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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

3 killed in landslide...Highway link to hills snaps, road in gorge...4 GJMM supporters arrested

KalimNews:Three people of a family died in a landslide in Kalimpong. Mother Surekha Bhutia (48), daughter Dibeta (21)and son Sanjay Yantem (16)  of the family died when a plumbed wall of a house collapsed into another wooden house located at Upper Gumbahatta burying the three persons alive in the morning of 17th June. It is said that due to heavy rainfall in the night the wall collapsed and buried the house with its occupants. Surekha's husband Thendup Bhutia and her mother-in-law Janaki Devi (70) survived in the accident miraculously. Smt. Surekha was reportedly brought dead at the local govt. hospital while her two kids, who were studying in classes XII and X were killed on the spot.
TT, Siliguri, June 16: A part of Hill Cart Road caved in near Paglajhora this morning with 20 metres of the national highway that connects Siliguri to Darjeeling slipping into a 400-foot-deep gorge with a truckload of LPG cylinders and damaging the toy train tracks.
The part of NH55 that gave way into the gorge. Picture Kundan Yolmo
The driver and his helper, however, managed to jump out of the vehicle when the stretch of NH55 between Tindharia and Kurseong started sinking around 6am, possibly because of heavy rain last night. A few cylinders were removed in a hurry but the rest fell into the gorge with the truck.
The road to Lachung in North Sikkim was also shut down this afternoon because of a landslide at Pegong, 80km from Gangtok.
Officials of the National Highway division-IX of the state PWD who visited the cave-in spot on Hill Cart Road, 35km from Siliguri, said it would not be possible to say how long it would take to restore the road. “About 20 metres of the road have completely collapsed. We cannot say how much time it would take to restore the road,” said Dhruba Chakraborty, the superintendent engineer of the division.
Heavy vehicles have been diverted through Mirik and Mungpoo. “They will take about two extra hours to reach Darjeeling from Siliguri (it usually takes three hours). Light vehicles are plying through Pankhabari and Rohini. The time taken will be almost the same as through NH55,” said Bhaskar Moktan, the block development officer of Kurseong.
This is the second major landslide in a week on the highways in north Bengal.
On June 11, a landslide occurred near Hatisuray on NH31A and affected traffic for more than 48 hours.
Nirmal Mondal, executive engineer of the NH-IX division, said the Paglajhora area on Hill Cart Road — a 78km stretch from Darjeeling More in Siliguri to Chowk Bazar — had been already identified as a “sinking zone.”
“The surface of this vulnerable stretch collapsed after heavy rainfall last night. The restoration will have to start from about 35-40 metres below the elevation of the road. This will naturally, take time,” he said.
Partha Pratim Roy, the director of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, said the road would have to be built first for the tracks to be repaired. 
STH, Kurseong June 16: A major landslide occurred at 14 Mile on NH 55 near Pagalajhora in Kurseong, in the morning today.
In this incident, a Darjeeling bound LPG cylinder loaded truck also met with an accident and fell around 500 ft. down in the valley. The road near 14 mile was sinking at the time when the Truck had stopped around 6 am at the spot and realizing debrises were falling underneath the road some gas cylinders were taken off the truck to lighten it but the truck along with the road collapsed 10 to 15 feet below and cracks of nearly 30 meters appeared at the site.
Meanwhile the Toy Train services were also affected between NJP to Kurseong since a lot of boulders have fallen on the tracks and also cracks have appeared at several places underneath the rail tracks.
Following the landslide, the direct connectivity between Siliguri to Darjeeling along the NH55 has been lost.
Presently, all the Siliguri bound vehicles and Darjeeling bound vehicles have been instructed to ply via Pankhabari road and Rohini road.
Mainly the landslide which occurred today has affected heavy vehicles that ply goods from Siliguri to Darjeeling. However local transport that ply tourist and local passengers have not been affected since there are other routes which is used only by light vehicles for passenger transport mainly routes via Mirik, Pankhabari and Rohini.
Meanwhile concerned authorities are visiting the site of the landslide to estimate the damage and cost of repair but presently it is difficult to say when the NH55 and the Toy Train service will resume again but as per the authorities the transport services will be resumed within a week.
Notably, the Pagalajhora region is one place in Darjeeling Hills where such landslides occur every year during the monsoon but so far even after a decade of its maintenance the landslides have yet to stopped so far perennially. Photos and report-Save the hills
Madan murder charge on four more Fresh case slapped on arms act accused
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, June 16: The criminal investigation department today arrested four persons and booked them for their alleged role in the murder of ABGL leader Madan Tamang last month after a court here issued a production warrant.
All the four, suspected to be Gorkha Janmukti Morcha activists, had been arrested three days after the murder in a different case — for possessing sharp weapons — and had been in judicial custody since May 25.
D.P. Singh, the superintendent of police, Darjeeling, said: “The CID has informed us that four people have been arrested.”
The four — Puran Rai, 35, Ashish Tamang, 26, Sunil Rai, 33 and Tilak Sotang, 33 — were among the 19 who had been picked up on May 25. On that day, Morcha president Bimal Gurung led a 100-car cavalcade to Darjeeling from Kalimpong in a show of strength to challenge the new found defiance of his rivals, who had shouted for his ouster during Tamang’s funeral three days earlier. Sources said the 19 had been arrested from various places in Darjeeling while waiting for Gurung’s cavalcade to reach the hill town.
Manik Saha, the assistant public prosecutor, told The Telegraph: “Following investigations, police wanted to tag these four accused to the case related to Madan Tamang’s murder on May 21. The police (CID) yesterday sought a production warrant from the chief judicial magistrate’s court. The court issued the warrant yesterday following which the four were arrested in connection with the murder and produced before the court today.” A production warrant is necessary to tag those, who have already been arrested, to a new case.
The 19 accused had been booked under sections 25 and 27 of the arms act. The CID has now booked Puran, Ashish, Sunil, and Tilak under sections 143, 186, 506 (unlawful assembly and restraining public servant from discharging duties) along with sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 302 (murder) of the IPC.
While Puran is a resident of Phoobshering garden, Ashish stays in Badamtam tea estate. Both Sunil and Tilak are residents of Tukvar tea garden. “The CID had requested a remand of 14 days. The court has remanded them in police custody for 10 days,” said Saha.
The next date of hearing for the remaining 15 accused, not tagged to Tamang’s murder, will take place on June 23.
The total number of arrests made by the CID in the murder case now stands at seven. The agency had arrested Subash Tamang and Prashant Chhetri from the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital on June 4. On the same day, the sleuths had also picked up Sudesh Raimaji, a contractor from Darjeeling. All three are facing murder charges. Subash and Prashant had suffered bullet injuries after Tamang’s bodyguard fired at them on May 21 at the Clubside motor stand where he was hacked to death.
The chief judicial magistrate’s court has sent Raimaji to judicial custody and the next date for hearing has been fixed on June 28. Raimaji had been sent to a 10-day police remand after his arrest.
Front meeting
Dawa Sherpa, the convener of the Democratic Front — a conglomeration of seven anti-Morcha outfits in the hills — today said the front had decided to hold its first public meeting in Darjeeling on June 20. “The meeting will be held at Chowk Bazar,” he said. The front stressed the need to restore democracy in the hills and demanded speedy arrest of Tamang’s murderers.
Strike Threat
TT, Darjeeling, June 16: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today called a 12-hour bandh in Kurseong subdivision to protest an alleged lathicharge on a rally the party had brought out late this evening. “We want an answer from the administration as to why they resorted to the lathicharge. If we don’t get a reply by tomorrow evening, we will call an indefinite strike across the hills from Friday,” said Bimay Tamang, the assistant secretary of the Morcha. The party also announced that it would gherao all police stations in the Darjeeling hills.
The gherao was announced after the police accompanied by the CRPF visited Jamuni, where the Gorkhaland Personnel is headquartered to look for Tamang’s killers.
“If there is a law and order problem in the hills tomorrow, K.L. Tamta (IG north Bengal) and the district administration will be held responsible,” said Tamang.
Jaswant loyalty test for BJP
TT, Siliguri, June 16: Speculation about Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh’s return to the BJP has forced the CPRM to ask the national party to come clear on its position on the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
“At this juncture, it is important that state BJP leaders who had initiated the formation of the Democratic Front to restore democracy and peace in Darjeeling reassert their stance on the Morcha. The MP has remained close to the Morcha right from his first visit to Darjeeling. Even at the last public meeting held by the Morcha, he was one of the key speakers,” said R.B. Rai, the CPRM general secretary, today.
“Once Singh is brought back to the BJP, it is unbecoming to a national party to maintain double standards. So, BJP leaders here must specify whether they are with or against the Morcha.”
Jaswant had won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat last year with the backing of the Morcha. He was expelled from the BJP in the wake of the controversy generated by his book Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence.
“We have no confusion over the BJP’s stand on Gorkhaland, which is the demand of all the constituents of the front. But the key question is whether the BJP supports the Morcha or not. We are fed up with the Morcha’s dictatorship,” said Rai, a former Darjeeling MP.
The front comprising the ABGL, CPRM, BJP, GNLF (C) and three other outfits was formed to protest the atrocities of the Morcha and to demand the restoration of democracy in the hills. BJP state secretary Dawa Sherpa had taken the initiative to form the front.
Asked about the CPRM’s demand, Sherpa said: “It is too early to say as he (Jaswant) has not yet been included in the BJP. The entire issue is speculative. We have been sending feedback about the situation in the Darjeeling hills to state and central leaders on a regular basis.”
“We joined the front as we are in favour of democracy and peace. Other parties can interpret our stand based on the BJP’s role in the front and the statements made by us in public,” he added.
Sources said BJP leaders were concerned about Jaswant’s likely return to the party. “Once he (Singh) is back in the BJP, he is expected to be counted among top leaders of the party. As the MP is inclined towards the Morcha and strongly supports its movement, BJP leaders here doubt if they will succeed in convincing the central leaders of their current anti-Morcha position,” said a source.
While leaders of the BJP and other constituents of the Democratic Front sounded confused, the Morcha is eagerly waiting for the MP’s re-inclusion in the BJP.
“We feel that once Jaswant Singh returns to the BJP, the stand taken by the local leaders, who hardly have support base in the hills, will be insignificant,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha. “We want to see that good sense prevails among the local leaders and they follow the BJP central leadership’s line of supporting us.”
Press Freedom Day in Sikkim
Gangtok:The Sikkim Federation of Working Journalists (SFWJ), which is affiliated to the Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ) will hold the 1st Sikkim Press Freedom Day in Gangtok on June 19, 2010 (Saturday).
The function will commemorate the Press Freedom Rally held in Gangtok 17 years ago on June 19, 1993 by local journalists who were protesting against suppression of Press Freedom in Sikkim.
The rally was organized by the Sikkim Press Association (SPA) and was led by its President, Jigme N Kazi. The six journalists who took part in the protest rally will be felicitated during the function on June 19, 2010.
The rally was held at a time when democratic forces were struggling to protect freedom, democracy, justice and rule of law in the State.
Former Chief Minister, Mr. B.B. Gooroong, will grace the occasion as its Chief Guest.
Members of the Press are cordially invited to attend the function which will be held at Hotel Tashi Delek at 11 a.m.

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