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Friday, June 11, 2010

Purge and march to revive spirit - Morcha chief removes Tamang murder suspect from post of town committee convener....Adivasi Parishad leaders bury hill hatchet

TT, June 10: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today disbanded its Darjeeling town committee and removed its convener Dinesh Gurung as part of efforts to confront the growing resistance from rival outfits trying to emerge from the shadow of fear.
The Morcha also announced weekly torch rallies from June 17 and directed its Darjeeling leadership to hold ward-level meetings regularly so as not to lose touch with the people.
Chief Bimal Gurung hopes that these measures will help stem the backlash against the party in the wake of the murder of ABGL leader Madan Tamang last month. The CID probing the murder had found out that 60 persons were engaged to carry out the assassination on May 21 and had narrowed down to two the number of suspects who might have delivered the killer blow. One of the two suspects is Dinesh, who is absconding. The other is Naresh Thang. The Morcha announcement comes a day after state top cop Bhupinder Singh said most of those involved in Tamang’s murder has been identified.
“We have formed an ad hoc town committee comprising 107 members for two months and the number will go up to 130 to 140,” Gurung said on the sidelines of a meeting held at Darjeeling Gymkhana Club today.
He said Dinesh had been removed, as he was “unwell” after a recent surgery. However, Morcha sources said the actual reason for dropping Dinesh was Gurung’s desire to distance the town committee from the murder. Tamang was one of the few opposition voices that challenged the Morcha writ in the hills and occasionally reminded Gurung that he had failed to deliver Gorkhaland. After Tamang’s murder, the needle of suspicion was pointed at the Morcha and during his funeral, people shouted slogans like “Bimal Gurung quit Darjeeling”. Morcha flags were brought down and posters ripped apart, something unheard of before in the hills.
“In the aftermath of the backlash against the Morcha, Bimal Gurung wants to distance the party as much as possible from the killing,” a Morcha source said.
Gurung has asked party members to instill confidence in the people because it appeared that the deployment of the CRPF in Darjeeling after Tamang’s killing had sapped them of it.
The “CRPF factor” is making people replace Morcha flag with the flags of countries participating in the World Cup soccer tournament.
“People fear the paramilitary forces will conduct raids on their houses if they spot Morcha flags. I see everyone is busy putting up flags of Argentina, Brazil, Germany and France but these flags will not get a separate state,” a source quoted Gurung as saying at the meeting.
“People used to say that they were ready to lay down their lives for Gorkhaland but I see that they have forgotten their slogans on seeing the paramilitary forces,” said Gurung.
In fact, with the police conducting frequent raids on the houses of Morcha activists following Tamang’s murder, many local leaders are not seen in town these days.
“Police are trying to arrest anyone they feel like. But innocent people must not be harassed by the police,” Gurung said
Asked about the fate of the tripartite talks, Gurung told journalists: “We want the situation to calm down at the moment and the meeting will take place when things become normal.”
Although sources in the Union home ministry said the meeting would be held in July, the Centre-appointed interlocutor for the talks, Lt Gen. (retd) Vijay Madan, said he had no idea of the timing of the next round. “So far, there is no information with me about the next round of talks at the political level,” he said.
Asok Bhattacharya, the Bengal minister for municipal affairs, who along with health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra has been representing the state in the talks, also said the date for the next round had not been decided yet.
Governor meets PC
Bengal governor M.K. Naryanan today met home minister P. Chidambaram in the capital to brief him on developments in the Darjeeling hills, reports our New Delhi correspondent. Although tipped as routine, the meeting with Chidambaram is significant as the home ministry is peeved with the interaction of the governor with the hill parties, sources said. During his stay in Darjeeling last month, Naryanan had also met slain ABGL leader Madan Tamang, three days before his murder. 
Parishad leaders bury hill hatchet 
TT, Siliguri, June 10: The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad has unanimously decided not to back the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s agitation for Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh and to continue with the movement to achieve Sixth Schedule status for the Dooars and the Terai.
Overriding the state leadership’s decision, some office-bearers of the Parishad’s Dooars and Terai committee had openly backed the Morcha’s proposal to include the Adivasi-dominated areas in the state the hill outfit wants. Even yesterday, the differences between the state and the regional leaders were palpable at a public meeting called by the Parishad at Banarhat, 75km from here. However, after the meeting, all the leaders went into a huddle and decided to bury the hatchet.
“It is true that some regional leaders had wanted to support Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh. But after yesterday’s discussions, there has been a consensus that we will not support the Morcha movement. The Parishad will continue with its agitation for Sixth Schedule status for the Dooars and the Terai,” said Birsa Tirkey, the state president of the party.
Asked whether the regional leaders had swallowed their words, an office-bearer of the Dooars-Terai regional unit said: “We consented to the state committee’s decision to have no truck with the Morcha. Whatever the party president has said is our opinion.”
Morcha leaders, after facing stiff opposition from the tribal people over the inclusion of the Dooars and the Terai in Gorkhaland, had renamed the state as Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh and had approached the Parishad for support. The Morcha’s move created confusion in the Parishad, forcing state leaders like Tirkey to rush to north Bengal and thrash out the differences.
Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha, said the matter would be discussed at his party’s central committee meeting. “We are yet to get the details of the Parishad’s decision. If the tribals in the plains refuse to stand by us, we have to discuss the matter at our central committee.”
Teachers’ finger at government
Rajiv Ravidas, TT, Kalimpong, June 10: The Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation has accused the state education department of going back on its assurance that a temporary recruitment board would be set up to regularise the services of 478 ad hoc teachers and 78 non-teaching staff in government-aided schools in the hills.
The JSTO, an affiliate of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, alleged that the minutes of its last meeting with the officials of the education department in Calcutta on May 5 deviated from the actual decisions taken at an earlier meeting.
“The minutes talk about setting up regional school service (ad hoc) for the purpose of job regularisation even though what had been agreed on was the formation of a five-member temporary recruitment board,” said Bhisan Roka, the JSTO spokesperson.
The JSTO feels that the regional school service for the hills will focus more on recruitment than the regularisation of the ad hoc teachers.
“The temporary board should be formed for the sole purpose of regularising the services of the ad hoc teachers and non-teaching staff at government-aided schools. Once that was achieved, we had said, we were open to negotiations to constitute the regional school service for the hills,” he added.
Roka also said the department had issued advertisements for applications to fill up vacant posts at the Saradeshwari Government High School in Darjeeling, while the ad hoc teachers were yet to be made permanent.
“The concerns of the ad hoc teachers at the government-owned schools must be safeguarded before any new recruitment is made,” he added. 
Only-tourist cab snub for Gangtok
TT, Gangtok, June 10: The yellow roofed cabs have disappeared from Gangtok. Long queues of exasperated commuters have replaced them at the taxi stands at Ranka, Tadong, Vajra, Deorali, Ranipool, Syari and Tathangchen. Most of the points are on NH31A.
For the past two months, the people of Gangtok have been grappling with acute cab shortage. But once outside the town, the shining local cabs can be seen swishing past or idling away waiting for tourists.
With surplus visitors, good rates for ferrying them, and roads without traffic jams as most of the tourist points — like Banjakhri Falls, Tashi View Point, Himalayan Zoological Park and Ranka monastery — are outside the town, the taxis have switched routes. They are more outside the town, than inside.
Tourists bring quick money. “It means we can save for the lean season. That is why we try to earn as much as possible during tourist season,” said taxi driver Vikash Chettri. While local rates range from Rs 5 to Rs 25 for each person, the minimum charges for half-day tourist service is Rs 700. For a full day, a visitor has to shell out at least Rs 1500. According to state government norms, taxis can carry only four passengers, tourists or otherwise.
And thanks to an incredible season, more than 2 lakh tourists visited Sikkim in the first five months and most of them passed through Gangtok to visit Nathu-la and Chhangu Lake in East Sikkim or to go to North Sikkim.
According to the tourism department, 2,36,312 domestic tourists visited Sikkim till April end with an arrival of 87,172 tourists in that month alone. Similarly, 9,538 foreigners visited Sikkim till May.
During their stay in Gangtok, most tourists go for local sighting in the hired taxis. The demand for local cabs have shot up with the Nathu-la-Chhangu Lake-Baba Mandir circuit becoming inaccessible because of landslides along the Gangtok-Nathu-la Road. Only SUVs can travel on these routes.
Most of the taxi stop points are located along the national highway from Ranipool to Zero Point. Local commuters complain that even empty cabs whiz past without as much as a glance. “In the past two tourism seasons, there was taxi shortage in town but this time, the taxis have simply disappeared,” said a student waiting for taxi near Tadong Government College.
Transport secretary S.D. Basi said keeping in mind the local commuters’ plight spawned by tourism growth, his department has put 24 buses on the road under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.
Transport officials here said that they were trying to convince the various taxi syndicates to keep at least 50 percent of their fleet in the respective stands for the local people.
There are around half a dozen taxi drivers associations in Gangtok who ply their vehicles on the Ranka, Tadong, Vajra, Deorali, Ranipool, Syari and Tathangchen routes.
Deorali taxi drivers association president Chungchung Bhutia said most of the associations keep part of their vehicles at their stands. “We keep at least 10 taxis at the stand for the local commuters but these taxis take time to go back because of traffic jams,” he said.
The transport department is also mulling to release a new fare chart. The last fare was fixed in 2006.
According to records of the motor vehicles’ division of the transport department, there are 3,507 local taxis in Sikkim. The number for Gangtok is not clear. But around 1,500 ply in and around the hill town.
Transport officials also said the shortage of cabs could be because registration of new taxis in Gangtok has stopped since December 2009 to control the number of vehicles. The the registration will start only after December 2011.
Fly or cake-work for Cup- Siliguri duo set for South Africa trip
Bireswar Banerjee,TT, Siliguri, June 10: Sunando Sarkar is flying out to Johannesburg on June 17 to watch the World Cup.
K.B. Gurung has delayed his eye surgery for the quadrennial event.
Biswaranjan Das has a cake modelled like a football stadium on display at his shop. And cricket coaches are keeping themselves free to sit before the television.
For everybody the goal is the same: reach out to the Cup.
“Since 1994, when one of my cousins went to the US to watch World Cup matches, I have been longing to be in some international stadium. After 16 years, my dreams are coming true. I will leave for Mumbai on Monday and take a flight to South Africa on June 17,” said Sarkar. “I had saved up for the past one year to watch the tournament from the gallery.” Sarkar had booked online tickets of six league matches to be played between June 19 and 24.
The chartered accountant is not alone from Siliguri in his first overseas tour. His friend Mridul Chakraborty, a tour operator, will also be on the same plane with him. “I have booked tickets for two matches to be played between Brazil and Ivory Coast and Mexico and Uruguay at Johannesburg and in Rustenburg on June 20 and 22,” Mridul, now in Calcutta, said over the phone. “Once we reach there, our sole intention will be to scout for tickets of other matches.”
The two have made the bookings for a Johannesburg hotel where they will stay from June 17 to 23. “We will move to Cape Town and be there from June 24 to 27,” Mridul said.
For retired BSF commandant Gurung, matches are more important than eyes. He has postponed his cataract operation to watch the matches on his home set. “My doctor asked me to get the cataract operated on my left eye. However, I have told him that as the World Cup starts tomorrow, I cannot take the risk of losing a single match,” said the resident of Shivmandir. “We wait for four years for this and now cannot afford to loose it.”
Jayanta Bhowmik, the coach of Team India cricketer Wriddhiman Saha, said: “I have planned my assignments to remain free during the matches everyday.”
Das’s confectionery shop has prepared an 11-pound cake shaped like a football on a playground. “The cake will be on display during the World Cup and is available for Rs 3,300. In case we find good response, we can make cakes of other designs on the World Cup theme,” said Das.
Cops send ‘buyer’ to grocer, 600kg explosives seized 
TT, Malda, June 10: A grocer and three others were caught redhanded for selling over 600kg bomb-making material after an arrested criminal posed as a buyer at their shop located a stone’s throw from Kaliachak police station.
The police suspect that Maoists from neighbouring Jharkhand and KLO rebels used to buy the explosives from the accused — Chandratan Daga, his son Bikram and two assistants, Ashok Gupta and Kajal Das — who sold the material using the shop as a front. The four were remanded in police custody for seven days.
According to Malda police chief Bhuban Mondol, over 600kg of explosive material have been seized from the grocery store that is located 100 metres from the Kaliachak police station. “A huge quantity of potassium nitrate, magnesium oxide and sulphur were stored in sacks and containers. The quantity is large enough to make thousands of crude bombs,” Mondol said.
With Kaliachak, 27km from here, located close to Bangladesh and also to Jharkhand, criminals from other states found it a “safe” location to come and buy the explosive material, he said. “We are also looking into why the Kaliachak police were not aware of this dangerous trade taking place at Chowringhee More.”
According to district intelligence sources, the recovery of such a huge quantity of explosives is unprecedented. “We have a strong belief that Maoists from across the Ganga in Jharkhand and militant groups like the KLO used to make good use of the explosives. A team from our Calcutta office is arriving here to investigate,” a source said.
The discovery was made following the arrest of dreaded criminal Noor Islam by the Murshidabad police from Aurangabad on Monday. Last night Noor was sent to the grocer as a prospective buyer of explosives.
A huge police force had surrounded the area. “As Noor was pretending to strike a deal with the Dagas, the police swooped down on them,” the source said.
Local people expressed shock that the Dagas, who have been living in the town and running the shop for years, were pandering to the needs of the criminals. “We never imagined that they were running the illegal business,” a resident said.
The source said Daga had told the police that the criminals in Kaliachak’s Mojampur area, who frequently clashed with each other during turf wars, used to buy the explosives from him.
Boy drowns
TT, Jaigaon: A 16-year-old boy drowned in the Jaldhaka near Nagrakata on Thursday. Police said Suman Chakraborty, a resident of Sukhanibusty near Nagrakata, had gone to the river with his cousin Bratin. Seeing Suman drowning in the river, Bratin raised the alarm and pulled him out of water with the help of local people. Suman was taken to the Sulkapara Block Hospital where he was pronounced brought dead.

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