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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Decks cleared for Hill set-up Morcha more flexible .... Leap lady in cop net after fall breaks leg .. Terai Dooars inclusion demanded

December date hint for set-up - Morcha offers ‘concessions’
Vivek Chhetri, Darjeeling, Nov. 1: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung today met P. Chidambaram in Delhi to “clear the last hurdles” before the creation of an interim authority for the Darjeeling hills, which both sides agreed should be in place by December-end.The Morcha chief also indicated to Chidambaram that his party would be “more flexible” on the contentious issues that had been dogging the talks so far.
The Morcha described today’s talks as “positive” and said all contentious issues related to the formation of the interim authority would be resolved in the next round of talks at the political level.
Home ministry sources also said the talks were “encouraging” and the Morcha leadership was showing “flexibility” so that the interim authority could be put in place soon. “We hope that it will be place by the end of the year,” a home ministry official said.After the meeting with Chidambaram, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri told The Telegraph: “The talks today were positive and we are very hopeful. We discussed all the contentious issues which would be taken up in the next round of political tripartite talks and are likely to be solved soon.”Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh accompanied the Morcha delegation of Gurung, Giri and party central committee member Jyoti Kumar Rai to the meeting with the Union home minister.The four main issues that have so far been coming in the way of the interim authority are its territorial jurisdiction, its authority to manage the tea garden lands, the mode of selection of its members, and its legislative powers.
Party sources said Gurung today indicated to Chidambaram that the Morcha was willing to be “flexible” to sort out those issues which had appeared to be “intractable”. “The Morcha is keen that the interim authority is in place before the model code of conduct comes into force ahead of the Assembly elections,” a Morcha leader said.
The party has worked out a “formula” to resolve all the four issues, which it hopes would find acceptance with both the Centre as well as the Bengal government.To resolve the problem of territorial jurisdiction, the Morcha would suggest the setting up of a “joint verification committee” in the next meeting.We will suggest that some mouzas of Siliguri be immediately transferred to the interim authority subject to the state government's approval,” a Morcha leader said. “The rest of the territorial demands of the Morcha, related to the Dooars and the Terai, can later be examined by the joint committee to find out if they are justified.
The Morcha has so far been insisting that the entire Dooars and Terai be included in the interim authority at the time of its formation.Regarding the composition of the interim authority, the Morcha will scale down its demand and suggest that about 40 of the 50 members that it wants in the new set-up be nominated by the party only for the first year, followed by elections the next year. The rest of the members could be appointed by the governor.So long, the Morcha had wanted to nominate all members of the interim authority for the entire tenure.During the period when it has only nominated members, the interim authority would not exercise any legislative powers.The Morcha hopes that the Centre and the state would agree to extend the authority of the interim set-up to tea garden lands as well.As a further “concession”, the Morcha leader said, the party leadership would tell the government that only the elected board would take up the issue of the regularisation of the workers who are on contract in the DGHC.“A meeting is on the cards with union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee for a special package so that the interim council can bear the financial burden of regularisation of the workers,” a Morcha leader said.Also, the source said, the pact between the Centre, state and the Morcha would not be termed as a “memorandum of settlement” but “memorandum of understanding” since the interim authority would only be a temporary arrangement. (WITH INPUTS BY NISHIT DHOLABHAI IN DELHI)
TH, Delhi:Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram met Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung and two of his colleagues in New Delhi on Monday in what is understood to be preparatory talks for the upcoming round of tripartite discussions at a “political level” on the proposed regional authority for the Darjeeling region.Mr. Gurung described as “positive” the talks in which Mr. Chidambaram was apprised of the GJM's viewpoints on the proposed body and how the regional authority could impact the political future of the Darjeeling Hills.“Our views on the contentious issues relating to the setting up of the regional authority were conveyed to the Home Minister before they are taken up at the next round of tripartite talks at the political level,” GJM general secretary, Roshan Giri, who was present at the meeting, told The Hindu over telephone.In another development, a leader of the GJM's women's wing, Babita Ganguly, was arrested by West Bengal's Criminal Investigation Department in Darjeeling in connection with the murder of Madan Tamang in the hill town on May 21. She had to be hospitalised for a broken ankle sustained while trying to flee, D.P. Singh, Superintendent of Police, said from Darjeeling.As for the meeting in the capital which Mr. Chidambaram emphasised was an informal one, not to be construed as “‘the next round of formal talks,” both Mr. Gurung and Mr. Giri said it provided them an opportunity to clarify the GJM's stand on issues “that still need to be sorted out” regarding the formation of the proposed regional authority.These include the territorial jurisdiction of the body as well as matters relating to its composition.There are also differences on whether the proposed body should comprise elected or nominated members. The GJM leadership has stated that it sees little point in holding elections for a regional authority whose term does not extend two years.While the GJM has described as “reasonable” its demand that Gorkha-dominated pockets in the Terai and Dooars region of north Bengal be included within the jurisdiction of the regional authority the West Bengal government has expressed its opposition to this.
Tamang murder accused lady in cop net
TT, Nov. 1: A mother of two who is wanted in the murder of Gorkha leader Madan Tamang leaped through the first-floor window of her house in Darjeeling on spotting a police squad and bolted but could not evade arrest as she fell into a ditch and fractured a leg.The 39-year-old Babita Ganguly, a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha activist whose name figures in the chargesheet filed by the CID in the murder case, has undergone surgery on her right leg.Taking no more chances, the police have posted a team inside the female surgical ward of Darjeeling District Hospital.When Babita saw the 25-member police party approaching her three-storied home at Kakjhora, around 3km from the Mall, she flung open the window and jumped.Before the stunned squad could gather its wits, the lady bounced back to her feet and started to sprint, according to police sources. After covering around 10 metres, she slipped and fell, the sources added.Based on a court order on absconders, the CID had attached Babita’s property three days ago. “Today, we received information that she was back and raided her house,” a police officer said.“We conducted a raid on her residence around noon but when she tried to escape, she fell and fractured her leg,” said D.P. Singh, the superintendent of police, Darjeeling.However, Binay Tamang, the assistant secretary of the Morcha, said: “Babita Ganguly’s leg was fractured because of the police and we will apprise the National Human Rights Commission of the incident.”Babita’s husband Rabi Ganguly, who works in the district panchayat and rural development office in Darjeeling, is also a Morcha activist. The couple have an 18-year-old daughter and a son aged 11.The police claimed that Babita was part of the core team involved in the murder. She could apparently be seen in video footage showing the venue of a meeting in Darjeeling where Madan Tamang was hacked to death in daylight in May.
SNS, DARJEELING, 1 NOV: The CID arrested one of the main accused in the Madan Tamang murder case and a GJMM women’s wing member, Babita Ganguly, from her residence in Bada Kakjhora today. She was admitted to the Eden Hospital in Darjeeling as she got injured while trying to give the sleuths a slip.
According to the police, the success came following the information provided by the Darjeeling town DSP, Mr AA Tausis. Babita Ganguly is the eighth person arrested so far in connection with the 21 May Madan Tamang assassination.  Two women, whose names figured in the CID filed charge-sheet, are Sona Sherpa and Babita Ganguly. The charge-sheet, which was filed in August, contains 30 names.
The police attached some of Babita's immovable properties a few days ago.
A distressed husband, Mr Ravi Ganguly, said that his wife was innocent.  “How can the police arrest a woman without proper investigation?” he asked. The couple has two children. Meanwhile, a senior GJMM leader, Mr Binay Tamang, said that there will be unrest in the Hills if police keep arresting innocent people. “The police have been raiding the residences of innocent people. They were not even spared during the festive season,” he said while addressing a gathering in Chowrasta today.
He asked the people in the Dooars-Terai to remain calm. “We have information that more such raids would be conducted in the region in the coming two days,” he added. Mr Pratap Khati, AIGL leader, said that the arrest was a result of the case filed in HC by the party. 
Chhatrey health
TT, Jalpaiguri: Chhatrey Subba, a key accused in the 2001 attack on DGHC chairman Subash Ghisingh, was shifted from the district hospital here to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital with renal complications. Superintendent of the Jalpaiguri district hospital S.C. Bhowmik said Subba had been admitted to the hospital on Sunday. Jalpaiguri police superintendent Anand Kumar said Subba had been sent to Siliguri under adequate police escort. Subba’s son Santosh had accompanied the accused.
Terai Dooars inclusion demanded
SNS, SILIGURI, 1 NOV: At a time when the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha's top leaders are negotiating with the Centre and the state government for setting up an interim council in Darjeeling hills without Terai and the Dooars as soon as possible, its frontal organisations have started agitation demanding inclusion of the Terai and Dooars in the proposed temporary set-up. The GJMM activists belonging to the party's student, youth and women wings of Terai region today took out a rally demanding inclusion of Terai and the Dooars, as demarcated by the GJMM earlier, in the proposed Interim council. Darjeeling police today prevented them at Dagapur, close to a bridge over the river Panchnoi, from entering the Siliguri town.
TT, Siliguri, Nov. 1: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s Siliguri-Terai subdivisional committee today blocked NH55 on the Panchanoi bridge, demanding inclusion of the entire Darjeeling district and the Dooars in the interim set-up.
About 300 Morcha supporters from Salbari, Sukna, Simulbari, Champasari and Panighata converged at Pintail Village around 1pm and started marching towards Siliguri to submit a memorandum to the subdivisional officer there.
However, after moving hardly 400 metres, they were stopped by nearly 50 personnel from Pradhannagar and Siliguri police stations on the bridge, 6km from here.
The protesters, led by Morcha’s subdivisional committee convener Shankar Adhikary, member of the study forum P. Arjun, central committee member Sujit Karkidoli, then squatted on the highway.
They insisted that the SDO of Siliguri should come to the spot and receive the memorandum from them.
“Our ultimate goal is to get a separate state of Gorkhaland. Till that is achieved, the entire Darjeeling district, Terai and the Dooars should be included in the interim set-up,” Adhikary told reporters after being stopped by the police at Panchanoi.
Yesterday before leaving for Delhi, Morcha president Bimal Gurung iterated the demand for the inclusion of the Terai and the Dooars in the interim body and asked its supporters in the region to organise rallies and demonstrations to press for the demand.
Around 1.30pm, Gautam Ghosh, a magistrate, reached the spot and received the memorandum from the Morcha protesters on behalf of the Siliguri SDO.The blockade was withdrawn 10 minutes later.
“We wanted to send a memorandum to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee through the subdivisional officer of Siliguri, demanding the inclusion of the entire Darjeeling district and the Dooars in the interim set-up. But as the police did not allow us to enter the town, we submitted our memorandum to the magistrate,” Adhikary said.
Asked if the government would not agree to their demand, the Morcha leader said 133 mouzas in the Terai and 196 mouzas in the Dooars were Gorkha-dominated areas. “These areas have to be included in the set-up,” Adhikary said.
KalimNews: A Bengali daily reported that Home Minister P Chidambaram hinted that formation of Interim Setup before the WB Assembly election is doubtful. Sources reports of formation of GNLF village committees in Rishihat Chungthung areas in large number.
Fees for Sikkim mountain climb go up, treks down
TT, Gangtok, Nov. 1: The Sikkim government has hiked rates for expeditions to five peaks open for mountaineering and has reduced fees for high and low altitude trekking. The government has also made the tourism department the nodal authority to grant permissions for the climbs and the treks.
Five peaks in Sikkim were declared open for climbs by the state government in 2006 and only local tour operators registered with the tourism department were allowed to conduct the expeditions.
Of the five mountains, three are in West Sikkim — Frey’s Peak (5,830 metre), Mt Tinchenkhang (6,010 metre) and Mt Joponu (5,932 metre). The other two are Lama Wangden (5,868 metre) and Brumkhangse (5,935 metre) in North Sikkim.
Previous fees to climb the five peaks for foreigners were $350 for a four-member team and $500 for a group of eight persons. Each additional member was charged $100. According to a notification issued by the government, the rates have now been hiked to $500 for a four-member team and to $700 for an eight-member group. However, the rate of $100 for every additional member will remain unchanged.
The government has also increased the fees for expedition by Indians living outside Sikkim. The increased amount will be Rs 15,000 for an eight-member team. There will be no change in the rate for additional climber and it will remain Rs 1,500. For an eight-member Sikkim team, the fees have been hiked to Rs 5,000 from Rs 3,000.
However, there is good news for nature lovers. Trekking along authorised trails above 12,000ft will now cost only $200 for a 10-member foreign group, compared to the earlier charge of $300. For a 10-member Indian team, the reduced fee is Rs 3,000. The rates for low altitude treks will be 50 per cent of the amount charged for the trails along the higher areas. 
Tour agencies conducting the climbs would be given 20 per cent of the fees.
Earlier, an adventurist had to approach the departments of forest, tourism and home for clearances for the expeditions to the five peaks and the trekking. But from now on, the tourism department will be the nodal agency to permit and regulate all adventure sports, including mountaineering and trekking.
Tourism secretary S.B.S. Bhaduaria hoped that a lot of people would be attracted to the adventure sports in the state with the introduction of the single window system. “This is a landmark decision of the government to encourage people to take up adventure sports. For any kind of clearance for adventure sports, people can approach the tourism department, which will act as the single window system,” he said.
The travel industry of Sikkim has welcomed the decision to appoint the tourism department as the nodal authority for adventure tourism.

“It is a welcome initiative from the government. It will be easy to approach the single window clearance system of the tourism department. The adventure tourism activities in Sikkim will be now more streamlined under the department,” said Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim president Lukendra Rasaily.
The government has also made it mandatory for the tour agents organising the mountaineering and the trekking to submit a bank guarantee of Rs 1 lakh for search and rescue operations in the event of any mishap during the expeditions. This is in addition to the existing condition that the agents should provide insurance coverage to expedition members, camp crew and pack animals.
Tour operators have also been made responsible for search and rescue operations under the overall control and directions of the tourism department.
Sikkim in town
SNS,KOLKATA, 1 NOV: After suffering a 35-year ban, lifted this September, Satyajit Ray's documentary Sikkim is going to be the prime attraction at the 16th Kolkata Film Festival (KFF) beginning 10 November and will continue till 17 November.  Announcing this today, the chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, said the “controversial documentary” will be screened all through the festival days from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 
Kolkata-based famed cinematographer Ramananda Sengupta will inaugurate this year's festival at Nandan-I at 7 p.m. on 10 November and the screening will begin with Spanish movie Of Love & Other Demons, directed by Hilda Hidalgo. To be held at an estimated cost of Rs 65 lakh, the festival this year will showcase a bouquet of 127 films from 38 countries, including India. 
The selected movies have been categorised in nine segments, namely Celebration (four films based on Tagore's writings), Centenary Tribute (eight films of Akira Kurosawa), Homage (eight films by Debaki Kumar Bose and one by Claude Chabrol), Honour (eight films by Alain Resnais and four each by Oliver Assayas and Costa-Gavras), Focus (six movies by American director Jon Jost), Children's Screen (seven movies), Indian Select (11 movies), Image (six films made and acted in by Liv Ullmann), Nobel Laureates (five films based on the writings of Nobel winners), Look Back in Wonder (six movies by Tarun Mazumdar), Open Window (39 contemporary world movies) and eight movies in the Documentary category. The screenings will take place at Nandan-I, II,II, Rabindra Sadan, Sisir Mancha, Madhusudan Mancha, Purbashree Auditorium (Salt Lake) and Mitra cinema. The show timings are between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. 
All-season water supply for Makaibari - 100 houses to benefit
Rajeev Ravidas, TT, Makaibari (Kurseong), Nov. 1: A couple from England and Makaibari Tea Estate have joined hands to provide drinking water to over 100 households by harvesting rain water in the garden near Kurseong town.
Paul Tennings and his wife Sheila have raised Rs 10 lakh to execute the project in return for the affection garden workers had shown to their son during his stint as a teacher here three years ago.
The water supply was formally inaugurated on Saturday in the garden by Paul, Sheila and their friend James Howarth, and garden owner Rajah Banerjee.
The Tennings have also constructed a similar rainwater-harvesting project on a smaller scale at a primary school in the garden. While the capacity of the bigger project is 90,000 litres, the smaller rainwater scheme can store about 5,500 litres at a time.
Around hundred families in the garden would be able to use the water that would be generated from the project.
“If every household has five members and each person uses two litres everyday, then the supply can last for up to 65 to 70 days after the monsoon,” said Paul. If there is rain in between, then the tank will be replenished and the supply can be maintained for a longer period of time, he said.
Usually monsoon ends by October in this region.
Water treatment machines for the project, including carbon filters and micron cartridges, have been supplied by Siliguri-based Enviro Associates and Consultants. They specialise in water and wastewater management.
“The carbon filters and micron cartridges remove bacteria and other impurities from the water making it potable. The treated water meets the specifications set by the Bureau of Indian Standards,” said Debabrata Biswas, an official of Enviro Associates and Consultants.
Rain water that falls on the 4,800 square feet roof of the garden factory is collected in 18 surface-mounted plastic tanks that have been placed behind the 151-year-old garden building before being treated at an adjoining unit. “This is the way to go (for tacking the problem of water scarcity in Darjeeling),” said Paul.
The Tennings have raised money for the project from their family and friends back in Cumbria in the north of England. During their visit last year the couple had distributed water tanks among the villagers here. Apart from providing the space to set up the project, Banerjee will also bear the operation and maintenance costs of the project.
“No man can be an island of prosperity in the sea of unhappiness,” said Banerjee, the planter and author, who had pioneered the concept of home-stay tourism in the garden to help workers augment their income. Home-stay tourism has become a big success, as has organic tea that Banerjee had introduced in the garden two decades back.
The water project germinated when the Tennings expressed their desire to do something meaningful for the place where their 28-year-old son Simon had taught three years back.
“Three years ago, our youngest son Simon had taught in a primary school here for eight weeks. We were over 6,000 miles away but it was nice to know that he was looked after well here. When we came here later we saw the plight of the people. We then thought of doing something as a gesture to thank them,” said Paul.

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