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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

GNLF complaint against threat speech...CPM launches hill campaign for Wattar ...Soren to tour Dooars... Tea workers hold key to battle in six seats -- Challenge from Parishad, morcha to Lf chances

Gurung address under EC scrutiny
Vivek Chhetri. TT, Darjeeling, April 11: The GNLF today complained to the Election Commission that Bimal Gurung’s speech at Mirik yesterday was a direct threat to its supporters and demanded action against the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president.
Gurung had told a Morcha rally yesterday that the GNLF president Subash Ghisingh’s “visa to the hills” would expire on April 18 and warned that “if they (GNLF supporters) trample on our heads too much, there is also a tradition of breaking the legs”.
The Morcha chief also said the elections had given them an opportunity to identity those people who merely posed as their supporters but were working against the party.
“After the polls, we have to separate those who are in favour of Gorkhaland and those who are not.”
He was addressing the gathering to solicit votes for the Morcha’s Kurseong candidate Rohit Sharma.
Palden Bhutia, the president of the GNLF’s Kurseong branch committee, said the entire speech was aimed at threatening their supporters.
“What is the administration doing? We are obeying all norms of the model code of conduct and sitting quiet. If we retaliate, will the administration be able to control the situation? We have filed a complaint and the administration must take strong action against Gurung.”
The complaint was filed with the Kurseong subdivisional officer and the Darjeeling district magistrate.
“The administration has taken up the issue suo motu. Police have also started going through the video recordings of the speech,” said Mohan Gandhi, the district magistrate as well as the district election officer of Darjeeling.
According to lawyers, if the police find any violation of election rules by Gurung, he could be booked under various sections of the IPC.
They said the Morcha chief can be charged under Section 171 C of the IPC for voluntarily interfering or attempting to interfere with the free exercise of any electoral right. If one is found guilty under this section, he can be jailed for one year and slapped with a fine.
The lawyers said Gurung might also be booked under Section 171 G of the IPC for making “false statement in connection with an election”.
Gurung had claimed yesterday that he was not under the purview of the model code of conduct as he was not a candidate.
But Gandhi said all parties and their frontal organisations and leaders were under the ambit of the poll code.
It is also learnt from sources that the model code of conduct is applicable till the date of counting of votes. This means that Gurung will be violating the model code of conduct if he mobilises his supporters to force Ghisingh out of the hills on April 21 as he had declared yesterday. The counting of votes will be held on May 13.
The Darjeeling district CPM also demanded Gurung’s arrest for “issuing threats” to Subash Ghisingh.
“The EC should take cognisance of this offence which, we feel, is serious. The Morcha, which is backing the Congress-Trinamul Congress alliance, has become desperate to win from all three hill seats and has resorted to terror tactics,” said Jibesh Sarkar, a state committee member of the CPM.

CPM launches hill campaign for Wattar
TT, Darjeeling, April 11: The CPM today organised a roadshow in Darjeeling and shouted slogans in favour of democracy and restoration of peace without fear, barely 
20 meters from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s town office.For the CPM, this very act seems to be its victory in the elections. Finding a toehold in the hills has always been an arduous task for a party, which is against Gorkhaland — a fact echoed even by the Darjeeling CPM candidate K.B. Wattar.
“In the past all pro-Gorkhaland parties would gang-up against us. We do realise that as Gorkhaland is an emotive issue, our slogans on peace, democracy and development always get swept away,” said Wattar. He admitted that the CPM found it difficult to get agents for the party in polling booths in certain pockets of Darjeeling.
Addressing the media after holding the roadshow with 40-odd supporters, a beaming Wattar said: “Courtesy of the election commission, such an atmosphere (where the CPM would be ostracised by all political parties) is not here this time.”
The model code of conduct has provided the CPM leaders with an opportunity to freely move across the hills to spread its message and Wattar did not lose an opportunity to make people see reason in the party’s stand.
“Yes, Gorkhaland is a sentiment but the hill people must realise that this is not an election for Gorkhaland. Telangana has not yet been carved out, though the state Assembly has adopted a resolution. The Bengal Assembly has only passed a resolution that called for the conferment of the Sixth Schedule status on the hills. We are in favour of a constitutionally recognised autonomy for the hills,” said Wattar.
Taking the argument forward, the CPM candidate said: “Even in Gorkhaland, a mazdoor will remain a mazdoor. We are saying Gorkhaland can be equated to a five year old asking for Rs 1 lakh from his father. There are enough parties who are asking for Gorkhaland but there is none to give it.”
The CPM seems to have boosted the morale of its supporters by sending leaders to the hills, but there are still fears over the post-poll scenario.
“The war of words between the Morcha and the GNLF does not augur well for the hills. There could be bloodbath and the administrations should ensure enough security even after the polls. There can be peace in Darjeeling only if we win the elections,” said Wattar.
Any conflict between the two major parties in the hills would mean that even the CPM supporters could get embroiled in the chaos. When the Morcha ousted the GNLF in 2007, the CPM could not open its office in Darjeeling for more than a year.
CPM leaders believe the support it has garnered in this election could be wiped off if there is trouble in the hills.
Heart in heart, the CPM would know that their present victory would get an icing if they can cross the figure of 14,300, which is the number of votes cast in favour of Wattar in Darjeeling in the last Assembly elections.

Soren to tour Dooars
TT, Siliguri, April 11: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha president Shibu Soren and a host of ministers from Jharkhand will this week canvass for the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad which has fielded candidates in five Assembly constituencies in the Dooars.
The Parishad candidates are contesting the Assembly elections as Independents on JMM’s arrow and bow symbol from Malbazar, Nagrakata, Madarihat, Kumargram and Kalchini, which are reserved for the scheduled tribes.
“We are expecting the Jharkhand leaders to reach here in the middle of this week. Hemlal Murmu (health minister), Hazi Hussain Ansari (labour minister) and Champai Soren (revenue minister) will first campaign for the Parishad in Kalchini, Madarihat and Nagrakata on April 13,” said Raju Bara, the chairman of the core committee of the Parishad.
“The JMM chief and his son Hemant Soren, who is also the deputy chief minister of Jharkhand, will tour the Dooars on Friday. They will attend public meetings at Malbazar, Nagrakata, Birpara, Kalchini and Shamuktala. This is the first time that such a large number of heavyweight leaders and ministers from a neighbouring state are coming here for the campaigning,” he said.
Tea workers hold key to battle in six seats -- Challenge from Parishad, morcha to Lf chances

Avijit Sinha, TT, Siliguri, April 11: The success of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in fulfilling certain aspirations of tea garden workers is set to be reflected in the fortunes of the candidates in six Assembly seats.
The Left won the six constituencies, which have a large number of garden workers, in the 2006 polls. But the emergence of the Parishad in the Dooars and, to some extent, the Morcha since then have eroded the support base of established trade unions like the Intuc and the Citu in the Dooars and the Terai.
“Over the years, we have been supporting the CPM and the RSP in the Dooars, but nothing had been done for our lot,” said Stephen Lakra, a resident of Soongachi Tea Estate close to Malbazar. “It is only in the last few years that the Parishad has taken up our issues.”
One of the main grouses of the tea workers is that the region does not have educational opportunities and children have no other option but to take to the same work as the parents.
“We don’t want our children to become tea workers like us,” said Ramesh Lama, a worker in Naxalbari Tea Estate in the Terai. “As it is, some of the tea gardens here are in a bad shape and many of them have even shut down. Nothing was done to create alternative employment opportunities for the labourers and a lot of people starved to death when gardens closed down. No one took our socio-economic problems seriously.”
Although the tea gardens in the Dooars and the Terai are now in a better shape than a decade ago when many of them had shut down, it is still a long way to go before the gap with the more prosperous hill estates is narrowed.
Lakra said the Parisahd had of late taken up cudgels on behalf of the tribal tea garden workers. “The Parishad has managed to extract an assurance from the state government that training centres and educational institutions will be set up for our children in the Dooars,” said Lakra.
But the woes of the tribal population do not end with education alone. A long-standing demand has been the right to the land on which they have been living in the tea plantations for generations.
Lama said parties of all hues had promised that they would take up with the state government the issue of granting pattas,tea labourers but nothing had happened so far.
“As the elections have been declared, everyone is coming to us and assuring us that they will force the government to concede to all our demands,” said Lama.
What have worked in favour of the Parishad and the Morcha are the concessions the two parties managed to extract for the workers. While the Parishad had made garden owners pay bonus at the rate of 20 per cent last year, the Morcha has clinched a Rs 23 hike in hill workers’ daily wage — from Rs 67 to Rs 90, the highest in the history of the Darjeeling tea industry.
Trade unions and tea gardens in the plains are yet to reach an agreement on the wage revision but a deal that is on a par with the hill pact looks certain now.
“We used to vote for the Left parties so far, but now we have our own candidates for the Assembly polls,” said Amardan Buxla, the assistant secretary of the Parishad-backed Progressive Tea Workers Union. “There is no question of supporting the Left candidates in the polls. Despite having a huge votebank in the tribal tea workers, they did nothing for us over the years.”
Prem Niroula, the vice-president of the Morcha-backed Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, also believes that his party’s success in getting higher wages for the tea labourers will pay dividends in the polls.
“We succeeded where other trade unions had failed,” said Niroula. “So, it is natural that tea workers would stand behind us.”
The CPM, however, believes that all is not lost for the party in the Dooars. “There is no denying that the Morcha and the Parishad have some support in the tea gardens, but it is not enough to make us lose the polls,” said Chanu Dey, the CPM zonal committee secretary of Malbazar.
But even though the Intuc has lost considerable space in the tea gardens, the Congress sees a silver lining in Morcha leader Bimal Gurung’s call to his supporters to vote for the Congress-Trinamul alliance in the Dooars.

Body found
TT, Jaigaon: The body of a youth was found by the GRP personnel of Malbazar near Chel bridge on Monday. Officials suspect that Basil Soren, 26, a resident of Odlabari, died when he was hit by a train.

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