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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Morcha invite to spot gaps - Gurung wants rivals to point out drawbacks . Rift in ABAVP .. Call for central rule post set-up ...School kids with cash go missing

3rd Foundation Day of Janmukti Asthayi Karmachari Sangathan a frontal wing of GJMM and an Union of temporary workers of DGHC celebrated in Kalimpong.

TT, Kalimpong, Nov. 17: Bimal Gurung today said he would invite all rival outfits to a meeting this month to give them a chance to point out the drawbacks in the interim set-up proposed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. The Morcha president also said he would quit politics if he cannot convince his opponents about the merits of the interim authority at the meeting.
Bimal Gurung addresses the crowd at the Mela Ground in Kalimpong on Wednesday. Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha
Gurung, who was attending the third foundation day celebration of the Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan (JAKS), a Morcha affiliate, at the Mela Ground here, said: “We will allow the opposition to point out the shortcomings in the interim set-up (at the meeting). If we are unable to explain the interim set-up to them (opposition), I will quit politics.” The gathering comprised DGHC ad hoc employees and party supporters.
The Morcha president said party spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri had been entrusted with the task of organising the all-party meeting. “We will disclose the details of all the 11 rounds of tripartite talks at the meeting. I will also disclose the details of the talks that I had with P. Chidambaram (Union home minister) on November 1,” he said.
Gurung also warned the Centre that if the agreement on the interim administration was not inked by the second week of December, his party would launch an all-out agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland.
“Now there is no need for a political-level talks. The discussion I had with Chidambaram on November 1 was enough. We thrashed out all issues barring matters like the tea garden land, legislative powers and nominations,” he said.
Morcha secretary Roshan Giri, who spoke before Gurung, said the party felt the compulsion to accept the interim set-up after the Centre made it clear that it was impossible to negotiate for Gorkhaland till the Assembly elections in the middle of next year.
“During the two years of the interim administration, we can develop infrastructure and improve the economy of our area. The interim administration will not prejudice the long-standing demand (for separate state) of the Gorkhas,” Giri said.
On the regularisation of jobs of over 6,000 ad hoc employees of the DGHC, the Morcha president suggested that it was almost done.
“I will not call you ad hoc (employees), I will call you permanent employees. You, too, consider yourselves to be permanent employees...Once the interim set-up happens, its first priority will be the regularisation of your jobs,” he said to a big applause from the gathering.
Gurung added that the Centre was willing to grant Rs 102 crore per annum to meet the salary expenses once the ad hoc employees were absorbed but his party wanted Rs 105 crore.
Earlier, JAKS president Machendra Subba blamed GNLF president Subash Ghisingh and DGHC administrator B.L. Meena for the plight of the ad hoc employees. “We are no better off than bonded labourers. Both Ghisingh and Meena did nothing for us — Ghisingh for 21 years and Meena for three years. On this day last year, Meena had promised to start the process of job regularisation, but even after a year nothing has happened,” he said.
Betraying the frustration of the 6,300-strong ad hoc employees, Subba sought the permission of the Morcha president to chase Meena out.
“We will chase Meena out. If the state government grants another extension to him, we will take to the streets,” he said.
Call for central rule post set-up
TT, Siliguri, Nov. 17: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today demanded that the areas proposed to be brought under the interim authority for the hills be ruled by the Centre if a separate state is not formed after the expiry of the set-up in 2012.
The party also wanted the inclusion of six “Gorkha-dominated” wards of Siliguri Municipal Corporation in the interim set-up.
“We understand that the present central government is completely against the formation of small states. So, we are demanding that after the expiry of the proposed interim arrangement in December 2012, the areas earmarked for the autonomous body be brought under the jurisdiction of the Centre, not the state government,” said Shankar Adhikari, the chief convener of the Morcha’s Terai committee.
The statement betrays the Morcha’s realisation that the achievement of Gorkhaland may not be easy, particularly during the tenure of the UPA II.
“Earlier, Morcha president Bimal Gurung had said the Centre might confer the Union Territory status on the hills. And today, Adhikari wanted the Centre to rule the hills and other areas proposed to be put under the interim set-up. Both the statements show that the Morcha leaders are aware of the reality and they will push for the central rule while carrying out a movement for Gorkhaland,” said a political observer.
The Morcha also demanded that six Siliguri wards, too, be brought under the interim arrangement.
“Gorkhas are in majority in these wards, They are supporting our demand for the separate state and want to be brought under the interim set-up,” said Adhikari.
“We had already demanded that the interim set-up should have jurisdiction over 133 mouzas dominated by Gorkhas in the Terai and in Siliguri subdivision. Now we want the inclusion of wards, 2, 3, 41, 42, 45 and 46 in the body.”
The Morcha’s demand for the six wards has met with criticism from all political parties.
“In Indian democracy, the Morcha can claim all the 47 wards of the SMC. But there is no question of surrendering even a single ward to the Morcha or allow their inclusion in the interim set-up,” said Atul Chandra Das, the Congress councillor of Ward 41 and a member, mayor-in-council.
Jibesh Sarkar, a state committee member of the CPM, said: “The Morcha has raised an absurd demand. We feel such demands will only derail the ongoing tripartite talks. We will urge the residents of the six wards not to be provoked by the Morcha, which is trying to create trouble in the plains after losing support in the hills.”
Of the six wards, four are with the Left Front, while the rest are held by the Congress.
Adhikari said like in the hills, a series of programmes would be kicked off in the Terai to consolidate the party’s support base.
“A meeting of the Terai committee members will be held at Salugara on Friday. It will be attended by Bimal Gurung and Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri,” said Adhikari. “Members of the Gorkha Janmukti Nari Morcha will take out a rally from Salbari to Siliguri tomorrow and submit a memorandum to the subdivisional officer on certain demands.”
KalimNews: Another rift in ABAVP resulted into formation of Dooars Terai Adivasi Vikas Parishad. Headed Rajes Lakra as the Secreatry DTAVP was formed in Nagrakatta yesterday. Speaking to the reporters Lakra said ABAVP is not sympathetic to the pains of Adivasis instead it is always playing politics.  He further said that ABAVP always use to give obstruction for any sort of constructive ideas. He said today we decided and formed DTAVP after series of discussions in detail. We will work for the greater interest of our Adivasi people and concentrate mostly on local problems, Lakra Added. Birsa Tirky President of State Committee of ABAVP replied that this will cause any problem and these are the handiworks of divisive forces.
Hills glimpse Roerich canvas 
- See all-weather kanchenjungha through painters’ eyes

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Nov. 17: Mt Kanchenjungha is being seen at its best for some days through the eyes of late Russian painter Nicholas Roerich, enthralling visitors with the peak’s different shades and impressions.
Of the 7,000 paintings drawn by Roerich, around 4,000 were based on the Himalayas and were preserved in Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York and State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow.
A few sketches of the Himalayas have been on display at an exhibition titled Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich — Painters of Kanchenjungha, organised by the Darjeeling Goodwill Centre here.
Roerich had lived in Darjeeling between 1923 and 1925 and again in 1928 before breathing his last at Kulu in Himachal Pradesh in 1947. Svetoslav was the younger son of Roerich and had married actress Devika Rani.
Roerich has been proclaimed the “master of the mountains”, with Rabindranath Tagore considering him a voice for “what every sensitive mind feels about the greatest of al arts, the Art of Living”. Even India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had once described Roerich as a “creative genius”.
Svetoslav was the founder of International Roerich Memorial Trust in Bangalore and the College of Fine Arts at the Bangalore University. He died in 1993.
“There are 41 paintings of Nicholas and five works of Svetoslav on display in Darjeeling. Members of the Darjeeling Art Academy have also displayed their works. We are planning to take these paintings to Gangtok and Calcutta,” said Fiorenza Bortolotti, the co-ordinator of the Goodwill Centre. The exhibition, which began on November 13, will carry on till tomorrow.
Alexander Mazirka, the director of Russian Centre of Science and Culture, Calcutta, and Alena Adamkova, the executive director of Kulu-based International Roerich Memorial Trust, have already visited the exhibition.
Roerich had arrived in Darjeeling in 1923, along with wife Helena and son George, and put up at Talai-Pho-Brang, which belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama and is at present the premises of the Tibetan Refugee Centre here. Helena died in Kalimpong in 1955 and her body was laid to rest at Durpin Dara.
“The first view of Kanchenjungha and other Himalayan peaks gave Roerich such a strong impression that he started to draw incessantly. Between 1924 and 1925, he painted three series of canvas, inspired by the beauty of the region, its history, legends and spirituality,” said Bortolotti.
The Mountain of Five Treasures — Sacred Kanchenjungha is considered one of the finest works of Roerich.
The Goodwill Centre is also celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Roerich Pact of Culture, which was signed in Washington in 1935 in the presence of the then US president F. Roosevelt and 21 other world leaders.
“Through the pact, Nicholas wanted to ensure that there was an international law to protect cultural heritage in case of armed conflict,” said Bortolotti. Roerich was concerned that cultural treasures would be destroyed if a world war broke out.
“India, too, approved the treaty in 1948 but is yet to frame rules and regulations. We hope that will be done soon,” said Bortolotti.
Rush for woollens to fight early Sikkim chill
TT, Gangtok, Nov. 17: Winter has come early in Sikkim.
With snowfall continuing at the higher altitudes of the Himalayan state, the temperature at the lower levels have dipped leading to an increase in the sale of woollens.
The Sikkim capital normally experiences winter in December.
Woollen jackets, mufflers and caps, needed by visitors and local people alike to fight the chill, are selling like hot cakes.
The Gangtok meteorological office said the chill in the air is because of cloud movement over the Bay of Bengal.
The maximum temperature at this time last year was around 19 degrees Celsius. But the mercury has dipped to 14 degrees Celsius for the past one week, said meteorologist B.K. Dutta who has taken charge of the weather office here recently.
The minimum temperature has also dropped to 11 degrees Celsius. Last year, it was around 15 degrees Celsius at this time.
The weatherman said the temperature is likely to increase in the next few days.
“There is constant circulation of clouds from the Bay of Bengal that has brought a cold spell in Sikkim and Darjeeling,” said Dutta.
According to him, the cloud movement is likely to stop in the next couple of days and Gangtok might get to see bright sunny days.
The hill town has been experiencing gloomy and cloudy weather for the past one week with hardly any sun light. With such weather conditions woollen garments are flying off the shelves quickly.
“We have seen good sales for the past two weeks because of the cold weather. People are buying jackets, sweaters, blankets and jumpers,” said Lakpa Sherpa, a shopkeeper at Lall Bazaar. Lakpa buys his products from Delhi.
“There has been early snowfall compared to last year. Tourists are going to Chhangu Lake and Baba Mandir after buying warm jackets from here. The garment dealers are doing a good business,” said Lakpa, also the vice president of Lall Bazaar Hawkers Association.
Last year it snowed in the higher altitudes of Sikkim in December. “We are selling caps and mufflers at Rs 90 and Rs 150 to tourists and the local people. The cold has increased and so have our sales,” said Mohan Prasad, a hawker at Lall Bazaar.
“We heard Yumthang in North Sikkim is colder than Gangtok and so we are buying woollen caps and gloves,” said Sudesh Majhi, a tourist from Calcutta who was buying warm clothes from the market.
Though the shop owners are doing brisk business, they are having to down the shutters early by 6pm because of the sunset at 5pm. Normally shops in the capital are open till 8pm at this time of the year.
With the temperature dropping down to around 10-11 degrees after sunset, taxi drivers too are returning home earlier than usual.
“I have been calling it a day as early as 6.30pm for the past one week now because of the cold weather and lack of customers,” said driver Sunil Chettri. He used to ply his vehicle till 10pm.
Sikkim provides silver lining to a lacklustre film festival
PTI, Kolkata, 17 Nov: Two screenings of Satyajit Ray's controversial documentary Sikkim were the only silver lining in this year's dismal Kolkata Film Festival which barely managed to pull crowds due to a reduction in budget and the number of films.
Organised by the West Bengal Film Centre under the state government, the eight-day 16th KFF ended today with a second screening of Sikkim. A Gangtok court order had halted its further showing after the first on the second day over copyright issues.
Art and Culture Trust of Sikkim, an NGO working for the preservation of ethnic Sikkimese art and culture, who claimed to own the copyright of the film, withdrew their case and allowed the festival authorities to hold one more screening of the film today.
In the absence of big names and decreased audience interest, the second oldest international film festival of India also paid tributes to Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore on his 150th birth anniversary.
Four films ~ Khokababur Pratyabartan, Charulata, Atithi and Streer Patra ~ inspired by Tagore’s stories were screened.
To reflect the importance of literature in the world of cinema, five works of Nobel laureates in literature from across the world were featured in a special section.
A total of 127 movies from 38 countries was presented this year, a sharp drop as against last year's tally of 227.
“But this ensured greater quality in the selection of films. Like all other years, the film festival is a success this time also as it managed to draw the interest of film lovers from the city,” KFF director Mr Nilanjan Chatterjee argued.
The festival budget, over Rs 1 crore last year, was also trimmed this year to Rs 65 lakh as corporate sponsors showed little interest this year in the chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee “pet project”. As many as 25 foreign delegates used to be invited in the film fest earlier, but this year their number was kept limited to only five.
More than half of the films were shown in the DVD format due to high freight rates on the import of 35 mm reels.
“It is not possible to get film prints for all the shows, so we had to go for DVDs, which is easier and cheaper to procure,” said a KFF official.
Film buffs complained of poor video quality after watching some screenings like that of Arghya, a 1961 film by Debaki Kumar Bose. “The quality was terrible making it difficult for anyone to watch the film,” said Debashis Bose, grandson of Debaki Kumar Bose. The twin screenings of Sikkim, however, remained the biggest attraction. The 52-minute documentary, commissioned by the last Chogyal (king) of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal, had dogged controversy ever since it was made by the Oscar-winning director.
The Chogyals first banned the film, made 39 years ago, after a few scenes went against their liking. When the Himalayan kingdom merged with India in 1975, the Indian government also banned it. 
Safaris resume in Gorumara 
- Car owners given 3 months for commercial registration
TT, Nov. 17: The vehicles taking tourists around Gorumara National Park started plying from noon today after police gave car owners three months to convert their private licences to commercial ones.
Since 3pm on Monday, members of the Lataguri Light Vehicle Owners’ Association had not been plying their vehicles inside the forest after the police seized two open-hooded cars from the main gate of the national park just before they were about to enter with tourists. None of the vehicles plied yesterday as well and no tourist could enter the park. There are 60 vehicles that ply in Gorumara.
The police action in Gorumara has also prompted the divisional forest officer of wildlife division III, under whose jurisdiction Jaldapara falls, to direct the vehicle owners to obtain commercial licences to ply their cars in the sanctuary within a month or face a ban.
With the vehicles being allowed to enter Gorumara from today, the resort owners on the fringes of the national park in Jalpaiguri district are relieved as they had apprehended that the impasse would affect their bookings in the peak season.
“We are relieved that the cars are being allowed in Gorumara. We will be happy if the problem is sorted out once and for all,” said Kamal Bhowmick, the president of the Lataguri Private Resort Owners’ Association.
Secretary of the Lataguri vehicle owners’ body Bapi Chanda said last night they had a meeting with the police at the Kranti police outpost where the problem was discussed.
“From September 16 this year, the forest department had banned the plying of diesel-driven vehicles in the national park and the petrol vehicles we had procured are all registered as private cars. The police have given us an assurance that we will be given three months to get our commercial registration done,” Chanda said.
Arindam Sarkar, the subdivisional police officer of Mal, said the three-month grace was given keeping in mind the tourist season.
“We have told the vehicle owners that if they do not get their commercial registration done within three months, we will crack down on them again,” Sarkar said.
Om Prakash, the divisional forest officer of wildlife III, said he was unaware that the eight petrol-driven vehicles plying in Jaldapara, about 80km from Gorumara, did not have commercial registrations.
“When I came to know about the developments in Gorumara, I inquired and found out that the vehicles that enter Jaldapara are also registered as private cars. I will tell their owners to convert them within a month or we will not allow them inside the sanctuary,” Om Prakash said.
Since 2005, only petrol-driven open-hooded vehicles are allowed in Jaldapara.
Yesterday, the conservator of forests, northern circle (Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar), V.K. Sood, said he had instructed the district administration to see that the licence problem was solved on a priority basis. He was visiting the nature interpretation centre in Lataguri, an entry point to Gorumara.
On Monday, the police had arrested two forest guides from Gorumara for wearing army fatigues. “We had given these uniforms to the guards and the guides two years ago. If there is any legal problem, we will rectify it,” Sood had said.
School kids with cash go missing

TT, Jalpaiguri, Nov. 17:Two boys have been missing since they left their homes in Raykatpara for school yesterday morning, allegedly with Rs 30,000 in their pockets.
Police said both of them had told their friends they were leaving town with a lot of cash, a claim that has been denied by the family members of one of the boys.
While one boy is a Class VIII student, the other is a grade junior to him. Both study in the same school in Rajbaripara and are neighbours. The parents of both the boys said they had left for school at 7.30am yesterday and were in their uniforms. However, when the boys did not return home despite school giving over at 2pm, the parents met the authorities of the institution only to be told that they had not shown up for class. Last evening both the families filed missing persons’ complaints with the Kotwali police station.
Mithu Shah, a fish trader, said his son had left home as usual with his school bag. Dhaneswar Mahato, an employee of the state food supply department, echoed him.
The principal of the school said both the students did not come to class yesterday. They had not taken the school bus as well.
Both the boys were average students, the principal said. Shah’s son was admitted to the school this year after taking a transfer from a residential English-medium institution in Malbazar, 65km away.
Mahato said a Class VII student of a Malbazar school had called him on his mobile phone and said both the boys were on their way to some destination outside the state and that Shah’s son had Rs 30,000 with him.
“I dialled up the number once more and asked the boy from Malbazar whether my son and his friend were with him but he said they had left and since then the phone has been switched off,” Mahato said. His wife Neelam said their son had not been scolded or punished — something that could have otherwise prompted his disappearance.
Shah denied that his son was carrying Rs 30,000. “My son has not taken any money from home,”However, Shah admitted that while studying in the residential school in Malbazar, his son had fled from the hostel twice. “I brought him back home so that we could keep an eye on him,” the father said.The inspector-in-charge of Kotwali police station, V. K. Singh, said both the families had filed missing diaries. “We are interrogating both the families and the boys’ friends. We have come to know that one of them is carrying Rs 30,000. The boys have told their friends that they will go either to Mumbai or Allahabad. We have contacted Shah’s relatives in Bihar but have not come up with anything,” the inspector said.
Jalpaiguri police chief Anand Kumar said the photos of the two missing boys were being circulated among the police stations and the GRP in New Jalpaiguri.

Affair whiff in death
TT, Siliguri, Nov. 17:Pradhannagar police recovered the body of a woman at Debidanga, near here, this afternoon and detained a person with whom she allegedly had an affair.
>The deceased, Bimala Rai, 35, was staying in a rented house at Debidanga, 8km from here, for the past three months. “We suspect that the woman was murdered as strangulation mark was found on the body. She had an affair with Arvind Singh of the area. We have detained Singh and an investigation is on,” said an officer of Pradhannagar police station.

Assault arrest

TT, Alipurduar:A CPM member of Hantapara panchayat in Jalpaiguri district was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly assaulting the pradhan of the panchayat, Maya Lama, a few days back. Police said Premlal Oraon had asked Maya to give him Rs 35,000 for his personal use from the funds for the 100-days-work scheme. When Maya refused, Oraon and his friend Sanjoy Mangar assaulted her. Oraon and Mangar have been arrested on the basis of a complaint filed by Maya .

Rail roko

TT, Jalpaiguri: Residents of Nandanpur and Boalmari, around 20km from here, organised a rail roko on Wednesday, demanding halts for the NJP-Haldibari passenger train at the locality. The NJP-bound train was stopped near the village for an hour. The blockade was lifted after railway officials assured the protesters that the demand would be forwarded to the higher authorities.
Heart camp
TT, Siliguri:The Rotary Club of Siliguri will organise a cardiac camp at Pradhannagar here on November 19 and 20. Satyajit Bose, the chairman of Mission Hospital, Durgapur, will be present at the two-day camp, along with cardiologists and cardiac surgeons. Heart screenings, ECG and blood sugar test will be done for free at the camp.
Watch towers to be set up along jumbo corridors
SNS, KOLKATA, 17 NOV: The state forest department is setting up watch towers along the elephant corridor between Siliguri and Alipurduar junction to prevent incidents of elephants being killed by speeding trains.
This comes after the Union ministry of forest and environment directed the department to take steps to prevent jumbo deaths. However, the state forest secretary has also written to the ministry that while the state government is ready to set up 10 watch towers, it would be more effective if night services of trains are suspended along the stretch and the alternative route via Falakata is developed into a double-line.
Yesterday, the Union minister of railways, Miss Mamata Banerjee blamed the state forest department for not alerting the train drivers beforehand which has resulted in several jumbos being killed including seven on a single night on 23 September.
But state forest officials say it was not possible to alert the drivers because it is impossible to even spot the animals during night time. Moreover, the elephants cross the track at 44 spots along the entire elephant corridor and some of these are nearly one kilometre long.
The forest officials also said that the seven elephants who were killed on the same night was hit only 100 metres from a manned level crossing. “Why did this man at the level crossing fail to see the herd? He could have alerted the driver and stopped the train," asked a senior official pointing out that the suggestion from the railway minister was ludicrous.
“Instead, the funds should be used to convert the single line via Falakata into a double-line. Night trains should be stopped altogether. There is no problem about day trains because the elephants take rest during the day,” said the official. The chief minister had drawn the attention of the Union environment and forest minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh about the repeated deaths of elephants on that stretch who agreed to speak to the railway minister on this issue. 
Chief secy briefs guv on financial mess
TOI, KOLKATA: Bengal's frayed finances and the state's law and order situation have been annoying Governor M K Narayanan since long. These two issues, apart from others, were the ones that chief secretary Samar Ghosh had to explain when he called on the governor at Raj Bhavan on Wednesday. While Ghosh was tightlipped about the meeting, sources said discussions were centred around the state's financial health, apart from the overall law and order situation.
Last week, the government hiked VAT by 1%, to 13.5% on a wide range of consumer durables a decision reflective of the government's desperate situation something that could not be avoided just months ahead of the crucial assembly polls.
Dasgupta took yet another decision to increase duty on liquor on Indian Made Foreign Liquor, setting a target of `150 crore by December.
With the situation coming to such a pass and the opposition pressuring the CPM-led government to come clear on the issue, Dasgupta himself refuses to see the current situation as a financial crisis, and has termed it as merely a "problem".
But sources said that the state government is already lobbying with Delhi for clearing `7,000 crore including coal royalty of `4,833 crore for which the state has been blaming the Centre for denying "what is due" to it.
The state also plans to cut down expenses by 10% and save `1,000 crore in the process. Sources said that these are some of the areas that Ghosh presented before the governor.
Several areas in the state constantly on the boil especially due to political clashes and the Maoist problem, were also discussed. 

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