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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Morcha off to meet ‘mediator’ MP - Deadline & sudden Delhi trip point to loose ends

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Nov. 29: A four-member Gorkha Janmukti Morcha delegation led by Roshan Giri left for Delhi today to meet Jaswant Singh, a day after the party set a December 20 deadline for the Centre and the state to establish the interim authority.
Going by the composition of the delegation, the Darjeeling MP is probably acting as a mediator between the party and the Centre and is expected to help thrash out the contentious issues before the final agreement on the interim authority is drawn up.
Tight-lipped about the delegation’s objectives, Giri said: “We are going to meet Jaswant Singh. This is our only agenda right now.”
The three members of the team are former chief secretary of Andhra Pradesh Trilok Dewan, former principal secretary of DGHC L.B. Pariyar and party spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri. The four members have been an integral part of the tripartite meetings between the Morcha and the Centre and the state in the past.
Observers believe that the team is probably trying to hold negotiations with the Centre through Singh to thrash out four contentious issues: mode of selection to the interim set-up, transfer of tauzi department, procedure for handing over of legislative powers and the territorial jurisdiction of the new body.
After meeting Union home minister P. Chidambaram on November 1 along with Singh who had then mediated between the two sides, Morcha president Bimal Gurung had announced that “only one more meeting was needed to ink the deal”. But the Morcha’s announcement of the deadline yesterday and the sudden departure for Delhi today are pointers that the state government, which is already in an election mode, is probably not in agreement with the party on the four issues.
The Morcha had claimed that a joint verification committee would be formed to review its demand for the inclusion of Gorkha-dominated areas in the interim set-up, the report of which would be placed before the appropriate authority by May 2011.
The hill party had also claimed that the members running the interim authority would be nominated instead of being elected and that the transfer of the tauzi department had been broadly agreed upon. “Given the Morcha’s recent decision to hold rallies for the inclusion of the tauzi department and to set a time frame to sign the deal failing which it has threatened to launch an agitation for a final solution, it is obvious that all the loose ends are yet to be tied. There must have been objections from the state government and the team has probably left for Delhi to sort out the issues,” said an observer.
In the hills, rival GNLF iterated that the Sixth Schedule was the only viable solution. “Given the present situation, the Sixth Schedule is the only viable option and an agreement had already been reached with our party in 2005. The Sixth Schedule has constitutional guarantee and the same cannot be said of the interim set-up,” said Shivraj Thapa, media and publicity secretary of the GNLF’s Darjeeling sub-divisional committee.
Subash Ghisingh, the president of the GNLF, has already expressed his desire to return to the hills and this has also prompted a strong response from all political parties. “In a democracy, all parties are allowed to function. We, however, believe that the hill people have already rejected the Sixth Schedule status and Ghisingh should drop the idea of Sixth Schedule for a separate statehood,” said Narayan Chhetri, the spokesperson for the ABGL.
The CPRM added that if Ghisingh was to return to the hills, he should leave behind all his “bad habits”. “If he is to return he should leave behind his bad habits like confusing the general public and encouraging them to drink. The Sixth Schedule does have constitutional guarantee but the people have rejected it. Instead, he (Ghisingh) should concentrate on statehood,” said R.B. Rai, the general secretary of the CPRM.
Giri said Ghisingh must be day-dreaming about reviving the GNLF in the hills.
Hills bond SMC allies
TT, Siliguri, Nov. 29: The Trinamul Congress and the Congress today jointly adopted a resolution moved by the Opposition Left Front on the jurisdiction of all 47 wards of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation.
The consensus — between the allies that helped adopt the resolution opposing the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s demand for including six wards of Siliguri in the proposed interim set-up — comes after more than a year of strained relationship.
“All the six wards (2, 3, 41, 42, 45 and 46) have Gorkha majority and so we want their inclusion in the authority,” Shankar Adhikari, the chief convener of the Morcha’s Terai committee, had said.
Mukul Sengupta, the CPM councillor of Ward 2, proposed that a resolution be taken at the civic body, opposing the Morcha’s demand.
“As the SMC has been formed under constitutional provisions, the demand raised by the Morcha to separate six wards from the civic body is confusing and can create unpleasant situations. We, therefore, want the resolution to be passed opposing this demand,” Sengupta said.
Gautam Deb, the Trinamul leader of the party at the SMC, however, suggested modification to the proposal. He said since the civic body did not have any written document on the Morcha’s demand, except for media reports, the resolution should not contain the name of any organisation or party.
“We feel a similar proposal, in an amended form, saying that there should be no change in the jurisdiction and structure of the existing wards and none of the wards should be separated from the SMC should be passed,” Deb said. “It is important to keep in mind that no step or decision should be taken by the SMC which can affect the ongoing tripartite talks.”
Congress mayor Gangotri Datta endorsed Deb’s amended proposal. Soon, SMC chairperson Sabita Devi Agarwal placed the modified proposal for adoption. Both the Congress and the Trinamul councillors supported the resolution, while the Left members refrained from supporting it.
The Opposition members insisted that the words “In context of the demand raised by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha…” be included in the resolution.
The civic meeting continued for around four hours, discussing issues like repairing roads, construction of drains and drinking water supply. It also decided to set up statues of six prominent personalities — Rabindranath Tagore, Thakur Panchanan Burma, Sukanta Bhattacharya, Sisir Bhaduri, Rajendra Prasad and Maharaj Agrasen — at different locations of the town.
Youth found dead in police lockup - Cops claim suicide, relatives allege torture
TT, Siliguri, Nov. 29: A 30-year-old youth was found dead in the lockup of Pradhannagar police station this morning, sparking protests from Congress supporters and local people who alleged that he had died because of police torture.
Police said Gautam Pal, a resident of Prakashnagar here, had hanged himself in lockup bathroom.
The protesters blocked Hill Cart road two times, first in the afternoon and then at night. During the second blockade, the relatives and neighbours of Gautam arrived near Gurunbusti with his body.
According to sources, Gautam was arrested, along with his friends Rajkumar Roy and Jaswant Singh, on Friday after a motorcycle went missing.
“Rajen Sonar, one of Gautam’s friends, had borrowed Rs 7,000 from him three months ago and had mortgaged his motorcycle. On Thursday, Rajkumar and Jaswant took the two-wheeler from Gautam for an errand,” said a resident of Prakashnagar. “The duo returned at night and told Gautam that somebody had lifted the bike. Gautam immediately went to Pradhannagar police station to file a complaint.”
But the police refused to accept the complaint, as he was not the owner of the motorcycle. The next day, Gautam went to Sonar and told him about the theft.
However, Sonar was not ready to buy the story and lodged a complaint with Pradhannagar police, accusing Gautam of lifting the bike.
The police picked up Rajkumar and Jaswant first and then Gautam, suspecting that they had sold the motorcycle to someone and cooked up the theft story. The trio were produced in a court on Saturday and remanded in three-day police custody.
Brother contests claim
“Around 6am today, I received a call from the police station and was told to reach Siliguri District Hospital where my brother had been admitted in a serious condition,” said Gautam’s brother, Jiten.
“When I reached the hospital, I found him dead and the police told me he had committed suicide. I believe my brother cannot kill himself and he died because of police torture. We want action against the inspector-in-charge and other policemen who were on duty last night.”
The police sources said Gautam, a bachelor who used to work as an LIC agent, had tightened a noose around the neck with his trouser and hanged himself from the ventilator of the bathroom.
Jiten, accompanied by a lawyer, lodged a complaint with the same police station to demand a probe into his brother’s death. The body was handed over to the family after post-mortem at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital.
As the news spread, Congress workers reached the police station, along with relatives and neighbours of Gautam, Rajkumar and Jaswant. They shouted slogans demanding the arrest of the inspector-in-charge and other policemen. At 1pm, the agitators, numbering around 100, came out of the station and disrupted traffic on Hill Cart Road.
When the blockade was going on, former Darjeeling district Congress president Shankar Malakar and deputy magistrate Achinta Das reached the police station at 3pm and held a meeting with Kunal Agarwal, the additional superintendent of police, Siliguri, and other police officers. Half an hour later, Malakar came out and announced the authorities’ assurance of a fair probe.
“We have talked to senior police officials and demanded a judicial inquiry and action against those who were responsible for Gautam’s death in 24 hours. They have promised an investigation and considering people’s inconvenience, we are withdrawing the road blockade. We will meet the police officers after 24 hours and if there is no progress in the probe, we will lock the police station and intensify the agitation,” said Malakar.
The road was blocked once again for 30 minutes from 7.30pm with Gautam’s relatives and residents of Prakashnagar reaching Gurunbusti with his body. A police contingent, led by the circle inspector of Bagdogra, Gautam Ghosh, managed to convince the agitators that the police were looking into the case with “utmost seriousness” and dispersed the crowd.
SP orders probe
D.P. Singh, the superintendent of police of Darjeeling, said a probe would be conducted and reports had been sought from the senior police officers.
“We are not downplaying the custodial death. We have been told that he was found hanging in the bathroom of the lockup,” he said. “Nevertheless, we have sought separate reports from the ASP and the DSP and based on their findings, necessary action will be taken. There is a CCTV camera in the lockup and we will check the footage.”
COAS visit to St Paul's School
KalimNews, (PR), Darjeeling:St. Paul's School, Darjeeling was honoured to have the presence of  General VK Singh, Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Yudh Sena Medal, Aide-de-Camp, Chief of the Army Staff on the occasion of the Annual Speech Day of the school on 29th November 2010.   Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Sena Medal, Vishisht Seva Medal, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Command and many other senior civilian and military dignitaries were present on the occasion. 
Thanking the Chief, the Rector of the school, Mr Carol Joseph said that the Chief’s visit is a singular honour and a historical event for their institution and a matter of great pride and motivation for the children.  The Chief in his address commended the efforts put in by the school in grooming students with well rounded personalities.  He also added that institutions like St Paul’s School provide an ideal foundation; based on ethos, knowledge and principles, which ensures that the young generation selflessly contributes towards the society and nation building.  
While giving away the prizes to meritorious students and interacting with the teachers, parents & children, the Chief said that future of the nation lies in the ‘ignited minds’ of these children and he is sanguine that each one of them is going to make the country proud one day. (courtesy: Mahesh Gurung)
Coffee replaces paddy for more profit
Rajeev Ravidas, TT, Kalimpong, Nov. 29: What tea is to Darjeeling, will coffee be to Kalimpong? A few more years and the answer will be there but for now the seeds of such a possibility have been planted.
Bongbusty, a picturesque village with terraced paddy fields, 3km from here, is where a project to introduce coffee farming in the hills has begun.
The experiment was started two years ago when Gopal Dixit and his brother Robin of Dixitgaon in Bongbusty replaced paddy plants with coffee seedlings in their fields.
The idea of cultivating coffee came from their cousin Deo Dixit, a coffee consultant based in Bhutan.
“We had been planting paddy in our fields for years. However, diminishing yield and non-availability of farm hands had made it non-sustainable. This is why we decided to experiment with coffee on a small scale,” said Gopal.
The Dixits have planted coffee seeds on their 6-acre plot. The trees are now two years old and they will take another year or two to mature.
“An acre of land can accommodate around 700 to 2,000 trees depending on the space between the plants and the variety of coffee. An acre of land can yield between 500 and 1,000kg of green beans,” said Deo. He said 1kg of green coffee beans could fetch between $3 and $5 in the international market.
The Dixits have planted Arabica coffee in their field.
“Arabica is a better variety of coffee and is grown in higher altitudes. The climate of Kalimpong is nice and warm and is right for coffee plantation. Many people here grow coffee as an ornamental plant in their gardens. I have hand crushed some of the beans and tasted them. They are really good,” said Deo.
He added that if the coffee experiment is successful then it could be good news for the farmers here.
“Coffee plants do not require much looking after. The money from selling the beans also remains with the farmers. A large number of people from the rural areas will also be gainfully employed,” he added.
Residents of Bongbusty are waiting for the experiment to bear fruit before they too wake up to the prospect of maximising profits from the land by planting coffee.
“If the experiment is successful and coffee farming gets necessary support from all people concerned, then Kalimpong can be on the coffee map of the world,” said Deo.
Review workshop for ‘Eco Navigators’
KalimNews, Prabin khaling, Gangtok,29 Nov:A review workshop regarding the progress on Eco Navigators – an environment education resource material was organized by WWF – India at Teen Taley Resort near Rumtek on 28-29th November. The Eco Navigators had been initiated in 14 schools of Sikkim by WWF – India as part of their Environment Education Programme on a pilot basis since July 2010, after an initial orientation of the teachers on using the material. The main objective of organizing the workshop was to gauge the progress in each of the pilot schools regarding the implementation of the kit, and get feedback from the teachers which would lead to development of future plans and strategies for the next year. 10 teachers from 6 schools (Palzor Namgyal School, Tadong Senior Secondary School, Central Pandam School, Geyzing SS School, Mangan SS School, Enchey Senior Secondary School and Phodong SS School participated in the review meeting.
The programme for day one took the participants through a brief background of the EE resource material that gave information on how it was developed with the help of teachers. The teachers then worked in groups to discuss on the various questions that were put forward to gauge the status and the problems / challenges that were faced by them during implementation of the kit. Most of the teachers gave very positive feedback about their experiences of using the resource material and that the children enjoyed participating in many of the activities, while gaining valuable lessons from them. Audiovisuals, which formed an important part of the resource material, were felt to be an excellent medium for teaching, and most teachers requested for more to be added for the coming year.
Day two of the workshop focused more on the future steps and how the implementation could be upscaled to a certain level to reach out to a larger group of student. Inclusion of more schools as pilots for the second year was the general opinion of the participating teachers. Since waste management was felt as an important issue most schools were grappling with, the concept of zero waste management was also introduced to them by resource person Mr. Nima Tashi from KCC, who gave the example of the initiative being taken up at Yuksam for the trekking trail. Taking forward from here, the idea of setting up some schools as models of proper waste management sites at a small scale was put forward, and which will implemented in the coming year.
The resource material will be improved for next year based on the feedback from the teachers at the workshop and again handed over to the different schools for implementation for the next session.
Tea workers in govt dues cry
TT, Jalpaiguri, Nov. 29: About hundred workers from the closed Dheklapara tea garden and the sick Mujnai tea estate gathered at the district collectorate here today demanding their dues under two central government schemes.
Workers of Dheklapara Tea Estate said they were yet to be paid money under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and the Financial Assistance to Workers of Locked Out Industries (FAWLOI).
Basanti Tanti, a worker of Dheklapara that has been closed since 2002, said the operating and management committee sold tealeaves weighing between 500 and 1,000 kilos during the season.
“We get around Rs 30-40 a day from the OMC by plucking and sorting leaves. But only three days are allotted for work in a week. We are also denied money under a central scheme to provide assistance to workers of closed gardens. Although we worked for 21 days between April and November under the NREGS, we haven’t been paid the wages yet,” she said.
Another Dheklapara labourer, Lakshman Munda, said the garden dwellers were dependant on the work under the employment guarantee programme. “We are not getting the full quota of 100-days work that the scheme guarantees for a year,” said Munda. He said payments for June, July and August under the FAWLOI had been last made just before the Pujas. A worker gets Rs 1,000 a month under the FAWLOI.
A worker of the Integrated Child Development Services in Mujnai tea garden, Krishna Chhetri, said: “The labourers have not got work under the NREGS in the past five months and many of them are breaking boulders on the riverbeds.”
Both Dheklapara and Mujnai estates are located in Madarihat block.
As district magistrate Vandana Yadav was away, the workers met additional district magistrate (general), Doma Sherpa, who listened to their demands.
“Last year, Jalpaiguri topped the list of districts implementing the NREGS in the state by providing 64 days of work. This year, the Centre has been releasing funds slowly,” said Sherpa.
He said the dues would be cleared by the first week of December and after that, new work would be allotted under the NREGS. 
Delay finger at forest

TT, Siliguri, Nov. 29: The railways have blamed the forest department for non-implementation of decisions taken in a joint meeting after the deaths of seven elephants on the Dooars tracks in September.
“Three days after the incident on September 22, a joint meeting was held in Gorumara National Park,” said S. Singh, the divisional railway manager of Alipurduar, which falls under the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR). “A number of decisions, aimed to curb the risk of elephants being hit by trains, were taken in the meeting. None of these have been implemented so far and since then, there has been no response from the forest department.”
The meeting had decided that a forester would be posted at the control room in Alipurduar so that he can pass on the information about elephant herds to his men. “No one has been deputed by the forest department so far,” Singh said. “On our part, we have been regulating the speed of the trains on the routes as decided in the meeting.”
The DRM said clearing vegetation from an area of 30 metres on both sides of the track would have increased the visibility of drivers but it was not done. “A joint survey to identify the corridors through which elephants cross the tracks but are not known to us was supposed to be taken up. But no move by the forest department has been witnessed so far,” Singh said.
Foresters said clearing of vegetation on both sides of the tracks had begun and was expected to be completed soon. S.B. Patel, the chief conservator of forests (wildlife) of north Bengal, said: “We have forwarded the proposal to depute a man at the railway control room to our seniors. However, information is being exchanged at the grass roots levels, that is, between range officers and station masters of all stations between Siliguri Junction and Alipurduar regularly.”
Residential certificate issue
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Darjeeling boy arrested

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One found dead in Ramphu

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Green glare on new rail link- Minister cites threat to wildlife to oppose train lines to Bhutan
Avijit Sinha, Siliguri, Nov. 29: The state forest department will oppose any move by the railways to extend the Dooars rail route to Bhutan as it will pose threats to the wildlife, minister Ananta Roy has said.
The opposition from the government came close on the heels of the deaths of seven elephants on the Dooars rail tracks on September 22.
The Northeast Frontier Railway had planned to extend the railway lines from Banarhat and Hashimara to Samtse and Phuentsholing in Bhutan following an agreement between the two countries.
“We will oppose any move by the railways to extend the network to the bordering towns of Bhutan because the alignment is through the forests and the elephant corridors. If train services start on these routes (Banarhat-Samtse and Hashimara-Phuentsholing), more animals, particularly elephants, will be hit by trains,” Roy told The Telegraph. “Under the rules, the railways will have to obtain permission from the Supreme Court if it want to construct lines in forest areas.”
The minister, however, did not elaborate much on the rules.

In 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Bhutan king had signed an agreement to extend the railway link to the Himalayan kingdom as a gesture of friendship to mark the golden jubilee of Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to Bhutan. It was decided that the lines would be extended from five stations — the other three routes being Kokrajhar-Gelephu, Pathsala-Naglam and Rangia-Samdrupjongkhar via Darrang, all originating from Assam.
Railway officials said the survey on the three stretches of Assam was complete but a similar exercise in Bengal was held up because of land encroachment.
“We own land on the two stretches (of Bengal) but they are already encroached upon by a number of families. When we discussed the project with the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri and the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri, we were assured that an alternative land would be provided,” said S. Singh, the divisional railway manager of Alipurduar which falls under the NFR. “We agreed to it but now we have no clue about the statements made by the forest department.”
Residents of the Dooars, who are unhappy with the consistent campaign by state ministers to regulate movement of trains and divert some from the Dooars route to stop elephant deaths on tracks, have described the opposition by the forest department as another conspiracy.
“The state government is trying to derail a railway project out of political vengeance using the wildlife as an excuse. The forest department has failed miserably to protect the wildlife and is now trying to hide its failure and create hindrance for the railways,” said Prabhat Dey, the secretary of the Dooars East West Corridor Movement Committee. “We will, however, not tolerate such political interferences that can stop the development process in the Dooars.”

Hunger strike for jobs
TT, Jalpaiguri, Nov. 29: Four tribal youths started an indefinite hunger strike on the premises of the district primary school council today, demanding their immediate appointment as contract teachers.
According to the agitators, all residents of Banarhat in Dhupguri block, they had appeared for an interview in a school at Chamurchi near Banarhat in April. They were also empanelled for the job. Later, they learnt that the selection had been cancelled. DPSC officials, however, said no fresh recruitment could be carried out immediately owing to some government orders. The district magistrate has been informed about the protest.

Gaur panic
TT, Jaigaon: Two adult gaurs and a calf entered Dharanipur Tea Estate in the Dooars on Monday morning, spreading panic among people. The animals entered the garden from the nearby Diana forests. In the evening, foresters from the Jalpaiguri wildlife division steered the gaurs back to the forest by bursting crackers.

TT, Balurghat: Members of the Janawadi Forward Bloc waved black flags at the state minister for jails Biswanath Chowdhury on Monday to protest alleged irregularities by the members of the committee of the regulated market here. The minister had come to inaugurate 70 stalls at the regulated market.

TT, Siliguri: State backward classes welfare department will give Dr B.R. Ambedkar talent awards to SC and ST students of all districts in north Bengal who have passed the Madhyamik examinations with good marks this year. The programme will be held at the Siliguri Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday. Ministers Asok Bhattacharya, Paresh Adhikary, Ananta Roy and Jogesh Burman will distribute cash prizes and certificates to the students.

Ganja seized
TT, Siliguri: Khoribari police arrested a person from Gondogoljote on the Indo-Nepal border on Monday and seized 60kg of cannabis from him.

CM arrogant: Partha
TT, Calcutta, Nov. 29: Partha Chatterjee today branded the chief minister “arrogant and hot-headed” a day after Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had blamed the “hotheads” in the CPM for the party’s alienation from the people.
“The chief minister had said yesterday that there was no room for hotheads in his party. What about his own behaviour?” the Trinamul Congress leader told reporters at the party headquarters in Topsia.
Chatterjee recalled how the chief minister had described the CPM’s “recapture” of Nandigram in November 2007.
“He had said Trinamul supporters had been ‘paid back in the same coin’. Buddhababu himself is arrogant,” the Trinamul leader said.
“Buddhababu had said, ‘If they throw bricks at us, we will respond with bricks’. If this is not an example of hot-headedness, what is?”
Chatterjee said that since Bhattacharjee had “owned up his party has made mistakes, he should resign”.
The leader of the Opposition alleged: “Three generations have been crippled by the policies and attitude of the CPM and its members.”
He said the Left Front’s losses in the recent elections in the state were a pointer to the fact that it had “lost the moral right to remain in power”.
Preeti Thapa crowned 3rd ‘Miss Eclectic Model 2010’

Miss Eclectic Model 2010 Preeti Thapa (Centre)
being flanked by 1st runner up Rituparna Lahkar
(Left) and Rajkanya Baruah (Right) at the grand
finale of the Pond's White Beauty Eclectic Model
Hunt 2010 at ITA Machkhowa in Guwahati, Assam
on Saturday night. Photo by- Nanda Kirati Dewan

Archana  Rai, KalimNews, Guwahati:
Miss. Preeti Thapa a Gorkha girl has been crowned  3rd ‘Miss Eclectic Model 2010’ at a glittering function held at Pragjyoti ITA Centre for Performing arts, Machkhowa, Guwahati on Nov 27, 2010 organised by Electic Group’s magazine The Electic Times. Rituparna Lahkar and Rajkanya Baruah who were the winners, the first and the second runners’ up respectively. Two of the winners Preeti and Rituparna  has qualified for direct  entry to the Femina Miss India East. There were lots of other prizes in store for the winners apart from the cash awards. The Pond’s White Beauty Eclectic Model Hunt 2010 also awarded a few other subtitles to the following seven contestants - Rajkanya Baruah as Miss Talented and Miss Catwalk, Smriti Mahanta as Miss Photogenic, Preeti Thapa as Miss Congeniality, Rituparna Lahkar as Miss Communicator, Eugenia Am Shullai as Miss Best Skin and Chandrashruti Bhattacharya as Miss Personality.

For the first time ever in Northeast, a beauty pageant of this stature was aired live on television! The grand finale of the Pond’s White beauty Eclectic Model Hunt 2010 was viewed by people from all over, thanks to television partner Rang, apart from those lucky ones present there at the Pragjyoti ITA Centre for Performing arts, Machkhowa, Guwahati on Nov 27, 2010.
The evening geared up with the lighting of the ceremonial lamp by the chief guest, the Governor of Meghalaya, His Excellency, Sri Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary (retired IPS) and the Guest of Honour, Kumar Sanjay Krishna, IAS, Principal Secretary, Planning and Development, Govt Of Assam. With eminent names in the panel of judges like supermodel cum actress, Dipannita Sharma Atwal, renowned model from Sikkim, Paljor Gyabak, designer Julie Kagti, bureaucrat and writer Dhruba Hazarika and national award winning actress Moloya Goswami, there were four rounds of fashion shows in all where the beautiful girls displayed their beauty, poise and intelligence. The fashion rounds displayed Saris by Bangalore based designer Julie Kagti, casual dresses by Dhiraj Deka from Bibhusha, fusion wear by Gallery 2000 designed by Payal Chadha and gowns by the students of JD Institute of Fashion Technology, Guwahati. To add a different flavour to the event, there were stunning performances like the Prayer Dance (Shiva Stuti) choreographed by noted Bharatnatyam and Sattriya dancer Indira P.P. Bora, to begin the show with; a dance drama by the Royal Dance Group, hoola-hoop dancer Prachi Garud and last but not the least, Rudy Wallang and Tipriti from the famous blues band, Soulmate! The show ended with the announcement of the winners for this year’s results.  The title sponsor for the Eclectic Model Hunt 2010 was Pond’s White Beauty, the associates sponsor was Manikchand and sons Jewllers with Bhoruka Aluminimu Ltd. coming in as a supporting sponsor. Along with Radio Partner Big FM 92.7, the other partners for the event were Outreach, VLCC, Bhabani Digitals, Dish TV, Caps, Hotel Kiranshree Portico, Sanzz Mobile and Tattva creations.(courtesy: Archana Rai)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Morcha fights teacher poll

Set-up by Dec. 20 or back to statehood: Morcha Locks and rallies till deadline
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Nov. 28: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today set a December 20 deadline for the state and the Centre to finalise the interim authority failing which it will launch an agitation starting with a 48-hour general strike from the next day.
The party also warned that this time the agitation would be for a “final solution” or statehood.
To keep the momentum going till the deadline, the Morcha, perhaps buoyed by the presence of thousands of supporters — the hill town looked shut from 11am to 4pm — at the Darjeeling Motor Stand today, has also decided to organise a series of rallies and public meetings from December 5.
The party also announced that it would shut down all government offices, except for the chambers of the district magistrate and the superintendent of police, from December 6.
Addressing the meeting at the Motor Stand, Morcha president Bimal Gurung said he had not forgotten the ultimate goal. “I am happy to see such a huge gathering and I want to assure our people that we have not forgotten our ultimate goal. We respect the leaders who are governing the country and the governments. This is why we are accepting their proposal for an interim set-up, but on our terms, for two years.”
In a clear move to put pressure on both the state and the Centre, Gurung said the hills would wait only till December 20. “We had not asked for the interim set-up, it was the government’s idea. If they can’t implement it by December 20, we will go in for a final solution (statehood). “The agitation for the final solution will start with a 48-hour general strike in the hills from December 21.”
Gurung’s threat is an indication that he wants the interim set-up at the earliest. “Perhaps he also wants to pressure the government to accept all his demands,” said an observer.
The rallies from December 5 will be held to demand the inclusion of the tauzi department in the interim set-up, one of the contentious issues that the Morcha and the government are yet to thrash out.
“Leaders must also submit memorandums to the district magistrate everyday to demand the inclusion of the tauzi department in the interim set-up,” said Gurung. “From December 6, all government offices except for the chambers of the district magistrate and the superintendent of police will remain closed.”
Taking potshots at “intellectuals” and the “opposition” parties, he said: “I had tried to seek help from everybody when I first floated the party. They all promised to help but did nothing at the end except for opposing us. I had even offered to make R.B. Rai, (of the CPRM) the Morcha general secretary but he had rejected the offer,” said Gurung.
Among the “intellectuals”, Sikkim University vice-chancellor Mahindra P. Lama, a native of Darjeeling, was in the line of fire. “I had wanted M.P. Lama to play an active role in the party but he said he was in service. He occupies an important chair in Sikkim. But has he done anything for the people of Darjeeling?” But even then “M.P. Lama might be the person whom we would want in the interim-set-up,” said Gurung.
R.B. Rai admitted that Gurung had offered him the general secretary’s post. “It was not a formal offer but there were such a talk. I being a Communist leader have my own ideologies. It was impossible for me to join them.”
The Morcha president said he would once again try and hold an all-party meeting to convince “opposition” outfits the benefits of the interim set-up. He had made a similar offer to all the political parties earlier this month but it was rejected by the Democratic Front, an anti-Morcha conglomeration.
Later a panel discussion on the pros and cons of the interim authority was hosted by an apolitical organisation. The ABGL and the GNLF (C) along with the Morcha’s Roshan Giri had participated in the discussion. The CPRM had stayed away.
Ghising on hill status
TT, Siliguri, Nov. 28: Subash Ghisingh today stoked up the Sixth Schedule status issue, saying it was the ultimate solution for Darjeeling. The GNLF chief also said he would visit the hills “shortly”.
Ghisingh, who had initiated the Gorkhaland movement in the 80s, is opposed to the interim set-up that the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha now wants for the hills.
“There is no justification for an interim set-up or a dialogue in this regard as on December 6, 2005, I had signed an accord with the Centre for conferring the Sixth Schedule status on Darjeeling. If the status is granted, the hills will automatically get an autonomous set-up,” Ghisingh said here after a meeting. About 200 GNLF supporters from different parts of Kurseong subdivision attended the meet in a hall here.
Ghisingh, whose writ no longer runs in the hills, had paid a heavy price when he accepted a proposal to confer the Sixth Schedule status on the hills. The Centre, the state and Ghisingh’s GNLF had signed a memorandum of settlement, which could not be implemented because of opposition in the hills. The resultant vacuum had helped Morcha’s Bimal Gurung undermine Ghisingh’s authority and project himself as an alternative power.
When asked whether the Centre and the state had done wrong by inviting the Morcha for a dialogue, Ghisingh said: “It should not have been done.” The GNLF chief assured his supporters that the Sixth Schedule would protect the rights of different communities in the hills. “I had a plan to return to the hills during Dussehra but postponed it following a request from the administration. But I will go to Darjeeling shortly,” he said.
Morcha fights teacher poll
TT, Jalpaiguri, Nov. 28: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has fielded three candidates in the elections to the Jalpaiguri district primary school council, a CPM-dominated body alleged to have resorted to nepotism while recruiting teachers a few months ago.
The hill outfit had reached an understanding with the Progressive People’s Party, a breakaway faction of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, for fielding candidates in the tribal-dominated Dooars. “During the past three decades of the Left Front rule, the Nepali and Hindi-speaking people of the Dooars have been neglected as no new schools and colleges were established in the region,” said Samuel Gurung, the convener of the Morcha’s Terai-Dooars coordination committee.
Kiran Kalindi, the PPP president, said the Morcha fielded three candidates in Alipurduar and his party contested three seats in Malbazar.
The elections to the district primary school councils were held throughout the state today. A court case had held up the elections for six years. The polls were last held in 2004.
In Jalpaiguri, 31 candidates took part in elections to the nine seats, three each from Alipurduar, Malbazar and Sadar subdivisions. The voters comprised 6,277 government primary teachers. Counting will begin on December 2.
Jalpaiguri district Congress leader Prabir Bandyopadhyay said: “The CPM did what it wanted and appointed the chairperson from within the party in the previous board. However, when the nepotism was unearthed and the chairperson was removed in August, we decided to fight the polls.”
The district secretary of the CPM-dominated All Bengal Primary Teachers’ Association, Biren Sikdar, said the Opposition participation would not impact the elections much.
Cong shuns ‘Sikkim’ tag on outsiders
- Withdraw notification on residential certificate: Rivals
TT, Gangtok, Nov. 28: The decision of the Sikkim Democratic Front-led government to authorise district administrations to distribute residential certificates has triggered protests with rival Congress accusing the ruling party of trying to establish outsiders as Sikkimese for political gains.
Sikkim Pradesh Congress president Nar Bahadur Bhandari said his party would launch awareness campaigns from December 1 in three districts, except for the least populated North district, to protest the manner of distributing RCs.
Although the government has not yet spelt out the benefits of an RC, the BJP and the Congress have alleged that such certificates will lead to the influx of outsiders. The parties had already submitted a memorandum to the governor, demanding that the notification on the distribution of RCs be withdrawn.
“The state government is trying to give Sikkim Subject Certificate rights to outsiders through residential certificates for political gains. Pawan Chamling has understood that he will not get votes from the real Sikkimese and hence, he is attempting to give rights to outsiders on a par with Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalis of Sikkimese origin to win the next Assembly elections. It is just a ploy to stay in power and if the Sikkimese janta do not understand this, they will regret in future,” said Bhandari.
In the Himalayan state, those possessing Certificate of Identification — known as Sikkim Subject Certificate during the time of the Chogyals — are considered “Sikkimese” and enjoy special privileges like exemption from Income Tax. The Subject Certificates were last granted before Sikkim merged with India in 1975 and have since been passed from generation to generation as Certificate of Identification.
Earlier this month, the government notified some eligibility criteria under which RCs could be got from the district collectors and additional district collectors concerned.
According to the notification, a person who has established beyond doubt that he or she was a resident of Sikkim as on April 26, 1975, and has been residing here since then is eligible for the certificate. The descendants of such persons are also entitled to RCs.
Such certificate can also be issued to a person if he or she is or was a regular employee of the Sikkim government and is settled therein.
The descendants of such persons are also entitled to get the certificate.
Similarly, persons who are natural or legal descendants of Sikkimese women and are residents of the state since birth, too, can be issued such a certificate.
The final category for eligibility is a person whose spouse is eligible to such a certificate under any of the above mentioned categories and is a citizen of India and a resident of the state.
Residential certificates were issued earlier too but only on specific grounds and there was no format under which one could apply for such certificates. “Earlier such certificates were given to people who needed them to open bank accounts or to apply for passports,” a Sikkim government official said.
The Congress has alleged that the notification would establish the non-Sikkimese as Sikkimese
“Starting from December 1 to 26, we will conduct public meetings at several places in Sikkim to expose the conspiracy of the SDF government. We will tell the people that the residential certificate notification is anti-Sikkimese and in the favour of non-Sikkimese. The notification is establishing the non-Sikkimese as Sikkimese,” said Bhandari.
More funds wanted for jumbos on rise
TT, Alipurduar, Nov. 28: The forest department is planning to approach Project Elephant to help improve the habitat of the jumbos in the Buxa Tiger Reserve, where the animal’s number has gone up from 150 in 2007 to at least 210 this year.
A portion of the tiger reserve, spread across about 978sqkm between the Torsa and Sankosh rivers, was declared the Eastern Dooars Elephant Reserve under Project Elephant in 2002. The only other elephant reserve in Bengal is Mayurjharna in West Midnapore.
“We had counted 150-odd elephants in Buxa in the last census in 2007. This time, the number has already surpassed 210 on the first day of the count on November 24. After the completion of the process, the number of elephants are expected to reach the 250 mark,” said R.P. Saini, the field director of the tiger reserve.
The officer said the collected data would be sifted to find out the age groups of the elephants and to get a better picture of the distribution of the herds. “It will take a month to complete the analysis,” said Saini.
“After we get the full census results, we will send a report to Project Elephant for funds to better the improvement of the habitat and to create more fodder inside the forest so that the animals do not stray into human settlements,” said Saini.
Project Elephant was launched by the central government in 1992 to protect the jumbo’s habitat and corridors and to address issues of man-animal conflict.
The field director said a major problem the elephants faced in the reserve was absence of enough fodder. “There are 38 villages and 44 tea gardens in and around the reserve and we have to tell the people living there not to allow cattle to stray into the forest and instead, to go in for stall-feeding. The cattle often graze on grass meant for elephants,” said the field director.
He also said residents of tea gardens were cultivating crops, which were attracting the elephants.
According to Saini, the elephants often migrate from Bengal to Bhutan and Assam and during the current census, it came to light that at least 15 jumbos had entered the neighbouring country.
General visit
TT, Darjeeling: Army chief Gen.V.K. Singh will visit Darjeeling on Monday. He will be the chief guest at the Speech Day of St Paul’s School.
Joint raid nets mobile gang

TT, Raiganj, Nov. 28: A nine-member gang which used to rob computer and cellphone shops in metros was arrested in a joint operation by Raiganj police and the Lalbazar’s detective department yesterday.
North Dinajpur superintendent of police Milon Das said the gang members are residents of Sitamarhi and Motihari districts of Bihar.
“For the past two years, the gang has been stealing cellphones and computers from shops in Calcutta, Delhi and Mumbai. We have seized eight handsets and the tools the robbers used to break locks and gates,” said Das.
According to the district police chief, the detective department of Calcutta police had informed him about a week ago that some members of the gang were in Raiganj and they could strike shops in town.
Sources said the police had traced the gangsters to Raiganj after tracking the mobile phone of one of them. All police stations in the district were alerted and a hunt was launched to track down the gang members.
“We started keeping a watch on hotels in Raiganj. For the past one week or so, a lot of weddings have been taking place and many people are on the streets till late at night. About four days ago, a police patrol had spotted five youths roaming in town at midnight. When we asked the youths why they were out at night, they replied that they had gone to Bidhannagar to attend a wedding and were returning to a hotel in Mohanbati,” said an investigating officer.
The police realised that the youths were lying because the place they had said they were returning to was in the direction where they were coming from.
“We started keeping tabs on them. The next day, the group split into two and checked in two hotels near the railway station. Inquiries revealed that they had told the hotel staff that they had come to attend a wedding. We informed the Lalbazar police. The youths were arrested,” he said.
While six persons were picked up from the hotels, three were picked up from the railway station.
The youths confessed to the police that they had stolen cellphones and computers from shops in Delhi, Mumbai and also at Muchipara, Shyampukur and Gariahat in Calcutta.
The police said the gang was also planning to rob the stores in Raiganj.
“The group takes advantage of the wedding season to roam around at night to check out stores and to find whether there are night guards in an area. After stealing the items, the robbers hand them over to link men who in turn sell them in Nepal and Bangladesh. We have come to know about the local link man and are looking for him,” said an officer.
The nine were produced before a chief judicial magistrate yesterday evening and handed over to the Calcutta police on transit bail.
Buddha tells CPM hotheads to exit  CM blasts arrogant attitude
TT, Barrackpore, Nov. 28: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today asked “hotheads” in his party to “get out”, saying their “arrogance” had led to the CPM’s alienation from the people.
“Many of our party functionaries and workers have done things which the people have not accepted. They (the functionaries) have been arrogant and bossy,” the chief minister told a rally in North 24-Parganas, where the party has been hit by bitter factionalism and defeats in the last Lok Sabha elections.
“If there is a mistake,” Bhattacharjee said at the rally in Barrackpore, “one has to learn a lesson from it with heads bowed. Those with hotheads get out.”
Even though the chief minister’s immediate targets appeared to be former party MP and Barrackpore strongman Tarit Topdar and his followers, Bhattacharjee could also have had a few other district leaders in mind. Party sources said several CPM leaders blamed Topdar for the Citu’s “alienation” from the workers in the Barrackpore industrial belt.
Kalyan Mukherjee, the former secretary of the local committee of the CPM in North 24-Parganas’ Khardah, was suspended earlier this year for “misusing” his party position.
The long-standing factional feud between Amitava Nandy, a former Dum Dum MP, and Amitava Bose, the CPM district secretary, has also affected the party’s image. When the BJP’s Tapan Sikdar won the Dum Dum seat in successive Lok Sabha polls in 1998 and 1999, the late Subhas Chakraborty had said factionalism was one of the causes for the defeat.
Party insiders said this was probably the first time the chief minister had been so vocal against “those who have tarnished the party’s image with their rude and indecent behaviour with the people”.
A party leader said Bhattacharjee’s “outburst” was in keeping with the CPM’s “ongoing rectification drive to weed out undesirable elements”. The leader said a section of the party believed that such “misdemeanours” had cost the CPM dear in the recent elections.
A CPM district secretariat member said one of the reasons for the party’s “disconnect” with the people was the “haughty attitude” of some leaders and workers. “Our immediate job before next year’s Assembly elections is to re-establish contact with the masses through door-to-door campaigns,” he said.
The leader said the CPM planned to “drive out those activists who have created a barrier between our party and the people”. The chief minister, he said, today sent this message to “those indulging in factional politics” in North 24-Parganas.
At the Barrackpore rally, Bhattacharjee also touched upon the CPM’s pet issues. He accused the Trinamul Congress of being “hand in glove with Maoists”.
He alleged Trinamul had on Friday held a rally with Maoists in Jhargram, probably referring to the one Tamluk MP Subhendu Adhikari addressed in Sebayatan village, about 5km from Jhargram town.
The chief minister also criticised Trinamul’s idea of “change”. He said: “At a time nearly 10 lakh people are expected to get jobs in Rajarhat, they (Trinamul) are saying they will not allow the township project to continue. What is the meaning of such change?”
He attacked the Congress for “creating two classes in the country — the rich and the poor”.
He added: “Trinamul is with them. Trinamul leaders have not raised their voices against price rise. There is corruption in Delhi but Trinamul is silent.”
Darjeeling tourist spots lying in a shambles
Deep Gazmer, TNN, DARJEELING: Once a must-visit for tourists to Darjeeling, the Rock Garden and Gangamaya Park near Dali, about 4 km from the Hill town, have been lying in a shambles for nearly two years now. 
The two tourist spots, which used to draw up to 10,000 tourists daily in the peak season, were ravaged by Cyclone Aila in May 2009. The spate of political agitations and strikes in the Hills has ensured that neither DGHC nor the state government has undertaken a project since then to revamp and renovate them. 
A brainchild of Subash Ghisingh, the garden was a major attraction in Darjeeling. "I had heard a lot about the two spots from friends who had visited them. But I had a harrowing time reaching there as the roads are terrible," said Keshav Majhi, a tourist from Jharkhand. 
The road through scenic tea gardens is now a cluster of potholes. In fact, on some stretches tourists prefer to walk it down as they fear the vehicle might overturn. 
The Gangamaya Park is closed to tourists. The Park used to have boating facilities, eateries and natural flower gardens but much of it was damaged by Aila. 
DGHC officials admitted that work has started off said that an estimate of `5.6 crores had been prepared for restoring the two destinations. The proposal is yet to be handed over to the state government. "The devastation is extensive and massive renovation work is required. We have completed a proposal with estimates that will be sent to the state government soon," said P T Sherpa, the DGHC tourism secretary. 
"Our only source of income was the two tourist spots. It is really sad to see that the DGHC and state government have done nothing for the parks," said Dhanmaya Rai.