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Friday, December 24, 2010

Rivals ready for polls, not hll set up

- ABGL questions the role of cabinet committee
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Dec. 23: All major parties in the hills are willing to contest the municipality and rural polls but most of the rivals of Bimal Gurung are reluctant to form the board for the interim authority if they win, in which case the set-up might end up as a non-starter.
With the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha agreeing to contest the local body polls, elections to the panchayat, due since 2005, and the municipalities in the region can now be held.

The Morcha’s decision to contest the election has set in motion a process to form the new set-up as it has been agreed that the board of the Gorkhaland Regional Authority will be formed through proportionate representation, depending on the number of seats won in the panchayat and the municipalities.
The mode of forming the board had been a major bone of contention between the Morcha and the government with the hill party demanding that it be allowed to nominate all the members to the GRA. The state was, however, adamant that the board should be formed either through direct or indirect election.
The Morcha’s election decision followed by the Union home minister P. Chidambaram’s reported assurance that the note on the interim set-up would now be placed at a meeting of the cabinet committee on security has suddenly raised the possibility of elections in the hills.
“We welcome the government’s decision to hold the municipality and panchayat elections. We will definitely contest these elections but at the same time, we will not participate in the formation of the board,” said Narayan Chhetri, spokesperson for the ABGL, a major Morcha rival. This essentially means that if the rival camp goes on to win the elections, the GRA will be a non-starter.
The ABGL is of the opinion that the Centre’s decision to place the proposal for an interim set-up at the CCS meeting is just a face-saver. “The Morcha delegation had been camping in the capital for long and this is just a face saver for them so that they can return and tell the people that something is moving in Delhi,” said Chhetri.
The involvement of the CCS had been forced by the developments after the murder of ABGL leader Madan Tamang on May 21, the party feels. “When the DGHC was formed in 1988, no green light from the CCS was needed. This time the Centre is involving the CCS as senior Morcha leaders have been named in the FIR we have filed but they have not yet been arrested. The murder case is also being handed over to the CBI and this is why the CCS is being brought into the picture,” said Chhetri.
The ABGL still believes that the government cannot form the interim set-up without consulting the other parties in the hills as well.
“Eight political parties from the hills have already told the Union home minister that we are against the interim set-up. The government cannot ignore the Opposition (rival) voice,” said Chhetri.
The CPRM, too, said it had no issues contesting the elections.
“It is a democratic process and we will always welcome it. However, if the law and order situation is not improved and if democratic rights of the people like freedom of expression are not safeguarded, participating in the elections will be a futile exercise,” said R.B. Rai, general secretary of the CPRM.
The stand of the GNLF, which wants Sixth Schedule status for the hills, could not be immediately known as party president Subash Ghisingh could not be contacted.
Strikes off, it’s Christmas time - Chill in the air, so are mistletoes and turkeys

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Dec. 23: The political temperature in the hills has dropped and the chill, too, is back in the air, so are the Santas, mistletoes, turkeys, stuffed goose, croquette and more.
Festival An air of festivity has gripped the hills with Christmas stars adorning many a rooftop here. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, happy after its talks with Union minister P. Chidambaram, has agreed to contest elections and allow all government offices to remain open. It has also withdrawn its strike.
“We are happy that the strikes have been withdrawn. The prem bhoj (Christmas feast in churches) has also been held and people are into carolling, which at times extends till January 3,” said Father Alex Gurung of the Darjeeling diocese.
The biggest Xmas mass in Darjeeling will be held at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception tomorrow evening.

“The mass will start at 7pm as we don’t want to extend it till late in the night largely because of the cold,” said Father Alex.

The cold, however, has failed to damper preparations at many well-known addresses.

Christmas menu of roasted boar head encircled by rosemary garland may have vanished across the world but many hotels in town have lined up some of the best known Xmas dishes, which have been handed down through generations. “We have a 50-year-old history of Christmas celebration,” said Diamond Oberoi, owner of Hotel Elgin in Darjeeling.
In keeping with the tradition, Elgin is ready to flaunt its speciality in roasted food items. “A candlelight dinner — with roasted turkey, lamb and chicken, plum pudding and cold delicacies like ham and cold meat — is what we have lined up,” said Oberoi.
There would be of course bonfires to beat the cold and cultural events throughout the evening.
Apart from Elgin, Windamere, one of the oldest colonial properties across the Himalayas, is also ready with its “Tottie at the Windamere”.
From tribal dances to carols, Windamere is ready to welcome its guests, not only from India but also from abroad to experience its hospitality.
“The place was a boarding home for the people of the Raj and we still maintain the ambience of those days. People come in from across the globe to get a feel of the atmosphere,” said Elizabeth Clarke, an executive director of Windamere.
Windamere has lined up not just the traditional English fare of turkey and Christmas pudding but is also working on an Indian spread from “Punjabi to South Indian”.
In fact, people are known to jet set from across the globe to be part of the Christmas celebrations both at Windamere and Elgin. “People book accommodations a year in advance,” said Oberoi. Darjeeling looks ready to welcome all.
Plea to CM for a lit-up Dec. 25
RAJEEV RAVIDAS, TT, Kalimpong, Dec. 23: The hills have been reeling from daily power cuts for over a month, forcing the Christian community to seek the intervention of the chief minister to bring an immediate stop to the outage during Christmas festivities.
Homes go dark for about two hours in the evening between 5pm and 8pm and for almost the equal length of time during the day.
“Why is there load-shedding only in the hills? I have made enquiries with my friends in Siliguri, and they say things are fine there,” said Praful Rao, the secretary of the Kalimpong Consumers’ Association and the president of Save The Hills.
Members of the Christian community here today faxed a petition to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, saying they should not be denied their “right to worship” during Christmas.
“Kalimpong has a significant Christian population. For them this week is holy and an important part of the Christmas celebrations. Carol singing during late evening and night commenced on December 20 and will continue until Christmas day. In this regard, the power cuts by the WBSEB between approximately 5.30pm and 8pm has totally ruined the carol singing, resulting in the carol parties wandering around in pitch darkness,” said the letter signed by members of the Christian community.
Darjeeling bishop Stephen Lepcha said it was sad that the power cut was going on even during the Christmas festivities.
“Either deliberately or unknowingly, this (power cut) has been happening. There appears to be none to talk on our behalf. I have also taken up the matter with state minority commission,” he said over the phone from Darjeeling.
The Christians, though, are not the only ones complaining. The people in general are frustrated with the daily power cuts.
“My daughter was forced to study in candle light during her annual exams last month. Since things do not seem like improving. I am thinking of buying an inverter,” said Gita Lama, a resident of East Main Road.
The power cuts have also resulted in the loss of business for many people. “The outage coupled with poor Internet connectivity have hit my business hard,” said James Tamang, the owner of Cyberden on Main Road.

Experts visit green wonder
TT, Jalpaiguri, Dec. 23: Sumanta Mishra has been working wonders in his small garden and rooftop where he has been growing chilli plants that soar up to 25 feet and a cotton shrub that has attained a height of 30 feet, all by using organic fertilisers.
Today, scientists from the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) and the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources visited his home in the Pantapara-Kalibari area of town to check out the wonders that 46-year-old Mishra, an assistant agri-technologist, has been sprouting since 2001.

Mishra said two months ago he had sent a detailed report with photographs of his plants to the Prime Minister’s Office with the emphasis that the fruits and the vegetables grow on marginal land. The team of scientists had been sent at the behest of the PMO.

“I have laid emphasis on the dwindling farmlands because of rapid urbanisation that has led to farmers turn to chemicals and pesticides for more yield, but I have used just manure and vermi-compost in my plants to get these results,” Mishra, said pointing to a single plant that had over a thousand milk gourds sprouting.
The principal scientist of the bureau of plant genetics’ Shillong office, S. K. Verma, said he and the others had been studying the plants what Mishra was growing on his 400sqft garden and 1,700sqft terrace, for the past two days.
“We have measured the plants and collected tissue and seed samples for further laboratory analysis. What the man has achieved is very important for the future of agricultural science. We will investigate if there has been any changes in the genetics and the chromosomes of these plants,” Verma said.
Kundan Kishor, a scientist from the ICAR’s Sikkim office, said the seeds from Mishra’s plants would be grown at the research centre to see if they gave the same yield as they were doing here. “We need another three months to test the potential as well as analyse the plant genetics and the soil they are growing in,” Kishor said.
Later in the day, the two scientists met Jalpaiguri district magistrate Vandana Yadav.
Officers seek arrest of CPM men
TT, Raiganj, Dec. 23: A delegation of the WBCS Executive Officers’ Association met the North Dinajpur district magistrate today and demanded the arrest of CPM members who had roughed up Itahar block development officer yesterday.
Police have picked up a man, not among the seven named in the FIR filed by BDO Sheikh Jaher Ali, after the attack.

The district secretary of the association, Debashis Biswas, said Ali had escaped with his life when the CPM supporters assaulted him yesterday noon.
“The BDO has been heckled three times in the resent past when CPM delegations had gone to meet him. Police are trying to shield the seven persons, including the party’s zonal committee secretary, named in the FIR. We demanded their immediate arrest and told the district magistrate that Ali be given a personal security guard,” he said.
The district magistrate, Sunil Dandapat, said he had instructed the additional superintendent of police to conduct an inquiry into why the police, despite being present at the spot yesterday, had done nothing to prevent the attack on the BDO. “I have also told the police to arrest all those named in the FIR,” Dandapat said.
The officer in charge of Itahar police station, Haradhan Goswami, said after receiving the BDO’s complaint, a probe had been launched to pinpoint the culprits.
“We arrested a CPM member, Moktar Alam. He was one of the main attackers yesterday. We have also found out that all the seven leaders whom the BDO named in the FIR had not taken part in the attack. We are looking into whether or not these seven leaders instigated the attack,” he said.
NOC hurdle for Buddhist school
TT, Salugara (Siliguri), Dec. 23: An alleged delay on the part of the Bengal government to issue a no-objection certificate to a school opened at the insistence of the Dalai Lama has hindered its growth, the management claimed today even as the Tibetan spiritual leader arrived here for a two-day visit.
The Himalayan Buddhist Cultural School was set up at the Kalchakra “phodang” or the site where the Dalai Lama had offered Kalchakra Initiation in Salugara on December 16, 1996. It started functioning from 1997 till Class VIII but has not received a no-objection certificate from the state school education department even after five years to teach the higher secondary course.

“It is unfortunate that the school, which was opened at the insistence of His Holiness to make productive use of the Kalchakra site, could not progress much because of unprecedented delay of the state education department,” said Sonam Lhundup Lama, general secretary of the Himalayan Buddhist Cultural Association that runs it.
“We had decided to obtain CBSE affiliation and develop it as a higher secondary school. However, we could not get the NOC despite several efforts in the past five years. It is only because of non-affiliation that we could not start classes after the eighth standard.”
There are around 300 students in the school. “Most of them are from poor families and from different communities. They are taught in Hindi and Tibetan languages,” saiol education minister Partha Dey could not be reached.
The Dalai Lama, who arrived from Gangtok this morning, visited the Jangchup-Choling Monastery and met devotees preparing for the fortnight fast as part of a ritual. “He met and blessed those people. His Holiness also enquired about the number of people joining the fast and other information about the monastery,” Lhundup Lama, who is accompanying him, said. Later, he was welcomed at the Sed-Gyued Institute of Buddhist Studies where he preached Gyalsey Thokme Sangpo’s 37 Practices of a Boddhisattva in Tibetan.
“He will stay here today and tomorrow there will be an Avalokiteshvera Initiation, known as Chenresig Wang in Tibetan, before he leaves for Delhi,” a source said.
According to Lhundup Lama, the Tibetan leader will also preach on contemporary topics. “Considering the life of modern people, he will deliver sermons that are contemporary. People from all caste and creed are welcome,” he said.
The organisers are expecting a footfall of around 35,000. Many devotees have already arrived from Nepal and Bhutan and the northeastern states. “We have around 1 lakh Tibetans in north Bengal and a good portion of them will attend the preaching of His Holiness,” Lhundup Lama said.
Ragging rally
TT,Siliguri: Members of Srijan, a Siliguri-based apolitical organisation, took out a rally across the town on Thursday evening to protest against the incident of ragging in the boys’ hostel of North Bengal University. They also protested the alleged attempt by some of the members of the varsity executive council to shield some SFI supporters accused in the incident.
Leather fair
TT, Siliguri: Lexpo — a fair of leather goods organised by the Indian Leather Technologists’ Association — will begin at the Kanchenjungha Stadium fair grounds here from Friday.
TT, Balurghat: The Father of a Class-III student, who was allegedly beaten up by the principal of a kindergarten school here, has filed a complaint against him with Bansihari police on Thursday. The police said Prabhas Mondal has filed the complaint against Swaraj Chakraborty for beating up his son on Wednesday. The child aged around nine years was taken to the Rashidpur Block Hospital for first aid.
Road death
TT, Islampur: Six-year-old Lovely Khatun was killed after a trekker knocked her down at Mohabbatpur on Wednesday. The vehicle has been seized and the driver arrested.
Nature camp
TT, Siliguri: North Bengal Explorers’ Club will organise its annual nature study-cum-adventure camp at Samsing in the Dooars from December 25 to 30. Members said a number of students from schools across north Bengal will take part in the camp.

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