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Thursday, August 5, 2010

WB GOVT broadly agreees on Interim Council in Darjeeling Hills...

PTI, Kolkata, Aug 05 : The West Bengal government has broadly agreed on the Centre''s draft proposal to set up an interim council in Darjeeling, replacing the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council which runs the administration in the hills, Home Secretary Samar Ghosh said today. With the Centre keen on the interim arrangement in Darjeeling, the state government has held talks with political parties other than the GJM to elicit their views in the run up to the next round of tripartite talks on August 17.
The Centre has so far been speaking only to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). Ghosh said the political parties were told to submit their views in writing before August 6, which would be communicated to the Centre by August 9.
Setting up an interim council required legislation, which needed time and a session in the House. It could even be done through ordinance to save time, he said.
The non-GJM parties in the hills have opposed an interim arrangement and demanded restoration of law and order and the democratic process first. The GJM, which has been spearheading a movement in the Darjeeling hills for a separate state of Gorkhaland, has now settled for an interim council which should also have under its jurisdiction the Siliguri and Dooars and the Terai in the plains in neighbouring Jalpaiguri district.
The DGHC at present only administers the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling district -- Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong -- and not Siliguri subdivision in the plains. "The area is not a major issue for the government," Ghosh added.
KalimNews: "All DGHC Offices will observe strike from 6th August for an indefinite period " announced Bimal Gurung, GJMM Chief, "however" he added, "Education Department Offices will remain open on Fridays". 
Meanwhile a report states that Center is not keen on going through the proposed draft submitted by GJMM.It has made up its mind to implement the 19 point draft of the proposed GAA with some minor and less complicated modifications, if proposed by the State or the Morcha.  At the same time the State Government is ready is ready to issue  ordinance of Interim setup to save the time.
Hill soccer mania to reach climax on I-Day
Rajeev Ravidas, TT, Kalimpong, Aug. 5: A little over a month after the World Cup, football fever is expected to reach a crescendo again in Kalimpong when the finals of five tournaments, including the Independence Cup, will be kicked off in mid-August.
Football, more than cricket, continues to remain the most popular sport in the hills, and August is the month when the soccer season reaches climax in every nook and cranny of the district.
In Kalimpong, the climax comes in a span on 48 hours on August 15 and 16. The five tournaments — Independence Cup, Mini Tournament, C Division Tournament, Inter-school Tournament and Girls Football Tournament — are all conducted by the Kalimpong Sports Association (KSA).
While the mini, C division and the inter-school tournaments have begun, the girls’ soccer meet will start after August 10 and the the Independence Cup will commence from Saturday.
“While the finals of the Independence Cup and the mini tournament will be held on August 15, the C division, girls and inter-school finals will be played the following day on August 16,” said Urgen Mini Lama, the KSA president.
The two-day football fest is in keeping with the town’s unique tradition of celebrating Independence Day for an extended period that sometimes stretches up to three days.
Independence Day celebration in Kalimpong without football is a mundane affair. “Yes, football is a major part of the Independence Day celebrations. People from far and wide come here to watch the matches and generally regale in the festival-like atmosphere that prevails those two days,” said Neel Kamal Chhetri, a columnist born and based here.
Lama said in the days gone-by even the Chogyals of Sikkim used to send their football teams — Sikkim Guards and Kumar Sporting — and personally come to attend the matches. “We at the KSA want to keep the football tradition of our town alive and kicking. Despite not having adequate resources, we still invite teams from outside to unable our youngsters to get exposures,” Lama added.
This year, seven outstation squads, including Kalighat FC from Calcutta, 11 GR from Lucknow and BSF XI from Kadamtala near Siliguri, will feature in the 64th edition of the Independence Cup. “Teams from Darjeeling and Kurseong will also take part in the 12-team tournament.
Kalimpong will be represented by the KSA XI and the Schools United comprising players from different schools of the town,” he added.
The KSA president, who had played for teams like the Calcutta-based Mohammadan Sporting in his youth, said the Independence Cup and the inter-school tournament had always generated passionate following, but what was heartening to notice was that the mini tournament was also getting popular. “This augurs well for the future of the game here. We at the KSA are doing our bit by running an academy to train youngsters.”

Siliguri realtor found shot dead in office- Family alleges murder and points finger at business partner
TT, Siliguri, Aug. 5: A real estate developer was found dead with a bullet injury on the head at his office in a hotel building owned by his business partner here today.
The family of the 42-year-old Tapan Jha ruled out suicide and alleged that he had been murdered by his business partner Gurdeep Singh.
Jha was shot through the forehead and the body was found on a sofa with blood oozing from the head. A 9mm pistol was lying next to the body, but no suicide note was found.
Sources said Jha used to come to the office on the first floor of the four-storied building everyday.
“Like any other day, he came to the office in usual manner around 10.30am today,” said Raju Sharma, the hotel manager. “However, around 12 noon, I was told by some shopkeepers (a market complex is located in a portion of the hotel building) that they had heard a suspicious noise from the office. We immediately rang up Siliguri police,” he said.
When the policemen, led by additional superintendent of police, Siliguri, Gaurav Sharma, reached the spot, the office door was open and Jha’s body was lying on a settee with blood oozing from his head.
“We suspect that he was shot at point-blank range on the forehead with a 9mm pistol, causing his death instantly. The weapon was also found next to the body,” said a police officer.
The police questioned the manager and other staff at the hotel and took away the body. The office was also sealed. The incident invited curious crowds in front of the hotel at Sevoke Road.
According to the hotel staff and relatives of the deceased, Gurdeep was Jha’s close friend and a confidante.
But ever since the incident, he could not be found at the spot nor be contacted. Jha’s wife Bharati said Gurdeep had been threatening her husband for a couple of months.
“Gurdeep called him (Jha) on his cellphone around midnight yesterday and asked for money. Today, around 8.30am, my husband left home and told me that he would return for lunch by 3pm. However, before that, we got the news that he was dead,” she said at the Siliguri District Hospital.
The couple has a five-year-old daughter, who was recently diagnosed with cancer in her right eye.
Shanti, the inconsolable mother, echoed her daughter-in-law and held Jha’s friends responsible for his death.
Jha, sources said, is known to have taken loan from his friends for personal reasons. He was also spending money for his daughter’s treatment.
Jha was a resident of Milanpally in Siliguri.
According to the sources, Jha was a lower division clerk at the district inspector of schools (secondary) office in Jalpaiguri. Since 2003, he had been under suspension for irregular attendance and had started the real estate business.
The realtor’s family has filed an FIR and Gurdeep was named in it.
D.P. Singh, the superintendent of police of Darjeeling, said they were not ruling out the possibility of either suicide or murder. “A murder case has been registered on the basis of the complaint filed by Jha’s family. The office room at the hotel has been sealed to keep the evidences intact and for further probe by fingerprint experts of the CID.”
Tenders invited for highway repair- Hope for end to travel troubles
TT, Siliguri, Aug. 5: The National Highways Authority of India has invited tenders for the repair of NH31D that developed craters on a major stretch in Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts, where thousands of people have to bear the brunt of bumpy rides everyday.
Troubles faced by travellers on other north Bengal roads are also likely to be over soon, with the public works department announcing the launch of repair on state highways.
Accidents, leading to deaths or injuries and damage to vehicles are regular on NH31D’s stretch from Siliguri to Dhupguri and the Birpara-Alipurduar state highway over the past couple of months.
Political and social organisation have put up blockades on roads to demand their immediate repair, but such modes of protest have only added to the miseries faced by the commuters.
Things will, however, change soon as the NHAI has issued two separate tenders to repair the Siliguri-Jalpaiguri and Jalpaiguri-Mainaguri-Dhupguri sections of NH31D with an estimated total expenditure of around Rs 1.3 crore. The tenders have been floated and will be opened on August 10. The repair is expected to start by August 15 and finish within 60 days. “We have already issued tenders and hope that extensive repair can be taken up next week or so,” said R.K. Chaudhury, the project director of the NHAI based in Siliguri.
Dasrath Tirkey, the minister of state for the PWD, said affected stretches of state and national highways under the jurisdiction of his department would also be repaired soon.
“The road leading to Alipurduar from Birpara is in its worst condition and needs urgent repair. Rs 11 crore has been sanctioned for this purpose. Other roads will also be made suitable for trouble-free travel soon as we want to finish work before mid-October,” said the minister.
Asked about the condition of national highways, Tirkey said he was contemplating approaching the NHAI with a plea for their speedy repair. “As these roads are taken care of by the NHAI, it is up to them to carry out the repair,” said the minister. “However, given the present condition of the roads, we are mulling over a proposal to obtain a no-objection certificate from the NHAI and take up the repair on our own.”
National Highway 31 and NH55 passing through north Bengal also need urgent repair. While the Bagdogra-Siliguri-Salugara stretch of NH31 has hardly bitumen cover, 500 metres of NH55 caved in after landslides at Paglajhora more than a month ago. The NHAI could not yet start repair on NH55 connecting Siliguri with Darjeeling as frequent landslides because of rains hamper the work.
Transporters sounded relieved when told about the process for the repair being set in motion.
“Buses plying on different routes in the districts of Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar are running late, causing inconvenience to passengers as well as us,” said Pranab Mani, the secretary of the Darjeeling Inter-District Minibus Owners’ Association. “Damage of vehicles because of accidents and bad roads have become a regular phenomenon and our overhead costs increased to a substantial point. We are happy to hear that repairs will begin soon,” he added.
Tourism for cinchona recovery- Track Tagore hill stay
Rajiv Ravidas, TT, Kalimpong, Aug. 5: The directorate of cinchona and other medicinal plants is working out a plan to cultivate fruits and flowers and launch tourism projects in the hope that the diversification could help turn the ailing plantations in the hills around.
The 150-year-old cinchona plantation has been running at a loss for years and experts say the only way of sustaining the sector is diversification. In fact, the directorate has already started cultivating fruits and flowers on a commercial basis as part of its effort to correct the balance sheet. The plantations earn Rs 10 crore annually, but the expenditure by way of salary and wages alone is a whopping Rs 26 crore.
Gyan C. Subba, the director of cinchona and other medicinal plants, said tourism and organic cultivation had a huge market and his directorate was of the opinion that it could leverage some of the land in its possession by taking to tourism. “We have 26,000 acres of land spread across different areas in the hills and some plots have extraordinary scenic beauty. With proper planning, they can be turned into vibrant tourism destinations,” he said.
Of the 26,000 acres, cinchona is cultivated on only about 10,000 acres.
Subba said Nanthing above Latpanchor in Kurseong subdivision is a scenic spot with a small lake where salamanders can be found, while Mungpoo in Darjeeling subdivision can be developed as a historical tourist attraction, given its connections with Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
“Rongo (in Kalimpong subdivision), on the other hand, can be promoted for trekking as the place has very pristine forest along the border with Bhutan,” he added.
There are many other similar places that can be easily developed as tourism hotspots, said Subba. “People today are fed up with city-centric tourism. They would rather prefer to visit quiet far-flung places like the ones we have in plenty. We can construct small bamboo huts along the streams (cutting across the plantations). From architecture to food and beverage, the idea would be to keep everything local and traditional. Our stress should be more on village tourism.”
The director said a preliminary discussion on the plan had been held with state tourism department officials, and things could move on from there. “We obviously do not have the money (to fund the project). We need to talk to others, even private players. We hope something will happen,” he added.
Lawyers to boycott CJ oath taking
TT, Gangtok, Aug. 5: The Bar Association of Sikkim has decided to boycott the ceremony where Justice P.D. Dinakaranwill be sworn in as the new Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court on August 9.
Justice Dinakaran, who faces a probe by a panel of three Supreme Court judges into corruption charges against him, has been transferred from Karnataka High Court to Sikkim on July 30.
He has been asked to take charge on or before August 13.
The decision to boycott the swearing-in was taken by the 280-member association at an emergency general body meeting at its office in the district and session court here yesterday afternoon .
“We have decided to boycott the oath-taking ceremony. We are not against any individual but the manner in which the transfer took place. We are not happy with the decision of the Supreme Court collegium because it is not in the interest of Sikkim and Sikkim judiciary,” association president D.R. Thapa told reporters today.
Thapa said the association had the highest regard for the institution and the judge who was being transferred to Sikkim.
“But we have the problem against the collegium’s decision. We are not satisfied with their decision because they have undermined and demeaned the institution for which we have the highest regard,” Thapa said.
The association had requested the President, Prime Minister and the Supreme Court collegium not to transfer Justice Dinakaran to Sikkim when a move to shift him here had been reported in April.
Although the association members will be boycotting the oath-taking ceremony, they will appear before the court of the Chief Justice.
“We will be appearing before the Chief Justice in court proceedings keeping in view the interests of the litigants, state and general people at large,” Thapa said.
Swine Flue tolls 114
TT, KOLKATA, 5 AUG: Five new cases of Swine Flu were reported in the city today taking the total number of the affected persons to 114 in the state. The youngest of the 114 was a a six-day-old baby who tested positive for H1N1 virus a few days ago and will be discharged from a city hospital tomorrow.
The baby was admitted at BC Roy Memorial Hospital with upper respiratory chest infection a few days back. Born at NRS Medical College and Hospital, the baby was shifted to BC Roy Memorial Hospital after doctors noticed he contracted a chest infection. After he developed Swine Flu like symptoms, his throat swab was collected and sent to National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), which later tested positive.
His mother was quarantined at Beliaghata ID Hospital.
Doctors at BC Roy Memorial Hospital said when the baby was first admitted at the hospital where his condition was critical. He was kept at a separate isolation ward. According to them the baby had an H1N1 infection which later led to a viral pneumonia and he had to be put on ventilation.
He was also administered Oseltamivir tablets of low dosage for seven days following which his throat swab report was collected again, which tested negative.
Dr Mrinal Chatterjee, medical superintendent of the hospital said the baby was kept at the isolation ward for 11 days.
Meanwhile, officials of the state health department today inspected the isolation facility that is being set up for pregnant mothers at NRS Medical College and Hospital. Dr Asit Biswas, nodal officer of Swine Flu said, the isolation facility is going to be open from Sunday. Construction work is still on as they had suggested setting up of certain added facilities at the ward, he added.
Five new cases of Swine Flu that were reported in the city today. All of them have been quarantined at Beliaghata ID Hospital.
Eleven patients are currently admitted at various hospitals and the condition of one patient is said to be in a critical condition.
Adolescence Teen Camp Organised by Darjeeling Clusters  started from today in Kalimpong
Monsoon Fantasy a moment caught in Kalimpong by Samten Kabo

Trinamul hide-and-seek on Lalgarh rally - Party walks tightrope
TT, Calcutta, Aug 5: The decision of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities to attend Mamata Banerjee’s Lalgarh rally on August 9 has put her lieutenants in a dilemma: how to make the rally a success without allowing the committee to be too visible at the programme.
The Trinamul Congress chief does not want to be seen to be close to the Maoist-backed organisation but her party leaders concede that the committee’s participation can make a big difference to the rally.
Caught in this conflict, Trinamul leaders today said they would not allow prominent committee leaders to attend the rally and certainly not the outfit’s flags and banners.
However, party leaders privately admit that they cannot possibly prevent committee supporters or activists from joining the rally.
The committee today said it would lift its indefinite blockade from August 7 to 9 so that the rally could be held smoothly.
Mamata today sent Union minister of state for shipping, Mukul Roy, to Lalgarh to ask party functionaries in West Midnapore to ensure that no prominent committee leaders or functionaries attended the “apolitical” rally.
Committee chief Manoj Mahato had said yesterday that his outfit would attend the August 9 rally to hear what Mamata “has to say about the people in Jungle Mahal”. Committee leaders have also “ordered” villagers in Lalgarh and Salboni to attend the meeting.
Mrityunjoy Mahato, a Lalgarh resident, said committee leaders had asked villagers to “mobilise people for the rally and, if necessary, hire trucks to ferry them to the venue”.
Trinamul sources said Mamata had held a meeting in Delhi yesterday with her close aides to discuss how her party could distance itself from the committee. The aides suggested that a “message should be sent” to Trinamul’s “political adversaries” that the party was “averse to entertaining any People’s Committee leader or member” at the rally.
“Mamata readily accepted the suggestion and sent Mukul to convey our tough stand on the People’s Committee to our party leaders in West Midnapore,” a Trinamul leader said from Delhi.
After meeting the West Midnapore leaders, Roy said: “We are holding an apolitical rally. Everyone can attend it. We don’t know any People’s Committee leader and we have no connection with any such organisation. We are holding the rally in a bid to restore peace in Jungle Mahal. All who want peace to be restored are welcome to attend the rally.”
He also inspected the school ground where the rally will be held.
However, sources in Trinamul’s West Midnapore unit said the party had today asked committee leaders not to make the presence of their supporters and activists at the rally too conspicuous.
A local committee leader confirmed that Trinamul had contacted the outfit. “We have asked our supporters not to attend the rally with committee flags, banners or placards. Our supporters will also not raise slogans other than those related to the demands for development and the withdrawal of the joint forces,” he said.
Director-general of police Bhupinder Singh today said if “wanted” committee activists were seen at the rally, they would be arrested.
PCPA ‘not banned’
State Congress president Manas Bhuniya said there was nothing wrong if the committee attended the rally because it had “not been declared a banned outfit”. He, however, said his party would stay away from the rally.

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