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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Next Round of Suffering 8 days' bundh.... Section 144 to avert Dooars flare-up - Defiant Morcha vows to go ahead with padayatra ... House summons for cop chief

Special correspondent, KalimNews : The hill people are now ready to face the second round of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) sponsored 8 days' bundh which has just commenced from 6 AM of 18th January. 
As per the history of this hilldom the peaceloving people have experienced the taste of 40 days' continued bundh during the Gorkhaland agitation led by Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) the first phase of violent movement in the late 80s. Until and unless the GJM does not break that record of 40 day's strike, the hill people are not likely to react on troubles and losses they have to face during such long bundhs.
Dr. H.B. Chhetri, GJM spokesperson during a speech said that, Subash Ghising, the GNLF supremo wanted to make the people tired of the situation by announcing such a longer strikes so that they (the people) accept the proposed Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) to avoid further difficulties. This attitude of GNLF had ultimately led hill people to lose its patience and make its leaders leave the hills. 
Is history repeating itself? This has been the question of the hill people now on the strategies of the GJM. Are they also following the footprints of Ghising on the wake of inking a least valuable proposal of the authorities in the name of Gorkha Regional Authorities (GRA).
Now it has become quite evident that the concept and objective of the GJM's leaders are not clear till now. They have started to launch such programmes in the name of fresh Gorkhaland agitation but failed to convince the confused hill people of their compulsions that led them earlier to consider the GRA's proposal. Almost all the non-GJM parties have now been creating pressure to the GJM to make its stance clear on the Gorkhaland and GRA. 
Responding to the appeal of Dr. Chhetri for a collective leadership by organising long march towards Sunkosh river in the Dooars from 18th Jan, they have demanded that the GJM should first submit its stand on forgoing the GRA's proposal in writing. They have also criticised GJM leadership for making such a vital decision public through Dr. Chhetri. According to them, the GJM Chief Bimal Gurung , not Dr. Chhetri, had to make the decision of the party clear on the stand on Gorkhaland's fresh movement. The statements of Gurung made in the last three-four days have contradicted themselves where he had indicated a 'good news very shortly' from the centre, they added.
On the other hand, the GJM has reiterated to organise long march to Dooars led by Gurung himself. According to the party's plan Gurung would start march from Gorubathan on 18 Jan morning and after walking for 35 kms every day he would take rest.
Meanwhile, in view of the deteriorating situation in the Dooars belt the administration of Jalpaiguri has already imposed prohibitory orders to prevent GJM from entering the district. Dr. Chhetri has stated that the GJM leadership is ready to face any consequence as its march is being conducted in democratic manner. The GJM has also decided to exempt the Dooars from the purview of the 8 day's bundh and hold 24 hours relay hunger strike in three different parts of the region from today itself.
In view of the last incidents in Jaigaon and opposition from the anti-Gorkhaland forces in the Dooars, the proposed long march of Gurung seems to have become a nightmare to the local administrations. 
More CRPF jawans march into bandh-hit Darjeeling
TNN, DARJEELING: Four companies of CRPF, requisitioned by the administration, reached the Hills on Monday evening. The forces have been brought to maintain law and order and to keep NH-31A, which leads to Sikkim, free during bandhs.
"They will be deployed later tonight," said Darjeeling ASP Kunal Agarwal.Two companies will be posted in Kalimpong subdivision, one on NH-31A, and one in Darjeeling and Siliguri.
The district police had said they don't have enough manpower to maintain order in the region during the strikes called by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. A 27-day bandh, called by the Morcha, is on in the Hills. The administration is worried of a flare-up and wanted more forces. 
KalimNews: IG Ranveer Kumar, DC Amerendra kumar Singh, DM Bandana  Yadav visited Jaigaon on Monday. Ranveer Kumar IG said that the situation in Jaigaon is normal but 144 Cr PC will be imposed for a few more days. SSB and Police are patrolling for maintaining law and order. So far 10 people are arrested and produced in the court.
Meanwhile Alipurduar police seized a vehicle bearing Bhutan registration number. According to an information a vehicle at Babupara of Alipurduar was spotted in a mysterious manner. On approaching the vehicle by the patrolling police the occupant and driver of the vehicle sped off for a little distance leaving it ran off. Later the police seized it and is of the  opinion that it may either be a theft vehicle or used by miscreants involved in the Jaigaon clash.
It is alleged that vehicles with Bhutan number plates move around the Dooars safely as they belong to another nation.
Gurung march puts Dooars on edge
TNN, JALPAIGURI: Three plains outfits the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parshad, Bangla O Bangla Bhasa Bachao Committee and Jan Jagaran have threatened to resist the proposed Dooars march by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung beginning on Tuesday.
Jaigaon in the Dooars was the scene of large scale violence between the two sides on Sunday, leading to curfew being imposed. Gurung plans to head for the hot spot but anti-Gorkhaland forces have v owed to stop him.
"We've decided to stop the GJM leader from entering the Dooars. We will not allow the Morcha to take out rallies here. We have informed the administration of our decision. If they fail to stop the GJM supporters, we will. And the state government will be responsible for the consequences," said Tez Kumar Toppo, secretary of ABAVP's Bengal chapter.
Fearing violence, the administration imposed Section 144 in the Dooars for 72 hours from 6am on Tuesday. Security forces were sent to sensitive pockets.
"Gurung won't be allowed to enter the Dooars. The situation is already tense following the Jaigaon incident," IGP (North Bengal) Ranveer Kumar said.
On the other hand, Pratap, a Jan Jagaran leader said, "It's because of the state government's appeasement policy that Gurung is trying to come to the Dooars despite the prevailing tension. I wonder why the government is still silent."
On Monday, the GJM chief announced his decision to tour the Dooars and asked his supporters to take out rallies in the region. He is camping in Lava in Kalimpong subdivision, which is close to the western Dooars.
Observers described Gurung's statement as "a gimmick" to create pressure on the government to form an interim autonomous set-up. "With the elections round the corner, it is important for GJM to get an interim set-up. Gurung is finding it difficult to retain his control over the Hills," an observer said.
Jaigaon, which thrives on trade with Bhutan through its border town Phuentsholling, has seen repeated clashes in the last year or so over the Gorkhaland issue. Two persons were killed a year and a half ago.

Section 144 to avert Dooars flare-up- Defiant Morcha vows to go ahead with padayatra
TT, Jan. 17: The Jalpaiguri district administration today imposed prohibitory orders on the Dooars, apprehending violence during a padayatra by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung tomorrow.
The Morcha, however, said the order under Section 144 of the CrPC, would be defied and Gurung would start his 100km-long march “for peace and communal harmony” from Gorubathan in Kalimpong tomorrow.
CPM leaders in Darjeeling district expressed concern and said they wanted police to stop the rally from entering the Dooars.
The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad said its supporters would take to the streets and stop the Morcha from organising the procession. The Jana Jagaran Mal, an anti-Morcha forum in Malbazar, has backed the Parishad.
“We have learnt that the Morcha will take out a rally in the Dooars and will launch a hunger strike. We have asked them to refrain from organising the rally as some other regional groups are opposing it. But nobody is listening to us,” said Vandana Yadav, the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri.
“The administration is thus left with no other alternative but to issue prohibitory orders in the Dooars from 6am tomorrow for three days.”
The orders will be in place in Alipurduar and Malbazar subdivisions and parts of Jalpaiguri subdivision.
Morcha leaders, however, sounded adamant. “We are organising the march for peace and communal harmony and the CPM-led state government is trying to stop us. Even if there are prohibitory orders, we will go ahead with the programme and walk to the Dooars, spreading the message,” said Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri.
According to Giri, Gurung will start the padayatra from Gorubathan in Kalimpong, reach Gurjangjhora (near Malbazar), and head Birpara through Chulsa, Nagrakata, Banarhat and Binnaguri.
“He will address a meeting at Birpara and then go to Madarihat, Hasimara and Jaigaon. In Jaigaon, there will be another public address by our party president,” said a Morcha source without elaborating on the tentative duration of the padayatra.
The Jalpaiguri administration also formed a peace committee in Jaigaon after a scrap trader, Umakanto Singh, was hacked on the head with khukuris yesterday. He is put on ventilator in a Siliguri nursing home and his condition is critical.
The divisional commissioner, A. K. Singh, and district magistrate Yadav, along with inspector-general of police, north Bengal, Ranvir Kumar, visited Jaigaon today.
All shops and establishments were shut on the second and the final day of the anti-Morcha bandh called by the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee.
Siliguri also remained shut today. CPM leaders took out a rally to protest the Bhasha Committee strike and appealed to people to come out of their homes. Ten committee supporters were arrested when they took out a rally at Sevoke More.
IE, Siliguri: Prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC came into effect today in at least eight police stations of Dooars region in Jalpaiguri district after the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha gave a seven-day bandh call in Darjeeling and Dooars, starting tomorrow.
GJM chief Bimal Gurung is scheduled to lead a Padayatra from the hills to the plains tomorrow demanding Gorkhaland which will be opposed by several other Adivasi groups and other communities.
The prohibitory orders have been imposed to prevent spread of violence to other parts. On Sunday, sporadic clashes broke out between supporters and antagonists of Gorkhaland in Kalchini, Hamiltonganj, Birpara and Hasimara.
District Magistrate of Jalpaiguri Vandan Yadav confirmed the imposition of the prohibitory orders in some police station areas following escalation in tension.
Meanwhile, three companies of Central security forces arrived in Siliguri for deployment in the hills. Two of these have reportedly been brought from Lalgarh and another company arrived from Assam.
According to police, one more company is expected to arrive soon.
The GJM sponsored 96-hour bandh ended on Friday when another group based in Siliguri and the Dooars called for a 48-hour bandh in Siliguri and Dooars. And now the seven-day bandh is to start from tomorrow by the GJM. GJM supremo Gurung is said to have told party cadres that they would not go for talks unless the Center assures them a separate state.
TH, KOLKATA: A seven-day bandh in the Darjeeling hills of West Bengal called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) resumes on Tuesday, two days after it was relaxed following a four-day shutdown in the region last week.
Tea gardens exempted
The bandh has been called by the GJM leadership to put pressure on the Centre to spell out its stand on the GJM demand for a separate “Gorkhaland”. Tea gardens have been exempted from the bandh.
Though the Gorkha-dominated pockets in the Terai and Dooars in the plains of north Bengal have been excluded from the ambit of the bandh, the GJM leadership has announced that its president Bimal Gurung will along with some associates go on a “padayatra” from Gorubathan in the Kalimpong sub-division to Jaigaon in Jalpaiguri district.
Clashes had broken out in Jaigaon on Sunday between GJM supporters and those of the Siliguri-based Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Baachao (Save Bengal and the Bengali language) Committee (BBBBC) over a two-day bandh called by the latter in protest against the “Gorkhaland” demand.
Prohibitory orders
Apprehending that the padayatra could precipitate trouble, the Jalpaiguri district administration will promulgate prohibitory orders under Section 144 in Dooars areas, District Magistrate Vandana Yadav told The Hindu over telephone from Jalpaiguri.
The orders are already in force in Jaigaon.
“Mr Gurung will march to Jaigaon where he will address a rally seeking harmony between communities and to assure the Gorkhas of the region that the GJM is behind them”, senior GJM leader and member of its central committee Harka Bahadur Chettri said.
The GJM has threatened a15-day bandh from January 29 and a fast-unto-death by its senior leaders from February 16 unless the Centre clarifies its stand on the statehood issue by then.
“We are only intensifying our movement for a separate state, having decided that we are not engaging in any further discourse with the Centre or the State Government on the issue of interim council”, Dr Chettri said.
“Even if the interim council is finally put in place, the Centre should spell out what happens once the council's tenure is over in 2012. What happens then? Will we be left in a limbo?” he asked.
Referring to the Srikrishna Committee report on the Telengana issue and the options it has offered, Dr. Chettri said: “Why has there been no such initiative on the part of the Centre regarding Gorkhaland? We shall not be going to the Centre with any further appeal…the Centre has now got to get in touch with us.”
GREF Accident kills 5
Vivek Chhetri, Darjeeling, Jan 17: Four persons died and eight others, including two boys, were injured seriously when a dumper truck belonging to the Garrison Reserve Engineering Force hurtled down a 60ft gorge near Teesta Bazaar this morning.
Both legs of a boy were amputated at a Kalimpong hospital.(KalimNews: The boy died on the way when he was referred for further treatment to Siliguri hospital from Kalimpong SD hospital totalling the dead to five.)
The accident occurred when “the steering got locked” and the driver lost control of the truck that was carrying 15 people from Gorubathan to Melli. The dead included two women who were hitching a ride.
“The truck was coming from Gorubathan and was heading towards Melli when the driver lost control of the vehicle. So far, four people, including two women, have died and eight others were seriously injured,” said D.P. Singh, the superintendent of police of Darjeeling.
Kumar Pradhan, 52, B. Sonam, 25, Pramila Rai, 45, and Sanju Rai, 35, died on the spot. The injured persons were first admitted to Kalimpong subdivisional hospital and later referred to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital as their condition was serious.
Rahul Chhetri, 8, and Raju Kumar Sahu, 9, were collecting firewood when the truck hit them.
“Both the legs of Rahul were amputated. His friend Raju has suffered injuries on the head,” said a source.
The other five persons on the truck, including driver B.K. Singh, also suffered injuries and were being treated at the Kalimpong hospital. Their condition was stated to be stable.
“My steering got locked and I could not stop my vehicle immediately,” said Singh in Kalimpong while being treated for a head injury and a deep cut on his back.
The truck fell almost 50-60ft down the gorge on the bank of the Teesta, 16km from Kalimpong, around 11.30am.
The GREF is a wing of the Border Roads Organisation, which maintains NH31A.
“Most of the people in the vehicle were on their way to work near Melli. Sonam and Pramila had taken a lift somewhere near Coronation Bridge,” said the source.
Soon after the accident, raft operators who take tourists for rides on the Teesta swung into rescue operation.
“An army ambulance stationed at a camp in Chitray, (1.5km from the accident site) ferried most of the injured to the Kalimpong hospital,” said a local youth.
House summons for cop chief
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Jan. 17: The Darjeeling police chief has been summoned by the Assembly standing committee on home affairs for a hearing tomorrow on the burning down of Kurseong MLA’s house in February and explain the reasons behind her inability to return home for the past three years.

Confirming the summons, district police chief D.P. Singh told The Telegraph: “I will be attending the hearing tomorrow.”
The hearing will be conducted by committee chairperson Gyan Singh Sohanpal on the Assembly premises at 1pm tomorrow.
Standing committees draw up reports on any particular subject, make observations and then submit them to the Speaker. The Speaker places the report in the House for the members. He may allow a discussion if any member demands it. Kurseong MLA Shanta Chhetri, a member of the committee, had submitted a written complaint to the chairperson on September 21, 2010, apprising him of the situation she was in.
“I have not been able to stay at my house in Kurseong since 2007. My house was also burnt on February 18, 2010. I have not been able to return home and that is why I took up the matter with the committee,” said Chhetri over the phone from Calcutta.
According to Chhetri, the committee discussed her letter at a meeting on October 12, 2010, following which the panel wrote to the additional chief secretary on October 19.
The committee sought a report on Chhetri’s complaint within a month.
“I think the committee is not satisfied with the reply filed by the state and this is probably why the Darjeeling police chief has been called for evidence,” she added.
The move could pave the return of the Kurseong legislator after three years. The cascading effect could also facilitate the return of the nearly 40 GNLF leaders, who had been hounded out of the hills in 2007 allegedly by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters.
The MLA had earlier blamed the Morcha for the attack on her house. “I have been under tremendous pressure. I have always supported the Morcha demand for Gorkhaland and have also raised the issue in the Assembly but I don’t know why I have been targeted,” she had said earlier.
The National Human Rights Commission had issued a directive on March 4, 2010, categorically stating that the state government should ensure the security of all the “affected people” (chased out of the hills).
The Darjeeling police chief had earlier said till date around 25 GNLF leaders had written to the district police to facilitate their return. Following the request, Darjeeling police had sought additional forces from the state to secure the return.
Hills, Sikkim draped in white blanket

Vivek Chhetri/ Bijoy Gurung, TT, Darjeeling/Gangtok, Jan. 17: Darjeeling looked serene today with the gentle snowflakes painting a perfect winter landscape in the higher reaches of the town, a day before the hills go back on agitation mode.

The Darjeeling hills and upper reaches of Sikkim received snowfall yesterday evening with the temperature plummeting considerably lower than the normal.
No matter how often it snows, there seems to be something magical about the snowfall and its mesmerising beauty. Few were complaining about having to sneak out of their warm cosy beds and hike over a slippery hilltop to reach Tiger Hill early in the morning.
Akash Rai, a keen shutterbug, left his Darjeeling residence at 3am and trekked 13km to be among the first to reach Tiger Hill. “Nature was at its best. The landscape was beautiful and the sunrise awesome,” he said after returning home.
After the temperature had gone down to minus two degrees Celsius yesterday evening, it snowed for an hour at Tiger Hills, Ghoom and Jorebunglow. People measured around two inches of snow at these places.
Residents started heading for Ghoom and Jorebunglow, 10km away, since early morning and even though these areas were blanketed with snow, few seemed to be satisfied. Everyone was ready for a hike to Tiger Hills as vehicles would not risk a slippery climb uphill.
" Vehicle or no vehicle, we are going to the top,” said Sumiran Tamang, a collegian. It takes anything between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on your stamina, to reach the sunrise point.
The entire 4km stretch between Jorebunglow and Tiger Hill looked like a jigsaw straight out of a fairyland.
Road  to Tiger Hill
Pic: Suman Tamang
Many had hoped yesterday evening that it would snow even in the town’s main square but a slight breeze came as a dampener and residents had to wake up to a clear and sunny morning.
Barring a few foreigners, there were not many tourists in sight today. The foreign tourists, who went to Tiger Hill to watch sunrise, were happy to see the snow-capped hills.
“We were pleasantly surprised as snowfall is always so beautiful,” said a European tourist.
Many people in the plains enquired about the weather condition in the hills and were unhappy that they could not come up. “I would have loved to come over but there is so much uncertainty both in the hills and the plains,” said Aloke Banerjee, a resident of Shivmandir, Siliguri.
He was alluding to the strikes called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee in the hills and the plains. The Morcha’s second phase of the strike will begin tomorrow.
Areas above 5,500ft in Sikkim also enjoyed moderate to heavy snowfall yesterday. Heavy snowfall was reported from areas like Yumthang Valley in North Sikkim and Chhangu Lake-Nathu-la border in East Sikkim.
Twenty vehicles carrying tourists bound for Chhangu Lake could not go beyond 7th Mile, 20km from Darjeeling, because of the snow-covered road.
Photo: Vartaman News Agency
Tourists and residents, however, enjoyed the snow at Tashi View Point and Ganesh Tok here. The 4km road connecting the two tourist spots and the thick vegetation were covered with snow this morning.
Gangtok Met officials said the day’s maximum temperature in the state capital yesterday was 10.4 degrees Celsius at 11am and the minimum was 2.4 degrees Celsius at 5.30pm. The night temperature was around 1.6 degrees.
Tour operators said Yumthang Valley was also inaccessible to tourists because of deposit of snow right from Chungthang town.
Authorities have stopped giving permits for travel to these areas till the snow melts or is cleared.
Monsoon faces risk and rescue
GS MUdur, TT, New Delhi, Jan. 17: Global warming may rescue India from poor monsoons associated with anticipated changes in the Sun over the next two decades, Indian physicists exploring how solar activity can influence the Earth’s climate have said.
The scientists at the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, have established that the performance of the monsoon appears linked to sunspot activity — the higher the number of sunspots, the more copious the rainfall.
The researchers used chemical signatures embedded in Arabian sea sediments and in the walls of caves scattered across central, eastern, and southern India to reconstruct patterns of solar activity as well as rainfall over the past 20,000 years.
The sunspot activity on the Sun occurs in cycles — the smallest cycle runs over 11 years — during which the number of sunspots increases and decreases. Astronomical observations suggest that the Sun is now heading towards a phase of exceptionally low activity — perhaps over the next two cycles.
“We see a strong association between sunspot cycles and the monsoon,” said Ramesh Rengaswamy, a scientist at the PRL and principal investigator of the study, who presented these findings today at an international conference on space climate in Goa.
Sunspots are associated with intense magnetic fields that enhance the luminosity, or the energy output of the Sun and luminosity is the primary driver of the Earth's climate system. The greater the luminosity, the greater the warmth from the Sun.
Ramesh said the findings, when extrapolated to the anticipated period of low solar activity, would imply relatively poor monsoon rains over the next two decades compared to the rainfall during the previous several decades of high solar activity.
“But global warming caused by greenhouse gases might compensate for any solar effect,” Ramesh told The Telegraph. “But no one is suggesting that we should put more carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere.”
The relative contribution of sunspot activity on the Sun and greenhouse gas emissions to global warming observed on Earth in recent decades is among topics under debate at the space climate conference.
“A proper accounting of the Sun’s effect on the climate is missing, but it is possible that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are contributing more to global warming than solar activity in recent decades,” said Dibyendu Nandi, a physicist, and a Ramanujam Fellow at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Calcutta, and chair of the local conference committee.
“The PRL study is significant because it is by far the deepest peep into the past of the monsoon and its connection with solar activity,” Nandi, who was not associated with the study, told The Telegraph.
Ramesh and his colleagues Madhusudan Yadav and Manish Tiwari used signatures of oxygen and carbon in sea sediments and caves to reconstruct rainfall and solar activity. The oxygen atoms provide information about abundance of water — and thus rainfall —in the past.
A period of high solar activity is associated with a decrease in the flux of cosmic rays striking the Earth. The changes in cosmic rays lead to changes in the types of carbon atoms, reflected in chemicals stored in the walls of caves.
The PRL study has shown, for instance, India received about 30 per cent of what is now dubbed normal rainfall about 2,000 years ago -— a period of low solar activity. In another phase of low solar activity about 300 years ago, rainfall was 20 per cent below normal.
But some scientists dispute the significance of greenhouse gases on the Earth’s climate. “The (anticipated) deep and long (solar) minimum may be a signal for climate cooling in the near future,” Bas van Geel, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Amsterdam, a delegate at the space climate conference said.
“The role of the Sun is probably underestimated in climate models,” van Geel said. “By how much, I cannot say.”
Nandi said more theoretical and modelling studies of how solar activity can influence the planet’s climate might help resolve this debate.

Tea Garden opens
TT, Siliguri: Belgachi Tea Estate near Naxalbari reopened on Sunday. The management of the garden had issued a notice of suspension of work and left the estate on December 10. A tripartite meeting was held here on Friday following which the management resumed activities in the garden that has around 1,500 workers on its payroll.
Discontent brews over Darjeeling tea label
Manisha Pande Business standard, January 12, 2011, 0:43 IST,The Tea Board’s control of the GI tag makes small farmers unhappy Darjeeling tea may have been the first Indian product to receive Geographical Indication (GI) status in 2004. But seven years on, it is not turning out to be everyone’s cup of tea: activists and experts are now questioning that status and its implications.
A GI tag recognises goods originating from a certain area that have qualities, reputation or characteristics clearly linked to its geographical origin. Darjeeling tea is grown at a height of 2,500 metres in hilly areas of the eponymous district in West Bengal and joined the league of other GI-protected products as Champagne, Tequila, Cognac and Roquefort cheese. The tea has a huge international market (around 80 per cent of the 10 million kg of tea produced annually is exported).
Since the distinct flavour of Darjeeling tea is directly attributed to its geographic location, the government-promoted Tea Board of India took the initiative to file an application for its registration under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999.
The Tea Board registered the word “Darjeeling” and the Darjeeling tea logo as GIs. However, it has restricted their use by according the tag only to tea grown and processed in the 87 tea gardens that have entered into a licensed agreement with it. This exclusivity could be seen as a measure to check counterfeits (40 million kg of “Darjeeling tea” is sold, which is four times the actual annual produce).
However, many small farmers in the region think the narrow definition runs contrary to the spirit of GI, which unlike a trademark, belongs to all the producers of the specific good and not to a particular enterprise or organisation. The GI for Darjeeling tea, many feel, overlooks the overall prosperity of the region by leaving out almost 30 per cent of small farmers.
At present, small farmers outside the 87 tea estates need to sell their produce to any of the listed tea plantations, which then sell it in the open market as Darjeeling tea. Roshan Rai, a member of the NGO Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna – that helped establish the district’s first small farmers’ tea cooperative Sanjukta Vikas Sanstha – thinks making GI all-inclusive and opening the market for small farmers could have a tremendous economic impact and also resolve the region’s long-standing geopolitical issues for a separate “Gorkhaland” state.
“The market has enough space for both big plantations and small farmers. Of course, there should be strict standards set ensuring the quality and characteristics that are essential to Darjeeling tea, but who’s to say small farmers can’t meet them?,” he says.
Vinay Jain, a Delhi High Court advocate, agrees. He points out a basic flaw in the registration process — since the GI Act’s sole purpose is to protect producers and their rights at the grassroots level, the applicant filing for the GI status must represent the entire grower and farmer community of Darjeeling Tea. “Tea Board of India was set up by the Union Ministry of Trade and Commerce under the Tea Act in 1953 to regulate tea exports. It does not fully represent all the producers, specifically small farmers, linked with the production of Darjeeling tea and nor is it a body specifically constituted to protect the interest of growers,” he says.
He emphasises that mere registration of GI (the product) is not enough; the Act says it is also important to register and list the authorised users, which gives individual producers the legal right to sell their products under GI. In the case of Darjeeling tea, the Tea Board mentions no authorised users. Jain has filed an application for the removal of the GI tag to the GI Registry at the Intellectual Property Office in Chennai and is waiting for a reply. G L Verma, deputy registrar of trade marks & GI, says the application is being reviewed and that proper legal course will be taken to settle the matter. Roshini Sen, deputy chairman, Tea Board of India, however, says she is not aware of any application filed for the removal of GI tag.
Nevertheless, there are those who believe removal of GI tag from Darjeeling tea will be of little use. T C James, director of National Intellectual Property Organisation, a non-profit think-tank working on intellectual property awareness says everyone loses if Darjeeling tea loses its GI status, given that the legal protection it provides helps boost exports. He says that Tea Board must be given credit for taking the initiative to register it as the first Indian good under the GI Act. “If, however, there are those who believe it was wrongly registered there is a legal mechanism to address their grievances,” he says.
A similar application seeking the removal of the GI tag of the Tirupati Laddu has been filed by Praveen Raj, a scientist at the National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram. He believes the GI status in this instance encourages commercialisation of religion.(shared by Bishal Rai)

Nepal Maoist military boss admits India mistakes

Sankarshan Thakur, TT, New Delhi, Jan 17: The political head of the Nepali Maoist army and Prachanda confidant, Barsa Man Pun, has admitted they committed “diplomatic mistakes” in dealing with India.
“We are new to mainstream politics and we realise we committed some diplomatic mistakes while we were in power,” Pun toldThe Telegraph in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of a closed-door seminar last week on ways to break the Nepali political deadlock.
He was quick to emphasise, though, that New Delhi had not helped ties with its “suspicious and non-cooperative” attitude towards the Maoists. “We have given no deliberate cause to Delhi to be negative towards us, India’s role in Nepal, in particular with us, is contributing to the current impasse,” Pun said.
A member of the Maoist standing committee, Pun, 40, is the bridge between the political and military wings of the Maoists and is seen by many Nepal observers as a man to watch. A veteran of many battles during the decade-long insurgency, Pun has moved swiftly up the party rungs and emerged as a key strategist.
Pun parried repeated questions on what those “diplomatic mistakes” were; privately Maoists have begun to admit that Prachanda’s brinkmanship on the removal of Gen Rukmangad Katuwal as Nepali Army chief was an error. It was a move that led to Prachanda’s resignation in May 2009 and the squaring out of the Maoists from power even though they are the single largest party in the Constituent Assembly (CA).
With the extended CA set to expire in May, the Maoists are keen a government of national unity is formed so the task of approving a new republican constitution can be completed. Private signals from Maoists that they are willing to accept “mistakes” and adopt a more moderate stance could be triggered by their anxiety that another CA deadline might lapse and the gains of the “people’s revolution” lost.
With Nepali Congress leader Ramchandra Poudel’s withdrawal from prime ministerial candidacy on Wednesday, the CA appears to have exhausted possibilities of ending the drift under Madhav Nepal’s caretaker government. The CA speaker or the Nepali president might yet rekindle the process using special powers but sources say it is unlikely the key political parties will agree on a common candidate over the next five months. It is a deadlock that particularly rankles the Maoists because they believe their victory in the 2008 elections is being smothered.
Pun and Baburam Bhattarai, who too spoke at the Delhi seminar, have been lobbying hard to prevent the expiry of the CA. Key to that objective is the formation of a unity government which, the Maoists believe, India has been stalling by using its influence to outflank the Maoists. “We have almost forgotten the peace process and the new constitution which was mandated by the elections,” Pun said, “India’s role in sidelining and isolating Maoists is not in the interests of Nepali democracy.”
The military leader agreed that the issue of integrating and rehabilitating the 19000-odd People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers, currently in barracks under UN supervision, was a major roadblock to resolution, but argued that the political stalemate had to be ended first; once there is broad political agreement between the major parties, he said, ways could be found to sort out other outstanding issues.
Pun had a run-in on the integration issue with the retired Gen Katuwal at the seminar. Katuwal had made a case against integrating the PLA into the Nepali Army saying rebels could not be admitted into a “democratic military force”. Pun turned on Katuwal saying the Nepali Army had protected “royalist and anti-democratic” governments for long periods in the nation’s history.
“The PLA is a people’s force, it has the support of the people, elements in the Nepali Army are reactionary and royalist, they need to be democratised and the best way to do that is to integrate it with the PLA.”
The Nepali Army remains deeply skeptical and wary of integrating with the PLA on the grounds that they stand to be “overrun” by Maoist elements. The Nepali establishment — and New Delhi in no mean measure — too are apprehensive that the Maoists plan to eventually use the integrated army as an instrument for the takeover of the Nepali state by force.
Pun allayed such fears saying the Maoists were “committed to democracy if we are allowed to function and perform our role”. Though he opposed the rehabilitation of PLA cadres into Nepali society rather than in the military —and idea backed, if not mooted by New Delhi — he said the Maoists were not averse to some of their cadres being sent into paramilitary or police forces.
“Several formulas are under consideration, including one that envisages a fifty-fifty joint force, that should remove any apprehensions about our intentions,” he said.

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