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Saturday, November 27, 2010

KalimNews:Water scarcity started in Kalimpong from the month of November. Since three days there was no supply of drinking water by water works department. Sources said there was no water in the reservoir .
Harvest time (below) in the golden paddy fields of Pedong 28 km away from Kalimpong, photo taken from Rikiksum.
Hill kids get Mumbai call- show & classes for Gandhi ashram students
Rajeev Ravidas, Kalimpong, Nov. 26: A 30-member orchestra of Gandhi Ashram here will go on a 10-day training-cum-performance tour of Mumbai in January, giving a boost to the institution’s reputation as a nursery of western classical music.
“The children will go to Mumbai at the invitation of Chorus, the musical group of the city’s famous St Xavier’s College. They will undergo training for three-four days at the college under expert guidance. During the stay, the students will perform at different schools and other institutions,” said principal of the Ashram Father Jayantilal Patel.
This will be the second visit to the entertainment capital of the country for the Ashram students in six months.
The school’s student musicians had earlier participated in a contest called “India has got talent”, organised by a television channel, and came back with the “most spotless performance” award. The contest was won by Shillong Chamber Choir, which was invited to perform at the state dinner hosted by President Pratibha Patil for her US counterpart Barrack Obama in New Delhi earlier this month.
The principal said the students would get to learn a lot during the Mumbai tour. “Yes, it will be a good exposure tour for our students. Each student will be staying with different families in Mumbai and they will assemble at St Xavier’s for training and practice,” said Father Patel.
The Ashram, run by Jesuits, is for underprivileged children and music is an integral part of the school curriculum. The 245 students of the school — all of whom are day-scholars — are given lessons in violin, cello and viola. The Ashram has classes from UKG to Class VIII. Apart from regular studies, the students have to learn any of the three instruments.
“The students are taught music twice a week on normal days, and for extended period prior to performances,” said the principal. Even though the students learn only western classical music, the orchestra performs popular Bollywood and Nepali numbers also during stage shows.
Founded by late Jesuit priest Father Ed McGuire in 1994, the Ashram has produced talents like Kushmita Biswakarma, who went on to study at the famous Richard Strauss Conservatory in Munich, and teenage sensation Prayash Biswakarma. Both the Biswakarmas play violin.
In fact, two of the Ashram’s present students returned from Germany yesterday after completing a three-week training. “Apart from training, Vikram and Subham also performed in different European countries,” said Father Patel.
The duo are among 38 boarders at the Ashram and are only taught music. They are all students of Class IX or above and go to different schools in town for regular studies.
KalimNews: Bangla O Bangla Bhasa Samity has called a 24 hrs Bengal strike on 20 December. It has been called in protest against the formation of proposed Interim Setup for the settlement of agitation in the Darjeeling hills and the Terai and Dooars.
Stream power for Sikkim - swiss help for mini hydel projects
TT, Gangtok, Nov. 26: The government of Sikkim has taken an initiative to set up mini hydel projects on countless streams in the Himalayan state.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Corporation will give technical assistance to harness the hydel power potential of the streams, which is roughly estimated to be between 400MW and 600MW.
The projects will be implemented by the Sikkim Renewable Energy Development Agency (SREDA). The projects aim at the electrification of villages and the empowerment of rural populace.
“We have tied up with the SDC to develop mini hydel power projects on the streams found in abundance here. The SDC will provide technical expertise for the projects,” said SREDA director L.B. Chhetri. “Four SREDA engineers were trained by the SDC in Nepal last year to execute the projects.”
The director has said the rough estimate of the hydel power potential of streams in Sikkim is between 400 MW and 600 MW. “The concept is to tap the hydel power potential of streams for rural empowerment. Ninety per cent of our streams are in villages. We will set up mini power stations on the streams and will hand them over to village development committees after completion. The committees will be entrusted with collecting revenue and maintaining the stations under the supervision of the SREDA. The revenue can be used for local area development — to maintain village roads and school buildings or to put in place other infrastructure,” said Chhetri.
The thrust on the mini hydel projects stems from the notion that they can play a vital role in the electrification of far-flung hilly areas of Sikkim where power supply through existing grid is difficult and transmission loss is high.
“Right now, we are working in the Upper Hee Khola (stream) in West Sikkim to develop a power station as a pilot project. We don’t know how much power can be generated from the stream. Presently, our engineers are studying the flow of the stream. When the station will be over by 2012-13, we will understand the technology and other aspects required to set up mini hydel projects,” said the SREDA director.
Chhetri said after preparing a detailed project report, the SREDA will approach the ministry of new and renewable energy, the state government, the North East Council and the DoNER for funds.
“The development of mini hydel power stations in the hilly terrain of Sikkim is a strenuous and long-term exercise. Cost of the projects will differ from one area to another,” he said.
Sikkim vehicle leash eats into Bengal tour profit
TT, Siliguri, Nov. 26: A slew of restrictions imposed by Sikkim three years after it signed an agreement with Bengal has forced tourists to incur 15 per cent additional expenditure while visiting the Himalayan state, tour operators have claimed.
Following the restrictions, vehicles from Bengal are now allowed to go to only three Sikkim towns — Gangtok in East, Pelling in West and Namchi in South districts — and forcing the cars to take turnarounds in the landlocked state, consuming more time and cost, said Raj Basu, the chairperson of the advisory committee of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association.
Samrat Sanyal, the president of the association, said earlier if a tourist planned a Gangtok trip from Pelling in Bengal-registered vehicles, permits were given to move through Ravangla. “Now the vehicles need to come down to Melli, take a detour via Rangpo travelling about 50km extra. Similarly, cars are not allowed to go to Gangtok from Darjeeling via Jorethang and Singtam and have to come to Rangpo consuming extra mileage.”
According to tour operators, a budget traveller visiting the region has to incur an additional expenditure of about 15 per cent on food, accommodation and travelling because of these restrictions. “Accordingly, we have to increased the tour package cost which may force the visitors to turn away from the region,” Basu said.
Earlier foreign tourists travelling in Bengal-registered vehicles were allowed to do sightseeing and move in Sikkim, barring the restricted areas, in the same vehicle. “But now, they are not allowed to do so which creates a problem for us while arranging vehicles for them,” said Sanyal.
A foreigner travelling in a car from Siliguri has to disembark with his luggage at Deorali on the outskirts of Gangtok and board a local taxi to reach the hotel. “The same holds true when he returns from Gangtok. Even in hotels where there are spaces, vehicles are not allowed to be parked,” Sanyal said.
On April 9, 2007, a “reciprocal transport agreement” was signed between the governments of Sikkim and Bengal, stipulating a number of restrictions on the movement of vehicles with registration numbers of Bengal in Sikkim, said Basu. “The Sikkim government is enforcing the restrictions for the past one-and-a-half months, causing huge inconveniences to us.”
Describing the agreement as “one-sided”, the tour operators said no restrictions had been imposed on Sikkim-registered vehicles plying in Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri.
“We want the Bengal government to take up the one-sided agreement with their counterparts or else the entire regional tourist circuit covering Darjeeling, Sikkim and the Dooars will soon collapse,” Basu said.
The Travel Agents Association of Sikkim also voiced concern over the restrictions. “We are equally worried. Even our vehicles are facing a number of restrictions. Our organisation is contemplating holding a joint meeting soon to resolve the issues,” said Lukendra Rasaily, the TAAS president.
Officials at the Sikkim transport department said they need to know the inconveniences faced by the tour operators of Siliguri. “We are yet to know the problems faced by them,” said K.T. Chankapa, the transport secretary of the state. “These need to be examined before we take a decision.”
Rajen Sundas, the additional regional transport officer of Siliguri, said a meeting held about six months ago between the transport officials of Bengal and Sikkim decided that vehicles of both states would be allowed free passage, except in certain restricted areas. “Now that the tour operators here are speaking of problems, I would suggest they discuss them with us.”
Sikkim TitBits: 
Nitish congratulated by Chamling
Diwash Rai, KalimNews, Gangtok, 26 Nov: The Chief Minister of Sikkim, Mr. Pawan Chamling congratulated the Chief Minister of Bihar, Mr. Nitish Kumar for being re-elected by a thumping victory in the recently held State Assembly elections.  The Chief Minister has also wished his Bihar counterpart good health, continued success and profound leadership for further development of Bihar.
Tarundeep congratulated
Diwash Rai, KalimNews, Gangtok, 26 Nov: Sports and youth affairs department government of Sikkim will felicitate to Archer Tarundeep Rai on his great achievement in Asian games. Chief Minister of Sikkim Pawan Chamling already also congratulated Rai.
Archer Tarundeep Rai won Silver medal in Singles Competition on 23rd Nov 2010.
Exhibition concluded
Diwash Rai, KalimNews, Gangtok, 26 Nov:  "Sikkim ka Jiwanta parampara'  a five days' Exibition Cum workshop programme was concuded today. The motto of the programme was to highlight the State’s traditional craftsmen and the craft.
Strike and rallies for Siliguri
TT, Siliguri, Nov.26: The Siliguri subdivision will witness a series of political programmes next month.
While the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee has announced a state-wide strike on December 20, the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad has lined up meetings to counter the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s in the Terai.
The Bhasha Banchao Committee has called the strike mainly to demand the conversion of the Siliguri subdivision into a separate district and to oppose the Morcha’s demand to include six “Gorkha majority” wards of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation in the proposed interim set-up for the hills.
“We are against granting any special status to the hills and firmly believe socio-economic condition of people living there are far better than certain other districts of Bengal. However, considering the Morcha’s movement for the interim set-up, we want the government to divide the Darjeeling district and declare the Siliguri subdivision a separate district,” said Mukunda Majumdar, the president of the Bhasha Banchao Committee.
The Parishad has decided to enhance its political activities in the Terai in the wake of recent Morcha campaigns in the region. “We plan to take up a series of activities in the Terai to ensure that no political party, particularly the Morcha, can influence our supporters,” Birsa Tirkey, the state president of the Parishad, said over phone from Calcutta.
“The campaign will commence with a meeting on December 5, followed by similar gatherings and rallies on later days.”
Dooars protests train speed control
TT, Siliguri, Nov. 26: Around 100 residents of the Dooars today blocked a local train in New Mal station, protesting the railways’ move to regulate services in the region to prevent elephant deaths on tracks.
The protesters from six-seven organisations of the Dooars submitted a memorandum to the station manager in Mal addressed to the divisional railway manager of Alipurduar. The memorandum asked the railways not to bow down before any demand for regulation of train movement between Siliguri Junction and Alipurduar, which they alleged, aimed to cripple the communication system in the foothills.
“In the name of wildlife conservation, a number of people, including the government, are trying to stall the progress of the Dooars,” said Prabhat Dey, the secretary of the Dooars East West Corridor Movement Committee. “Earlier, we were deprived of the four-lane expressway in the name of conservation and now a deep-rooted conspiracy has been hatched to paralyse the railway network which is the lifeline of the Dooars today. It is unfortunate that a person like Sabyasachi Chakraborty (the actor) has also blamed the railways without asking the forest department to take steps so that elephants do not come out of forests.”
The running of trains at a slower speed on the Dooars route has posed huge problems to the people of the area, he said. “We have blocked the New Jalpaiguri-bound passenger train for 10-15 minutes today to make the passengers aware of the consequences.”
Kalyan Kanti Roy, the secretary of Mal Nature Club, blamed the forest department for its failure to grow elephant fodder in the jungle. “Although the jumbo population has increased over the years, the foresters had opened new tourist spots and planted only sal and teak saplings from the commercial point of view, ignoring the need for fodder. The animals raided human habitations for food,” he said.
The forest department said it was yet to receive any communication from the railways on the regulation of train movement. “We have learnt through the media that the railways are regulating the speed but we have not received any paper. The proposal of the Union minister to construct watch towers in elephant corridors has been sent to the Centre,” said S.B. Patel, chief conservator of forests (wildlife), north Bengal.
Both SIM & proof for a ‘little’ extra
TT, Raiganj, Nov. 26: Two years after 26/11 SIM cards still continue to fly off the shelves on the basis of fake documents, with retailers providing the identity proofs.
No that the vendors act surreptitiously: the sales take place out in the open in proper shops, not in some dingy alley. What the customers need, like in all underhand dealings, is some extra cash. Even that is as nominal as Rs 300-350. A legal prepaid cellphone connection comes for Rs 100-150.
Enquiries by The Telegraph at a mobile phone store in the Mohanbati area of town revealed that the owner gave a free SIM card to customers buying an expensive handset. When this correspondent said, he didn’t need a handset but only SIM cards, the shopkeeper promptly brought out SIMs of several companies, explaining the talktime plans of each of them.
The correspondent then said he did not have any identity or address proof. At that point, the store owner raised his voice, probably for the benefit of other customers around, and said SIMs could not be given without address proof. However, he gestured with his eyes to wait.
When the other customers left, the owner called a store attendant who took out a file containing photocopies of voter identity cards and passport-size photographs. He then proceeded to clip one of the photographs to a copy of a voter’s card of his choice and filled up the SIM card form. The name on the SIM form was the same as that on the photocopy of the voter ID.
“The SIM card is yours for Rs 200 extra,” the shop owner said. Following the terror attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, two SIM cards used by Ajmal Kasab and his accomplices were traced to Delhi and Calcutta. The government then imposed stricter norms for prepaid SIM card sales. One of the 26/11 SIMs were traced to an ID card issued by the ministry of urban development in the name of a certain Suresh Prasad. A ministry spokesperson later told the court that the ID card had been forged.
The shop in Mohanbati is not the only one flouting rules. A number of other stores in town had a stock of photocopies of voter and PAN cards. Enquiries revealed that the photocopies were of genuine identity and address proofs submitted by customers in good faith.
“We do not extend this facility (of issuing SIMs without address proof) to each and every person but only to those whom we know personally,” a shop owner, hurriedly explained.
“There are stringent telecommunications ministry rules stating that identity proofs are to be gone through before a SIM is sold to someone. I can only say, God help the retailers who are breaking this law. Under the law, their licences can be cancelled. They can even be jailed,” said the executive vice-president of a mobile service provider with a pan-India presence.
North Dinajpur police chief Milan Das said his department could act only if there was a specific complaint. “If a SIM card is issued to a person and the documents belong to someone else, the real troublemakers will never be spotted because according to the papers they don’t even exist,” he said.
At a crime conference in October in Raiganj, representatives of several mobile phone companies were summoned by the police and told about the problem. “Now, it is up to them to check what their vendors are doing and then get back to us if they need help,” Das said. The general manager of the BSNL’s North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur circle, Debashis Sarkar, admitted: “There is no provision to run a check on pre-paid users. We have to depend on our franchisees and retailers. They are supposed to do the verification.”

Bomb scare
TT, Siliguri: An abandoned briefcase triggered a bomb scare on Hill Cart Road on Friday evening. Around 8pm, Siliguri traffic police cordoned off the area and no vehicles were allowed near the spot. Later, sniffer dogs were brought to check the item. A senior police official said no explosives were found inside the briefcase and the police are trying to identify the owner.
Truck arrest
TT, Siliguri: Bhaktinagar police arrested Rajkumar Singh of Tumalpara on Friday for lifting a truck. Police said the vehicle was stolen from Calcutta on November 23. The truck has been recovered.
Volunteers demand insurance - NGOs to shun census unless forest dept takes responsibility for accidents
TT, Jalpaiguri, Nov. 26: Members of wildlife NGOs have decided not to take part in animal census in future unless they are insured by the forest department against accidents during the count.
The decision was taken after many volunteers faced dangers during the ongoing elephant census in north Bengal.
At present, the members of the NGOs participate in animal counts by signing personal bonds which declare that the forest department has no liability for their safety during census.
Over 100 volunteers are co-operating with the forest department in the elephant census that began on November 24 and will end tomorrow morning. Conservator of forests, north Bengal, Bipin Sood, said about 1,500 forest staff members were engaged in the count.
Ahead of the census, the NGO members in the Dooars were trained on November 19 and they signed on the bonds absolving the forest department from any responsibility if they encountered problems during the exercise.
However, the volunteers decided to seek short-term life or medical insurance after they faced hazards during the elephant count.
The assistant secretary of the Oodlabari Nature and Adventure Society, Nafsar Ali, was the sole volunteer in a group led by range officer of Chel. “We were on foot when we came across a herd of 25 elephants on the embankment of the Chel river on the first day of the count. The herd was aggressive and ranger Sitangshu Gupta had to fire four rounds in the air to prevent the animals from attacking us,” said Ali.
“Next day, when we were surveying elephant dung in the Targhera forest in Chel, a lone tusker chased us and we had to run for cover. I tripped and fell down,” said Ali. “Both were scary experiences. We will not participate in any census in future by signing personal declarations.”
The census is conducted by several groups and direct sightings were used to record the number of elephants on the first day.
Ali said he had raised the issue during the November 19 training. “I was supported by members of other NGOs also. But the foresters did not pay any attention to our demand,” said Ali.
The Dhupguri Nature and Snake Lovers’ Association and Aranyak echoed the demand. “We take a lot of risk and we, too, think the demand is justified,” said a member of Aranyak, a nature club in Gayerkanta.
State wildlife board member Raj Basu said only forest staff members had been engaged in the animal census in the past. “However, in order to bring transparency to the exercise, the department began inviting NGOs. These volunteers take a lost of risk while in the forest and I feel they, like the forest staff, should have some kind of insurance cover during the census,” said Basu.
Ananta Roy, the forest minister, said no one was forced to take part in the census. “If someone does not want to take part in a census, there is no harm in it. We are not thinking of taking insurance policies for them.”
1 killed, 5 hurt in mishap
TT, Malda, Nov. 26: An assistant sub-inspector of police was killed and five others were injured when the jeep in which they were patrolling rammed into a parked truck near Kaliachak this morning.
District superintendent of police Bhuban Mondal said the deceased, Swapan Sarkar, 58, assistant sub-inspector Rasamay Pal, two constables and an NVF member were in the vehicle, besides the driver, when the accident took place on NH34. There was poor visibility because of fog and the indicator of the truck parked on the highway was not on. The injured have been admitted to the district hospital here. The truck has been seized but the driver managed to escape.
Clash death
TT, Malda: One person was killed and eight were injured when two groups clashed over the harvesting of crops at Phulberia near Englishbazar on Friday. According to police, Khairul Sheikh, 44, had gone to his field with a group to harvest crop when Meser Ali attacked him along with few men. The injured have been admitted to the district hospital here. A police picket has been set up in the area.

Titbits from SHEEM: Bharat Chhetri adjudged best Goalkeeper in Asian Games. Henry B.Kumar of Gorkha Boys Football Club received Bhagirathi Award in Delhi.
Absu warns Mahanta, Gogoi on ‘Bodoland’

TT, Kokrajhar, Nov. 26: The All Bodo Students’ Union (Absu) has warned chief minister Tarun Gogoi and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta not to “politicise” the Bodoland issue.
The students’ body said it was “an emotional issue of Bodos and other communities”.
In a media statement issued today, Absu president Promode Boro said the Bodoland issue or the demand for a separate state is not merely related to development but also to the survival of an indigenous community along with justice for it and other non-indigenous communities living in the proposed Bodoland region.
The repeated and irresponsible statements of both the two leaders are a slur on a community like the Bodos. They are “politicising the community’s genuine aspiration of political self-determination through creation of a Bodoland state within the Constitution,” the group said.
“Can they (Gogoi and Mahanta) explain why the Bodos and other indigenous communities have become so aggressive for their political rights in the past 30 years? Did the Bodos get anything from the Assam government since Independence without sacrificing life and blood? Who are they to oppose and deny the creation of Bodoland, the birth right of the Bodos and other indigenous communities? Where were they when 150 innocent people in Bodoland region were killed one after another in 2008 and 2009 under the very nose of police administration?” it asked.
“If these leaders cannot do anything for the Bodos then they have no right to oppose our right. We urged the leaders not to make baseless statement for political interest and appeal all political parties not to make the Bodo issue an election issue. We don’t want any violence and killings but the creation of Bodoland through talks,” the Absu president said.
NSCN-IM backs out of meet
TT, Kohima, Nov. 26: The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) has backed out of the ongoing Naga reconciliation meet at Chiang Mai, Thailand, providing yet another hiccup to the peace process.
The meeting, under the aegis of Forum for Naga Reconciliation and Quakers from the UK, began at Chiang Mai yesterday. Representatives of the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland/National Socialist Council of Nagaland (GPRN/NSCN), formerly known as NSCN (Khaplang), and Federal Government of Nagaland (Singnyu faction) are attending in the absence of representatives from NSCN (Isak-Muivah).
A statement received here this afternoon from Chiang Mai stated that the first session of the Joint Working Group meeting with members of FNR and Quakers ended on a positive note.
The JWG includes members from NSCN, GPRN/NSCN and FGN (S).
“As mandated by the Naga organisations, the Church and civil society, the GPRN/NSCN and the FGN have resolved to prepare highest level meeting within the stipulated time of 45 days,” the statement stated.
On November 18, a meeting was held at Dimapur where representatives from over 40 Naga organisations urged the factions to let the top leaders meet within 45 days to salvage the fragile reconciliation process.
The GPRN/NSCN, however, told The Telegraph that chairman of the outfit, S.S. Khaplang’s arrival would not be easy as he lives in the jungles of Myanmar. But a senior kilonser of the outfit, C. Singson Kuki, said their chairman would visit Nagaland by February next year.
On September 28, general secretary of NSCN (I-M) Thuingaleng Muivah, general secretary of GPRN/NSCN and president of FGN, S. Singnyu, had met at Dimapur.
The demand of the Naga organisations, however, is that the chairmen of NSCN (I-M) and GPRN/NSCN should also meet. Swu had already spoken to his old comrade-turned-foe at least twice in 2008.
“We missed the presence of the NSCN/GPRN at this meeting. Therefore, we earnestly called upon the NSCN/GPRN to join us in the preparation of the highest level meeting,” the statement issued by Zoperavero, convenor of the joint working group of FGN, and C. Singson, convenor of GPRN/NSCN.
When contacted, NSCN (I-M) spokesman A.Z. Jami, kilonser (minister) for information and publicity, said the reason could be because of non-presence of Khaplang. The outfit has been insisting all these years that Khaplang, Swu and Muivah should meet to give impetus to the peace and reconciliation process.
The trio had formed the NSCN in January 1980 but split in 1988 after bloody internal feud where over 200 loyalists of Swu and Muivah were killed in the jungles of then Burma. Since then there have been fratricidal killings between the two factions.

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