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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Festival over, time for hard bargain - Gift of WB to woo Adivasis ... Morcha threatens to go back to Gorkhaland demand if state tries to defer talks ... 58 died in NBMCH

TT,  Siliguri, Oct. 18: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today threatened to reject the proposed set-up for the Darjeeling hills if it perceived that the CPM-led Bengal government was trying to drag the issue and defer the formation of the interim authority, piling pressure on the state and the Centre for a hard bargain before the next round of talks.
“At the last talks held on October 11, we proposed that the next round of discussion at the political-level should be held by October 25 or so. But we are yet to get any confirmation from the Centre. We want to make it clear that we have no problem if a different date is fixed in consultation with the state government for any specific reason,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha, today. “However, if we perceive that the state is unnecessarily dragging its feet on the issue and delaying the process of forming the set-up, we will simply drop the proposal of the set-up. We may refrain from holding further talks and instead continue the movement for a separate state.”
Before the Pujas, the Morcha seemed to have been making an effort to convey the message that all was well in the hills. It had also re-introduced a tourism festival that stopped four years ago to woo visitors and stakeholders of the tourism industry. With the end of the festivity, however, the Morcha is back to its hard bargaining.
The Morcha top brass feel that owing to the impending political changes in Bengal, the state is not interested in working out a permanent solution for Darjeeling till the Assembly elections next year. “We feel the delay in forming the set-up will lead us nowhere,” a Morcha leader said. “In case there is any delay and the model code of conduct kicks in, then the formation of the interim authority would be halted. The talks we have held for all these months will then come to nought.”
The Morcha leader explained that in case of a change of guard in Bengal next year, the talks would have to begin afresh as the new government would be unlikely to pick up the thread from where the Left Front government had left it.
“It is important that the talks are held promptly and the interim arrangement is put in place soon as any further delay could halt its formation for a long time,” the Morcha leader said. “Then, if a new government comes to power in Bengal next year we can proceed further with our demand for a separate state.”
The state government, however, is determined not to let the Morcha go ahead with its Gorkhaland demand. “We want the Morcha to drop its demand and let an elected body take charge of the set-up,” state urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said. “The state government will attend the tripartite talks…The Morcha, once a decision and consensus is reached on the set-up, should abandon its statehood demand. Discussions can, however, be always held on conferring more powers on the autonomous authority to be formed for hills.”
The Morcha is not the only one in the hills to have threatened a movement. The ABGL, which has been criticising the state government’s failure to arrest Nickole Tamang, the key accused in the Madan Tamang murder case who escaped from CID’s custody, said it would launch a movement soon, demanding CBI inquiry into the killing. “Once the festive season is over, we will renew our movement, demanding the arrest of Nickole and other culprits,” said ABGL working president Dawa Sherpa. 
58 died in NBMC & H
KalimNews: According to a report received from the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri 58 people died during the last five days of Puja. The record shows deaths of 6 on 13 October, 22 on 14 October, 11on 15 October, 14 on 16 October and 5 on 17 October. Most of the death were caused due to absence of senior doctors who were out of the station to enjoy the Puja holidays and the serious patients were treated by junior doctors just gave sedatives, alleged family members of the deceased patients. 
Hospital authorities denied the allegation instead replied that most of the patients were referred from the rural hospitals with no reasons causing the increase in the crowd of the serious patients and there were some senior doctors in the NBMCH to treat with but the conditions of the patients were very grave as they were brought to the hospital at the last stages.
Gift of WB to woo Adivasis 
KalimNews:WB govt will establish Hindi medium primary schools in every 1km, upper primary schools (junior high school) in every 2 km distance and  higher studies technical colleges for Adivasis of Dooars. Home Secretary G D Gautam and Chief Principal Secretary of Education  Bikram  Sen during a meeting with the ABAVP members in Jalpaiguri Circuit house declared that these will be implemented in no time. They also informed the delegation of ABAVP that Government is considering the proposal of opening two Polytechnic Colleges in Kalchini and Maynaguri while opening of ITI centers  in Matelli Malbazar, Birpara, Kalchini and Kumargram is also under consideration.
John Barla, ABAVP leader said that the secretaries told the delegation that Govt has intended to open model schools in Kalchini, Malbazar, Matelli, Nagrakatta, Dhupguri, Madarihat. 
Bikers to discover hill thrill
Rajeev Ravidas, TT, Kalimpong, Oct. 18: A 14-member team of cyclists from the US and Europe will embark on a mountain biking-cum-trekking through the Darjeeling hills and Sikkim that the organisers hope will eventually help in promoting adventure sport in the region.
The 10-day expedition will begin from Kurseong on Wednesday and end at Gangtok on October 29. The team will traverse about 450km on bicycles, taking a circuitous route through Darjeeling, Peling, Yuksam, Borang, Gangtok, Ravangla, Lachung and then again back to the Sikkim capital.
“The team members are all medically fit to make the trip. It will be an arduous journey. We are doing this in collaboration with Bob Thompson, who promotes cycling tours throughout the world,” said Norden Pempa Hishey, a founding member of Help Desk Tourism, a Kalimpong-based organisation, which is looking after the field operations of the expedition.
The Darjeeling hills and neighbouring Sikkim with its rugged terrain are well suited for mountain-biking, which is a popular adventure sport in the west.
“The idea of hosting the expedition is to promote the adventure sport of mountain-biking in the region. We believe the mountain-biking can form part of the adventure tourism in the region,” said Hishey.
Apart from trekking and climbing, not much is happening by way of adventure tourism in the region, even though many believe Darjeeling and Sikkim are suitable for river-rafting, paragliding and, of course, mountain-biking.
“There has been no serious attempt on the part of different government agencies to exploit the immense potential of the region vis-à-vis adventure tourism. Whatever little is happening is entirely because of initiatives by individuals,” said Prasanna Rai, a tourism stake-holder.
The DGHC did try to promote rafting on the Teesta, but not in an organised manner. In fact, rafting on the Teesta has remained suspended for close to five months after four persons drowned during a water ride earlier this year.
“The DGHC introduced the rafting on the Teesta, but did precious little to sustain it in a structured manner. As a result, many private operators with their eyes only on profit and without proper equipment and trained personnel came in, impeding the prospects of its growth,” said a rafting operator based in Teesta Bazar.
There has been a recent development with regard to paragliding. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation had, one month back, signed a memorandum of understanding to introduce paragliding in the hills.
Centres for dropouts- Free food, accommodation and clothes for children
TT, Siliguri, Oct. 18: The Sarva Siksha Mission (SSM) will soon flag off a project to bring all school dropouts under the ambit of primary education in Jalpaiguri district.
The scheme, which has been designed as a residential education system, will be launched at seven centres in two blocks — Kalchini and Birpara-Madarihat — in the next few weeks. SSM officials said a similar project would be taken up simultaneously in Purulia,too.
“The project has been designed to benefit children who are six years old or more. At present, 295 dropouts, including 30 girls, have been selected for the project,” said Aloke Mahapatra, the project officer of the SSM in Jalpaiguri.
“The annual enrollment drive to ensure education for all children is going on in primary schools across the district. Added to that, an additional attempt is being made to bring the dropouts back to schools ”
According to administrative sources, it has been found that several children in the district leave schools because of family problems and financial backwardness. “Under the project, everything, right from food to books and clothes will be provided to the students. The children will be at the centres for about an year or so to develop the habit of study. More dropouts will be included under the scheme in future,” said an official. “The focus is on children living in remote areas like tea estates and forest villages.”
SSM authorities said students would study at primary schools located near the centres from 7am to 10am and again in the evening. There would be televisions at each centre and indoor and outdoor games for the entertainment of the children. Further, arrangements would be made for the parents to come and meet their wards at the centres.
“The panchayat samities concerned have been instructed to find places where the centres can be set up. Retired schoolteachers will take classes for these students. There are also plans to conduct counselling for the children to generate interest in study,” said an SSM official. 
Jumbo killed by power lines
TT, Siliguri, Oct. 18: A male elephant whose body was found in a Naxalbari paddy field on Saturday morning had died of electrocution, forest officials today confirmed.
The recovery of the carcass from the paddy field at Madanjote prompted the forest officials to consider holding a meeting with the Naxalbari panchayat samiti to prevent further death of animals from electrocutions.
Six elephants had died unnatural deaths in this division so far this year, the foresters said.
“Considering the nature of injury on the tusk and the back of the full grown elephant, we had asked the vet for a post-mortem to ascertain the cause of death. It is confirmed from the preliminary report of the doctor that the tusker died of electrocution,” said Y.T. Eden, the divisional forest officer of Kurseong, today.
With the crop ready for harvest, elephants often raid the fringe forest villages. “Keeping it in view, we will hold a meeting with the panchayat members, so that we can avoid such incidents further,” the forest official said.
A source from the forest department, however, said a special joint raid would be conducted in the villages of the Naxalbari area soon to find out if any illegal electrical trap had been set up to keep away elephants from the crops. The raid will be conducted with the help of police and power officials.
Amar Sinha, a member of the Naxalbari panchayat samiti, however, said had the forest department taken a more active role to protect the villagers from the elephants, such incidents could have been avoided.
“The foresters should immediately organise training for the youths in the area so that they can take the initial precautionary measure to keep elephants away and alert villagers,” Sinha said.
He, however, denied the villagers’ involvement in using electricity illegally to fence their fields. “If anybody is found involved in taking electric connection illegally, the department should take necessary steps against the person,” Sinha said.
The elephant depredation in the forest fringe villages of the division, which is close to the India-Nepal border, is a problem for both the villagers and the foresters every year.
“We are worried because a herd of about 45 elephants are still roaming the Kalabari and the Dalka forest which may raid the fringe villages any time for the crops. We have increased our night patrolling. We have also pressed into service the wildlife squad that we got from August this year,” the DFO said.
Jungle ride boost for resorts 
TT, Alipurduar, Oct. 18: Tourists staying in private resorts near Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary can now avail of elephant and car safaris for sight-seeing — the main attraction for the visitors to the Dooars.
Twelve lodges and three resorts have come up near the sanctuary in the past four years. But the boarders of these facilities could not avail themselves of the safaris as the forest department conducted the jungle rides only for tourists residing on government properties. As a result, the lodge owners’ business took a beating.
The forest department started taking a certain number of lodge boarders to the sanctuary on elephants and in cars from October 14.
“Tourists from different parts of the country as well as abroad visit the sanctuary for safaris. When they realise that we cannot offer them elephant and car rides, they go to some other places in the Dooars. Therefore, our business gets badly affected. We are really grateful to the divisional forest officer (of wildlife III division) for introducing a quota for our boarders,” said Biswajit Saha, the secretary of Jaldapara Lodge Owner’s Association.
He said a minimum of 16 boarders would be taken inside the forest on elephants and 72 persons in cars daily.
Omprakash, the DFO of wildlife III division, said: “The resort owners had been requesting me repeatedly to allow their boarders also to take the two safaris. We have added one more elephant and two cars for the rides. Both the safaris take place three times a day. Naturally, a large number of tourists will now start staying in private lodges and local people will be able to earn more money directly or indirectly.”
Build-bund plea at border guard meet
TT, Islampur, Oct. 18: The BSF has proposed the construction of embankments along the border here to its counterparts in Bangladesh after three rivers gobbled up many of the demarcation pillars.
According to BSF sources, the Mahananda, Nagar and the Karatowa are eating away land in North Dinajpur. The problem is spread over around 200km area of the border and needs to be addressed immediately.
At a sector-level coordination meeting at Tentulia in Bangladesh on October 14, BSF deputy-inspector general of Kishanganj M.F. Khan has suggested that embankments should be constructed to protect the land and also to avoid any confusion over the territory in future as many boundary pillars have been washed away by the rivers. The proposal was placed before Mohammed Khairujjaman and Salem Ahmed, the two sector commanders of the BDR from Rangpur and Dinajpur districts.
“At the meeting, we have pointed out that it is imminent to construct the embankments, otherwise it will be tough to earmark the boundaries of the two countries in future,” Khan said. “We have also discussed how hundreds of acres of farmland and tea plantations are being consistently eroded by the rivers flowing along the borders.”
Residents of the affected areas said they had lost acres of land to the erosion, with no move of the government interfering so far.
“Every year, I am losing three to four kathas of my farmland to the Karatowa river. If the trend continues, I think I would be landless within the next five years,” said Mainul Alam, a cultivator at Goalgach village in Chopra block. “It is high time that the government does something or else, hundreds like me will face similar consequences.”
Biren Das, a small tea grower who hails from Islampur and has his plantation on the borders at Maragati village of district, spoke on similar lines. “I have lost four acres of my plantation because of the continuous erosion of the Nagar,” he said. “I have approached the administration at different levels with the request to check the erosion but nothing has been done so far.”
The BSF officers said they had informed the joint river commission formed with the representatives of both the countries about the erosion. “We expect a positive outcome soon as the issue is related to both India and Bangladesh,” an officer said.
School clerk killed
TT, Islampur, Oct.18: The body of Dilip Chouhan, 35, was found near Darivit High School this morning.
Police said the clerk of Darivit High School had received a call on his cellphone around 10.30pm yesterday. After that Chouhan left his house, a kilometre away from the school, with a bicycle. This morning, his body was found close to the school with an injury mark on his throat. When Islampur police reached the spot local people gheraoed them, demanding sniffer dogs for the probe. The men were released after Indra Chakraborty, subdivisional police officer of Islampur, assured the protesters that necessary investigation would be carried out. A murder case has been initiated after a complaint was lodged by the deceased’s brother Laxmi Chouhan.
TT, Siliguri: The state sports and youth welfare department will felicitate table tennis player Subhajit Saha, who won gold at the Commonwealth Games on October 25. The programme will be held in association with the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority. Archers Dola Banerjee and her brother Rahul, goalie of the Indian hockey team, Bharat Chhetri, the manager of the table tennis squad, Mantu Ghosh, and Subhajit’s coach, Amit Dam, would also be felicitated at Kanchenjungha Stadium.
Club clash
TT, Alipurduar: Ten persons were arrested on Sunday following a clash between two clubs in which three persons were injured. Members of Netaji Sangha at Nishigunj allegedly damaged the puja pandal of Dipti Sangha on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, members of Dipti Sangha in retaliation damaged the pandal of Netaji Sangha and three members of the club were injured. Members of the club blocked Mathabhanga-Cooch Behar State Highway for three hours on Sunday to protest the incident. The blockade was withdrawn after ten members of Dipti Sangha were arrested.
Road mishap
TT, Balurghat: Tanu Chakraborty, 35, was killed when an unidentified vehicle hit the motorcycle he was riding at Mahinagar on Sunday. The resident of Chakbhawani was going towards Malda with two persons riding pillion on the two-wheeler on SH10, police said. The pillion riders have been hospitalised with injuries.
Mobile phones make accidents
indira balakrishnan ray, SNS, Kolkata, 18 Oct: With the rise in the use of cell phones, there has been an alarming increase in road accidents that are taking place in Kolkata recently. A number of minor to major accidents have been reported recently due to the increase in the use of cell phones by users while crossing the road or even while walking.
Nowadays many mobile phone users spend too much time talking over the phone and thereby do not concentrate on the traffic plying during the peak hours of the day. Due to this, road mishaps are taking place. With an increase in such alarming cases, one should avoid talking over mobile phones while crossing the road. With the onset of the Pujas, traffic jam and the number of people on roads have increased considerably. Pedestrians should be very careful while using their mobile phones while on road during the Pujas. In case of attending an important call, one should stand somewhere away from the road, finish taking the call and then proceed on to his/her destination. In this way, one can not only avoid mishaps from occurring but also maintain the traffic rules and regulations. 
Idol-melting alternative gains ground
TNN, KOLKATA: Year after year, pujas leave in their trail harmful chemicals as idols are consigned to waterbodies. But giving tradition a go-by, many puja organizers in Kolkata and its suburbs have been desisting from immersion, thus preventing rivers from choking further. Even as preservation of idols is yet to pick up, Kali Puja organizers at Naihati and Halisahar on the northern fringes have for decades been dissolving clay idols using water jets at the festival site itself.
A method said to be necessitated for practical purposes rather than concern for the environment, melting away of clay idols at the Puja sites have received the thumbs-up from some conservationists as well. "The Kali idols are huge. Some are even over 12m tall. It is impossible to carry such giant idols even to the nearest waterbody for immersion. So, we adopted this alternative method," said Dhilon Sarkar, chairman Naihati municipality and member of the Kali puja organizing committee.
Sarkar admitted that the ritual, which they had started for their advantage, was now proving eco-friendly compared to the traditional custom. "We immerse a small pitcher (ghot) instead of the idol," said Sarkar. Soon after the clay has been melted away by water jets, idol-makers collect the same for reuse. Similarly, people pick up other accessories for later use.
Eminent environmentalist Subhas Dutta, too, is in favour of this wash-and-melt process. "Puja organizers in Kolkata can adopt this method as it will save a lot of wastage as well. It cuts out the elaborate procession to the ghat with several cars, reducing pollution," said Dutta. He argued that despite initiatives from different agencies, it was difficult to pick up all accessories from the water once the idols have been immersed. Organizers of major crowd-pullers said they, too, could consider the method.Thought environment-expert Sudipta Bhattacharya agreed the melting method lessened pollution, he added, "The most polluting part of the idol colours now goes straight to the earth. So, the best solution is to preserve idols."
Organizers, however, are against preservation of idols. "There are more than 1,200 pujas within city limit. It is impossible to preserve such a huge number of idols,' said Partha Ghosh, general secretary Shibmandir, who is also secretary of Forum for Durgotsob. Like Ghosh, Sandeep Chakraborty of the popular Badamtala Asar Sangha had no problem in initiating the melting method but he, too, wrote off preservation.
Kolkata Municipal Corporation officials admitted that they had never thought of alternatives. "It will be nice if organizers can incorporate changes that prevent pollution," said Debasis Kumar, member mayor in council (parks).

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