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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Asok slams Mamata for Morcha stance

TT, Siliguri, Oct. 8: Asok Bhattacharya today said the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had again adopted a confrontational stand on Gorkhaland and blamed Mamata Banerjee for the hill party’s renewed belligerence.
“The last tripartite talks were fruitful and consensus was reached on several issues. Morcha leaders, too, had articulated a flexible stance and we were optimistic of an early decision on an interim set-up for the hills,” the urban development and municipal affairs minister told journalists here today. “However, after the railway minister’s visit, Morcha leaders suddenly reverted to their aggressive stance. We wonder how effective the next rounds of talks will be.”
Mamata had visited the hills on September 26 and 27 and announced a bouquet of railway projects for the region. Although the Union minister said during the visit that the hills were neglected by the Left Front government, she wanted the region to remain as an integral part of Bengal.
“Before her visit to the hills, we were apprehensive that she would incite the Morcha for narrow political interests. Our apprehension has been proved as cadres of Gorkhaland Personnel, who had disintegrated after steps by the state government, are reuniting. They held parades in the hills yesterday. Further, the Morcha president, who was of late silent, is again raising the demand for a separate state and talks on issues like changing the number plates of vehicles,” said Bhattacharya.
“It seems that as an important ally of the UPA government, the Trinamul chief has given assurances which have encouraged the Morcha to go back on their old ways,” he alleged.
Trinamul said Asok had launched a slander campaign against the party to cover up the Left’s failures to carry out development works in the hills.
“He is playing a political game to malign our image and to hide the government’s failures. The Railway Recruitment Board camp office has already started functioning in Darjeeling, while other projects announced by Mamata for the hills are to be implemented one after another soon,” said Gautam Deb, the Darjeeling district Trinamul Congress president.
“The minister and his cohorts do not have the courage to admit the fact that what Mamata Banerjee had done for the hills was actually their job and they have failed miserably in doing that. The CPM is solely responsible for today’s situation in the hills.”
Samar Ghosh, who took charge as the chief secretary recently, reached Darjeeling today. He will stay there for two days and will be apprised of the situation in the hills ahead of the next round of tripartite talks on October 11.
Ghose in Darjeeling
KalimNews: State Chief Secretary Samar Ghose arrived Darjeeling on Friday. He will discuss about the present situation with the DM Darjeeling and assess about the future prospects for the proposed Interim Setup. It is presumed that he is here to know about the reaction of the people towards the proposed GRA and to get some vital data for the eighth round of tripartite talks to be held on 11 October.It is his first visit as the Chief Secretary.
Gorkha talks on 11
IBNS,  Darjeeling, Oct 8: An eight-member Gorkha Janmukti Morcha team, led by general secretary Roshan Giri, on Friday left for New Delhi to participate in the tripartite official level talks to be held on October 11 for the proposed setting up of a Gorkha Regional Authority in the hills.
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh also arrived here on Friday on a three-day visit to review situation in the hills.
He will also participate in the tripartite talk convened by Union Home Secretary G K Pillai.
In Darjeeling, Ghosh will hold meetings with district officials to take stock of the situation in the hills before representing the state in the talks.
GJM president Bimal Gurung said the October 11 talks probably would be the last official level meeting before political negotiations begin on power sharing of the proposed Gorkhaland Regional Authority -- an interim set up to defuse the tension in the hills.
Gurung on the GJM's third foundation day on Thursday declared they were ready to sign the treaty for peace and progress of the hill's people.
GJM's eight-member delegation led by general secretary Roshan Giri was taking the party's agenda to the meeting in Delhi, said party spokesman Harka Bahadur Chettri.
He said the GJM would raise issues like territory under the interim set up, power, mode of structure, jurisdiction of tea gardens and nominated members. 

Gorkhaland ripples in Kolkata
TNN, KOLKATA/DARJEELING: The reverberations of the Gorkhaland agitation in Darjeeling are increasingly being felt in Kolkata. Just as in the Hills, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) members hoisted their party flag in the city on the occasion of the fourth foundation day celebration of the party on Thursday.
On the other hand, rival Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) has announced staging a dharna outside Writers' Buildings next week, demanding the arrest of the killers of ABGL leader Madan Tamang.
"The slain leader's son Sanjog Tamang will lead an ABGL team from Darjeeling to Kolkata," said ABGL leader Dawa Sherpa.
The refrain at GJM programmes was to accept the challenge of running the proposed interim council for the Hills well while waiting for a separate state of Gorkhaland. While in Kolkata, GJM leaders like Kishore Bhan, Avinash Poudel and Arjun Viswakarma raised the party flag atop a highrise, in Darjeeling a colourful function was staged with a march past by Gorkhaland police and a cultural event at Chowrasta.
GJM leader Bimal Gurung emphasized on the challenges in running the proposed interim arrangement being discussed in the tripartite talks. "With the powers that will be given to the interim set-up, we will have to take it as a challenge to run it well so that we are ready for a separate state," Gurung said in Darjeeling.
The GJM central committee and a study forum were said to be doing a research on the interim arrangement proposed by the Centre. "The Government wanted to impose its version of an interim set-up, but our study forum members and leaders have worked really hard to make it suitable for us," Gurung said. Bhan emphasized in Kolkata, however, that the set-up would be there only till the end of 2012.
A seven-member team led by GJM secretary Roshan Giri will leave for Delhi on Friday to attend the October 11 tripartite talks. Gurung said the issue of inclusion of Dooars and Terai in the proposed council would be discussed only at the political level. "A final shape to the council can be given only at a political forum," he asserted. Eleven rounds of talks have already been held since the first one in 2008, but only two political level meetings have been held so far.
West Bengal chief secretary Samar Ghosh will visit Darjeeling on Friday to take stock of the ground reality
before attending the tripartite talks. He will also seek to give a boost to the local administration, paralysed by GJM's agitation. Ghosh is likely to outline a priority list for the Hills where development work has been stalled. The state government is also trying to clear the issue of territory for the proposed hill council.
While the GJM wants the interim council to be a nominated body of members only from the party, the state government is in favour of an elected body. Gurung ruled out holding elections to the new arrangement. "Let the opposition cry hoarse or even take to the streets, but I will not allow any election to the interim set-up. Polls can only be held after a final solution to the Hills problem is achieved; until then, members will be nominated," he said.

ADB loan to spruce up Sikkim tourist trails 
TT, Gangtok, Oct. 8: The popularity of Sikkim as a 1`pilgrimage and nature-based tourism destination has been endorsed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which has agreed to bankroll a project worth $20 million to enhance further the appeal of the state among prospective visitors.
The loan is under the South Asia Tourism Infrastructure Development Project – India of the ADB, and is aimed at contributing to the sustainable and inclusive development in this part of Asia by tapping the complimentary and contiguous tourism assets of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The ADB signed an agreement with the Indian and Sikkim governments in New Delhi on October 4 to promote Buddhist and adventure tourism in the Himalayan state.
“The aim of the project is the development of Sikkim’s portion of sub-regional circuits of nature and culture-based tourism destinations with improved connectivity and better environment and services for visitors. There will also be sustainable management of nature and cultural heritage for tourism benefits,” said state tourism secretary S.B.S. Bhadauria.
He said Rumtek monastery in East Sikkim, Samdruptse (where the world tallest statue of Guru Pamdasambhava, 135 feet, is located) and Buddha Park in South district would be developed in terms of connectivity and infrastructure as part of the project. The Sikkim Tourism will act as the executing agency of the project, which has a five-year duration. Ground works are expected to start by the end of this year or early next year.
“The funds will be used for the promotion of adventure tourism and trekking at Yuksom and Uttarey in West Sikkim. Three village tourism projects at Rumtek in East Sikkim, Chemchey in South Sikkim and Uttarey in West Sikkim will also be taken up,” said the tourism secretary.
Asked why Sikkim had been selected for the ADB project, Bhadauria said: “The ADB found Sikkim among all Indian states the ideal tourist destination which is a mixture of culture, nature and adventure. We will complete the project successfully so that it can be a model for other states.” 
Ramjhora takeover after 8 years- Job-for-all boost to dooars garden opening
Anirban Choudhury, TT, Ramjhora Tea Estate, Oct. 8: Five days before the Durga Puja and eight years after it was declared closed, the Ramjhora Tea Estate is set to reopen tomorrow with the new management announcing jobs for one person each from the 846 household in the garden.
With the opening of Ramjhora, the number of closed gardens in the Dooars will now come down to seven. A stiff resistance to retrenchment by the labour unions had prevented the take-over of the estate for several years. Hind Tea Company, the new owner of the garden, has promised to absorb all the 1,103 workers in five years.
A buzz of activity was evident on the estate, one of the 158 registered gardens in the Dooars and located 72km from Alipurduar town. The last owners of the garden, Hanuman Tea Company, had hung a closure notice on the garden gate on August 11, 2002. A cleaning spree before tomorrow’s opening ceremony was on.
“We are too busy to talk. You can see the state the entrance to the garden is in. We have to work fast so that everything is ready for the new owners and we want to create a good impression. We only demand wage and ration and we will ensure that all of us cooperate with the new owner and make the garden productive,” said Etwa Oraon, who along with others, was busy uprooting weeds and vines that had been shrouding the main gate, ignoring the heavy rain.
According to Ramesh Sharma, the leader of the Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers, several companies had approached the Jalpaiguri district administration and the trade unions to take over Ramjhora but no agreement could be reached because of labourers’ resistance to retrenchment.
“The agreement signed with Hind Tea Co says one member each from the 846 households will be absorbed into the workforce initially. There are 1,103 workers in all, and the rest will be absorbed within five years. There will be no retrenchment,” Sharma said.
The new owner has also promised to distribute Rs 500 each to the 846 workers tomorrow. “However, all the 1,103 workers will continue to get the Rs 1,500 a month under the central Financial Assistance for Workers of Locked-out Industries scheme. They will also be entitled to 100 days work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme,” Sharma said. He said those who had left the garden to seek work elsewhere would be given a month’s time to return.
“More than 300 people died in our garden during the closure and about 200 have left for work elsewhere. The new owner has appealed to us not to demand much as he has to invest a large sum of money to restore the factory and the garden. Recently we received Rs 6,000 each under the central assistance and we have contributed Rs 50 each to arrange for a Durga Puja. We hope that the new owner will also give some amount for the festival,” Sharma said.
Narendra Barelia, who has bought the garden, said most of the tea bushes at Ramjhora were more than 50 years old and needed to be replaced.
“Each year we plan to plant new bushes on 25 hectares. The garden has 465 hectares. There is hardly any shade tree and the number of productive tea bushes is also low. We need the workers’ cooperation to turn around the garden and the factory. We hope that in five years, we will be able to achieve full production capacity,” he said.
According to sources in the Dooars Branch of the Indian Tea Association (DBITA), Barelia has taken over four closed gardens in the Dooars in the past one year. One of them is Kanthalguri, which he has taken over in partnership with Makaibari Tea Estate, Jogesh Chandra, Shikarpur-Bhandarpur and Ramjhora. DBITA sources said Barelia had also been running the Atiabari Tea Estate for over 15 years.
Myths brewing in the cup of cheer
TT, Siliguri, Oct. 8: Eighty-one per cent of a sample size of 1,123 people from various walks of life spread across several Indian cities consider tea to be an unhealthy drink, a study has revealed underscoring the need for more trendy marketing strategy to attract young consumers.
Further, five per cent people feel that by drinking tea, the skin colour darkens. Another five per cent believe that the skin turns completely black, the survey carried out by AC Nielson on behalf of Hindustan Unilever has thrown up.
“The sample size, comprising people of different ages, including housewives and young people. When the data was collated, the information was interesting and indicated that people in India, which produces the world famous Darjeeling Tea, lack basic knowledge about the beverage,” said Hariram Gobind, a senior manager of Tea Excellence Centre run by Hindustan Unilever at the recently concluded Indian Tea Forum organised here by the CII.
“The survey has also revealed that 27 per cent felt that consumption of tea caused ailments.”
With several brainstorming sessions being held at the ITF, the underlying theme was to devise a marketing strategy, which would make tea popular among the young generation.
“The fact that youths are not interested in tea and that we need to merchandise tea in trendy formats is evident from certain other results of the survey. Only 27 per cent of youths are ready to recommend tea as a beverage while 13 per cent youths are not interested. Moreover, 61 per cent of the sample population felt that the beverage is for the older generation,” the Hindustan Unilever official said. “Contrarily, 43 per cent of youths consume carbonated soft drinks. The first initiative to popularise tea in India is to bust these myths by harping on the positive sides of tea as a health drink.”
The session had started with Manoj Daftari, a young planter from the Kishanganj district of Bihar, asking what the stakeholders of the industry were doing to popularise tea across the country. Daftari argued that although many Indians could afford speciality tea, they were unaware of their availability in the market.
“The domestic market in our country is huge and there are millions who can afford to buy speciality tea provided they are acquainted with the varieties. To most people, tea means the CTC variety, made with or without sugar and milk,” Daftari said.
However, Sanjay Bansal, chairperson of the Darjeeling Tea Association, said the consumption of CTC tea was equally important. “The young entrepreneurs ought to have the vision, and should initiate the sale of speciality teas in Indian market,” Bansal said.
Amal Roychoudhury, the joint director of the Tea Board of India, said the board had already floated incentive schemes for orthodox brews like Darjeeling and Assam tea. “Most of the Darjeeling tea is exported. For the increase in domestic consumption, the tea board has launched advertisement and publicity campaigns. But at the same time we need to keep in mind, the purchasing power of the average Indian population as orthodox tea is sold at much higher prices than CTC,” he said.
Roychoudhury also underlined the need to improve productivity in the tea estates of the Darjeeling hills.
“It is important to do the uprooting and replanting works in the hill plantations. The perception that the aroma of tea or its quality would be affected in case the old bushes are replaced by new ones is not correct,” Roychoudhury said.
Ramgopal Jajodia, the CII zonal council chairman of north Bengal, said all proposals would be taken note of. “We look forward to forming a core group comprising experts from different fields to work on the opportunities and challenges associated with the Indian tea industry,” he said.
Girl found at station
TT, Jalpaiguri, Oct. 8: GRP officials today took into custody a 20-year-old resident of Murshidabad district who was found loitering at Jalpaiguri Road station.
The girl told the GRP that she had boarded the Guwahati-bound Kanchenjungha Express with one of her friends without informing her parents. Daughter of Jan Mohammad Khan, the student of a Murshidabad high madarsa had left home on October 5. The GRP had found her movement on the station suspicious and confronted her. They said the express does not pass through the main Behrampore line and so they were yet to find out when and where she boarded the train.
Extra Coaches
TT, Siliguri: To clear the rush of extra passengers during the pujas, the Northeast Frontier Railway has decided to attach two additional coaches, a sleeper coach and an AC three-tier coach to three trains that connect north Bengal with Calcutta. The new coaches will be attached to the Uttar Banga Express, Kanchan Kanya Express and Padatik Express from October 9 onwards, NFR sources said.
Hnaf survey
TT, Siliguri: The Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation will conduct a survey on the variety of birds found in the SMC area from October 10. The year-long survey would be conducted to find out the number of avian species, population of each species and areas where they inhabit. “A total of 1,200 species of birds are found in the country, of which around 800 are found in the state and mostly in Darjeeling district,” Animesh Bose, the programme coordinator of the foundation said on Friday. He added that after the data is collected, it would be collated to prepare a comprehensive database that can be used by ornithologists, government departments and nature lovers. The Hnaf members will also involve the councillors of different wards, members of NGOs, students and nature lovers in Siliguri in the bird survey.
Environmental education a waste of time and paperstressed out children Environmental Education: A Waste of Time and PaperOct 7, 2010 :With the ongoing debate of climate change and global warming, their effects on global economies and more importantly on society, one would consider that Environmental Education should be given emphasis as an area of study for high school students. That is perhaps what the Indian Government thought when it introduced EVE in the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations syllabus in 2007. The initiative was excellent. However, the execution left a lot to be desired.
For the most part, India’s education system focuses primarily on rote learning and written tests and the pressure is on for students from classes 10-12 to pull up their marks. The introduction of an entirely new subject, along with the burdens that Physic, Chemistry and Maths are did not go over well with the student community. To add to their frustration was the introduction of text books with chunks of repetitive text, irrelevant pictures and information that they had learnt as kids, with more technical terms thrown in for good measure. These text books were not updated. Carbon credits, the polluter pays principle and other emerging concepts were given just a passing mention, though they might turn out to be important concepts of pollution control in the near future.
A stressed student will not find technical jargon mixed in with lower grade school chapters easy to study. And why is EVE taught for marks anyway? Would India’s list of biodiversity hotspots and non-specific chapters on pollution help a student understand the problems that humanity faces today and how he/she can be a part of the solution?
As a student who feels strongly about the environment, studying these half-heartedly presented concepts was truly frustrating and saddening. Teachers were not really equipped to teach this subject and many other faculty members consider it a joke, unworthy of the attention that could be otherwise turned to more ‘worthwhile’ subjects. This mindset filtered down from teacher to student and EVS was pushed to the backburner and left there.
There are so many ways to teach a subject which actually has a relevance to things that are happening around us everyday. It would be so much better to give students a hands-on experience by teaching them how to make their campuses green, by showing them relevant documentaries and movies and letting them work with NGOs. Testing them on their teamwork would be more worthwhile than judging them on their ability to cram statistics into their heads.
Although, every student will cram his way through the exam, it’s a major blow to find out that many colleges don’t even consider the EVE marks for admissions. You can practically see the speech bubble over the student’s head’ ‘What a waste of time and effort’, especially in India, where marks are the be-all and end-all of success and a good college education.
All that aside, I think that learning environmentally relevant information should be done in such a way to retain that information when board exams are just a distant memory. A probable situation today would be that of a topper leaving on the lights and littering in public places which would only confirm the futility of Environmental Education. It doesn’t get much more hopeless than that. It is time for a change.(Vrinda Manocha- viewspaper)

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