are recognised by the Union Ministry of tourism, the highest number in the Northeast.
The TAAS has set up its own institute for tourism and hospitality in 2009, where 25 youths were trained as alpine guides.
With 20 successful years of promoting Sikkim tourism behind it, the TAAS has now plans for the third decade.
“We now want to attract quality tourism as Sikkim’s carrying capacity is limited. We are now targeting niche markets and train our youth in tourism sector. We also want to expand our business to the other parts of the North-east,” said Lachungpa.
Dumped in east, courted in south Govinda poser in hills hit by bandh
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, May 9: Holidaying in Darjeeling, actor Govinda today wondered why Bollywood no longer flocked to the hills as it used to.
The hills know the answer but are grappling with a more pressing question: how to stem the stampede of tourists to Sikkim.
The two-day flash strike called by the Gorkha Janmukthi Morcha this weekend has prompted many tourists to hastily cancel their bookings and try their luck with the nearest other destination in the neighbouring state.
Tour operators in Darjeeling fear the losses will not be confined to the bandh days — May 15 and 16 — and the ripple effect could bite for at least 10 more days.
“By that time, the season will have ended. There was a flurry of enquires early this morning and within a couple of hours, most of Darjeeling’s business shifted to Gangtok,” said a travel agent based here.
Foreign tourists do not visit India in May largely because of the oppressive summer, but domestic visitors make a beeline to Darjeeling till early June every year.
The announcement of the bandh by Bimal Gurung, apparently to keep up the pressure on the government in the run-up to the next round of political talks related to the demand for Gorkhaland, has tripped the tourism trade at a time business was picking up.
Darjeeling can accommodate around 8,000 tourists a day. “This time of the year, 2,000 to 2,500 visitors arrive here daily and each of them spends around Rs 1,200 per day. Now you know the losses,” said an agent.
“The season was extremely good this year. Darjeeling was fully packed, while Gangtok still had some rooms (left to be booked). Now we are virtually scrambling for rooms in the capital (Gangtok). Many tourists have decided to spend two days in Sikkim, which had been earlier lined up for Darjeeling,” added another tour operator.
Anasua Mukherjee from Calcutta had planned a getaway to the hills. “We were supposed to be in Darjeeling from May 11 to 16, now we have to cut short the visit and return to Siliguri on May 14. Why take a risk? It’s too late to get bookings anywhere else, like Sikkim or in the Dooars,” she said.
The immediacy of the tourism industry’s woes has dwarfed other concerns here but the question raised by Govinda also points to the gradual displacement of Darjeeling from Bollywood’s mind space.
“I don’t know why they are not coming to Darjeeling but if I am given a chance to visit here, I will definitely come,” said Govinda, who was here along with wife Sunita who hails from Kathmandu. “I like the weather here. It is good for health and health is wealth.”
Govinda, who had a lacklustre political career as a Congress MP, is no longer the darling of the box office but his question came as a reminder that no big-ticket Bollywood movie had been shot in Darjeeling over the past seven years. The last such film shot here was Main Hoon Na in 2003.
Last year, an English film starring Ed Harris, Way Back, used a tea garden near Darjeeling as a location but the hills do not feature by name in the film, going by the faceless “someplace in India”.
For a picturesque terrain known for movies such as Aradhana, it is a hard knock.
But such is the despondency here in the wake of unpredictable shutdowns, a tour operator said today, referring to Govinda’s comments: “We don’t even have the courage to dream so much. Our aim now is to keep whatever little we have left.”
Adopting caution, the operator added: “We are ready to accept the losses, if that brings stability and peace in the days to come.”
The Morcha, which has called the bandh, said it was “concerned” about the travel agents’ plight. “We are concerned, but we do not have many options at the moment. We are hopeful that we won’t have to call any further strike,” said Amar Lama, a central committee member.

Rift in GJM frontal wings?
KalimNews:GJYM , youth wing of GJMM held a meeting in Kalimpong warning the anti GJMM forces and parties not to disturb the talks. It alleged that yesterdays postering  attempt is a bid to foil the present ongoing process coming to a conclusive solution for the hill people. In the meeting it tried to reconcile with its own leaders who were manhandled by GJYM cadres yesterday. Bijay Sundas one of the Central Committee member was also attacked during the attack on GNLF supporters in the yesterday's incident. 
In the public meeting of GJMM held at Damber Chowk Sundas reconciled while JSTO supporters of Hari Dahal refused to reconcile. Hari Dahal is still under treatment in a hospital for head injury. JSTO members in its closed door meeting condemned the incident and proposed to call a two days bundh in all the Schools. Later with the intervention of the Sub Divisional Committee of GJMM the differences between the GJYM and JSTO were amicably settled.

Kaviguru Tagore remembered on his birthday
Ravindra Jayanti was observed in Kalimpong by the department of Information & Cultural affairs in collaboration with Milanee Club at Saptashri Gyanpith with PR Pradhan  educationist and former Headmaster of SUMI Ex Chairman of  Zilla Parishad as Chief Guest and R.K.Dhakal Principal of Kalimpong College as Special Guest. Pix Samiran Paul

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