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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Attach drive to stall CBI handover

Vivek Chhetri, TT,Darjeeling, Oct. 22: The promptness shown by Darjeeling police to attach the properties of absconders in the Madan Tamang murder case is a move to pre-empt a directive from Calcutta High Court to transfer the investigation to the CBI, lawyers and opposition parties said here today.
The CID, a state agency, is now handling the case.
The drive to attach the properties of absconders began yesterday with police swooping down on the homes of three accused in the Tamang murder case, attaching their trunks full of clothes and some chairs.
Today, too, the drive continued with the police attaching the personal belongings, including television sets, of Kismat Chhetri, the president of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s student union, and Kesar Rai, a former commissioner from Ward 30 in Darjeeling.
According to the ABGL, the party had filed a writ petition in the high court praying that the Tamang murder case be handed over to the CBI since the state police were dragging its feet in cracking down on the killers. It had also asked the court to ensure that till such time that this was done it should monitor the progress made by the state police in the case.
In response, the court had directed the state police to produce before it a status report, within four weeks of the court reopening after the Puja vacation, on the progress it had made in tracking down Tamang’s killers.
A couple of days ago, Samar Kumar Bose, the lawyer representing the ABGL in the high court, sent letters to all the respondents to the case, including the state home secretary, the director-general of police and the additional director-general of police (CID), the investigating officer (CID) and the Darjeeling superintendent of police, telling them that the deadline for submitting the “status report” was drawing near.
“This was the wake-up call for the state police, especially with the court set to reopen soon,” said a prominent Darjeeling lawyer. “To me it is clear that the police have suddenly been stirred into action to show the court that they are taking all possible steps to crack the case and arrest the culprits so that the court does not direct the CBI to take over the case.”
According to Dawa Sherpa, the working president of the ABGL, it appears that that the police have swung into action so that they can tell the court that they are not “sitting on the case”.
“They can then argue that the CID is properly handling the case.” Sherpa said the ABGL’s decision to file the writ petition in the high court was beginning to have the “desired effect”.
“Even if they are attaching the trunks and clothes of the absconders, at least the legal process is being taken forward.”
Check on Sikkim tour torture- Registration must for travel operators
TT, Gangtok, Oct. 22: The Sikkim government has decided to allow only registered tour operators to ferry visitors to restricted places like Tsomgo Lake in East district and Yumthang in North.
The move follows fleecing of tourists by drivers and touts during the weeklong Puja vacation when there was shortage of vehicles and the administration was on a holiday,
The government took the decision invoking provisions under Sikkim Tourist Trade Act 1998 and Sikkim Registration of Tourist Trade Rules, 2008.
“Only those operators who are registered with the tourism department will be given permission to provide vehicular service to people visiting the restricted areas of Sikkim. Provisions under the 1998 act and the 2008 rules empower the tourism department to take such a decision,” said state tourism secretary S.B.S. Bhadauria.
The official said the department had received complaints that some hoteliers and taxi drivers were charging extra money from the tourists.
“Harassment of tourists will create a negative impression and in the long run, people will look for other destinations,” said Bhadauria, appealing to all tourism stakeholders to treat the guests with respect and honour so that they could go back with pleasant memories.
The Travel Agents Association of Sikkim said some taxi drivers had charged Rs 12,000 for a trip from Gangtok to Yumthang, while the normal rate was Rs 3,500.
“There were also instances when tourists had to shell out Rs 4,500 to Rs 5,000 for trips to Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir in East district during Puja. (Normal fare for travel to these destinations is Rs 2,000),” said Lukendra Rasaily, the president of the association.
The association held a meeting with the Sikkim Hotels and Restaurant Association here yesterday to discuss the problems faced by the visitors. Later, the office bearers of both the organisations met Bhadauria and impressed upon him the need to fetter unauthorised tour operators.
“Action will be taken against anybody found harassing and misbehaving with tourists. We have given sufficient time to tour operators and hotels to get registered with us after fulfilling certain requirements. Now onwards, the department will be strict and won’t tolerate any nonsense,” said the tourism secretary.
He said officials had started patrolling all four districts in the state to prevent the fleecing of tourists by drivers because of vehicle shortage.
Society under consumer scan 
TT, Kalimpong, Oct. 22: A father-son duo from a Kalimpong village have lodged a complaint with the Darjeeling district consumer forum against a local cooperative society for not returning their deposits three years after maturity.
Shanti Ram Ghimirey and his son Bhupen from Dalapchand, about 10km from here, had deposited their hard-earned savings with the Dalapchand Gram Panchayat Sahakari Krishi Union Samiti, a registered society in the village.
When the Ghimireys deposited the money, mostly by way of fixed deposits, they were told that they would get their returns at the interest rate of 10 per cent on completion of the maturity period of a year.
However, more than three years after the maturity, the Ghimireys have only received a tiny part (Rs 46,000) of their six deposits worth Rs 1,33,000. The samiti is yet to refund Rs 87,000 in fixed deposits and Rs 5,856 in savings account, totalling Rs 92,856, to the duo.
The samiti is affiliated to the Darjeeling District Central Cooperative Bank Limited based here.
According to the terms of agreement between the samiti and the bank, the samiti is required to put 70 per cent of the amount of each deposit in the bank. However, a bank official told The Telegraph that the Dalapchand samiti did not seem to have followed the rule book.
The Ghimireys, however, do not want to listen to any such explanations but simply want their money back.
They, in fact, approached the Darjeeling District Consumer Distress Redressal Forum yesterday, seeking refund of their deposits with interest calculated at the rate of 12 per cent from the date of their maturity till the time of payment.
“We have also sought an additional amount of Rs 15,000 as compensation for the mental harassment caused to us by the samiti,” said Bhupen.
Bhupen said in their effort to get back the money, they had even approached the bank on many occasions but to no avail. After running for pillar to post for the past three years, the Ghimireys finally approached the Kalimpong Consumers’ Forum (KFC), an NGO, which after making inquiries advised them to lodge a complaint with the consumer redressal forum.
“There are many more Ghimireys in the village. Many of them, because of ignorance, have almost given up their life-long savings,” said Praful Rao, the KFC secretary.
When contacted, the Dalapchand samiti’s manager Dhurba Rai admitted that the Ghimireys were to get their entire money back. “We will eventually pay them their entire dues but unfortunately are not in a position to do that in one go,” he said.
Chhangu tourists stranded
TT, Gangtok, Oct. 22: Around 1,000 tourists on their way from Chhangu Lake were stranded for four hours when boulders came tumbling down on JN Marg, moments after a blast to widen the highway.
The highway connects Gangtok with Nathu-la on the India-China border. The Border Roads Organisation has been entrusted with the widening project and had triggered the blast.
“Around 5.30pm, when the tourist vehicles were returning from Chhangu Lake, Baba Mandir and Nathu-la, the boulders started rolling down the hills near 13th Mile as a result of the blasts being carried out by the BRO personnel, leaving 157 cars stranded,” said Lukendra Rasaily, the president of the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim.
Rasaily, who was also among the stranded visitors, said over the phone that the BRO men cleared the debris after four hours of struggle and the vehicles started moving in a single file from 9.30pm.
In the tourist season, around 300 vehicles ferry visitors to three must-visit spots above 12,000ft every morning. All the vehicles return to Gangtok afternoon.
Today, according to BRO sources, most of the Gangtok-bound cars had crossed 13th Mile, 20km from here, but 150-odd vehicles were stranded as the debris blocked a stretch of about 30-50 metres.
“It was cold and most of the tourists sat huddled inside the vehicles, while some took a long walk to keep their body warm,” Rasaily said.
Bangla fast
TT, Cooch Behar: Thirty-two Bangladeshi inmates of the Cooch Behar district jail have been on an indefinite hunger strike since Wednesday, demanding their release. They were admitted to MJN Hospital on Friday after their health condition deteriorated. Jail sources said the inmates were desperate to go back to their country since they had completed their jail sentences. District magistrate Smaraki Mahapatra has been apprised of the hunger strike and the physical condition of the inmates.
Lens show
TT, Siliguri: Members of Himalayan Camera Club will organise their first photography exhibition at Ramkinkar Hall in Dinabandhu Mancha here on Sunday. The exhibition will be inaugurated by Siliguri mayor Gangotri Dutta and will continue till Monday.
Café robbed
TT, Jaigaon: A cyber café at Malbazar was burgled late on Thursday night. Police said the robbers broke the front door and fled with two laptops, a digital camera and Rs 12,000.  
KalimNews: Elephant is declared as national heritage animal by the central government of India.

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