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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Before the deal, the balancing act - Morcha keen to avoid 6th Schedule-like fiasco

Morcha keen to avoid 6th Schedule-like fiasco
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Oct. 26: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has decided to seek the opinion of all its leaders across the country before accepting the proposed set-up for the hills, an indication that the outfit is walking a tightrope and wants to avoid a Sixth Schedule-like fiasco that also brought out Subash Ghisingh’s nemesis.
Sources confirmed that Morcha president Bimal Gurung would invite its unit leaders from across the country for deliberations on the interim set-up and Gorkhaland.
“The meeting will be held very soon,” a source said. The date could probably be October 30, another source said.
The Morcha has formed units in the seven northeastern states besides Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It has a unit in Calcutta, too. The Nepali-speaking people from across the country had supported the Morcha agitation for Gorkhaland as they saw in it a solution to the identity issue of the Gorkhas. The new state, it was said, would give the Gorkhas the identity they had been craving for by differentiating between the Nepali-speaking Indians and the citizens of Nepal.
Although the party has been insisting that the proposed arrangement is only temporary and the statehood movement will continue, Gurung and his think tank are wary because the initial agitation was for a new state and not a new administrative set-up. Under the circumstances, the Morcha wants a consensus to be reached before the interim set-up deal is inked. Observers said the Morcha did not want a repeat of the Sixth Schedule fiasco, another reason why a consensus is needed.
In the past, the Centre, the state and the Subash Ghisingh-led GNLF had signed a Memorandum of Settlement for conferring the Sixth Schedule status on the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling. The status could not be conferred because of a spontaneous opposition in the hills. The delay in amending the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution — the process starting almost one-and-a-half years from when the settlement was inked in 2006 — to include the Darjeeling hills proved to be Ghisingh’s nemesis.
“Gurung is aware how Ghisingh, who was then considered the undisputed leader of the hills but had to go because of the mass opposition. The Morcha leadership does not want a repeat and will try to convince its unit leaders that the interim set-up is only for two years and that the party has not set aside the Gorkhaland issue,” said an observer.
The party is likely to firm up its decision on the interim set-up only after receiving feedbacks from its unit leaders. In fact, the Morcha yesterday asked its leaders from the Dooars and Terai to submit their opinions complete with their address and phone numbers. “A similar exercise will be conducted when members of other units are invited for discussion,” the source added.
The prospect of settling the interim issue within the next political-level talks seems real as Gurung seems to have worked out a strategy to solve the territorial dispute. He has hinted that the solution is in the formation of a joint verification committee that will survey the Dooars and Terai and submit a report by 2011.
“(After that) the government has to agree to include the Nepali-dominated areas in the administrative arrangement that will be in force till 2012,” he said yesterday. 
Bhaichung brand for charity
TT, Gangtok, Oct. 26: Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia has volunteered to become the brand ambassador of the Spastics Society of Sikkim to raise funds for physically and mentally challenged people in the state.
The soccer icon has appealed to the people of Sikkim to donate money so that the society can increase the intake of patients at its respite home in Gangtok.
The player said he would request his friend and actor John Abraham to join the fund-raising campaign.
The society is an NGO based in Gangtok and has been working since 1997 for the welfare of people who are mentally retarded or affected by cerebral palsy, autism and multiple disabilities.
The NGO is also the state nodal agency for welfare schemes taken up by the National Trust of India, an autonomous body under the central ministry of social justice.
Apart from the 15-bedded respite home, the society also runs a day care centre with an intake of 40 children at its four-storied building at Development Area here.
Bhaichung visited the society building on Sunday afternoon and interacted with the members of the NGO for almost an hour to find ways and means to generate more funds.
“The society has been doing a great service despite funds crunch. I visited the place for the first time and was touched by the activities of the society which works silently and genuinely,” said Bhaichung before leaving Gangtok on Sunday evening.
The player expressed his interest in increasing the number of beds at the respite home from 15 to 30.“For this, we need a good amount of money and I earnestly request all the people of Sikkim to come forward and contribute towards this noble cause,” said Bhaichung. He also readily accepted the proposal to become the brand ambassador of the society.
“I will request my friend and Bollywood actor John Abraham to join the fund-raising mission,” said the player.
The founder general secretary of the society, B.P. Dhakal, thanked Bhaichung for showing a keen interest in the welfare of the physically and mentally challenged children in Sikkim.
“We have only 15 beds at the respite home and patients can be treated for three months on a rotational basis. After three months, the patients are sent back home and another batch is taken,” said Dhakal.
The day care centre caters for children from in and around Gangtok. They are brought in a bus provided by the state transport department in the morning and taken back in the evening. The children are looked after by trained personnel.
Dhakal said the society met its expenses from the annual grant of Rs 2.5 lakh given by the Sikkim government and contributions from individuals.
This is not the first time that Bhaichung has come forward for a cause. In November, he donated Rs 50,000 each to Mayalmu Sangh and Sikkim Human Development Foundation, two NGOs based in Gangtok.
The sum was a portion of the cash prize won by Bhaichung in Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, a reality dance show. Bhaichung had also contributed Rs 2 lakh for Cyclone Aila victims and Rs 1 lakh for people hit by landslides in Darjeeling last year. 
Puja toll on blood bank 
TT, Siliguri, Oct. 26: Blood shortage has hit the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital with few donors being available during the Pujas.
“The blood bank here is facing immense crisis mainly because people are reluctant to donate blood during the Pujas. The problem occurs every year during Durga Puja and lasts till Kali Puja. Currently, we have a blood stock of just 81 units and this will last for only two days,” said Mridumoy Das, the director of the Regional Blood Transfusion Centre in the NBMCH.
Usually, the RBTC organises two to three blood donation camps every week and gets 20 to 30 units from each camp. “But because of the dearth of donors, we have not been able to hold camps and refill the stock in the past one week, leading to the shortage,” he added.
Yesterday, the RBTC organised a camp at Malbazar. The blood bank had 35 units till yesterday and 46 more units were added to it after the camp at Malbazar, Das said. “However, we can give only 30 units to those who come with requisitions today as the remaining 51 units are yet to be tested.”
Two months ago, the stock in the blood bank was nearly 400 units, he added.
At present, the RBTC officials are giving blood only to those who need them immediately. “Usually, thalassemia patients and those who need Cesarean section for delivery of babies, or surgical and accident cases come with requisitions. But now we are obliging only those who are suffering blood loss during in road accidents or childbirth. We have also requested the NGOs and other organisations to organise blood donation camps,” the director said.
Of the five blood banks in Siliguri, the one at the Siliguri District Hospital and the facility at the NBMCH are government-owned.
The pressure is high on the blood bank at the NBMCH as people from six districts and Sikkim depend on the sole referral hospital of the region for their requirements of blood.
Somnath Chatterjee, a state committee member of the West Bengal Voluntary Blood Donors’ Forum, said: “Poor people bear the brunt most because they cannot afford to get blood from the private blood banks.”
At government banks, blood is available by filling up a requisition form and paying Rs 65 for one unit and Rs 50 per unit for subsequent requisitions. A donor card holder is entitled to one unit of blood from any government facility in the country.
In private blood banks, a payment of Rs 500 has to be made along with blood donation in exchange for one unit of blood.
1 killed in jumbo attack
PTI, Jalpaiguri (WB), Oct 26 : A youth was killed and three villagers were injured in elephant attacks in separate parts of Alipurduar sub-division of Jalpaiguri district today.
Police said Budhwa Minj (35) was trampled to death when he fell infront of a pachyderm, which strayed into a slum under Kalchini range today. In another part, three villagers were injured while trying to escape a rampaging pachyderm at Kathiabari under Buxa range during the day. 
TT, Cooch Behar, Oct. 26: One person was trampled to death and three others were injured in elephant attacks in two forest villages of Buxa Tiger Reserve yesterday.
Budhua Minz, 45, a resident of Dhaolajhora Busty was trampled to death by a tusker yesterday morning when he was guarding a paddy field.
In another incident, three girls were injured when an elephant attacked them last evening while they were returning to their houses at Atiabari village with cattle. Santoshi Baraik, Amrita Mahali and Puja Baraik have been admitted to the Alipurduar subdivisional hospital.
Garden meet
TT, Jaigaon: A tripartite meeting called by the subdivisional officer of Malbazar on Tuesday to end the impasse at the Carron Tea Estate in Nagrakata was cancelled because of non-participation of the management. Sources in the management said they had announced suspension of work on October 2 after few workers manhandled some managerial staff the previous day. The management had placed three conditions before the trade unions and sought an assurance that they would be met before the talks. As no assurance reached the management, they decided to stay away from the meeting, an official said.
Fire team
TT, Siliguri: A five-member team formed to investigate the cause of the fire that had damaged the chamber of the SMC mayor on October 10 visited the building on Tuesday. Mayor Gangotri Datta said she had requested the SDO to carry out a probe after the blaze.

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