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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

ABGL seeks Union territory tag for hills ...

VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Darjeeling, Sept. 14: The ABGL has demanded Union territory status for the Darjeeling hills and said an interim set-up mooted for the region is a ploy to stifle pro-Gorkhaland voices.
“Union territory is the only solution for the region at this moment. The Centre must take steps on these lines along with the delimitation of the Darjeeling parliamentary constituency to include the Mal and Metelli areas (in the Dooars),” said Narayan Chhetri, the spokesperson for the party.
The ABGL’s youth wing Tarun Gorkha has also adopted a resolution, seeking the Union territory status for the hills.
Coming down heavily on the proposal for the interim arrangement, Chhetri said: “The interim set-up is nothing but an excuse to get more money to shut down pro-Gorkhaland voices. In the first place, both the Centre and the state should not have gone in for a dialogue only with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.”
The ABGL is determined to go ahead with its political activities and has started forming units in the Rimbick area, along with youth wings in Jorebunglow, 9km from Darjeeling.
Sources said the ABGL was likely to “officially” induct a couple of former GNLF leaders, including a former Darjeeling municipality commissioner, into the party at a meeting in Kalimpong on September 18.
All eyes are also trained on former GNLF heavyweight from Panighatta, Rajen Mukhia, who recently resigned from Subash Ghisingh’s party. Sources said Mukhia might join the ABGL on September 18.
Nickole wife petition
Prema Tamang, wife of Nickole Tamang, filed a habeas corpus petition in Calcutta High Court today, demanding a judicial probe into the disappearance of her husband from CID custody on August 22. Nickole was one of the main accused in the murder of ABGL chief Madan Tamang
In her petition, Prema apprehended that her husband might have died because of physical torture by the police during interrogation. She said A.S. Pahari, the investigating officer in the Madan Tamang murder case, was not able to explain to a court in Darjeeling how Nickole had escaped from the police custody.
The high court is likely to hear the case on September 16. 
Siliguri girl off to take on Serbia world ring
TT, Siliguri, Sept. 14: A 12-year-old kickboxer from Siliguri is set to take on the ring in Serbia as a representative of the country in the cadets and junior category.
Ishwary Sunar, the Class VII student of St Alphonsa School, will take part in the semi-contact event for the Under-16 group. She will be India’s representative at the World Championship of Kickboxing to be held from September 19 to 26 in Belgrade.
Secretary general of the Indian Association of Kickboxing Organisation (IAKO) Montu Das said Ishwary will be part of a 21-member team that will leave from Delhi on September 18.
“She was considered for the preliminary squad of the national side after her performance in the sub-junior category at the 14th National Kickboxing Championship in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, in October 2009. She got gold and silver in the semi-contact and aero kickboxing events,” Das told The Telegraph over the phone from Calcutta.
According to coach Biswanath Roy, Ishwary’s final selection was on the basis of her performance in the domestic events. She won gold at the 12th state meet at New Alipore in Calcutta in January. She also won gold in the state inter-school meet in Siliguri in July along with a silver at a national-level tournament held in Calcutta in August
“In all the sub-junior championships, she performed in the semi-contact event,” said the proud coach.
Roy, also the general secretary of the Darjeeling District Kickboxing Association, said: “I got the message of her selection from the officials of IAKO last month and she is leaving for Calcutta this evening.”
The young boxer is being sponsored by the IAKO for the Serbia meet organised by the World Association of Kickboxing Organisations.
Ishwary, who used to kickbox for two hours daily, is now practising for four hours. “I have worked hard for the event and I hope to get good results for my country,” said the girl, whose father has a fast food stall at Kadamtala, 12km from here. “We are proud that she will represent the country in such a big international event. Once she returns, we will felicitate her,” said Sister Lincy, principal of St Alphonsa School.
Bus strike to continue till repair
TT, Siliguri, Sept. 14: Bus owners today decided to continue with their strike, refusing to take at face value an assurance from the National Highways Authority of India that a 110km stretch from Ghoshpukur to Dhupguri would be repaired by September 18.
Private buses have not been plying in the Siliguri subdivision and Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts for the past 15 days to protest against the poor condition of roads in north Bengal. The owners will rethink on the strike after travelling on the stretch on NH31D on September 19 to find out if the repair has been carried out properly.
Officials of the NHAI gave the assurance at a meeting with the bus owners at the district magistrate’s conference hall in Jalpaiguri today.
“NHAI officials committed today that all potholes and ditches on this stretch of NH31D would be filled up by September 18. We will travel on the entire stretch the next day to confirm if they have delivered on the promise. A decision on the continuation of the strike will be taken at a meeting in Birpara the same day,” said Pranab Mani, the general secretary of the North Bengal Passenger Transport Owners’ Co-ordination Committee. “There is no question of withdrawing the strike today and it will continue at least till September 19,” he added.
The NHAI informed the bus owners that a Rs 6 crore tender would be invited for a thorough repair and re-laying of bitumen on NH31D. The work is scheduled to start by the first week of October.
Further, an additional Rs 4 crore will be sanctioned to repair a 12-km stretch of NH31D between Dhupguri and Falakata.
“We have offered one month’s time to the NHAI to carry out the comprehensive repair. The roads will not last long, if the repair is carried out by simply covering the potholes with pebbles and sand,” said Mani.
He added that the NHAI would also build a bridge that had been washed away in recent floods at Sonapur near Alipurduar.
Officials of the public works department, which is in charge of state highways and several stretches of national highways, did not attend the meeting convened by the Jalpaiguri subdivisional officer.
“We are concerned about not only NH31D but also the state highways and NH31 which are under the PWD. But no official was sent by the PWD to attend the meeting. We have no idea of the status of the repair carried out by the PWD. It seems that the state public works minister (Kshiti Goswami), who promised on September 2 that all the roads would be repaired in 15 days, cannot keep his word (as only three days are left),” said Mani.
The NHAI is tasked with the maintenance of NH31D that starts from Ghoshpukur on the outskirts of Siliguri and heads for Jalpaiguri, Mainaguri, Dhupguri and Falakata.
A stretch of NH31 from Ghoshpukur to Bagdogra and state highways like Alipurduar-Cooch Behar and Falakata-Cooch Behar are under the PWD.
The PWD said the work to cover the craters on the state highways was in progress, but admitted that the progress was poor.
“The initial repair has commenced on the damaged roads which are under the PWD. However, consistent rain is hampering the work and the progress is not desirable so far,” said Dhruba Chakraborty, the superintending engineer (NH division-IX) of the PWD.
X Ray clueless
TT, Siliguri, Sept. 14: X-ray tests conducted on a passenger, who was arrested at Bagdogra airport yesterday after a metal detector run on his body beeped, did not reveal anything suspicious.
Dibar Roy, a resident of Rilbong in Shillong, was granted bail by a local court today.
During a security check at the airport, the metal detector run on Roy’s body beeped, although no suspicious object was found on him. The CISF then handed him over to police for an X-ray on his body.
“We carried out the X-ray on him but nothing suspicious could be found. We contacted our counterparts in Shillong to verify his address and are yet to get any feedback from them,” said Gaurav Sharma, the additional superintendent of police of Siliguri. An investigation is on.
Roy had been forwarded to second court of the judicial magistrate. Judge Sangeeta Mukherjee granted him bail. A case has been registered against him under Section 41 of the CrPC which empowers the police to arrest a suspect without warrant. 
Jumbo stopper for traffic
TT, Alipurduar, Sept. 14: A herd of 22 wild elephants today came close to a national highway and the railway tracks near Binnaguri, prompting foresters to take up vigil on the road and keep a watch on the passing trains for at least 12 hours before the animals were driven away.
The herd, which included seven calves, was spotted in a forest patch ensconced between NH31 on one side and the tracks on the other, around 6am. The wooded tract of new trees on what was once an airstrip catering to tea gardens in the pre-Independence period is part of a conventional elephant corridor that stretches from Moraghat to the Titi forest and comes under the Jalpaiguri forest division. The area is about 80km from here.
In recent years a number of wild elephants were mowed down on the railway tracks in the Dooars, prompting the forest department to ask the railways to regulate the movement of trains to avoid collision.
Ashoke Tirki, a resident of the area, said: “I was cycling on NH31 when I saw a few elephants. I immediately informed the Moraghat range office.”
Soon personnel from the Moraghat and three other ranges as well as officers from Banarhat police station reached the spot. Thousands of people had gathered there by then.
“When we noticed the herd, we asked the railways to run the trains very slowly and also posted our personnel on the highway to regulate the traffic. Loudspeakers were used to warn people not to go close to the animals or tease the herd because wild elephants accompanied by their calves often become furious whenever they feel insecure,” said Kalyan Das, the divisional forest officer of Jalpaiguri.
Das, who was on way to Siliguri to attend a meeting, returned midway when he heard about the herd. He said a large number of foresters along with Banarhat police were posted in the area till the animals were driven back to the Moraghat forest around 7pm. 
To sell an orchid scent- project afoot to extract fragrance
TT, Gangtok, Sept. 14: Two institutes here are working on a three-year project for commercial exploitation of scented orchids in Sikkim, an endeavour that could be the first in the world.
The Sikkim Himalayan region, comprising the hills of Sikkim and Darjeeling, has about 450 species of orchids, of which 70 are scented, said the National Research Centre (NRC) that is working on “a value chain on selected aromatic plants of Northeast India”.
Established in 1996, the NRC is based in Pakyong subdivision of East Sikkim and conducts research on high-altitude orchids. In this project that started in March, the NRC is working jointly with the College of Agricultural Engineering and Post Harvest Technology which comes under the Central Agriculture University based in Ranipool, East district.
NRC director R.P. Medhi said most people are familiar with orchids only as cut-flowers. They are little aware of scents like lemon, jasmine, hyacinth, orange, chocolate, coconut and vanilla emanating from orchids. “Our role is to conduct research and develop planting material (of the scented orchids) through tissue culture. We have to first develop production protocols and methods for a large scale of cultivation of scented orchids,” said Medhi.
The NRC is currently working on five scented species found in Sikkim — Aerides odoratum, Dendrobium crysotoxum, Coelogyne cristata, C. flacida and Zygopatalum intermedium.
In response to a query, the NRC director said no information about any research conducted on scented orchids is available so far, suggesting that the project in Sikkim is probably the first of its kind in the world.
“World demand for aromatic plants and their products is increasing and India’s prospects depend on focusing on value added products, consistent drive and quality, and ensuring competition through enhanced productivity. The aromatic orchids have to be brought under large-scale cultivation to maintain their continuous supply. The small and marginal farmers in Sikkim need to be encouraged to grow the aromatic species,” said Medhi.
He, however, said the quantity of fragrant essence, which can be extracted as well as the market value of the product, is still to be worked out. But the fact that a scent of an orchid is on sale itself is enough to attract a lot of attention, Medhi said.
NRC principle scientist D. Barman said progress had been made in tissue culture of the scented orchids. “We have so far generated around 5,000 plants (by tissue culture). However, we have not achieved significantly in extraction of essential oils from the orchids. We are still conducting analysis,” he said.
P.K. Srivastava, the dean of the College of Agricultural Engineering and Post Harvest Technology, said his institute would provide engineering support on how to harvest and extract essential oils from the orchids.
“We have already set up a pilot extraction plant at the institute. Even after the extraction of essential oils from the orchids, some fragrance will be left on the plants which we are planning to use for incense sticks,” said Srivastava. He said his institute would train farmers who take up the cultivation of scented orchid species.
“Once the farmers take up the cultivation of scented orchid species, we will allow them to use our extraction plant. We can also develop a portable extraction plant for self-help groups,” said the dean. He added that the cost of an extraction plant starts at Rs 1.5 lakh.
Clamour for firing report
TT, Cooch Behar, Sept. 14: The Trinamul Congress today began a 72-hour demonstration in front of the district magistrate’s office, demanding immediate publication of the Seal commission report on the law violation programme that saw five Forward Bloc members killed in police firing on February 5, 2008.
The Left Front government had constituted a one-man commission with retired high court judge Narayan Chandra Seal to probe the incident.
Union minister of state C.M. Jatua also joined the protest that began at 10am. The Trinamul movement has become a cause of embarrassment for the district Bloc leadership as the party’s state secretary Ashok Ghosh himself had asked the state government not to publish the report.
Trinamul district president Rabindranath Ghosh said the Bloc had proved itself a puppet in the hands of the CPM. “It is strange that Ghosh himself does not want the commission report to be published. But we want the report to be out to expose the trigger-happy front government.”
Bloc district secretary Udayan Guha said he was “not aware” of Ghosh’s move. The matter would be discussed at the state committee meeting on Sunday. A senior leader said the publication of the report would affect the front government either way. “Whether it goes against the police or the Bloc, the image of the government will be tarnished.”
1 killed in Mishap
TT, Siliguri, Sept. 14: A 30-year-old resident of Mallaguri was run over by a car on Tea Auction Centre Road this evening.
Pradhannagar police said Alpana Rai was crossing the road around 9.30pm when the car on its way to Mallaguri, went over her killing her on the spot. Agitated residents of the area ransacked the vehicle after the accident. The driver managed to escape. The car has been seized.
Body found
TT, Malda: The body of a 14-year-old boy was found in a field near his house at Chaksheddipur in Baisnabnagar on Tuesday. District superintendent of police Bhuban Mondal said Rinku Sheikh’s friend Rafiqul had called him out of the house around 8pm on Monday. He went out with Rafiqul but did not return. The police suspect that Rinku was throttled to death. Rafiqul has been detained for questioning.
Train delay
TT, Islampur: The Sealdah-bound Teesta Torsa Express was delayed by around two hours because of a technical snag in the engine at Panjipara station, 22km from here, on Tuesday evening. The train resumed journey at 7.40pm with another engine brought from New Jalpaiguri.
Hindi Diwas
TT, Siliguri: The Hindi department of North Bengal University organised a programme to observe Hindi Diwas on Tuesday. Jeta Sankrityayana, the dean of arts, commerce and law, was the chief guest of the event that was attended by students and faculty members of different departments of the university.
Poster in Darjeeling Pix: Darjeeling Times

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