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Monday, August 2, 2010

Ghisingh invited to tripartite talks on Gorkhaland issue.....Asok ignores Morcha frown...

GNLFIE,Kolkata:After two years in political wilderness, Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) chairman Subash Ghisingh — the uncrowned king of Darjeeling for 20 years — is back with a bang in active politics.
On August 3, he will join the talks between the state government and political outfits of Darjeeling — except the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) — in Kolkata.
Before that, on Monday, he would be holding talks with Ajay Maken, Union minister of State for Home, and Union Home Secretary GK Pillai. The move was initiated by the state government, which had requested the Centre to being him into the ambit of talks.
“We have invited all political outfits of Darjeeling except GJM and the GNLF is one of them. We believe that without the GNLF, no solution can be found,” said Ashok Bhattacharya, who, alongwith the Minister for Health and Family Welfare Surya Kanta Mishra will lead the state government in August 3 talks. 
Ghisingh has already left for Delhi, after which he would be visiting Kolkata.
According to political circles, bringing the GNLF chairman — who still has a following in Darjeeling — into the picture is a clever move on the part of the state government. The aim is to marginalise the Morcha, which is already on the backfoot following the murder of All India Gorkha League president Madan Tamang and the police investigations allegedly finding the complicity of its leaders in it.
The state government was unhappy about sitting with GJM across the table — which it had to do in the last tripartite talks in Delhi on July 24.
At the August 3 meeting, the state is likely to discuss its proposal on the proposed Interim Hill Council submitted to the Centre on July 24.
On Sunday, Ashok Bhattacharya visited the Hills and met the different outfits including the Gorkha League. “I met League president Bharati Tamang and discussed the situation in the hills with her,” he said.
SNS, Siliguri, 1 Aug: Gorkha National Liberation Front chairman Mr Subash Ghisingh has received an invitation from the Union Home Ministry to join the tripartite talks on the Gorkhaland issue in the national Capital.
The letter was sent by home secretary Mr GK Pillai, GNLF sources said. Mr Ghisingh, who left for New Delhi today, was accompanied by party leader Mr C K Kumai and Mr Prakash Dahal. The GNLF supremo will also join the meeting of six parties from Darjeeling other than Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) called by the West Bengal government in Kolkata on Wednesday, they said.
Meanwhile, GJM Press and publicity secretary Mr Harka Bahadur Chhetri reacting to the invitation said: “It is a conspiracy of the state government and GJM will prove that it is the sole representative of the people of the Hills at the next tripartite meeting scheduled to be held in New Delhi on 17 August. We have not and we will not budge an inch from our demand of a separate state,” he added.
TT:Subash Ghisingh today left for Delhi, two days before an all-party meeting in Writers’ Buildings the invitation to which the GNLF chief had rejected.
The state government had invited the Democratic Front, a six-party anti-Morcha conglomerate, and the GNLF to the August 3 meeting. Ghisingh’s rejection of the invitation had created resentment in the GNLF.
Rajen Mukhia, a leader of the GNLF’s Terai branch, said: “This was a rare opportunity that we had received from the government to speak out against the present state of affairs in the hills. But it is unfortunate that instead of utilising it, we lost the chance.” If Ghisingh continues with his silence and abstains from the dialogue with the government, the GNLF’s existence will be threatened, said a leader in the Terai.
Asok ignores Morcha frown
TT, Darjeeling, Aug. 1: Asok Bhattacharya today held a meeting with administrative officials in Darjeeling to concretise the development projects he had announced earlier despite the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha crying hoarse over the minister’s alleged attempt to mislead the hills with the sops.
In fact, the Morcha’s decision to close down DGHC offices, even though state and central government offices have been allowed to remain open, is an attempt to thwart Bhattacharya’s plan to implement the new initiatives in the hills.
However, an undeterred Bhattacharya, the MLA and urban development minister from Siliguri, today announced some more schemes for the region. “The state government is actively looking into the introduction of Lepcha language in primary schools. The minister concerned is expected to make an announcement soon,” he said “I have also been told that certain communities like the Lepchas are facing difficulties in obtaining the Gorkha certificate. I have asked the officials to look into the matter and solve the problem immediately.” Gorkha certificates are issued by subdivisional officers, and hill youths need them to apply for jobs in the armed forces.
The minister also announced that 25 people in the Kalimpong subdivision who had lost their homes to landslides had already been given land for free to rebuild their houses. 
SNS, DARJEELING, 1 AUG: During a surprise visit in Darjeeling today, the state urban development minister, Mr Asok Bhattacharya held discussions with the district administration regarding several development projects meant for the Hills. He also promised that all the government posts lying vacant would be filled soon. Laying stress on the meeting scheduled in Kolkata on 3 August, involving the non-GJMM political parties, the minister said that that these parties should be given a chance to articulate their views on the proposed interim set-up for the hills.
Assuring the people that the state government would do everything to promptly compensate the landslide victims. “Besides, we would provide those willing to dispose of their lands in the hills with prices twenty percent more than the prevailing market price,” he added.
Mr Bhattacharya also stated that the death anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore would be observed on 7 and 8 August through several programmes in the hills and in particular at Mungpoo in Kalimpong sub-division where Tagore spent several days.
Visibly enthused by the state government gesture, the non-GJMM parties have finalised the names of the participants who would take part in the meeting scheduled in Kolkata on 3 August. The AIGL working president Mr Dawa Sherpa and a senior party leader, Tribhuwan Rai would attend the meeting.  The Trinamul Congress and the BJP would also send representations at the meeting, Mr Sherpa said.
Mr BS Subba and Mr LM Lama would represent the CPRM while Mr Suman Rai would be present on behalf of the GNLF (c). Several other smaller hill-based parties would also attend the meeting, deemed politically crucial with clear portents of the GJMM losing grounds.  “We are looking forward to the state government to enlighten us on the subtler details involved in the last round of tripartite dialogue. We would also ask questions regarding the progress of the CID investigation into the Madan Tamang assassination and restoration of the democratic culture in the restive hills,” said Mr Dawa Sherpa, the ABGL working president and convener of the Democratic Front in Darjeeling today. 

Tea Board asks state land dept to conduct survey
SNS, SILIGURI, 1 AUG: To obtain detailed reports on tea plantations and the exact number of working small tea planters in north Bengal, the Tea Board of India has asked the state's land and land reforms department to conduct a thorough survey in this region.
The objective of this survey is to promote small tea plantations in this region by providing financial assistance to the small time planters by helping them to  form Self Help Groups (SHG).
According to Tea Board officials in Siliguri, the concerned department is carrying out the survey and the exact number of small planters and area of tea plantations will be available very soon.
At present the number of small tea planters is over 21350 and plantation area is over 90000 acres in four districts. Apart from Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri, tea plantation has been extended in North Dinajpur remarkably and partly in Cooch Behar, the Tea Board officials said.
Though there are thousands of small tea planters, the number of SHGs is very low. According to the records of the Tea Board in Siliguri, only 53 SHGs had been formed in this region but at present only 34 of them are functioning actively.
"There are times, Tea Board officials face difficulties in implementing various benefit schemes for the small tea planters due to procedural problems arising out of the paucity of SHGs,"  Mr Rakesh Kumar, the assistant director of tea development of the Tea Board in Siliguri. said.
Although, a section of small tea planters has been able to form the groups, following the guidelines of the Central and state governments “some SHGs are working here actively. One of them is going to set up a tea factory, first of its kind in India, at Panbari in Jalpaigrui with the help of Tea Board of India. To provide financial help from the bank, Tea Board is negotiating with the West Bengal State Cooperative and Agriculture Bank authority. Though the bank authorities have not yet agreed to sanction the loan, the matter is under progress,” said Mr Kumar.
The eligible SHG can have financial assistance for vehicles to transport tea leaves, bags for carrying leaves, leaf collection shed, leaf-weighing scale, tea pruning machine and others including  ‘revolving corpus fund’ scheme, he said. 
Lepchas to get tribe certificates
TT, Gangtok, Aug. 1: The Sikkim government will start handing over “primitive tribe” certificates to Lepchas, the indigenous people of the state, from August 8.
The Lepcha community was notified as a primitive tribe by the government in November 2006 to give its members protection and to safeguard their indigenous knowledge and tradition.
Power minister Sonam Gyatso Lepcha said chief minister Pawan Chamling would present the certificates to a few Lepchas on the occasion of Tendong Lho Rum Faat, the holy festival of the community, on August 8. A committee formed for the festival’s celebration said the certificates would be issued by district collectors after the scrutiny of the applicants’ domicile status.
The Lepchas number around 40,000-45,000 in the state and most of them reside in scattered settlements in remote areas like Dzongu in North Sikkim.
NH31 blocked for repair- thousand stranded
TT, Alipurduar, Aug. 1: People of Falakata blocked NH31 for eight hours today to protest the authorities’ neglect in repairing the road that has virtually no surface.
More than a thousand people were left stranded as their vehicles were stuck on the highway from Guwahati to Barh in Bihar.
About 300 people, including women, set up the blockade in front of Falakata College at 7am under the banner of the Nagarik Mancha.
“The highway has been repaired in a slip-shod manner and dolomite chips have been used to fill up the potholes. The passing vehicles throw up the chips and people get injured by the flying pieces. The dust raised from the dolomite is also a sources of bother for houses and shops along the highway,” said Debal Saha Chowdury, a Mancha member.
With hundreds of vehicles stuck at either end of the protest site, the block development officer and the police inspector-in-charge of Falakata reached the spot around 11am.
Later, Amitabha Saha, the executive engineer of the public works department’s NH division, arrived at Falakata, 32km from here, and promised a speedy repair. “From tomorrow, we will spray water on the road surface to contain the dust. After August 15, the PWD will begin bitumen work on the road surface,” he said.
Even backward classes welfare minister and Falakata MLA Jogesh Barman was critical of the PWD’s attitude. “I had lent moral support to today’s protest because the PWD was negligent in repairing NH31 that is the lifeline of the region despite several reminders,” said Barman.
Shivlal Yadav, who was travelling to Ranchi from Guwahati via Cooch Behar to attend his mother’s funeral, was among the affected people. “My mother passed away yesterday and I have been waiting here since 8.30am. I am getting frantic calls from Ranchi as the funeral cannot take place till I arrive,” he said.
The blockade was lifted at 3pm after the assurance. 
Mom sells kid & gets him back- Poor family not on BPL list, but has voter ID
TT, Balurghat, Aug. 1: An impoverished woman but not on the BPL list has been accused of selling her month-old son for Rs 30,000.
Although the baby was tracked down and returned to the mother, the incident brought to focus the plight of those who have been deprived of government benefits under schemes meant for the BPL.
In a similar incident that shook the Malda administration last month, a widowed tribal woman, Myno Baske, was searching for buyers for her children in one of the poorest villages in the district.
Both Putul Barman of the Raghunathpur forest area of Balurghat, and Myno, have voter IDs but not BPL cards, the absence of which would deprive them of benefits once more when the Centre passes the food security law for the “really poor”. The central benefit is unlikely to reach those not on the BPL list.
Yesterday, on the request of the local people, state social welfare minister Biswanath Chowdhury saw to it that the child was returned to Putul. However, the mother is still doubtful about how she will feed her children. Her eldest is a daughter aged nine.
“My husband Sukanta is a carpenter, but he is too ill to work,” said Putul, a mother of four. She, however, denied having “sold” her son. “I gave the couple the child to bring him up. They would have at least fed him,” she said. Sukanta has gone to his brother in Bangladesh with the couple’s two children, a daughter aged 9, and a seven-year-old son. Putul stays alone here with her other three-year-old daughter and the month-old son.
The secretary of the citizens’ forum or the Nagarik Mancha, Arijit Mahanta, however, alleged that the baby had been “sold” to Paban Barman, who had promised her Rs 30,000. “Last evening we recovered the child from Paban’s house in Tior,” he said.
Balurghat municipality chairperson Sucheta Biswas admitted the Barmans had voter cards, but were not on the BPL list. “I am making enquiries to find out how they got omitted.” The minister said he had asked the social welfare department to find out the circumstances under which the child had been sold. “I have told the municipality to stand by the family.”

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