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Monday, June 7, 2010

Dooars Tea workers shun Citu, Intuc .....ABGL Rally in Darjeeling.. one killed in utility accident

Morcha shuts down gardens in hills, parishad ensures work in plains
TT, Siliguri, June 7: The support base of established trade unions like Citu and Intuc in the plains took a beating today as their call for a strike was defied by workers in more than 70 per cent of tea gardens in the Terai and the Dooars.
The strike had been called by the Co-ordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers (CCTPW) and the Defence Committee of Plantation Workers’ Rights (DCPWR) — two apex bodies of trade unions in tea plantations — to demand an interim hike in wages.
The Progressive Tea Workers’ Union, the trade union of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, had opposed the strike and had appealed to the workers to report for work.
However, the 80-odd tea gardens in the Darjeeling hills remained shut because of a separate strike called by the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, an affiliate of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
Although the Morcha had announced the strike yesterday, representatives of its trade union had taken part in a meeting attended by CCTPW and DCPWR leaders in Siliguri on May 25. The decision to shut down the gardens was taken at that meeting, but the Morcha union made a separate call for the strike, as it did not want to join a movement spearheaded by other organisations.
“We admit that though the strike had been called by the apex bodies of all established trade unions, it was not total for many reasons,” said Chitta Dey, the convener of the CCTPW. “There is, however, no substantial erosion in the support base of our constituent trade unions. Claims that the Parishad and its trade union have eaten into our popularity are irrational. We doubt the sustenance of the Parishad’s community-based stand.”
But Samir Roy, the convener of the DCPWR, claimed that 63 per cent and 47 per cent of the labourers had stayed away from the gardens in the Dooars and the Terai respectively.
“In total, of the 292 tea estates in north Bengal, 146 were shut and 25 were completely open. About 75 per cent workers joined the strike, which means that we enjoy the majority even today,” said Roy. “In the gardens which remained open today, workers were intimidated and forced to join duty,” he alleged.
Industry observers, however, said of the 146 gardens that Roy claimed were open, 87 are in the Darjeeling hills. “In that case, the total gardens in the plains of north Bengal is 205 and the number of those closed today was 59. This means 146 gardens were open. We cannot count the hill gardens because they are under Morcha control. It shows that prominent trade unions like Citu and Intuc have their hold intact in just about one third of the gardens,” said an observer.
“In recent years, trade unions did nothing for the workers and their families, except settling issues like bonus and attending some official meetings. The Parishad, on the other hand, took up many issues related to socio-economic development of the triabls, the majority population in the Dooars. It succeeded in achieving some of the tribal demands like extracting an assurances from the government that Hindi-medium schools and centres for self-employment training would be set up,” he added.
The last major strike in the gardens for hike in wages was spearheaded by the CCPTW in 2005. The 15-day strike ended with a three-year wage agreement that ended in 2008. The fresh agreement that was drawn up in 2008 will end in 2011. Planters have ruled out any wage hike this time, saying that the agreement has not yet ended.
Karala Valley Tea Estate on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri, and Dagapur garden near Siliguri were among the few plantations, which were closed today.
In Denguajhar garden near Jalpaiguri and Suhasini Tea Estate in Alipurduar subdivision, Parishad supporters came to work in long processions, holding their outfit’s flags aloft.
Prabhat Mukherjee, the general secretary of the Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers, sought to dispel the notion that the Parishad was gaining strength in the plains.
“The assumption was that we did not have any presence in the tea estates and the Parishad enjoyed the majority everywhere. It was proved wrong today though the strike was not total,” he said.
Tezkumar Toppo, the vice-chairman of the Parishad’s union, said: “Almost all the gardens remained open today as workers listened to our plea. Our plan is to meet the state government officials and ministers and speak on interim wage hike, besides issues like non-payment of provident fund and gratuity to tea workers by many tea gardens.”
WB's Terai-Doars region' tea workers demand hike in wages
Siliguri, 7 June : The Coordination Committee of the Tea Workers Union observed a 24-hours strike in Darjeeling District on Monday demanding hike in wages.
The Defence Committee of Plantation Workers Rights (DCPWR) also participated in the strike. The Coordination Committee has called the strike on the nine-point charter citing different demands for the workers. “Today’s strike is called by The Coordination Committee. Except Progressive Tea Workers all the unions have participated. Our strike is a success. Our demands are hike in wages, medical facility in hospital,” said Prakash Jha, leader of the Coordination Committee. He said that the committee has been demanding the implementation of basic needs of the workers, like increase in the wage rate of the workers, repair of their quarters and to open the closed tea gardens.
Jha said that the workers were only getting a pittance as of rupees 67 as wages.There are about 350 tea gardens in Terai-Doars region, and 92 gardens in Darjeeling hills, employing nearly 350000 workers.
KalimNews adds: Almost all the tea gardens of the Darjeeling hills too  observed bundh called by Tea garden union of GJMM. The labour wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has called a 12-hour strike in tea gardens of the Darjeeling hills on Monday to press for several demands, including an interim hike in the daily wages of workers. Though some tea gardens were closed due to weekly hat day the factory and office was closed in all the 6 tea gardens of Kalimpong namely: Upper Fagu TE, Lower Fagu TE, Mission Hill TE, Ambiok TE, Samabeong TE and Kumai TE.
Hill rivals chalk out comeback strategy Arrest demand from ABGL
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, June 7: Nearly 40 ABGL supporters today demonstrated in front of Darjeeling police station demanding the immediate arrest of the murderers of Madan Tamang, the protest more symbolic of hill opposition parties trying to regroup and make their presence felt.
They shouted slogans against the “black law” of the state government in front of the police station. The demonstration was withdrawn after I.J. Thapa, officer-in-charge of the Darjeeling Sadar police station, assured an ABGL delegation that all efforts were being made to arrest the culprits. Sources said Darjeeling police have sought help from their counterparts in Sikkim to conduct raids in the hill state.
Later, the ABGL supporters, most of them women, blocked Chowk Bazaar for about half an hour. “People are still terrorised and they have not been able to come up openly in our support. We are, however, confident that in the days to come, people will support us as we stand for democracy and peace in the hills,” said Mohan Sharma, the general secretary of the ABGL’s labour wing.
“We had come here to demand the immediate arrests of the accused and the masterminds behind the murder of Madan Tamang. We are planning to hold similar demonstrations in the days to come. If the police fail to act we will also organise an indefinite hunger strike in Darjeeling,” Sharma added.
The ABGL, however, has not set any time frame for the arrests.
In the evening, the Democratic Front, a conglomeration of seven hill-based parties opposed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, plastered posters in town demanding the arrest of murderers. The posters appealed to the people to support the democratic forces in the hills.
Almost all the opposition parties believe that this is the right time to revive their activities, especially when the Morcha — that has been accused of masterminding the attack on Tamang — is on the back foot.
Sources said the front had held a meeting in Darjeeling on Saturday and finalised its political strategy.
Even a section within the GNLF that is not part of the front thinks that time is right for reviving party activities in the hills. Dawa Pakhrin, a senior GNLF leader, has decided to sever ties with party chief Subash Ghisingh for Gorkhaland.
“He (Subash Ghisingh) is my political guru and I respect him. However, he cannot be above my amma (mother), which is Gorkhaland. I have decided to sever all ties with Subash Ghisingh,” said Pakhrin over the phone from Siliguri, anguished over Ghisingh’s decision to demand the inclusion of the Darjeeling hills in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution instead of statehood. Pakhrin, however, said he would like to remain within the GNLF fold.
“The Morcha, too, is diluting the Gorkhaland demand by talking about interim set-up and now it is ready to re-christen it as Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh. Gorkhaland is about identity and not development. The Morcha might also rename the state as Gorkha-Adivasi-Kamtapuri and go on adding names of various groups, like Greater Cooch Behar,” Pakhrin said.
Morcha chief Bimal Gurung had recently tried to woo the tribal population in the Dooars by offering to rename Gorkhaland as Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh. The tribals under the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad want Sixth Schedule status for the Dooars and the Terai and have refused to be part of the Morcha statehood agitation.
Observers believe that the GNLF leaders could isolate Ghisingh — who had first coined the term Gorkhaland but later relented to the formation of an administrative council for the hills — within his own party.
In fact, sources said the front had sent feelers to Rajen Mukhia, convener of the GNLF’s Terai committee, to be part of a united Opposition. Mukhia is the only GNLF leader who has been able to demonstrate his strength since the Morcha was formed in 2007. Mukhia is yet to announce his decision.
The Morcha however said it was not worried about recent developments and cited the huge turnaround at the May 30 meeting as evidence of its popularity in the hills. “This is an answer to Asok Bhattacharya and all the people who thought the Morcha has lost support,” Harka Bahadur Chhetri, publicity secretary of the Morcha had said at the meeting.
ABGL rally
Darjeeling Times, Darjeeling, June 7:  A protest rally was organized by ABGL (Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League) in Darjeeling town today. Particularly, the women wing of ABGL protested at Sadar Police station, for immediate arrest of culprits involved in the assassination of Madan Tamang. The rally also disrupted the traffic at Chowkbazaar for about 30 minutes. However, there was no any interference by other political party as usually witnessed during the ABGL rallies.    Pix: Robin Rai
ABGL rally in Darjeeling town today
Rally entering the premises of Darjeeling Police station
Rally disrupts traffic at Chowkbazaar today
Prabin Khaling, GANGTOK June 7: One person died leaving two others injured in a road mishap today.
The tragic accident occurred today morning at around 7:30am at Maney Khola, near Bhojoghari when a utility bearing number SK 03-2317 skidded off the road falling 300 feet below the road.
Dinesh Chettri, 30 years old labor died in the spot while the driver Himal Chettri and other person Sunil Agarwal have been admitted at STNM hospital.
The reason for the accident have been expected the lost of control by the driver.
An FIR under section 279, 338 and 304A of IPC has been lodged by the Police.
The utility which belongs to Milan Hardware of Burtuk was on its way Pangthang Phatak from Burtuk.
Pix: Prabin Khaling 
Sikkim teen on World Cup trip- Bhaichung boy in national team
TT, Gangtok, June 7: A Sikkim teenager will fly to South Africa on June 14 to catch some live action of World Cup 2010 and to play a series of matches against teams from Brazil, Italy and Holland as part of an exposure trip.
Another proud product of Search for More Bhaichungs scheme of the Sikkim government, Subham Basnett, 15, has been selected by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for the national Under-16 team. He had been inducted into Namchi Sports Hostel, the junior football academy of the state government, in 2006 under the scheme.
The boy was among the eight players of the hostel picked up by Air Force School, New Delhi, in 2008 after their performances in the Subroto Cup in the national capital.
Menla Ethenpa, the general secretary of the Sikkim Football Association, said: “The AIFF is sending an Under-16 team to South Africa. We are very proud that Basnett is from our state. It will be a precious trip for him as he and the other boys will get exposure in an international level. I wish him all the best and hope that more such talents emerge from our state.”
Subham, who is currently at his home in Pachey Samsing in Pakyong, East Sikkim, said he and the other members of the national team would be flying to South Africa from Mumbai on June 14 for a week-long exposure trip.
He is currently studying in Class IX under a scholarship at Air Force School, where he is also getting football training.
A central mid-fielder, Subham said he had been selected to the national team during an AIFF camp in Goa last month. He is the lone Sikkim boy to make it to the national team.
“We will have a camp with teams from several countries and play matches against some of them. The Indian team is included in a group that has members like Brazil, Canada, Greece, Italy, Pacific Islands, Holland, Switzerland and the USA,” said Subham.
“There are other events like dribbling competition, free kick challenge, 5-side matches, penalty shots and ball juggling for the teams. We will watch some World Cup matches as well and I am waiting for the matches involving Brazil or Spain,” he added.
The boy’s father, B.K. Basnett, a teacher at a local primary school, said: “My son is at home for a short break and I have to shop for items mentioned on the list given to him by the AIFF. On June 12, he will be leaving for Delhi, where his travel papers are being processed.”Basnett, who himself was a footballer when he was young, said prayers of all had seen Subham doing well in pursuing the football dream. “I used to train him ever since he was 2-3 years old,” said the proud father.
Morcha blocks hydel plants
Avijit Sinha and Rajeev Ravidas, TT, June 7: Consistent agitation by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and global warming are the two stumbling blocks for micro hydroelectric projects in the hills, power officials have alleged.
The much-delayed Teesta Low Dam Projects (TLDP) of the NHPC are also likely to miss their deadlines yet again because of the Morcha-enforced strike at the project sites in Rambi and Kalijhora.
The micro hydel projects planned by the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (Webreda), which in total will generate 15mw power or so, are yet to be executed.
“We had identified a number of sites and sought expression of interests from private parties. At least 10-12 projects had been finalised but the entrepreneurs could not start the work because of the political agitation and violence in the hills,” S. Bhattacharya, the director of Webreda, told The Telegraph over the phone from Calcutta today. “It seems that unless the political turmoil ends, there is little chance of commencing the projects.”
The director said six micro hydel projects, set up in association with the state power department at Neora and Nippon near Kalimpong of 3mw each are running in an unpredictable manner. “Given the present state of political affairs in the hills, there is no certainty of their operation and they may close down any day,” he said. “This has further discouraged the entrepreneurs.”
The range of output of the pending projects, to be developed by the private parties, is from 800kw to 3mw. Its sites are on the upstreams of the Chel, Neora and the Jaldhaka rivers and the hilly streams like the Pechangkhola and the Rishikhola.
Bhattacharya said the change in the flow of water in rivers was posing a problem. “There is asymmetry in flow of water in the rivers because of global warming. Usually, we engage experts from IIT Roorkie to find out the trend of water flow for the past three years so that before a micro hydel project is set up, one can have an idea of water flow in the lean and peak seasons which directly affects the scale of power generation,” he said. “We had conducted such study earlier but in the past couple of years, the flow of water is not matching with those trends. We need to carry out another study to update the trend. But given the present situation, it is improbable to send teams to remote areas where they need to stay for three years to conduct the study.”
The Morcha denied the charges of obstructing the work. “There has been no resistance from our side in any of the micro hydel project sites,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media secretary of the party. “It is a false allegation by the state government.”
The 132mw TLDP Stage III project at Rambi, about 30km from Kalimpong, is slated to be commissioned in February 2011, while the 160mw TLDP Stage IV, 15km downstream at Kalijhora, is due for commissioning in August 2011.
“The nearly month-long strike this time round will push back the projects by a year. The twin projects have already been hit by delays because of the political turmoil in the hills,” said an NHPC official.
Last week, the Morcha decided to continue with its strike at the two NHPC project sites while calling off similar programmes in other central and state government offices.
The party said it had called the strike to protest the NHPC’s failure to honour its promise of establishing an engineering college and setting up an MRI scan facility in the hills.
The protracted delay has inflated the project cost. “We have recently submitted a revised estimate of Rs 1,300 crore for the TLDP Stage IV project. The cost of the other project will also go up similarly,” said a source. Both the projects were originally estimated to cost less than Rs 1,000 crore.
Students lots, seats few for UG courses 
TT, Siliguri, June 7: More than 10,000 students who cleared Class XII exams this year will not be able to make it to seven colleges in and around Siliguri, where around 5,000 seats are offered in various graduation courses.
While 8,906 students cleared the Higher Secondary exams in Darjeeling district, another 1,134 examinees passed CBSE Class XII in Siliguri subdivision.
But the number of total seats in the seven colleges remains the same. While 3,653 students can pursue humanity subjects, 1,231 applicants can study in commerce stream. There are only 291 seats in science subjects.
Although around 4,500 seats are available at the 11 colleges in the three hill subdivisions, many students there prefer to study in the institutions in the plains. Every year hundreds of seats lie vacant in hill colleges, while the institutions in Siliguri struggle to accommodate thousands of applicants.
“A large number of students have cleared the ISC exams also. It is true that some students go to cities for higher studies, but most children prefer to continue education in their hometowns. We are apprehending a rush this year too, but we have to stick to the North Bengal University rules which bar institutions from taking in even a single extra student,” said Ruma Bhowmik Sengupta, the principal of Siliguri Women’s College.
The forms will be distributed from tomorrow at the college, which offers courses in humanities.
“We have 250 seats in honours and another 250 in general,” Sengupta said.
At Bagdogra College, the form distribution began today and will continue till June 12.
“The pressure will be there but we can take students only according to our seating capacity. We have 495 seats in honours — 385 for humanities and 110 for commerce,” said principal Ranjit Das.
Siliguri College of Commerce that can accommodate 650 students in the first year will start the form distribution on June 15. “There are 200 seats for accounts and management in honours and 450 for BCom in general,” said the principal, Ashim Mukherjee.
Surya Sen College has 115 seats for commerce (honours), 30 for science (honours) and 285 for humanities (honours). In the general category, the college has 100 seats for science, 460 for humanities and 350 for commerce. The forms will be distributed from today till June 15.
Munshi Prem Chand College can accommodate around 400 students in five humanity subjects (general).
While Siliguri College can admit around 1,100 students for courses in humanities and science (honours and general), Naxalbari College’s intake is 450.

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