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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Titbits from KalimNews

Tripartite Talks
KalimNews, 7 September: Tripartite talk on the future of Darjeeling hills will start from 1130 AM today in New Delhi. Roshan Giri, General Secretary of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) led 7 member delegation team has already reached national capital. While briefing the media, Giri reiterated that no territorial dispute will be discussed in this official talk as the same is scheduled to be dealt at the political level talk to follow soon. He also categorically refused the state Govt's proposal of an elected form of the executive body to run the proposed set-up and preferred a nominated board of 55 members. 
Giri disclosed that the proposed nomenclature of the set-up may be changed to Gorkha Regional Authority as the present name has so far not been finalised. The GJM team is likely to return to Darjeeling hills immediately after the talk is over mainly to make the people aware of the outcome of the same.
Sports : 
KalimNews, 7 September: Tarun Dip Rai of Sikkim bagged a Gold medal in an international archery competition being held at Sanghai, China. 
Kalimpong Veteran Football Association will select 15 young football players from amongst the 14 to 16 years group to play for the Bajaj Alianz team in future. 
Shiv Thapa, a North-East India based Gorkha boy will be felicitated by Pawan Chamling, Chief Minister, Sikkim tomorrow for his excellence in the field of boxing.
Others : His Holiness the Dalai lama will pay a visit to Gangtok capital town of Sikkim in the month of December this year to inaugurate a Buddhist religious research institution.
Software aid to identify Kuwait body- Passport misleads family

TT, Kalimpong, Sept. 6: The hill town today watched as a drama unfolded over the identification of a body that arrived from Kuwait with family members first refusing to accept it and police using a software on the dead youth’s photograph to help his kin identify him.
The coffin that arrived with the body of Buddha Sherpa this morning had a name tag, which said it was Ganesh Prasad Lamithami. Not only that, the body inside was that of a mystery man, or so the family claimed earlier in the day.
The police first unravelled the mystery of the body by taking a photograph of the face and using a software to remove the moustache and long hair. The family members on seeing the long hair and moustache had outright said the body was not that of 25-year-old Buddha, who had committed suicide in Kuwait on August 25. An investigating officer at the Sadar police station said a photograph of the dead youth was first taken and scanned at a local cyber café.
“We then removed the moustache and cropped the hair and it matched with the photo in the passport that was with the body. We again summoned the family. The father of the youth then made a positive identification as his son had scars on his left wrist and left calf,” the officer said.
Dawa Sherpa, a retired clerk from the subdivisional office here, admitted that he made a positive identification of his son’s body the second time. “I have told that in writing to the police,” Sherpa said before leaving the morgue of the Kalimpong Subdivisional Hospital.
Police sources then confirmed what Buddha’s elder sister Jongmu had told reporters earlier, solving the mystery of the name tag. Buddha had been sent to Kuwait to work in a farm on a Nepalese passport issued in the name of Ganesh Prasad Lamithami. “Our family had got in touch with a woman who promised to find a job for my brother overseas. When we paid her the necessary fees, my brother left home for Delhi on March 22. After waiting for almost two months, my brother was sent to Kuwait in June on a Nepalese passport issued in someone else’s name,” said Jongmu.
Mary Bhutia, the woman responsible for sending Buddha to Kuwait, is a resident of 15 Mile, which is not very far from the Sherpas’ home in Upper Echey, barely 2km from here. She, along with her husband based in Delhi and a daughter who has been staying in Kuwait for the past three years, supplies manpower to the Arab country.
“She has sent many young boys and girls to Kuwait,” said a police source. Buddha, Jongmu said, had wanted to return home because he was not happy with his work that required a lot of physical labour.
“That was the one and only time he had called us from Kuwait. Since then we have been telling the agent (Mary) to arrange for his return, but she always kept procrastinating. However, in the last week of August, we got a call from my brother’s friends in Kuwait, informing us that he had committed suicide,” she said.
When the family confronted the agent with the news, Mary readily agreed to get Sherpa’s body home. “The body was sent via Kathmandu. Mary herself had gone to Kathmandu to receive the body,” said Jongmu.
Another girl from Sherpa’s village, too, was sent to Kuwait on a Nepalese passport. Tripti Chhetri, who has since returned, told reporters that the Nepalese passport given to her was in the name of Bishnu Poudel. Agents like Mary charge anything between Rs 50,000 and Rs 60,000 from their clients that include passport and visa charges. For the menial jobs they do in Kuwait, Indian labourers are paid about 300 dinars, which is around Rs 48,500, per month. But the salary is given at the end of their contract period which could be year-long or for two years.
Hope for success & next round- Ladakh model for Darjeeling set-up
TT, Sept. 6: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is confident that most of the administrative issues of the proposed set-up for the Darjeeling hills will be settled in tomorrow’s official-level tripartite talks, its success propelling the political round to be held this month itself.
However, the party refused to divulge the name of the interim arrangement although sources in the government said the nomenclature would be according to the Morcha demand. The interim arrangement would be called the Gorkhaland Regional Authority as demanded by the Morcha, and would be modelled on the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, a source in the government said.
“The Centre is in a hurry to solve the Darjeeling problem and if the Delhi meeting (tomorrow) settles most of the administrative hurdles, there is a possibility of holding the political level talks before September 30,” a Morcha source said.
The Morcha is expected to point out the “discrepancies in the minutes” of the August 17 meeting at tomorrow’s talks in New Delhi. It had already sent its comments on the minutes to both the Centre and state on September 3. “These are minor irritants and we are hopeful that they will be thrashed out soon,” said a Morcha leader.
By “minor irritants”, the hill party was referring to some of its demands that have not been as clearly reflected in the minutes as had been agreed upon during the August 17 meeting. The demands include the upgrade of the Darjeeling police into a commissariat, direct funding of the interim authority instead of routing it through the state, and the complete transfer of the tea and cinchona industry to the new set-up.
“Our ultimate target is to achieve the separate state of Gorkhaland. The interim set-up is temporary. Being so, we feel it should be run by a body of nominated members,” said Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri at Bagdogra airport this afternoon. He is leading the seven-member delegation to the talks.
The state and the Centre, however, want an election to the hill set-up, either directly, or by a formula of proportionate representation, depending on the number of seats each political party wins in the panchayat elections.
The Centre has also maintained that the interim authority should be a 20-member body. “There are indications that Delhi might increase the number of representatives and it could also give in to the Morcha’s demand for direct nomination if the state does not object to it much. However, if these issues come in the way of the successful talks tomorrow, it will, in all probability be referred to the political round,” the source added.
Asked what the name of the interim set-up would be, the Morcha general secretary said no final decision had been taken yet. “Tomorrow’s discussion would be held at the official-level. We don’t want to comment on the name of the new set-up as that would be decided only in the political round,” he said.
The next round of political-level talks is expected to be of much importance, as the territorial jurisdiction of the interim set-up will be taken up for discussion then. There are indications that the Centre and state might also broach subject but the Morcha is unlikely to entertain it.
Dooars bungalows brim with puja bookings Defunct car spoils leopard safari
ANIRBAN CHOUDHURY, TT, Alipurduar, Sept. 6: The pujas will bring with them thousands of visitors to the Dooars, most of whom are unaware that they may miss out on the only leopard safari in the country while touring the forests.
All tourist lodges and bungalows in the region — right from the ones in Gorumara National Park to Buxa Tiger Reserve — are booked for a month from the middle of October. But the car used for the leopard safari in South Khayerbari Eco Park has been lying out of order for the past four months.
To woo tourists in the festive season, the Jaldapara Lodge Owners’ Association, in association with the wildlife division III of the forest department, will start new tourist circuits in Dhumchi forest, a habitat for wild elephants. A herd is always there inside the forest throughout the dry season (from October to March).
Starting October, visitors will be transported to the forest office by car and taken herd watching on a bullock cart which is noiseless and will not disturb the animals.
Arrangements will also be made for the tourists to watch different kinds of birds, wild animals from the spot and enjoy the single source for two rivers — the Mujnai and the Ekti — in the vicinity.
Biswajit Saha, the secretary of the association, said: “The interest in the Dooars forests is on the rise among the tourists. During the travel and tourism fair in the Netaji Indoor Stadium in Calcutta on July 31, we had a stall where a large number of tourists enquired about different spots in the region”.
Conservator of forests of north Bengal Manindra Biswas confirmed that most of the bungalows of the department and the forest development corporation were booked for the pujas. “We expect a 25-30 per cent increase in tourists in this season compared to last year,” he said.
The disturbance in the hills and increase in accommodations in the forests have turned the tourists’ interests towards the Dooars, Biswas said.
Saha said in the coming season, arrangement for picnics on the banks of the Torsha and the Holong would be made. “We will also provide life jackets and rubber tubes for swimming in both the rivers.” The tourists can also enjoy a cycle safari in the Chilapata forest.
However, the leopard safari in South Khayerbari, the only one of its kind in India, is in a dire state for the past four months with the forest department not taking much interest to revive the facility.
In the park, there are four leopards in the enclosure and nine at the rescue centre. A specially-designed car takes tourists inside the enclosure for a half-an-hour safari.
But after entering the park, one can feel the facility is not properly maintained. The leopard enclosure is full of bushes and a wooden culvert in the park is broken forcing the tourists to walk for at least 500 meters.
Tapas Sarkar, a businessman from Calcutta’s Behala, said: “On our way back from Bhutan, we decided to visit Jaldapara and adjacent spots. We had heard about the safari in South Khayerbari. But our experience is not at all good. The road from NH31C to the centre is in poor condition and there is no maintenance of the park. The most frustrating thing is that the car has been out of order for a long time.”
Saha said they were aware of the condition of the centre.
However, Om Prakash, the divisional forest officer of wildlife-III, said the situation would improve shortly. “The car, road and the culvert will be repaired and we will give a new look to this park and tourists will not have any problems at all during the puja season.”
Hill rail society website receives millionth hit
TT, Siliguri, Sept. 6: The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society’s website has been viewed a million times in a span of five years.
“We are delighted to inform the success of our website which recently had its millionth hit. The website has been religiously providing information on the historical background and current details of the Unesco World Heritage Railway for the past five year,” Paul Whittle, the DHRS vice-chairman wrote in an e-mail to The Telegraph.
This comes as another laurel for the society after being given the Best International Achievement Award last year by the Association of Community Rail Partnerships — an association funded by the UK’s department of transport — for its contribution towards the DHR.
Established in 1997 by a small band of toy train lovers, the society currently has over 800 members in 24 countries. The website was launched in May 2005 with an aim to garner support for the hill railway.
Besides the DHR’s official website, is the second website dedicated to the hill railway.
However, as the official website has not been updated for the past few months, the society’s website is the only source which is keeping tourists updated on the disruption of DHR services in the NJP-Kurseong section because of landslides on NH55 at Paglajhora.
DHR director P.P. Roy said the official website had not been updated because of technical problems.
“We have revived the website recently but are yet to update it. That measure too shall be taken and the latest information on the DHR will be posted on the site soon,” said Roy.
According to Whittle, page views are over 500 each day, with a third of visitors from India and elsewhere in Asia.
“The DHR’s official site has not been updated for a long time and we are glad that so many people rely on information provided by us,” wrote the vice-chairman of the society.
Managed by Mick Melbourne, the website offers a variety of information on the heritage railway. An archive relates sequentially the history of the DHR from the time the Darjeeling Steam Tramway Company started constructing narrow gauge tracks in 1879.
A photo gallery with old as well as recent snaps of the toy train, news articles on the DHR and information on the charity wing of the society, Darjeeling Railway Community Support group and Education Group, are among the pages listed on the website.
“The success of our website is a tribute to our volunteer webmaster, Mick Melbourne, who updates it between his many other commitments,” said Whittle.
Besides the website, Darjeeling Mail, the quarterly magazine published by the society, is another source of information on the DHR with inputs provided by DHRS members in the hills.

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