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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Morcha folds ‘identity’ card - Growth, governance new mantras .... Strike threat to scuttle rallies

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Jan. 4: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today asked the people of the Darjeeling hills to stop harping on about “identity” — the issue which has been the cornerstone of the demand for a separate state — and instead, make development and better governance the basis of the call for Gorkhaland.
“Identity is a multi-layered thing. At times identity comes with economic well-being. And this is something we should strive for. We talk about identity, but half the people here will not be able to give a proper answer if they are asked what they mean by identity,” said Morcha leader Harka Bahadur Chhetri at a rally here.
Observers believe Chhetri’s remark today is meant to blunt the stand of the Morcha’s rivals that only a separate state will fulfil the hill people’s aspirations for “identity”, not an interim set-up that the party is willing to accept for the moment.
However, Chhetri’s comments are almost certain to spark off a debate in the hills where political parties have always sold the Gorkhaland dream as a means to achieve an “identity” for the people. Protagonists of the statehood campaign have for long maintained that Gorkhaland is the only means to differentiate between the Nepali speaking people and others in India.
In fact, one common grouse of all parties in the hills is that the Nepali speaking people are often termed as “foreigners” in India despite being citizens of the country.
The Morcha leader, however, fully endorsed the statehood demand. “Gorkhaland is justified as our people want to be governed by ourselves.”
Later, Chhetri told The Telegraph: “I saw people from different communities at the meeting venue (Chowk Bazar). I wanted to put across a broader perspective as some of us, too, are stuck with the word identity.”
“Being able to govern in a given territory will instantly stop people from raising questions about our identity. This is why Gorkhaland, as a state, is about territory and better governance and not just about identity,” said Chhetri, who is the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha.
The public meeting was part of the Morcha’s agitation to demand equal treatment of the Telangana and Gorkhaland issues if the demand for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh is recommended by the Srikrishna Committee, whose report is to be made public on January 6.
The Morcha also reminded the supporters that Telangana had not been a reality despite it being recommended by the State Reorganisation Commission in 1956. “I don’t think creation of Telangana is as simple as the opposition parties in the hills are making it out to be. We are, however, ready to start an agitation if the report is favourable towards the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh,” said Chhetri.
3-day jumbo chase ends with darting - Crowd poses problems to forest operation
TT, Raiganj, Jan. 4: The lone male elephant which had been giving a lot of trouble to foresters ever since it was spotted in South Dinajpur’s Tapan on Saturday morning was finally darted and captured this evening.
The six-feet tall animal with small tusks was tranquillised at Faridpur in North Dinajpur, ending a 72-hour-long drama staged across two districts.
The elephant had been at Ahira in the Kusmandi area of South Dinajpur since yesterday. However, around 10am today, it began to wander erratically after being panicked by a crowd.
“The people were throwing stones and missiles at the animal. It began running aimlessly and sometimes went to a border road and then climbed down to the paddy fields as the crowd followed it. Around 2pm, the jumbo reached the Kaliaganj block of North Dinajpur after crossing a rivulet,” said Apurba Sen, the divisional forest officer of Raiganj.
The elephant took refuge in a mustard field at Faridpur, 7km from Ahira, with foresters keeping a close watch on it.
By then, four kunkis from Jaldapara and Gorumara had arrived at Ahira as did Subrata Pal Chowdhury, the forest department’s darting expert from Calcutta. The kunkis were sent to help the foresters dart and capture the fleeing jumbo. Members of a wildlife squad from Sukna have also been accompanying the foresters since yesterday.
Sen said as a crowd had started to swell at Faridpur also, he called up the district magistrate of North Dinajpur, Sunil Dandapat, and requested him to send a police team. “We found that if the police were not around to keep the crowd at bay, it would be very difficult for Pal Chowdhury to tranquillise the animal as the people, too, were at the risk of getting darted,” said the DFO.
A large police contingent was sent to the spot and the onlookers were pushed back to enable the foresters to carry out the darting operation in a smooth way.
Around 5.20pm, Pal Chowdhury managed to fire a dart at the elephant. In a few minutes, the animal stood on unstable legs and became immobilised.
The wildlife squad members secured the elephant’s front right leg to the left rear leg so that the animal was unable to move.
“It will take three hours for the drug to completely wear off. We will have to provide lot of water to the elephant to drink as the darted animal will wake up with a mammoth thirst. Banana plant stalks, bamboo shoots and banyan leaves are being collected for the animal to eat,” Sen said.
Pal Chowdhury and members of the Sukna wildlife squad will camp at the site, along with senior police officers. The local administration will provide a generator set to light up the spot and tarpaulin sheets to erect tents, said the DFO.
Elaborating on tomorrow’s plans, Sen said the elephant would be kept at the spot where it was captured with police protection. “Before a crowd builds up tomorrow, the kunkis will be brought and the captured elephant will be loaded onto a truck after a check-up by a vet.”
Chief wildlife warden S.B Mondal said over the phone from Calcutta that the forest department planned to release the elephant in Mahananda wildlife sanctuary.
Strike threat to scuttle rallies
TT, Siliguri, Jan. 4: The Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee today threatened to call a 48-hour strike in Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts if the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the CPRM were granted permission to hold rallies here on on January 8 and 9.
While the Morcha had approached the Darjeeling district administration for consent to organise a rally at Baghajatin Park on January 8, the CPRM had sought permission to hold a meeting at the same venue the next day.
Mukunda Majumdar, the president of the Bhasha Committee, also said the organisation had decided to field “independents” in at least eight to 10 seats in the ensuing Assembly elections in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts. He added that the independents would have the full support of the Bhasha Committee.
The Bhasha Committee, which opposes the division of Bengal, has so far projected itself as an apolitical organisation.
Governor meet on ragging
TT, Siliguri, Jan. 4: Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan has asked all members of the executive council of North Bengal University to meet him on Saturday to discuss the action to be taken against 14 senior students accused of ragging juniors at a hostel on the campus.
Narayanan, who is also the chancellor of the varsity, is interfering in the matter after the council on December 16 voted down the anti-ragging committee’s proposal to rusticate six of the seniors, suspend three for one semester and expel the rest from the hostel.
The panel had found the 14 third semester post-graduate philosophy students guilty of physically and mentally torturing 17 first semester students.
“The vice-chancellor (Arunabha Basumajumdar) received a letter from the governor asking him to convey to all council members that he would like to meet them at Raj Bhawan at 3.30pm on Saturday to discuss the ragging issue. Accordingly, the VC has told all the members about the chancellor’s invitation. We are hopeful that a decision will be taken at this meeting,” said Sushanta Das, the controller of examinations, today.
There are 28 members in the council, whose meetings are chaired by the VC.
According to a senior academician, the chancellor has the power to recommend steps which the university is bound to accept. “If the varsity authorities fail to take action as per the chancellor’s recommendations, he (chancellor) can ask the state government to take the necessary steps against the erring officials,” he said.
A council member has said though the governor is the highest authority of the NBU, there has been no precedent of Narayanan’s predecessors taking a final decision on matters relating to a varsity under them.
A former council member said since the chancellor was the “final arbitrator” of the NBU, he was vested with powers to give directives to the varsity.
The University Grants Commission has also taken up the ragging issue seriously. The VC was asked last night to furnish the UGC with a detailed report, mentioning the steps he had taken against the 14 seniors.
“UGC secretary N.A. Kazmi asked Basumajumdar to furnish the apex body with a report in a week on actions taken against those involved in ragging failing which necessary measures would be initiated against the NBU,” said a source.
Raiganj prize
TT, Raiganj, Jan. 4: The Congress-run Raiganj municipality has bagged the first prize for environmental excellence, especially for turning the town into a no-plastic zone and maintaining water bodies clean.
The civic body has also been declared a “model” in the state.
The West Bengal Pollution Control Board handed over the award to Mohit Sengupta, chairperson of the municipality, at Chandannagar in Hooghly on December 26.
“Our men remained vigilant throughout the year to ensure that plastic bags with a thickness of less than 40 microns are not used in the town,” said Sengupta. Plastic carry bags thinner than 40 microns are banned by the state pollution control board.
Sengupta said the civic body involved members of local clubs and social organisations to carry out awareness campaigns and engaged councillors to visit shops in their wards to keep a check on the use of plastic bags.
“If caught for violating the norms, both shop owners and customers are fined,” Sengupta claimed.
While traders have to pay Rs 500 as fine, customers are charged a penalty of Rs 50 for using plastic bags. Residents are allowed to use only those plastic bags which have a seal of the municipality.
“Idols were taken out of the rivers immediately after immersion and carried to rubbish dump. That helped us keep the water bodies clean,” a senior official of the civic body said.
The civic body has also set up parks and solid waste treatment plants in town.
Shops gutted
TT, Jalpaiguri, Jan. 4: Ten shops were razed to the ground in a fire at a market in Dhupguri around midnight last night.
Three fire tenders took five hours to douse the flames. The affected shopkeepers alleged that as the Neora river, 300 metres from the market, had been choked by garbage, the firemen had trouble pumping water. Mrinal Dey, the fire brigade station officer, said short circuit might be the probable cause of the blaze.
Special train
TT, Siliguri: The Northeast Frontier Railway will run a winter special train (03158) on January 6. The train will leave Guwahati at 9pm and reach Calcutta at 2.50pm the next day.

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