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Friday, December 3, 2010

Tourists can go elsewhere: Morcha - Bandhs hit festive year-end bookings ...

TT , Siliguri, Dec. 3: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today said statehood, and not tourism, was its priority and that the movement for Gorkhaland could not afford to take a backseat because of visitors to the hills.

The Morcha assertion comes amid reports from the hospitality industry in Darjeeling of cancelled bookings for the Christmas-New Year season at hill hotels.
Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha who returned from Delhi today after meeting Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh, said: “Our concentration is on resuming the Gorkhaland movement if no decision is reached on the proposed interim set-up by December 20. Considering the present state of affairs, we cannot afford to prioritise tourism as we have chalked out plans and strategies to resume our century-old movement which involves the interests of lakhs of people.
“Tourists, if they cannot come to the hills, can visit other destinations across India but we cannot make them our priority and let our movement take a backseat.”
The Morcha announcement, added to three days of consecutive general strikes during the year-end festivity, is expected to strike hard the tourism industry.
The Bangla O Bangla Bhasa Banchao Committee, based in Siliguri, has called a 24-hour bandh across the state on December 20 to protest the Morcha’s statehood demand. Chhetri’s party, too, has called a 48-hour strike in the hills from December 21 if their demand for set-up is not met by the 20th of this month.
“During Christmas Eve and New Year, several tourists, mostly from the overseas, visit Darjeeling as the hill town has a different flavour in winter and many of them have old connections with the region. Tariffs in certain hotels goes up too because of the foreign tourists,” said Raj Basu, the chairperson of the advisory committee of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association. “There have been cancellations already after the strikes were announced and we feel that today’s statements by leaders of a political party that tourism is secondary would be the last nail in the coffin.”
Samrat Sanyal, the president of the tour operators’ association, said the tourist season in the hills from September to November had not been so good this time with occupancy in hotels being only 50 per cent. “However, because of the unique charm of Darjeeling in winter, there were good number of enquiries. The bookings had started picking up and as a whole, the season, stretching from the second week of December to mid-January, was looking to be good when the strikes were announced.”
In a request to all political parties, Sanyal said: “We would like to urge all to refrain from strikes and agitation that can affect the tourism sector, particularly when thousands are associated with it.”
KalimNews, Kalimpong: 'GJMM is ready for three tier panchayat election' said, Roshan Giri at Bagdogra on the way to Darjeeling from Delhi. Giri said but first delimitation of the blocks and distribution of seats and others should be completed. Giri said that he had been to Delhi for medical check up and they had no objective to meet any official.
Plea for jobs with Lepcha identity intact
Rajeev Ravidas, TT, Kalimpong, Dec. 3: Around 3,000 Lepchas took out a rally today to protest the state government’s alleged inability to provide them with jobs in police and other forces without compromising their status as the original inhabitants of the Darjeeling hills and Sikkim.
The rally was organised under the aegis of the Lepcha Rights Movement (LRM).
Major Lepcha organisations like the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association (ILTA), the Indigenous Lepcha Forum (ILF) and the Lepcha Youth Association (LYA) also took part in the protest.
Dressed in their traditional attires, the Lepchas took out the rally from the town hall here. 
The protesters travelled across the town before assembling at Damber Chowk for a public meeting.
Speakers like ILTA president L. Tamsang, and president of LYA Dorjee Lepcha, slammed the government for continuing to ignore their grievances.
The LRM has been organising protests in different parts of the state, including Calcutta, for the past one year to pressure the state into removing the Sikkimese tag attached to the Lepchas of the Darjeeling hills through a notification by the Union ministry of culture on September 10, 2004.
“By dubbing us Sikkimese, the government is trying to blatantly compromise our identity as original inhabitants of the Darjeeling hills,” said Bhupendra Lepcha, the convener of the LRM.
He added that the Lepchas of the hills were not being able to get jobs in the state police and the Eastern Frontier Rifles because the posts were reserved for the Gorkha community. “If indeed there is a compulsion to issue community certificates to the hill people, then all of them should be categorised as members of the Darjeeling community,” said Bhupendra.
According to him, if the Lepcha community is dubbed Sikkimese, then they will be outsiders in their own land, and if they are categorised as Gorkhas, then they fear losing their distinct identity.
Urging the government to make its stand clear on the issue, the convener of the LRM said the general feeling among the Lepcha community was that they were being pushed against the wall.
“We have submitted several memorandums, organised many rallies, dharnas and hunger strikes in Siliguri, Calcutta and Darjeeling. But our voice is not being heard. We have now resolved to intensify our agitation,” Bhupindra said.
Rally of Lepchas in Kalimpong
GNLF to organise meeting in hills
KalimNews: GNLF will organise public meeting in Panighatta, Kurseong and Ghoom on 6th December, a party source said.  Subhash Ghising directed his party members to organise these meetings as his pre entry preparation to the hills and it will also be a strength testing programme. On 6th December 2005 an agreement was made between the central government and GNLF for implementation and inclusion of DGHC in accordance to the sixth schedule of the constitution.
Spastic Society of Sikkim  may have its own building 
Prabin Khaling, KalimNews, Gangtok, 03 December:The Spastic Society of Sikkim  may have its own building in the coming years.The State Government has  recently allotted about  1250 square feet of  land behind the existing campus of the Society in the Development Area in Gangtok.
This was revealed by the General Secretary of the  Spastic Society of Sikkim Dr.BP Dhakal on the World Disabled Day function in Gangtok today.He told that since the Society has no funds for constructing the building, it will soon be approaching  the Chief Minister with a request to arrange for the construction of  the building too.Dr.Dhakal,however, informed  that the precedes received by the Society as donations as well as the amount given by the individuals as donations to the Society are now  exempted from the Income Tax.
Speaking as the chief guest at the function, the IG Police and Director of Fire Services Mr. Ahshay Sachdeva suggested that the Spastic Society of Sikkim as well as the doctors should help the State Government in ensuring employment to the spastic  persons against the reserved seats for the disabled.
He said that they should issue certificates to each  spastic individual as to what type of job he is  capable of doing.Mr. Sachdeva asked the parents of spastic children, present at the function ,to shed their inferiority and depression and help develop self confidence in such children.
Rendering  of  action songs in Hindi and Nepali languages by the spastic children was the highlight of today’s function.

Disabled lose succour- help stops after halt in payment
TT, Jalpaiguri, Dec. 3: Around 26,000 physically challenged people in the Jalpaiguri district have been facing hardships for the past two years as youths employed to help out the disabled have stopped working following the discontinuation of the token payments they used to get.
Over 80 pratibandhi bandhus had been engaged by the zilla parishad to help the physically challenged people procure disability certificates from hospitals and avail of other privileges meant for them.
Sources said the posts of the pratibandhi bandhu were created in 2004 and they were filled up by educated unemployed youths who used to receive Rs 1,200 a month.
“These youths used to accompany the handicapped children while travelling on bus or train to schools and colleges. Their absence has affected the physically challenged to a great extent,” said the secretary of the Jalpaiguri Welfare Organisation, Sanjoy Chakrabarty.
The district social welfare officer, Scalastica Tete, said the absence of the youths was affecting the distribution of monthly pension of Rs 750 to the disabled people and Rs 100 to handicapped students as education stipend.
According to an officer at the district rehabilitation centre for the handicapped, Prantik Sanyal, the physically challenged people are being fleeced by touts for the past two years in the government hospitals when they go there to get the disability certificates.
“It was the work of these volunteers to take the handicapped to the hospitals and get the papers done. We have requested the zilla parishad to re-introduce the pratibandhi bandhus,” said Sanyal.
Today, a demand to re-introduce the service was made at a function organised here jointly by the Jalpaiguri Welfare Organisation and the District Handicapped Rehabilitation Centre to mark the World Disability Day.
Hearing impaired, Kanchi Chhetri, who had come all the way from Bagrakote, 60km away, to attend the function, said she had been facing a lot of problems for the past two years.
“We were satisfied with the help we got from the youths who would take us in groups to the district headquarters to get our pension. Now we have a trying time,” she said.
Dipak Majumdar, a former pratibandhi bandhu, said he earned some money from private tuition nowadays. “I also work at the welfare organisation’s training centre for the disabled three times a week and earn Rs 500 a month. The earlier project was good for us as well as for those whom we used to help,” he said.
The additional district magistrate in charge of the zilla parishad, Utpal Biswas, said the pratibandhi bandhus had been paid from the non-plan funds. “Since there has been no extra funds for the purpose, the project was discontinued. However, we will place a proposal at the next meeting of the zilla parishad committee.”
Rao to speak in Delhi
KalimNews, Kalimpong, 3 December: Prafful Rao President of Save the Hills will be speaking during a 5 day Training Program from 06 Dec-10 Dec 2010 on " Comprehensive Landslide Risk Mitigation and Management " at Delhi and organised by the National Institute of Disaster Management, New Delhi.He is invited as a resource person for the seminar and shall be speaking on 10th December on Community Based Disaster Risk Management with emphasis on "Landslide scenario in Kalimpong and experience in working with affected communities".

Dooars herd holds up train - Passengers point to lack of co-ordination
TT, Jalpaiguri, Dec. 3: Four elephants with a calf in tow today held up an Intercity Express in the middle of a Dooars forest, the 25-minute delay irking passengers who blamed the railways and the forest department for lack of co-ordination.
The herd stood in the middle of the broad gauge tracks running through the Chapramari wildlife sanctuary till the consistent honking by the driver drove the animals away.
The driver of the New Jalpaiguri-bound Intercity Express spotted the elephants just as the train crossed the bridge over the Jaldhaka, a little after 8.20am. He applied the brakes and the train came to a lurching halt.
Behind the Intercity, the Delhi-bound Mahananda Express was also held up.
With the herd refusing to budge, the passengers of the Intercity became restive and got down, which foresters said was not a wise decision. “Even if the elephants strike at the train, the rakes will not be affected much. But if people step down and there is a chase, humans will be at risk. It is wiser to stay in the train,” said a forest official.
Achinta Basu, one of the passengers, said even after the train reached Nagrakata, there was no information on the elephants. Lack of co-ordination between the forest and the railways had led to the death of seven elephants on this Dooars tracks on September 22.
“I had boarded the train at Alipurduar. We left behind Nagrakata station and was proceeding towards Chulsa when the train came to a sudden halt. There was no information with the railway staff that there was a herd of elephants standing on the tracks,” said Basu.
Another passenger, Amitava Sanyal, said he had craned out his head from the door of his compartment and saw the five elephants near the tracks ahead. “A tusker which was with the herd suddenly stepped on the tracks and stood there. The driver of the train kept on blowing the horn but the herd refused to budge,” Sanyal said.
While the rest of the animals, along with a calf, stepped down from the tracks a few minutes after the insistent blowing of the horn, the tusker was made of more resolute stuff. “He stepped off the tracks and came back once again. It kept standing on the railway line, a few metres from the engine. It was after over 20 minutes that he left with the herd from the spot,” Sanyal said.
Surajit Basu, another passenger, said it was a shame that even after the death of so many elephants on the tracks, “the forest department has not been able to strike any co-ordination”. At least 10 elephants have died on the Dooars tracks this year.
The divisional railway manager of the Northeast Frontier Railway’s Alipurduar division, Sachhidanand Singh, said there were five elephants in the herd. “The driver of the train acted promptly and used the horn to drive away the herd. We had also informed the forest department’s Chulsa range,” Singh said.
The divisional forest officer of the Jalpaiguri wildlife, Sumita Ghatak, said there was a delay in getting the information from the railways. “When our staff arrived at the spot both the herd and the trains had passed the area,” she said.
The forest department’s nearest elephant squad is in Khunia, around 1.5km away.
Cordial air must for polls
TT, Kalimpong, Dec. 3: The Darjeeling Civil Society today said holding elections to urban and rural bodies in the hills was not possible in the absence of a healthy democratic environment in the region.
Civil society president B.K. Pradhan said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had only created confusion earlier this week when he talked about holding municipality and panchayat elections in the hills, as an environment congenial for democracy was missing in the region.
“On the one hand, he (the chief minister) has spoken about elections to local bodies in Darjeeling, but on the other hand, no effort has been made by the government to create a congenial and democratic environment (in the hills),” he said.
The government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha are on different grounds on the elections to the local bodies. The chief minister wants polls to be held before reaching an agreement on the formation of an interim set-up for the hills. But the Morcha is against holding rural elections, although the party is ready to fight municipal polls.
The Morcha is opposed to the panchayat polls till the territorial jurisdiction of the set-up is finalised.
The party has linked territory to rural polls because most of the mouzas in the plains — 104 in the Terai and 196 in the Dooars — it wants to be part of the set-up are in rural areas. The party also wants the eight blocks of the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong to be divided into 32 units for better administration.
The panchayat polls were last held in the hills in 2001, while the terms of the last elected municipal boards ended in July 2009. Observers, however, said the chief minister was raising the bogey of elections to scuttle the prospects of the interim set-up, which the Morcha is keen on putting in place at the earliest.
“The interim authority has to be set up before the modal code of conduct comes into force ahead of the Assembly elections in May next year. Now the deal seems to be a distant possibility with one party in the tripartite negotiations coming up with certain conditions on the interim set-up,” said a political commentator.
Sikkim hoteliers cry for simpler rules
TT, Gangtok, Dec. 3: The Sikkim Hotel and Restaurant Association (SHRA) has asked the state government to introduce a single window system to issue and renew licences to hotels so that the existing long and time-consuming process can be replaced.
The hospitality sector in Sikkim is worth more than Rs 5,000 crore and there are more than 600 hotels, both medium and large, in Gangtok.
“A simplified process by way of a single window system for issuing and renewing of licences and paying all fees and taxes will be of great help to us. It would certainly help us by saving valuable time and money, which could have been otherwise spent in more purposeful activities,” said Bhanu Pratap Rasaily, the SHRA president, in his memorandum to state tourism minister Bhim Dhungel on November 30.
According to Rasaily, entrepreneurs running hotels and restaurants in Sikkim have to approach various departments like urban development, tourism, excise, labour, health and the fire to get or renew their licences.
“Most of the entrepreneurs in Sikkim run small business. They often run from one agency to another to get the no objection certificates from the authorities, wasting their time. The government should set up a single window system so that we can get all the paperwork done from one place. The government does not have to designate one department to act as a single window agency. It can set up a system in which officials from departments concerned sit under one roof for a faster processing of documents,” Rasaily told reporters here today. “The tourism minister has assured us to look into our suggestion.”
Besides the single window system, the SHRA has also approached the state government to simplify the labour registration rules that had been framed earlier this year.
“According to labour rules, a worker coming from outside Sikkim has to be registered here. The labourer must bring verification documents from police and panchayats from his place and carry out a similar drill in Sikkim,” said SHRA general secretary Vivek Pradhan.
“Often the hotel management has to spend more time in the labour office getting papers ready for the employee.” He said since the labour rules were time-consuming and cumbersome, the SHRA requested the government to simplify the rules.
Carron meet
TT, Jaigaon: The Jalpaiguri district administration will hold a meeting with the management and workers of Carron Tea Estate at Malbazar on December 8. The garden has been shut since October 2. Members of trade unions, the management and district officials will attend the meeting.
Robbers held
TT, Islampur: Four persons were arrested from Alinagar on Friday in connection with a robbery in September. A cellphone stolen has been recovered from them.
Extra trains
TT, Siliguri: The weekly superfast special train between Kamakhya and Calcutta will run for six more weeks from December 6, said the Northeast Frontier Railway. The 0574 Kamakhya-Calcutta express will leave Kamakhya at 9pm every Monday and reach Calcutta at 3pm the next day. The 0573 Calcutta-Kamakhya train will leave Calcutta at 9.40pm and arrive at Kamakhya at 3.30pm the next day.
Suspected Nepal Maoist held with explosives
Shaikh Atikh Rashid, IE, Delhi:A Nepalese national with suspected Maoist links was arrested in the Capital on Friday on charges of smuggling explosives across the border to Nepal.
The arrest followed a police raid at a house in Karol Bagh where the accused, 42-year-old Lok Nath Panth, was reportedly staying with an acquaintance. The police also seized 498 non-electric detonators and 27 m of fuse wire from the suspect.
Panth has no previous criminal record in India. According to the police, after arriving from Nepal, he collected the explosives from a contact in Bhivani, Haryana.
He was on his way back to Nepal, where he was supposed to hand over the explosives to one Jakh Bahadur, a Nepali citizen with suspected Maoist links.
The police say the type of detonators seized are difficult to procure in Nepal and are usually smuggled from India by carriers and supplied there. “The accused used to work in factory in Ludhiana a few years ago. We have sent a team to Bhiwani to investigate the source of the explosives,” said Jaspal Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central).

SHEEMNews: Dalai Lama is visiting Kalimpong on 12th December and will stay for three days. 

1 comment:

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