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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. 

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