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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

GJM talks inconclusive; Centre, Bengal reject demand for including more areas ...Hill meet fails, hint of boycott...

Vishwa Mohan, TNN, New Delhi: Tripartite talks among the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), West Bengal government and the Centre appear to have hit a roadblock. The administrative-level consultations among the three parties on Tuesday resulted in a stalemate over the  territorial jurisdiction of the recently-proposed interim set-up for Darjeeling.
GJM's insistence on the inclusion of the Gorkha-dominated parts of the Terai and Dooars in the proposed set-up saw the discussion end inconclusively as both the Centre and the state are learnt to have outrightly rejected the demand due to security concerns.
Sources in the home ministry said that both the Centre and the state government were for limiting the proposed set-up -- Darjeeling Regional Authority -- to the hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.
An official said: "The unique geographical location of the region -- a thin strip of land
called Chicken's Neck which separates China and Bangladesh and also connects India's mainland with the North-East -- is the main reason why the government does not want to look beyond the three sub-divisions."
The Centre and state's view was, however, not acceptable to GJM. Its leader Roshan Giri, who led the five-member delegation for the discussions here on Tuesday, told TOI that the Morcha was in no mood to discuss the issues concerning the interim set-up unless the government accepted its demand over the territorial issue.
He said: "The government insisted on discussion over devolution of power instead of considering our demand of additional territory. We cannot discuss devolution of power without clubbing all the Gorkha-inhabited areas into the proposed set-up." Tuesday's discussion, attended by senior officials of the Union home ministry and the West Bengal government, was meant to prepare the groundwork for the next round of political-level talks later this month.
Asked whether the Morcha's current stand would derail the political-level talks which might be held in the month-end, Giri said: "Let us first discuss it with GJM chief Bimal Gurung and other leaders. We may go ahead with the political-level talks, but we want the government to clear the air over the territorial issue."
Gurung, who has been demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland since 2007, had floated a new proposal for an interim set-up in the hills till December 31, 2011.
Though the proposal was accepted by the government, further discussion faced hurdles with GJM insisting on the inclusion of additional Gorkha-inhabited areas in the interim set-up.
ENS,New Delhi: A Gorkha Janmukti Morcha delegation on Tuesday walked out of a meeting with officials of the West Bengal government and the Union Home Ministry here. It refused to budge from its stand on the inclusion of Siliguri and Dooars in the the interim set-up proposed by the Centre for the administration of Darjeeling and surrounding areas.
The impasse has jeopardised the next round of tripartite talks at the political level scheduled to be held this month-end.
“We made it clear in today’s discussions that we will not compromise on the demand for inclusion of Siliguri and Dooars in the interim setup,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told reporters.
He said the West Bengal delegation, led by the state home secretary Samar Ghosh, had told them that they did not have the mandate to discuss territory in the proposed set up. Giri led the five-member GJM delegation comprising central committee members Amar Lama, Harka Bahadur Chettri and party representatives Trilok Dewan and Kitab Singh Rai. 
The Union Home Ministry was represented by joint secretary Nirmaljit Singh Kalsi.

TT, New Delhi, May 11: The official-level talks between the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the Bengal government and the Centre collapsed today over differences on the territory to come under the jurisdiction of the interim authority proposed for the Darjeeling hills.
The Morcha even indicated that it might boycott the political level-talks tentatively scheduled for this month end, if the governments did not agree to discuss the question of territory. It also submitted a fresh document to justify its demand for the inclusion of Siliguri and portions of the Dooars and the Terai in the interim set-up.
The meeting, a precursor to the second round of political talks, was a non-starter. Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri stood firm on his demand that no talks were possible without the inclusion of Siliguri and the Terai and Dooars in the interim authority. “We will go back to Darjeeling and decide whether to participate in the political talks.”
Bengal home secretary Samar Ghosh said the mandate for today’s meeting was a discussion on the powers of the interim authority. “A discussion on territory was not part of the mandate. There was no forward movement. We could not discuss anything.” He added that the date for next round of political talks could not be fixed and that the talks might be delayed.
Home ministry officials said the areas being demanded by the Morcha had substantial tribal and Rajbangshi population.
“The situation on the ground is quite different from what the Morcha claims about these groups supporting their cause. There is also the issue of the region being a border area and the only corridor connecting India with the northeastern states,” said a source.
At Writers’ Buildings in Calcutta, Bengal chief secretary Ardhendu Sen said the talks had not collapsed. “The talks did not collapse, only the date for the next round of talks could not be fixed today,” he said.
Giri said the Morcha was not ready to be part of any discussion which did not include the territory. “They will have to discuss the inclusion of Siliguri and the Terai and the Dooars. The Bengal government is backtracking on its previous commitments,” he said.
Giri said a fresh document had been submitted to the Union home ministry. “We have listed the disparities in education and health, the state of the tea gardens and the other problems faced by the people of the Terai and the Dooars, justifying the inclusion of the areas in our proposed interim set-up,” he said.
Fresh uncertainty likely in Darjeeling Hills as talks fail
TH, KOLKATA: The spectre of a fresh spell of political uncertainty looms large over the Darjeeling Hills with the tripartite talks on an interim administrative set-up for the region earlier proposed by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) ending inconclusively in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“We wanted talks on the territorial status of the proposed interim arrangement but there were no discussions in this regard. As a result we did not want any further discussions,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri, who led a delegation to the administrative-level talks, told TheHindu over telephone from the Capital.
The GJM has already called a 48-hour bandh in the Darjeeling Hills from May 15 in support of its demand for the inclusion of parts of the Terai and the Dooars in the jurisdiction of the proposed interim administrative set-up. State and Central government offices except banks and post-offices remained closed with the agitation entering its second day.
On whether the agitation would be intensified as the talks were inconclusive, Mr. Giri said a decision on the matter would be taken by GJM chief Bimal Gurung.
The GJM leaders present at the talks made it clear that there could be no discussions, till December 31, 2011, on an interim set-up, proposed by Mr. Gurung, for the Darjeeling district and certain contiguous areas it without addressing the question of its jurisdiction.
The State government as well as the Centre seemed more interested in deciding on the powers to be granted to the proposed interim set-up rather than determine its territorial jurisdiction.
“We did not agree with this stand of theirs,” Harkha Bahadur Chettri, a member of the GJM central committee who was part of the delegation, said. “Our stand is clear. We want the inclusion of Siliguri and parts of the Dooars and the Terai where the Gorkha community is predominant,” Mr. Giri said, adding that the GJM's ultimate aim was the creation of a separate State of ‘Gorkhaland.'
Discussions on matters relating to the territorial jurisdiction of the proposed administrative arrangement were “not the mandate of the meeting.” “As a result the discussions did not progress far,” said West Bengal's Home Secretary Samar Ghosh who attended the talks. There is also a strong likelihood of the next round of tripartite talks at the political level being deferred. It was earlier scheduled to be held later this month.
SNS, SILIGURI, 11 MAY: The administrative level tripartite dialogue on Gorkhaland ended in a deadlock in New Delhi today with the Union joint home secretary, Mr Nirmal Singhjit Kalsi, categorically refusing to talk on the contentious territorial issues regarding the proposed interim council.
“Mr Kalsi told us that he had no mandate to discuss the territorial issues regarding the proposed council when we raised the matter at the meeting today,” the GJMM general secretary, Mr Roshan Giri said. Apart from Mr Giri another GJMM central committee member, Mr Amar Lama was present. The newly appointed West Bengal home secretary, Mr Samar Ghosh represented the state government.
Asked whether his party would carry on with the proposed two-day hill shutdown from 15 May as threatened, Mr Giri said that the party president, Mr Bimal Gurung would decide at the appropriate time.
“We raised the council territory issue as it was top priority on our agenda for today's meeting. But Mr Kalsi told us that he was not mandated to speak on the matter. We are not interested to discuss the nitty gritty regarding the devolution of the politico-administrative jurisdiction of the proposed council. We stuck to the territorial priority,” the GJMM leader said.
Commenting on today's meeting, Mr Amar Lama said that the outcome was an impasse. “We all would have to think how to progress in the direction of a satisfying solution, leaving the impasse behind,” he said.
KalimNews with inputs from Sheem: GJM felt unhappy with secretary level talks today. Tripartite talks of today ended with no conclusive resolutions and no discussion on the controversial matter of inclusion of Dooars and Terai in the proposed Gorkhaland Interim Setup Authority.
Recently formed Democratic Front appealed GJMM to withdraw the Budh called by GJMM on 15th and 16th May.
Prabin Gurung Secretary of Hill Area Social Welfare and Awareness Society as well as United Form for Plantation was attaked by a group of miscreants near Mayalu Golai of Gairibas in the Jaldhaka Police Station.An FIR is lodged in Jaldhaka Thana. Gurung told a Press conference in Siliguri that he was attacked with punches on his face for his complaint on illegal felling of trees in that area which according to him is done  with the direction of S K Mal, Manager of Rongo Medicinal Plantation.
Jawan held
TT, Darjeeling: A CRPF jawan vacationing at home in Chungthung was arrested with an improvised gun in Darjeeling town on Tuesday evening. Samir Dewan was picked up during a raid on an unlicensed liquor bar in the supermarket. He was posted in Patna.
Parties request Morcha to call off shutdown
TT, Darjeeling, May 11: A conglomeration of seven hill parties has appealed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to withdraw its proposed strike on May 15 and 16 in the interest of common people.
The parties which are part of the Democratic Front said the shutdown would hit the tourism industry and common people who eke out a living by driving taxis or renting out rooms to the visitors.
Madan Tamang, the president of the ABGL, said: “On behalf of the Democratic Front, we appeal to the Morcha to withdraw their strike. We might have political differences, but at the end of the day, we are working for the welfare of the people. It is in the interest of public welfare that we are extending this appeal.”
The Democratic Front, which was formed on Saturday, includes the CPRM, the second largest party in the hills after the Morcha, the ABGL, the oldest political outfit in the hills, and the BJP among others.
“This is the fifth tourist season in the past three years that has been hampered for various reasons. Surprisingly, this year, Darjeeling is packed till June 15 and the strike will hit the common people hard. The strike could spell doom for the industry and our appeal is merely out of concern for the people,” added Tamang.
“Many hoteliers have to pay their lease. Drivers who have taken bank loans to finance their taxis live the rest of the year with profits made during the tourist season. Politically, the opposition would have gained an advantage because of the strike as people would be frustrated. But we are not looking at the political aspect. Our concern is genuine,” said Tamang.
Dawa Sherpa, the state secretary of the BJP, said: “When talks are progressing, when there is no major political development, we do not think that the strike is necessary, unless, of course, they have other compulsions.”
Sherpa did not elaborate on the compulsions.
The Morcha has called the strike to put pressure on the state and Centre before the next round of political level talks. The strike is set to affect the tourism industry as it has been called during the peak season.
Travel agents say Darjeeling can accommodate 8,000 tourists on any given day, while around 2,000 enter the hill town every day during this time of the year. A tourist, on an average, spends around Rs 1,250, a day, tour operators said.
Bimal Gurung, the president of the Morcha who takes the final call on the party programmes, was not available for his reaction to the appeal.
DD keeps distance from Sikkim
TT, Gangtok, May 11: The 100-metre- tall tower of the Gangtok Doordarshan Kendra with misty clouds hovering over it is a feast for the eyes, but it stands out like a sore thumb as far as its services are concerned.
The Gangtok DD centre, though completed in 2004, has not been able to provide regular programmes like daily news bulletins catering to Sikkim.
Instead, the Gangtok centre airs only a half an hour round-up programme on Sikkim events three times every month and a 30-minute episode on agriculture in the state from Monday to Friday.
Apart from these programmes in Nepali, the centre is a mere transmission point to relay feeds of national DD channels.
On May 4, the lone Lok Sabha member from Sikkim, P.D. Rai of the SDF, wrote to information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni about the delay in the inauguration of the Gangtok DD centre.
“It (Gangtok Doordarshan Kendra) was technically commissioned in 2004 but has never been formally inaugurated. The reason for this is that it has never been fully staffed and no programming initiated in a useful way. There is at this time wasteful expenditure on account of the assets so created but not put to use. The talent pool within Sikkim can be utilised in full together with the other North Eastern States,” said the MP in his letter.
Reminding Soni that the matter had been taken up with the Union government many times, Rai said the state government was willing to do the needful to make the DD centre fully operational.
“It may not be out of place to mention that this matter has been repeatedly taken up by our governor and chief minister. This impasse cannot be allowed to fester any longer. If there is any way in which the state government can help then it would be our pleasure to do the needful,” said the MP.
Rai is a member on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on information technology, which looks into the demands of grants of the ministries of information technology and information and broadcasting.
The BJP that has been staging dharnas in the state capital demanding the inauguration of the centre said Rs 9.88 crore had been spent to set up the facility.
The party has also submitted memorandums to the President, Vice-President and the Prime Minister demanding the inauguration of the facility.
“The centre was supposed to be inaugurated in 2002. There are 31 regular employees at the centre and around Rs 2 crore is spent annually on the salaries and maintenance cost,” said state BJP president Padam Chettri.
Survey on shades of hill red
TT, Siliguri, May 11: The forest department along with St Joseph’s College is conducting a survey in wildlife I division, which includes a national park and a sanctuary, to assess the status of various species of rhododendrons that lend colour to the Darjeeling hills in spring.
Come spring and the hills are covered with hues of red, the colour of most species of the tree.
The survey in Singalila National Park at 4,000ft and Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary at 3,500ft, and its adjoining forest areas comes close on the heels of Sikkim celebrating a rhododendron festival, in which the Himalayan state had brought European experts to study the trees.
“Old records available with us indicate that about 28 species of rhododendrons are found in the eastern Himalayan region particularly in Sikkim and the Darjeeling hills. We felt the need to update the data and have taken up this exercise to make a status survey,” said Sumita Ghatak, the divisional forest officer, wildlife-I.
“The survey, which began last month, is being conducted with the botany department of St Joseph’s College in Darjeeling,” she added.
The rhododendrons are mostly found in Sandakphu and Phalut at Singalila and in certain places at Neora Valley National Park, also at 4,000ft, and the sanctuary at Senchal.
Rhododendrons are known to have medicinal use. Some botanists claim that petals of the species commonly known as Lali gurans are dried and can be consumed with sugar to cure blood dysentery, cough, jaundice, diabetes, and liver disorders.
Joseph Dalton Hooker, a botanist, was the first one to enlist the different species of rhododendrons found in the eastern Himalayas.
Hooker visited Darjeeling in 1846 and he had collected about 7,000 species of plants, including rhododendrons, from various places in India and Nepal. After his return to England, he classified and named them. This led to the inclusion of 25 new species of rhododendrons. Hooker published his findings in the Himalayan Journals in 1854.
“The rapid construction of houses and use of wood as fuel, along with natural calamities like landslides, are reasons why several species of rhododendrons are fast disappearing from the forests in the hills,” said a senior forest official.
“A study to know the exact number of existing species and the causes for the depletion of the others, a comprehensive conservation plan is the need of the hour,” said an environmentalist.
The divisional forest officer said the department will try to find out if any species have degenerated or is degenerating fast.
“In that case, we will try to assess the probable reasons and whether the presence of wildlife in the forests like Singalila is causing any negative impact on the growth of the rhododendrons,” Ghatak said.
According to the officer, 12 to 15 species are found in the forests under wildlife division-I.
The department had also approached some local NGOs to work with them on the survey.
“This will help our task as being locals, the NGO members are well aware of the various species and the forests and they can work better than people from outside for whom the terrain is unknown,” the forester said.
Kalimpong Press Forum is formed as an enlarged Press Association of Kalimpong comprising of all working journalists including Print and electronic media personnel. A joint meeting held on 11 May at Kalimpong elected Arun Kumar Rasaily of Kalimpong Press Club and Sandip Jain of Journalist Association of Kalimpong as Joint Coordinators for the Adhoc Committee. It will work for the benefit and security and unity among the press fraternity of Kalimpong. On 23rd May it will organise an Interaction programme inviting dignitaries and Political leaders on the demand of Gorkhaland and the role of Press. Earlier both the KPC and JAK had resolved for such an association in their respective committee meeting.

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