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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ghisingh likely to visit Darjeeling after two years... Darjeeling planters fear Nepal market... Darjeeling dilemma for TMC... Death knell for 3 Sikkim firms- PSU staff shun ‘golden handshake’

3 nabbed with FIC in Rangpo.
GRNM forms ad-hoc body.
3 held with firearms in in Siliguri.Three persons were arrested from Deshbandhupara on Thursday night while planning a burglary. Two rounds of live cartridges, a dagger and an iron rod have been seized from them.
GJM inducts 3 members of Terai and Dooars in central committee.They are Madhusudan Thapa from Dooars, Hom bahadur Chhetri from Kumai and Ashoke Lama from Terai.The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on Friday formed three committees to study the party’s poll prospects in the Darjeeling hills, Siliguri and the Terai, and the Dooars. The panels with 15 members each have been told to submit their reports to the central committee on March 22.
GJM is likely to nominate 3 candidates in Kalimpong, Kurseong and Darjeeling seats. In other 9 Assembly seats it will support any of the Left Front opposition parties like TMC, INC, ABAVP and BJP. 
Ghisingh likely to visit Darjeeling after two years
Marcus Dam,TH, KOLKATA: After being in political limbo ever since he was virtually forced to leave the Darjeeling hills more than two years ago, Subhas Ghisingh could be visiting later this month the region where he was widely considered the supreme leader for more than two decades.
Mr. Ghisingh's likely visit is being linked with the possibility of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) of which he is president contesting from the three hill Assembly segments of Darjeeling district which go to the polls along with the rest of West Bengal on April 18.
The GNLF was replaced by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) as the dominant political force in the hills shortly after the latter was formed in October 2007 under the leadership of Bimal Gurung, one-time protégé of Mr. Ghisingh.
It is now the GJM that is spearheading the movement for a separate “Gorkhaland” State which had been first launched by the GNLF in the mid 1980s
The GNLF had won comfortably from all the three seats in the last Assembly polls. But since then, two of them have resigned from the party.
It is against such a backdrop that the likelihood of a visit to the region by Mr. Ghisingh who had last left the hills in July 2008 assumes significance. His supporters believe that in the event the GNLF stages a comeback in local politics a realignment of forces in the hills is on the cards though the GJM leadership thinks otherwise.
“Mr. Ghisingh is a spent force. The public resentment against him for the manner he had conducted matters while at the helm of affairs for nearly 22 years is still very strong”, senior GJM leader and member of its central committee, Harka Bahadur Chettri told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling on Friday.
“Now that the election code of conduct is in place, security-related anxieties over Mr. Ghisingh's coming to the hills have been somewhat dispelled,” a GNLF leader said.
The GJM leadership, which has said that it will use the coming polls as an opportunity to extend its sphere of influence from the hills to the Dooars in the plains of North Bengal, is, however, still undecided whether it will be fielding candidates of its own or backing Independents.
The coming elections will also be a chance for the non-GJM regional parties, whose activities have been somewhat subdued in recent times, to occupy the public space.
“Candidates belonging to our constituent parties will be contesting from 12 seats spanning the hills, the Dooars and the Terai. Our election campaign will highlight the terror unleashed by the GJM over the past years on their opponents,” said Dawa Sherpa, convenor of the Democratic Front, a conglomerate of non-GJM regional parties.
Darjeeling planters fear Nepal market
Abhijit Sinha, TT, Siliguri, March 11: Exporters of Darjeeling tea are worried that the embargo on the first flush may force customers to go shopping in Nepal, bringing down the price of the premier brew brand from at least Rs 6,000 a kg to as low as Rs 1,000.
The first flush — around 90 per cent of the 2 million kg that is produced in March-April — is usually booked months before and exporters said foreign buyers had started showing impatience with the delay in supply. Usually, the exports start by the first week of March.
The embargo by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has been in force since March 4. The Morcha trade union wants the daily wage of garden workers to be raised from Rs 67 to anything between Rs 120 and Rs 150. The demand was virtually shot down by planters last week, saying the issue could not be discussed with only one union as it would amount to flouting the established industry norms.
“If the prohibition continues for another week, the situation would worsen further. Several of our international clients from Germany, Japan and the UK will shift to Nepal and buy tea from there,” Ankit Lochan, the director of Siliguri-based Lochan Tea Limited which exports nearly 2-3 lakh kg of Darjeeling tea overseas, said today.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed as some of our clients have already started insisting on immediate supply of Darjeeling tea and in case it is not available, they are demanding tea from Nepal. Many of the clients have also asked for samples of tea produced in other Indian states.”
Once the Nepal tea hits the international market, it would be difficult to get higher prices — varying from $100 to $500 per kg — for Darjeeling tea at a later stage even if the supply resumes, Lochan said.
Industry sources said around 0.5 million kg of Darjeeling tea is produced in March, followed by another 1.5 million kg in April. “This tea is best in quality and is meant for niche customers. Importers, primarily in Germany and Japan, bank on this tea and book consignments well in advance to ensure the delivery. But now that the unpredictable situation is prevailing, it is a genuine cause of concern, for the price of the first flush compensates for the lower prices that we get in the later months,” Monojit Dasgupta, the secretary-general of Indian Tea Association said.
“As 90 per cent of this first flush tea or even more go overseas, delay in sending consignments might be a blot on the reputation of the exporters and planters who might find it difficult to retain clients in the coming years.”
Prabir Seal, president of the North Bengal Tea Producers’ Association, feared that Nepal tea might take over the international market. “If the first flush could not be sent to foreign countries in time, the Nepal tea would fill the gap,” he said.
In this condition, even if the supply of Darjeeling tea resumes at the end of the season, the prices, which can be Rs 6,000 a kg, can come down to as low as Rs 1,000 per kg as the immediate demand would be less, Lochan said.
Another section of planters fears that traders overseas might try to merchandise the Nepal brew as Darjeeling tea.
“Though the GI has been conferred on Darjeeling tea, people in many tea consuming countries are yet to know the difference between Darjeeling and Nepal tea. The administrative stringency to implement GI round the globe is yet to be seen and there is a chance that any other tea will be merchandised in the name of the premier product, particularly at this juncture when there is acute shortage of Darjeeling tea in the international market,” a planter said.
Darjeeling dilemma for TMC
TNN, KOLKATA: Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee may drive a hard bargain with Congress for all other assembly seats in Bengal, but for three Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.
Mamata may be glad to palm off to the Darjeeling Hills seats to Congress because these three constituencies are a dilemma for her, say sources.
If Trinamool contests these seats, there is hardly any chance of winning but Gorkha Jan-mukti Morcha will be antagonized. If it does not contest, CPM will surely accuse Trinamool of joining hands with GJM, which is fighting for a separate state of Gorkhaland.
It would have been easier to contest and lose rather than face the charge of hobnobbing with GJM. In 2006, Trinamool had put up a token contest against Gorkha National Liberation Front and lost. But, as her visit to Darjeeling last year has shown, Mamata is keen to address the problem of the Hills and achieve a political solution to the Darjeeling imbroglio. Things would be much easier if she has the Hills parties by her side. She has said she does not want to raise a Trinamool unit in Darjeeling to avoid tension.
It would be sound electoral strategy, too, for her not to antagonize GJM. Though GJM has not yet spelled out if it will contest the polls, there are indications it will. In case of a close outcome in the polls, Mamata may need the support of smaller parties like GJM. Predictably, there is no indication from the Trinamool camp so far if it will field candidates in the Hills.
In 2001, Congress had contested the Darjeeling assembly seat and lost when it had an alliance with Trinamool. But Congress has won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat in the past with GNLF's support. Since the Centre is in dia-logue on the Darjeeling issue, it is politically easier for Congress to take the help of parties like GNLF or GJM, say observers.
CPM and other Left Front partners have usually contested the three Hills seats and lost. The Left won only once, taking advantage of GNLF's poll boycott. But there is no love lost between CPM and GJM.
N-Bengal borders will be sealed before poll
SNS, JALPAIGURI, 11 MARCH: The administration would seal borders in north Bengal, involving Bhutan and Bangladesh, before the Assembly election slated on 18 April. This apart, the Bengal-Assam borders would also be sealed. The inspector general, police, north Bengal, Mr Ranvir Kumar informed in Jalpaiguri yesterday.
“This is an administrative imperative for peaceful election in the region. Besides, the administrative and police officials of West Bengal and Assam, where Assembly election would be held, had a closed- door meeting at the sub-divisional circuit house in Alipurduar last Thursday,” he said. It has been decided at the meeting that the BSF jawans would man the Indo-Bangladesh borders and the SSB would keep vigil along the Bhutan borders. Mr Kumar asked the people to cooperate with the administration in conducting peaceful elections.
N-Bengal borders will be sealed before poll
SNS, JALPAIGURI, 11 MARCH: The administration would seal borders in north Bengal, involving Bhutan and Bangladesh, before the Assembly election slated on 18 April. This apart, the Bengal-Assam borders would also be sealed. The inspector general, police, north Bengal, Mr Ranvir Kumar informed in Jalpaiguri yesterday.
“This is an administrative imperative for peaceful election in the region. Besides, the administrative and police officials of West Bengal and Assam, where Assembly election would be held, had a closed- door meeting at the sub-divisional circuit house in Alipurduar last Thursday,” he said. It has been decided at the meeting that the BSF jawans would man the Indo-Bangladesh borders and the SSB would keep vigil along the Bhutan borders. Mr Kumar asked the people to cooperate with the administration in conducting peaceful elections.

Death knell for 3 Sikkim firms- PSU staff shun ‘golden handshake’

TT, Gangtok, March 11: The Sikkim government has decided to wind up Sikkim Time Corporation, Sikkim Jewels Limited and Sikkim Precision Industries Ltd after attempts to revive the three loss-making public sector undertakings through private participation failed.
Some 320 employees of the three units were offered the voluntary retirement scheme. But they rejected the scheme and wanted protection for their jobs.
State commerce and industries secretary M.G. Kiran said the decision to shut down the three PSUs had been taken by the cabinet on March 2.
“The decision was based on the recommendations of a committee formed to look into the health of the PSUs in the state. The three firms had plunged into losses as the market demand for the products manufactured by them was very low,” he said.
The Sikkim Time Corporation (Sitco) was set up at Deorali here in 1976 and was arguably the most visible unit with Bhaichung Bhutia being the brand ambassador for three years in the mid-90s. The company that produces Sitco watches has 110 employees.
Regarding the fate of the employees in the three firms, Kiran said they would be given a golden handshake in the form of voluntary retirement with “all reasonable benefits”. Reacting to the closure decision, the employees said if the factories were wound up, they should be absorbed into other PSUs or departments of the state government. “Those who are on the verge of retirement may accept the golden handshake but others are not interested in the scheme. We have spent our youthful years with this company and are very worried about our future. We want the government to absorb us into other PSUs or departments of the state government. We are having sleepless nights as we have to take care of our family,” said Phurba Tamang, vice-president of the workers’ committee at Sikkim Jewels Ltd.
The workers said they hoped that chief minister Pawan Chamling would consider their demand.
The Sikkim Jewels Ltd is the second oldest PSU in the state. It was established at Tadong, Gangtok, in 1972 and is spread over 3.23 acres. The company manufactures industrial jewel bearings and water meters and supplies the products to Titan watches. Around 109 people are employed by the unit and 50 of them are women.
Sikkim Precision Industries Ltd manufactures industrial power devices and small industrial parts. It has 102 employees.

Dental students ‘seize’ expired medicines

Some of the expired medicines allegedly supplied by the store.
The expiry dates are circled in pictures by Kundan Yolmo
TT, Siliguri, March 11: Students of North Bengal Dental College today alleged that the medical store at the institute had supplied expired medicines to different departments because of negligence on the part of the principal.
Claiming that seven such items had been seized on Wednesday, the students said departments faced shortage of medicines as the medical store was kept closed most of the time. They, however, said the expired medicines had not been administered on patients.
“The medical store was opened five days back and the store-keeper supplied requisitioned medical items to different departments. However, students and doctors on Wednesday found that some of the items had already expired. We seized seven expired items and kept them in the (student) union room. However, none of these items were administered on patients,” Sudipta Bhattacharya, the secretary of the SFI-backed student union at the college, said today.
Quoting rules, Hassan-uj-Jaman, the general secretary of the student union, said all items that had crossed their expiry dates should be immediately removed from the departments and taken to the store room for disposal.
“But here, we have a contrary situation where such items were supplied from the medical store to the departments. The seized items comprise two bottles of xylocaine (anaesthetic), whose expiry dates were December 2010. A formaldehyde solution used for disinfection during root canal treatment with the same expiry date, two antiseptic solutions with expiry dates of August and September 2010, an iodine solution for disinfection with the expiry date of July 2010 and a bottle of spirit for use by doctors to wash their hands after operations with an expiry date of June 2009 were the other items recovered by us.”
The general secretary said medicines which had lost their effectiveness should not be used as they caused side-effects. “For example, the expired disinfectant could create sores in the mouth and the anaesthetic if injected could have caused severe allergy to patients.”
The students have also accused principal Soumen Chakraborty of neglecting his duties and not taking the initiative to keep the medical store open regularly.
“For the past two years, the medical store has hardly been kept open by the store keeper, resulting in shortage of medicines at all seven departments. The principal is also the superintendent of the college but he is hardly present at the college and when he is present, it is just for a few hours,” said Abhishek Das, president of the SFI’s college unit.
“It is because of his negligence that the expired items were supplied to the departments.”
Chakraborty denied the charge, saying the items the students claimed to have seized had not been supplied by the store on the campus.
“These are baseless allegations by the students who are trying to disrupt academic activities at the college. The items were not supplied from the medical store at the college. They have got the medicines from elsewhere but they are putting the blame on the authorities.”

5 hurt by timber missiles
TT, Jalpaiguri, March 11: Five persons were injured when suspected timber smugglers threw out firewood from a moving train at Oodlabari station this morning.
The smugglers were on the New Jalpaiguri-Alipurduar Intercity (summer special) train. While two persons have been admitted to the Malbazar subdivisional hospital with head injuries, three others were given first aid at the Oodlabari sub-health centre.

Breather for Asim

TT, Calcutta, March 11: The Election Commission has sought an “elaboration” on the nature of the files finance minister Asim Dasgupta allegedly signed two hours after the model code of conduct came into force on March 1.
“Minister Dasgupta’s culpability cannot be ascertained with what we have so far. Not a single government order had been issued on the basis of the signed files. This means no government policy was changed after the code came into effect. We cannot possibly book him on the basis of his intention,” a poll panel official said.
Senior commission officials today met in New Delhi and discussed the “statement of facts” submitted by state finance secretary C.M. Bachhawat. “The minister stayed in office till 8.30pm (on March 1). He left only after the chief secretary requested him and he signed a large number of files. None of that is a violation,” said a poll panel source.
Senior state government officials said Dasgupta might be able to get off with just a warning because of the “intelligent damage-control” he did on March 2. “Dasgupta made Bachhawat convene an intra-department meeting at 2.30pm on March 2 and instructed that none of the files be processed into government orders,” an official said.
TT, opinion: It is not easy to predict how the exit of a leader may change the course of a popular movement. But the 14th Dalai Lama has not been an ordinary leader. Neither is the movement he leads the stuff of ordinary politics. His decision to relinquish his political role in the Tibetan government-in-exile cannot, therefore, mean the end of history for him, his people or for the cause he has come to symbolize. The power of a leader like him has little to do with the office he holds. For all their bluster, the Chinese know this as much as the Tibetans. There should be absolutely no doubt that the Dalai Lama will continue to remain the moral force driving the Tibetans’ struggle against Chinese communists. If the Tibetans have been able to keep alive their hopes of a Tibet of their mind, it is as much because of the Dalai Lama’s leadership as because of the strength of the institution that he represents. And the Chinese fear the power of that institution as much as the Dalai Lama’s charismatic leadership. But institutions, too, change and assume different roles with changing times. The Dalai Lama himself initiated major institutional changes which he considered necessary to sustain the cultural and political aspirations of the Tibetan people. The way he democratized the political set-up of the Tibetan government-in-exile was not only unprecedented in the community’s history but also extremely useful in giving the movement a modern face and spirit. His exit as the political head of the exiled community, which had been anticipated for some years now, is better seen as part of a planned transition. The message is not so much the end of his struggle as its new beginning. It is possible, though, that the Tibetans’ struggle will take a new direction under a new political leader. Whether the new leadership sticks to the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” in its negotiations with China or takes to other means will depend on how Beijing responds to the new reality. However, what the Chinese, the Tibetans and the world at large would be more curious about is the future of the institution of the Dalai Lama. The 14th Dalai Lama himself raised questions about the future when he suggested that the institution could be abolished after him. He shrouded it in similar uncertainties by also hinting that future Dalai Lamas may be chosen democratically and not through reincarnation and the rituals associated with it. Curiously, the Chinese, who tried so hard to destroy Tibetan Buddhism, want the old system of reincarnation to continue. They would not accept either the Dalai Lama selecting his successor or a democratic process to find one. The Chinese plot of having a Panchen Lama under their control did not fool the Tibetans or the world. Any Chinese move to foist a Dalai Lama will be rejected just as contemptuously.
16000 Atomic bombs: The ferocity that struck Japan on Friday -Quake tests a prepared Japan and exposes Indian stupor
G S Mudur, TT, New Delhi, March 11: The fifth most powerful earthquake in recorded history challenged the world’s best-prepared country today, exposing its vulnerabilities through deaths and devastation, but Japan still holds lessons for India.
The earthquake of magnitude 8.9, with its epicentre off the northeastern coast of Japan, triggered tsunami waves that struck coastal communities, shook buildings, ignited fires and set off a death count that looked likely to cross 1,000.
Japan’s losses today emphasise the superiority of natural forces over human technology. But, scientists and structural engineers said, Japan’s actions over the years to protect itself from earthquakes through rigorous earthquake-resistant building construction and design codes contrast dramatically with India’s feeble efforts to keep its population safe from giant temblors.
“Until the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, earthquake-resistant building design wasn’t even a subject in undergraduate civil engineering courses,” said Mandeep Singh, professor of architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. “Many civil engineers begin to help build structures right after their first degree, but for some reason, courses on earthquake-resistant designs were only confined to postgraduate programmes,” Singh said.
Structural engineers have long cautioned that city authorities in India do not pay enough attention to the structural integrity of buildings. Across Delhi alone, Singh estimates, about 10 to 20 per cent of the population lives in vulnerable buildings.
“The question we have to ask: is there enforcement?” said Sudhir Jain, an earthquake design engineer and director of the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar. “Safe building design is not rocket science — it just needs to be implemented.”
Structural engineers say the extra cost of protecting new buildings through earthquake-resistant design may touch five or 10 per cent of the project cost. Yet, engineers say, anecdotal surveys reveal buildings that breach rules and are thus vulnerable.
“An example is apartments built over stilts — with space within used for parking cars. With stilts, a building design needs to incorporate special features that can add strength to the construction. But we find them missing,” Singh said.
Singh, who is pursuing research on why buildings kill people during earthquakes, said Japan’s construction had focused on reducing building loads. This is achieved through the use of special lightweight concrete as well as that of thin non-concrete in partitioning rooms.
“We don’t really need thick slabs of concrete to separate rooms within a building or a house,” Singh said. “The lighter the building, the lower the force it will experience when waves from earthquakes strike,” he said.
Structural engineers said a special feature called ductile detailing also allows a building to move during an earthquake, protecting it. “We do not even have surveys of earthquake vulnerability of buildings,” said an engineer.
Five years ago, an Indian geologist had warned that India was using a flawed seismic hazard map which grossly underestimated the actual force that buildings across northern India would experience during powerful earthquakes.
Geologist Kailash Nath Khatri had cautioned that the seismic hazard map, revised in 2002, classified much of northern India along the Himalayas as falling in Zone 4, with only a few regions within Zone 5.
Khatri had contended that the misleading seismic hazard map may have led to inadvertent construction of buildings that remain inadequately protected from earthquakes.
Several geophysicists agree with Khatri, but the map remains unchanged today. “There’s virtually no public demand for earthquake-resistant structures yet,” said Mahua Mukherjee, assistant professor of building science at IIT, Roorkee.
Parties seek code of conduct for media, criticise ‘paid news’
SNS,KOLKATA, 11 MARCH : A model code of conduct for the media during election coverage in order to eliminate the “sickness called paid news” is what political parties cutting across ideology suggested to the Election Commission during their interactions with the EC in Delhi on 9
Mr A Rout, director general, EC, today told media representatives that the EC had accepted the suggestion as it is concerned over the “complex” problem of paid news which is “nothing but commercial advertisement camouflaged as news”.
This poses a pernicious threat to the electoral system since, Mr Rout pointed out, the people attach more credibility to news items than advertisements and as such paid news seeks to “unduly influence” the electorate.
Mr Rout made it clear that the EC "not even remotely” intends to clamp Press censorship in its attempt to tackle paid news, but wants the media to be one of its “allies” in ensuring free and fair elections .
The EC has got encouraging results from its drive against paid news in Bihar in the last Assembly election when over 100 notices had been served on erring candidates.
Mr Rout said one “salutary” effect of the drive was that in several cases the offenders owned up their guilt and paid the penalty, though more than the penalty the attempt to weed out the menace of paid news was the goal.
The EC has set up a media certification and monitoring committee to tackle the problem of paid news, he added. There was need for motivating voters to exercise their franchise in larger numbers as in Kolkata itself the participation of women and the youth was less than that in the districts, Mr Rout said.

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