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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hill meeting postponed .. Mamata tour benefited both, says Morcha - Party withdraws fast for Nickole Tamang ...Tribal call after hill tour . Demand for greater Jharkhand .. .Ayodhya verdict on 30 sept ...

TNN, Kolkata:The September 30 Darjeeling talks, scheduled to be held in Delhi, have been postponed. "The home ministry has postponed the meeting. It is up to them to announce a new date," Bengal home secretary Samar Ghosh said on Tuesday. No new date has been announced. "Postponement of the talks will not have any bearing on the progress of negotiations, said GJM general secretary Roshan Giri.
Inputs from PTI:Chief Secretary Ardhendu Sen had said at Siliguri yesterday that the meeting had ‘probably’ been postponed.
The last tripartite was held on September 7 in Darjeeling among officials of the Centre, the West Bengal government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha over the proposed interim authority in the hills.
It also discussed whether the proposed authority would have elected or nominated members and the legislative powers to be given to it.
Nickole Tamang’s mother offers juice to a Morcha supporter to end the fast. Picture by Suman Tamang
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Sept. 28: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today said Mamata Banerjee’s visit had been “mutually beneficial” and her proposal to set up a secretariat in the hills was on the lines of the party’s demand for an interim set-up for the region.
Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the spokesperson for the Morcha, today said: “The visit has been mutually beneficial. The message is we are ready to welcome any leader willing to listen to us. This also proves that our agitation is not against any community.”
Chhetri said Mamata, too, would benefit from the visit as she was able to come to Darjeeling where no Left Front leaders had dared to in recent times, hinting that it would be a slap on the face of her arch rival, the CPM. The Left party is also the bete noire of the Morcha, which had once forced the CPM to cancel a meeting in Darjeeling that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was supposed to attend in November 2007.
On the proposal for a secretariat in Darjeeling, Chhetri said: “The offer for a secretariat is on the lines of our demand for an interim set-up. If our people do not have to travel far to get their problems addressed it will definitely do us good.”
As expected, the Morcha refused to accept that Gorkhaland could not be achieved. When reminded that Mamata had underlined her stand to keep the state united, Chhetri said: “The success of the demand (for statehood) will depend on our agitation and not on who is supporting us or not. The demand is legitimate and it is achievable.”
Roshan Giri, general secretary of the Morcha, thanked Mamata for the railway initiatives she announced yesterday. “She has agreed to all our demands. But we want speedy implementation of the projects or else, it would be another betrayal. However, we are hopeful that Mamata will keep her promises.”
On the Morcha’s decision to skirt the Gorkhaland issue during the meeting with Mamata, Chhetri said: “She had visited Darjeeling as a Union minister and we were more concerned about including Darjeeling in India’s railway map.”
Giri also said that Thursday’s tripartite talks have been postponed. “The meeting is being postponed for a few days because of a reshuffle in the state’s bureaucracy,” the Morcha leader said.
The Morcha today lifted the indefinite fast after requests from Nickole Tamang’s mother and wife. Seven Yuva Morcha activists had been on fast from September 17 demanding that Nickole, a prime accused in the Madan Tamang murder, be produced alive in court.
Nickole allegedly fled CID custody on August 22. The Morcha has alleged that he had died in custody.
Puzzled withdrawal
KalimNews: On the withdrwal of hungerstrike GJMM sources said that Nicole's mother Binadevi Tamang had written a letter to Bimal Gurung that she had lost a son now she doesnot want to lose more sons as such GJMM Chief should arrange for withdrawal of the hungerstrike and on that basis Bimal withdrawal of the same. 
On the other hand GJYM claimed that they had approached Mamata about the hungerstrike and she had requested them to withdraw it, on getting her assurance of taking the matter with concerned officials they had withdrawn the hungerstrike. 
In another statement DP Singh SP Darjeeling said the some one is dying of his own choice and we are sitting idle, it cannot be tolerated so we had sent a mesage to the GJMM that we will take appropriate action for saving the hunger strikeres and they had withdrawn the hungerstrike. People are puzzled on whom to believe.   
Tribal call after hill tour- Invite opens up Mamata’s chance to expand
ANINDYA SENGUPTA AND AVIJIT SINHA, TT, Calcutta, Sept. 28: The Adivasi and Rajbangshi outfits of the Dooars and Terai and Cooch Behar district today said they would request Mamata Banerjee to visit the regions, the invitation opening up the Trinamul Congress scope to expand its base in north Bengal where the Left Front has been losing ground since last year’s Lok Sabha polls.
The Adivasi and Rajbangshi pleas also mean the Congress, which in other circumstances could have cashed in on the erosion of the Left support base, will have to yield space to Mamata.
“We want her to visit the Terai and the Dooars, meet our organisations and get a feel of our problems so that she can make some announcements that could benefit us,” said John Barla, the president of the Dooars Terai regional unit of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, the dominant tribal outfit of the region.
Like the Adivasis in the Dooars and the Terai, Rajbangshi leaders, too, want the railway minister to visit Cooch Behar.
“The minister’s visit to Darjeeling and subsequent announcements have made us feel positive about her. We sincerely believe that her visit to the Rajbangshi belts of north Bengal will help improve the people’s condition,’’ said Asutosh Burma, secretary of the Greater Cooch Behar Democratic Party.
For Trinamul, this is a chance to make inroads in the region. Unlike in the hills where the party can at best ride piggy back on the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, in the plains Trinamul can count on the support of the tribals to set up its own base.
The 2009 parliamentary polls revealed that the Left’s vote share had gone down significantly, compared to 2004, in the tribal-Nepali dominated Dooars and Terai and in Rajbangshi-concentrated Cooch Behar.
The CPM’s vote share in the Darjeeling parliamentary seat dropped from 33 per cent in 2004 to 25 per cent in 2009. Party sources said since then a sizeable chunk of tribals, Nepalis and Rajbangshis in Terai’s Phansidewa and Matigara-Naxalbari Assembly segments had begun moving away towards Trinamul.
In Cooch Behar, the Left’s vote share plummeted by seven per cent in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls as Trinamul put up a stiff fight.
Adivasi leader Barla said one of the reasons for the tribals moving away from the Left was that despite several representations, the state government had done little to improve the infrastructure in the region. “Besides, tea workers who have been living in the gardens for generations have not been given land rights.”
A CPM minister of north Bengal said: “The tribals and the Nepalis constitute nearly 80 per cent of the population of the Dooars and Terai and that is a cause for worry for the Left. Trinamul is likely to get good support from them’’.
What has also raised eyebrows in the CPM is the unofficial understanding Trinamul had with the Morcha in the Assembly bypolls in November last year for the Kalchini and Rajganj seats which the Left lost.
“Trinamul stood by the Morcha-supported independent candidate in Kalchini, which they won. The Morcha reciprocated by supporting Trinamul in Rajganj Assembly seat that has a big Nepali and Rajbangshi electorate. Trinamul won this seat. If this continues to happen in the Dooars and Terai, it will be difficult for the Left in 2011,” a senior RSP leader said.
High on Hills, but Trinamool treads cautiously
Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee with folk artists in Darjeeling: PTI
Sabyasachi Bandhopadhyay, IE, Kolkata: Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee may have visited Darjeeling as the country’s Railway Minister and tagged it “apolitical” in nature, but the political dividends from her three-day sojourn could not be ignored.
“The visit of our leader has of course rejuvenated our party,” said Gautam Dev, Darjeeling district Trinamool Congress president, but he was quick to add that the visit was basically aimed at the development of the hills.
“In fact, Mamatadi instructed us not to give ‘political’ character to the visit, and we even did not use our party flags. In Siliguri, she told us that nobody from the party except me will accompany her to the hills,” Dev added, whose party has about 1,000 registered members in the hills.
The visit, which saw Mamata showering sops for Darjeeling as she went on announcing new schemes with her promise to bring a special package for the region from the Prime Minister, has generated a lot of buzz. The Trinamool Congress realises that it can capture the renewed interest about the party among the hills population, but it does not want to act in a haste. “We are not going in for any special membership drive because it may trigger criticism from some quarters,” said Dev. 
The region, which for the past year has witnessed frequent shutdowns as part of the ongoing agitation for a separate state, has in the recent months seen the popularity of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) — which have been spearheading the movement — waning. Though other outfits like All India Gorkha League (AIGL) have not been able to get to the centre-stage of hill politics, observers feel that Trinamool may be trying to carve a space for itself in the region.
“The Trinamool will definitely benefit from the visit. And there are a few reasons behind it. First, the GJM is fast losing support and there is space for other parties to grow,” said AIGL spokesperson Lakshman Pradhan. So, how did the locals perceive Mamata, who was given a rousing welcome?
“Though the general sentiment of the people here is that they want Gorkhaland, Mamata did a balancing act by making a call for both development and brotherhood between the hills and plains. People in the hills, however, are sceptic on whether the projects would be implemented at all,” Pradhan added.
The GJM, which had welcomed Mamata, meanwhile, refused to comment on the ramifications of her visit. “I cannot say anything on this issue,” said GJM spokesperson Roshan Giri.
Demand for greater Jharkhand
PTI, Jamshedpur: Jharkhand activists, who had participated in the Jharkhand Statehood movement, would soon launch an agitation over the demand for ‘Greater Jharkhand' comprising parts of West Bengal and Orissa, besides Jharkhand.
The ‘Greater Jharkhand' would comprise Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts of West Bengal and Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Sambalpur districts of Orissa, besides Jharkhand, founder president of the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), Surya Singh Besra told a press conference here.
He said Jharkhand activists would meet at Ghatsila on October three and 31 at Ranchi on the future course of action.
Mr. Besra said none of the eight governments in Jharkhand had recognised the contribution of those who participated in the Jharkhand Statehood movement.
Pointing to the plight of activists, he said the family of one, Ramdas Mahali, against whom 36 cases were lodged during the statehood movement did not have money for his cremation.
Cases were still pending against about 10,000 Jharkhand activists across the State despite assurance from the State Government to withdraw them, he said.
Mr. Besra demanded that Jharkhand activists should be honoured and the Government should issue identity cards in recognition of their contribution to the separate statehood movement, besides pension and on the lines of those provided to activists of the J P movement by the Bihar Government.
Mr. Besra also expressed doubt over the Arjun Munda Government lasting its full term. 
TitBits: KalimNews: 22 teen aged boys were rescued from Alipurduar Junction by Police. They were taken from Uttar Dinajpur to Guwahati for stone breaking work by Ataur Rehman. SP david Lepcha said of the 22 two are 8 & 9 years old and a big gang is over this trafficking business, we are investigating over the matter.
Ramesh's Jumbo scan visit
TT, Siliguri, Sept. 28: Jairam Ramesh will visit north Bengal on October 2 to check out the initiatives taken for the conservation of elephants and will probably visit the spot where seven of them were mowed down by a speeding goods train last week.
“I will visit north Bengal on October 2 to check out the state of affairs in the region, the initiatives taken for conservation of elephants and to discuss the issue of the rail track that has led to the death of seven elephants last week,” the Union minister of state for environment and forest told The Telegraph over the phone from Delhi this morning.
On September 22, a goods train on the Dooars rail track that connects Siliguri Junction with Alipurduar ran down seven elephants including two calves. The incident — at a time when the forest ministry had decided to declare elephant a national heritage animal — had brought sharp criticism from wildlife NGOs, prompting both Ramesh and his cabinet colleague Mamata Banerjee to pass the buck on each other.
Two days later, officials of the forest department and the Northeast Frontier Railway’s Alipurduar division had met at Gorumara National Park and agreed to strengthen the inter-departmental information exchange system to prevent elephant deaths on rail tracks. Since gauge conversion in 2002, the deaths of 26 elephants have been reported.
The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, a tribal outfit, today blamed the poor infrastructure of the state forest department for the elephant deaths on tracks.
“Funds have been flowing in from the Centre to plant fodder for elephants within forests so that they do not enter the neighbouring villages. But this has not been implemented. On Wednesday, the accident occurred because the herd was moving into a tea estate, obviously in search of food,” said John Barla, the president of the Terai Dooars regional unit of the Parishad. “The state government, with the chief minister being the head of state board for wildlife, is not pondering over this issue and instead writing to the Union minister (Ramesh) to ask the railways to stop plying trains on the tracks at night. The railway is the lifeline for the residents of the Dooars and such a decision will cause severe inconveniences for thousands of people.”
Objecting to the chief minister’s proposal, Barla said halt in train services would only worsen the situation. “We oppose the decision and want the state and Centre to sit together and chalk out some other strategy.”
Citing the example of the elephant squad in Binnaguri that has about 10 people and a vehicle, the Parishad leader said with this strength the foresters could hardly stop an animal herd from crossing the rail tracks or entering the villages. “We want the manpower to be increased and adequate fodder to be planted in the forests.” 
Drug office inaugurated but no staff 
TT, Raiganj, Sept. 28: The North Dinajpur drug control office was inaugurated by the chief secretary of the state Ardhendu Sen here today. But no one is certain that when it will start functioning because not a single employee has been recruited for the unit.
According to the deputy director of the department of drug control Biplab Dey, posts for seven employees, including a drug controller and two inspectors were sanctioned earlier this month. “We have approached the state public service commission to fill up the vacancies. But no one has arrived yet,” he said.
He added that a typist-cum-clerk from the South Dinajpur office has joined duty from today and the drug controller of that district has been asked to look after the office.
District secretary of Bengal Chemists’ and Druggists’ Association, Prasanta Kundu, said: “We have to travel to Balurghat 110km away even to renew our licences. Now that there is an office here, I shall get my work done at this office. But if nothing gets done here then we shall close the office down.”
The Congress chairperson of the Raiganj municipality Mohit Sengupta said the office had been opened with an eye on the next Assembly elections. The typist on deputation, Amal Mukherjee, said: “How do you expect me to work when there is not even a single file?”
Countdown to verdict tomorrow SC clears decks for Ayodhya ruling, New Delhi, Sept. 28: The Ayodhya judgment will be announced on Thursday afternoon, with the Supreme Court today ending a week of see-sawing tension with a one-line order.
The apex court dismissed a petition seeking to defer the title suit verdict after the Centre, taking many by surprise, said it wanted an end to the “uncertainty”.
Tension and uncertainty, however, loomed on another front, prompting the Prime Minister to appeal to all Indians to maintain peace and harmony whichever way the September 30 verdict went.
Very unusually, the three-judge bench gave no reason for its ruling.
“After hearing the arguments advanced, we are of the view that the special leave petition (for deferment) deserves to be dismissed,” the bench headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia said, giving its unanimous verdict at 2pm.
Within hours, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court announced it would deliver its judgment on the title suit at 3.30pm the day after tomorrow.
Although most of the parties to the title suit were against any further delay in the verdict, it was the Centre’s stand that appeared to have swung the case.
Judiciary watchers had yesterday suggested that if the government expressed even the slightest fear that the verdict might lead to unrest and advised further postponement, the court would be likely to go along with it.
Giving the Centre’s views, attorney-general G.E. Vahanvati today said: “The preferred resolution to any dispute is a settlement, but the uncertainty which is there cannot continue. There cannot be a state of suspended animation for ever. The matter has to be decided one way or the other.”
Defeated petitioner Ramesh Chandra Tripathi’s counsel, Mukul Rohatgi, said the Centre’s stand did not make any sense. “They are saying, ‘We want an amicable resolution but will not do anything (about it)’. It is neither rational nor logical. The Centre took no stand,” he said.
Congress leaders had earlier said in private that they hoped the high court verdict would be delayed for a long time, which had raised the possibility that the government might advocate a postponement in the apex court.
Some sources today said that after the key parties to the case made it clear yesterday they wanted the verdict now, the Congress and the Centre “sensed” that Tripathi’s plea was going to be rejected and decided to make the best of the situation.
Besides, they suggested, the Congress wanted to dispel any misgivings among some Muslim organisations that it was trying to delay the verdict, and also ward off Sangh parivar allegations that it was behind Tripathi’s petition.
Although the Congress has welcomed the apex court judgment, many in the party and government were worried about the possible fallout.
Talking to reporters, Manmohan Singh referred to the appeal the cabinet had issued over a week ago, which had asked people not to “provoke” others or express any emotion that could hurt others’ feelings. The cabinet had stressed that further legal remedies were available.
The Union home ministry has identified 32 sensitive locations — four of them in Uttar Pradesh — with a potential for “evoking sharp reactions” after the verdict.
The Centre has kept forces ready at 16 strategic locations close to airports so that they can be swiftly flown anywhere at a moment’s notice. It has asked all the states, particularly Uttar Pradesh, to remain alert.
Not all the 24 parties to the title suit were present in the court today, but those who were opposed to any further deferment, except for Tripathi himself and the Nirmohi Akhara.
The Sunni Central Wakf Board, the Hindu Mahasabha and six others urged the court to let the issue be decided once and for all. The Mahasabha said any talk of the consequences of a judgment was dangerous, and that one needed to “trust the innate maturity of the Indian people”.
Tripathi’s counsel Rohatgi and Sunil Kumar Jain expressed unhappiness at the court’s failure to cite reasons for its order.
“What the reasons are have not been indicated in the order, nor will they be known in the future,” Rohatgi said.
Lachungpa donation
Prakha, GANGTOK, SEPTEMBER 28: The Managing Director of Yama builders Thuck Chuk Lachungpa today donated an ambulance van to Mayalmu Lee, a home for destitute.
In a simple function Mr. Lachungpa handed over the keys of the new ambulance van to the representatives of the destitute home.
Talking with the media persons Mr. Lachungpa who also happens to be the convener of the Sangh said that after getting impressed with the works of the present executive committee he have contributed the ambulance van.
‘This would help to carry patients to the hospitals especially during an odd hours’ Mr. Lachungpa added.
He also called the people of all sections of the society to at least make a partial contribution to the destitute home.
He too informed of shifting the home to more spacy locations in the days to come.
‘We have approached the government for the suitable land the same is under processes’ he added.
The members of TAAS and Retired Employees Association also attended the function.
Mr. KP Topden and Mr. Tika Chandra Chettri, the of retd employees association committed to donate 50kg rice to Mayalmu Sangh every month .  
Sikkimese in Uzbekistan Prakha, GANGTOK, SEPTEMBER 28: The Two Tae Kwondo Players from Sikkim will be representating India  in the 5th World Tae-Kwon-do Poomsae Championship 2010 to be held at Tashkent the capital of Uzbekistan. The sport event is scheduled from 8th to 10th October.
The Players Trilok Subba and Ugyen Gurung of Sikkim Amatuer Tae Kwondo Assocation will be accompaying other twelve players of India for the sport event.
Mr Subba who represented India in  the 4th world tae kwon do poomsae championship  held at Cairo, Egypt 2009 is a black belt 6th dan. While Ugyen Gurung , the student of Holy Cross is a black belt 1st dan.
The two Sikkimese players  were selected after bagging gold medals in the 5th nationals tae kwon do poomsae championship 2010 held at Surat earlier this year.
' We have been pratcising at MCM Dozang every day for six hours in four shifts' said Trilok Subba while talking with the reporters today and he hoped that the performance will be at par with the other world best players.
The players will leave Sikkim on 4th October and  on 5th of October from New Delhi.
Cong war heats up with age barb- Upreti tells SPCC chief to quit
TT, Gangtok, Sept. 28: Internecine feud in the Sikkim Congress took an amusing turn today with the caretaker president of the party in the state, Nar Bahadur Bhandari, being asked to “retire honourably” by K.N. Upreti, the number two in the organisation.
“We advise Bhandari, who is getting older, to refrain from playing dirty politics, wooing innocent and simple Congress members with his money power and indulging in fraudulent practices, degrading his own honour and dignity,” said an angry Upreti, who is also the vice-president of the Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee.
Upreti said Bhandari — now 71 — should step down and preserve his dignity and stature as a “fairly good leader and administrator”.
Bhandari claims that he is the rightful president of the SPCC as he was the only person to have filed his nomination for the post during the election process that ended on September 13. Following that, Upreti had successfully lobbied the AICC to stall the election process and instead nominate somebody else for the post of president.
Upreti and his camp told the high command that the SPCC president be nominated by the central leadership as elections would divide the party vertically.
Bhandari responded to the postponement of the elections as irrelevant and affirmed that he stood elected as the SPCC president unopposed.
“Bhandari’s stand is baseless as the AICC has declared his self-professed unopposed election as null and void, and this decision has been faxed to us by the returning officer appointed by the AICC, Zuber Khan,” said Upreti.
Political observers feel that the exchange of allegations and counter-allegations between Bhandari and Upreti is harming the reputation of the Congress in Sikkim. “The delay of the Congress high command in settling the issue is also affecting the confidence of the party workers,” said an observer.
“By filing his nomination for the SPCC president’s post, Bhandari wants to indicate that he wants to remain in active politics, at least till the next Assembly polls. Even if Bhandari is disowned by the Congress as its state president, he could float a party because he still believes that he has a considerable vote bank in the state,” said another observer.
The observers also pointed out that 60-year-old Upreti, too, should not be underestimated as he had been in active politics for 35 years and had been MLA for 20 years. When Bhandari was the chief minister, Upreti was known as the second man in the state cabinet. “Upreti now feels that Bhandari is to blame for the Congress’s status in Sikkim and he should take over. In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Upreti had polled around 75,000 votes,” said an observer.  
CM missive to center on NH mess
TNN, KOLKATA: With Mamata Banerjee trying hard to gain political ground in north Bengal, it seems to have finally dawned upon the state government that something needs to be done to improve road connectivity between Siliguri and Alipurduar. On Monday, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee wrote to Kamal Nath, Union minister of road transport and highways, complaining against the dismal condition of National Highway-31D. "I would like to draw your attention to the terrible state of the National Highway-31D starting from NH-31 near Siliguri and joining NH-31C through Fulbari, Jalpaiguri, Maynaguri, Kaljani and Alipurduar. You are perhaps aware that National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was given the responsibility of four-laning the roads. Obviously, it was incumbent upon NHAI to maintain the existing roads while taking steps for widening. Unfortunately, NHAI has failed miserably," the CM wrote. According to NHAI authorities in Kolkata, acquisition of land has been the main problem. "The stretch runs through the Dooars. We have approached the state government but there has been no positive response. We have not even succeeded in acquiring land that does not belong to the forest department. Under the circumstances, how can the state expect us to widen the road," a senior NHAI official said. New rules do not reportedly allow grant of money for mere upkeep of narrow highways. "Funds won't be granted for upkeep till toll can be collected. Toll can't be collected till the highway is widened. The highway can't be widened till we get land. It's no use blaming the NHAI alone," the official added. However, Bhattacharjee stated in his letter, "...for reasons beyond our comprehension, NHAI has failed to maintain these roads properly, terribly affecting the economy and lives of entire north Bengal. The situation is so bad that public frustration may lead to serious law and order problem any time."
Bad road blow to puja sales in Siliguri 
TT, Sept. 28: Bad roads have dealt a major blow to the nearly Rs 2 crore daily pre-puja business in Siliguri and Jalpaiguri, which shoppers from the Dooars town and lower Assam have been avoiding since monsoon.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today wrote to Union minister for road transport and highways, Kamal Nath, asking him to look into the state of the highway network in north Bengal. He drew his attention to the situation that is “so bad that public frustration may lead to serious law and order problem any time”.
Bhattacharjee laid special stress on the “terrible” state of NH31, NH31D and NH31C. “You are perhaps aware that the National Highways Authority of India was given the conversion of these roads into four-lane roads some years back. Unfortunately the NHAI has failed miserably to maintain the roads,” the chief minister said in his letter.
“The matter was taken up with the NHAI repeatedly, but for reasons beyond our comprehension NHAI had failed to maintain these roads affecting the economy and lives of the people of north Bengal.”
Last week, four tourists were injured at Birpara when a car rammed into the rear of a truck to avoid a large pothole, one of the many that dot the highways of the region against which the private owners have been agitating.
Earlier this month, the bad condition of roads in north Bengal took its toll on a Guwahati-bound bus which fell into a ditch, killing one person and injuring 11 others on NH31C near Jaigaon.
“The business here mostly depends on residents of different parts of the Dooars. But because of the precarious condition of the national highways across the region, people there are avoiding big towns like Siliguri,” said Badal Guha, the president of Bidhan Market Byabsayi Samiti in Siliguri.
The traders were expecting more business this year because of the 20 per cent puja bonus announced by tea gardens for the workers. But that does not seem to be happening.
According to Guha, the average transaction in the market is about Rs 1 crore a day, which doubles during festivities, a good share of it depending on consumers from the Dooars. “Considering the worst condition of roads in the region, 40 per cent buyers did not visit our shops this time,” said Guha.
Ashok Mukherjee, a resident of Odlabari in Jalpaiguri district, said it took more than two hours now to reach Siliguri. “That is because of the worst condition of NH31. The normal time is less than one hour via Sevoke.”
Chinmoy Bhattacharya, a resident of Nagrakta in Dooars, said: “Earlier, we could reach Siliguri, do our shopping and come back in the evening, the total journey time taking two hours. The very idea of visiting Siliguri now scares me,” he said.
Khokan Bhattacharya, the secretary of Seth Srilal Market Byabsayi Samiti, echoed Guha. “As the roads in different areas of north Bengal are damaged, people are forced to shop from local markets so that they don’t have to travel,” he said.
Forest notices on ‘illegal’ home stay
TT, Alipurduar, Sept. 28: The Buxa Tiger Reserve authorities have issued notices to forest dwellers providing accommodation to tourists without permission, nearly a fortnight after stopping the car safari inside the core areas of the forest.
The Jainti forest in the core areas of the BTR has always been a major attraction for tourists from different parts of Bengal. The forest department has a rest house and a dormitory there. Besides this, six to seven villagers rent out portions of their houses for tourists — a practice that has become popular with the inflow of visitors.
R.P. Saini, the field director of the BTR, said: “I have issued notices to the owners of those houses who are keeping tourists illegally. If they are unable to give a satisfactory reply, we will stop the practice.”
Despite the government accommodations in the BTR, very few people get the opportunity to stay in the forest establishments, forcing a good number of tourists to spend nights at private lodgings. There are guides in Jainti who take the visitors inside the forest in vehicles but the facility stopped from September 16.
There are a few resorts near Santlabari which also have been served the notice by the BTR authorities.
Saini, however, said the department did not have any intention to create inconveniences for tourists or guides or anybody involved in tourism business. “We are just following the guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority which says tourist movement is to be restricted as much as possible in the tiger reserve. On the basis of the guideline, I have stopped movement of vehicles in the core areas.” The forester said recently, he had caught a private vehicle in the core area late at night. Hundreds of picnickers usually frequented the Jainti forest in winter, which is the picnic season. Even that has been stopped.
BTR officials, however, have found a few new places where tourists can access through vehicles. “We have identified a few spots like Poro, Dima 22nd Mile tower where tourists can go with vehicles. Soon, we will explain it to the guides,” Saini said.
Branded thief and lynched
TT, Jalpaiguri, Sept. 28: A 30-year-old man, who had gone to a friend’s house along with four others, was lynched by a group of people suspecting him to be a thief at Basusuba near Mainaguri last night.
Jhulan Chakraborty, a resident of Sahidgarh, also near Mainaguri, was beaten up by the villagers, who were patrolling Basusuba to prevent robberies. Although the patrolling team had suspected that Jhulan and his four friends were robbers, they could catch only him. Jhulan, who was into decoration business, died on the spot. Mainaguri police have started a probe. Many youths fled Basusuba after the murder.
Jail van crash
TT, Siliguri: Six under-trials and three policemen were injured when the van they were travelling in rammed into a roadside tree while avoiding collision with a taxi coming from the opposite direction near Gorumara National Park on Tuesday. The prison van was going from Banarhat to Jalpaiguri when the accident occurred. The injured were taken to a local health centre in Mangalbari and later shifted to Jalpaiguri District Hospital. All of them are in stable condition, hospital sources said.
TT, Islampur: Students of Islampur High School blocked NH31 for three hours on Tuesday to demand more Hindi and Urdu teachers and to protest alleged irregularities at the institution.
Gaur body
TT, Jaigaon: The carcass of an adult gaur (Indian bison) was recovered from Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary in Jalpaiguri on Tuesday. Forest guards of Chulsa range said the animal might have died because of old age ailment.

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