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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jaswant returns to pitch for old ally... Plains tea unions under hill pay pressure ... Ransack & dharna at CPI office with body.. First phase crucial for ruling party in Assam

Jaswant returns to pitch for old ally
Amitava Banerjee, Hindustan Times, Darjeeling, April 03, 2011:Jaswant Singh, senior BJP leader and Darjeeling MP, is set to return to his constituency on April 5 to campaign for ally Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), especially across the Hills in the run-up to the first phase of the Assembly elections on April 18. The move is in response to the GJM's call for support from its electoral ally.
Confirming his ensuing visit, Singh's office in Darjeeling informed that the veteran BJP leader would stay at Darjeeling for at least a week. "His itinerary in Darjeeling has not yet been finalised," said a source.
Jaigaon/Siliguri, April 3: The recent hike in the daily wage of the hill tea workers has made trade unions and planters in the plains jittery. The trade unions are under pressure to clinch the same Rs 90 deal for the 2.5 lakh workers in the Dooars and the Terai, and the planters fear they will have to pay the higher rate from the current Rs 67. Plains tea unions under hill pay pressure

TT, Kolkata: On March 31, the day the three-year wage agreement of the tea gardens expired, the labour unions of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the CPRM and the Congress managed to clinch a hike of Rs 23 for workers in the Darjeeling hills. “For the past 20 years or so, workers across the north Bengal tea industry have been getting wages at the same rate because it was fixed through industry wide negotiations at the tripartite level,” a trade union leader said. “Now that the hill gardens are paying Rs 90 to their workers, those in plains will not let their leaders fix their revised wages at anything lower than Rs 90 a day.”
At a tripartite meeting in Siliguri on March 29, the plains trade unions had already demanded that the daily wages be increased from Rs 67 to Rs 165. “However, this sudden bipartite agreement in the hills has affected the process of negotiation. We do not endorse it, as it has been signed after deviating from the usual process to fix wage for the entire tea industry of the region,” said Chitta Dey, convener of the Coordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers, the apex body of tea trade unions including Citu, Intuc and UTUC.
By “deviation” Dey was referring to the “bipartite” nature of the hill agreement in which the labour department was not a party to the deal.
“It has left us concerned as there is always a risk because workers in the Terai and the Dooars, who receive Rs 67 per day now, might resort to agitation, while demanding wages at the same rate as in the hills. They might not listen to us and it is natural that whenever we negotiate on the rates, we have to keep the revised rate of hills in mind,” said Dey.
The CCTPW, which plays a key role in fixing the wages and other benefits for labourers, has called an emergency meeting of its constituents to discuss the issue.
The Adivasi Vikas Parishad backed Progressive Tea Workers’ Union, on the other hand, has refused to accept the hill rate as target.
“We have asked for a daily wage of Rs 250 and there is no question of considering the agreement forged in the hills as our demand is higher,” said Shukra Munda, the chairperson of the Adivasi union. “Once the Assembly polls are over, we will renew movement on this issue.”
The pressure lies more on the planters. A number of garden owners in the plains said it was not possible for them to pay daily wages at the rate of Rs 90.
“Given our present financial condition, if workers demand this rate we would be forced to close down our gardens,” a planter said.
“Our tea sells at a much lower price than Darjeeling tea. Hill garden owners are richer than us because they sell a premier quality of branded tea.”
Commenting on Singh's visit, GJM spokesperson and Kalimpong poll candidate Harka Bahadur Chettri said, "When we visited Delhi, Singh had assured us that he would try to be available whenever we needed him. He would be coming to the Hills to campaign for us."
Upon his arrival on April 5, Singh would convene a meeting with the GJM to finalise his campaign strategy. He is likely to visit Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik, in addition to Madarihaat in Jalpaiguri district, the lone seat where the GJM is extending support to the BJP.
Even as the GJM has been an old ally of the BJP, with Singh riding GJM's support to return a landslide mandate in the last Parliamentary elections, the allies had since threatened to drift apart. While the GJM has fielded party candidates in the Hills, in the Dooars they have pledged support to the BJP candidate in only one seat.
In contrast, the GJM has announced unconditional support to the Congress-Trinamool alliance in multiple seats in the Terai and Dooars. However, with the BJP sensing that they hardly have any presence in the Hills, they have pledged their support to the GJM candidates.
Again, in the wake of GJM's support to the alliance, Left Front has lost no time in accusing Mamata Banerjee and her party of being hand in glove with alleged separatist forces (read GJM in North Bengal and Maoists in the south.)
Trinamool, caught off guard by the GJM's call of support, sought to be evasive with Trinamool leader Mukul Roy saying, "It is a ploy by the BJP to malign our party. The GJM is an ally of the BJP."
GJM chief Bimal Gurung sought to play down the controversy over its electoral support to the Trinamool. "Our main objective is rid the state of Left. Hence, we have decided to extend our support to them in certain seats.
"Ray’s Sikkim ‘premiere’ on April 6
TT, Gangtok, April 3: Satyajit Ray’s Sikkim is set for its “world premiere” here on Wednesday, 40 years after it was commissioned by the last ruler of the Himalayan kingdom.
The Art and Culture Trust (ACT) of Sikkim is organising the show, which will be attended by governor Balmiki Prasad Singh as the chief guest.
“The purpose of the film, we believe, was to showcase Sikkim to the world. This could happen 40 years after it was made. The film will finally see the light of the day,” said ACT managing trustee and filmmaker Ugyen Chopel.
The screening had been originally scheduled for April 4 to synchronise with the birth anniversary of the late Chogyal, Palden Thondup Namgyal, who had commissioned the film in 1971. However, the 48-hour bandh called by the SDF forced the organisers to postpone the show to April 6.
The one-hour long documentary will have only one show at Vajra cinema hall at 5.30pm. Bollywood actor and director Tinu Anand who had assisted Ray in the film’s production, and cinematographer of the documentary Soumendu Ray, will be present at the show. The duo will share with the audience their experiences while making the film.
Sikkim had shot to international limelight when Ray was given an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement at his hospital bed in 1991. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, California, had held a retrospective festival of his works and Sikkim was the only film, which could not be screened. Thus, Sikkim came to be known as Ray’s “lost film” as it appeared that nobody had a print of the film and the negative was missing.
Sometime in 2002, the royal family of Sikkim donated a cache of items, including documents, letters, photographs and films, to the ACT. A 35mm print of Sikkim was among them but it was in very bad shape — colour completely faded and the sound unclear.
The trust then got in touch with the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Centre and sent the print to the Academy for restoration. It took eight long years for the Academy to finish the work and the restored print reached the trust in September last year.
However, the trust was shocked to find that the Calcutta Film Festival organisers had decided to screen Sikkim without its permission. A Sikkim court stayed the screening, but the film was shown on the last day of the festival with the consent of the trust. There were also reports of the documentary being screened in a couple of festivals.
“But all those screenings were held with half-restored DVD prints of poor quality. April 6 will be the date of the official world premiere of Sikkim in fully restored celluloid print,” said Chopel.< “The documentary portrays the people of Sikkim, its villages and flora and fauna, in the baritone voice of the great Ray who has also composed the music. It took one year to shoot the film and there are songs in local languages,” he added.
Ransack & dharna at CPI office with body
TT, Raiganj, April 3: 
Family members of a retired health worker, who died of cardiac arrest, today sat on a dharna in front of the CPI office in Itahar with his body, alleging that the party had built the office on the deceased’s land without permission.
The family members of the deceased also ransacked the office and locked it up. They left for the cremation only after CPI leaders gave them a written undertaking that the office would be vacated in a month.
The incident came as a major embarrassment for CPI’s Itahar MLA and civil defence minister Sreekumar Mukherjee. He is CPI candidate in Itahar, 25km from here, in the coming Assembly polls.
Dilip Thokdar said his brother had allowed the CPI to construct an office with bamboo and tile on three cottahs of land about 20 years back. “The party had also agreed to pay a monthly rent of Rs 200. But after Mukherjee became a minister in 1996, the CPI constructed two rooms, a toilet and a kitchen on the plot without permission. The payment of the rent had also become irregular.” His brother Himadri Thokdar, 59, died last night following a cardiac ailment.
Mukherjee quashed the charges. “We had taken Himadri’s permission and built the office with an understanding that it would be handed over to the owner once we vacated it. We pay the rent at the end of each year,” said Mukherjee. “Our new office at Chowrastha is ready and we were scheduled to shift there after the polls. Today’s incident was staged by the Trinamul Congress.
First phase crucial for ruling party in Assam
SUSHANTA TALUKDAR, HT: In 2006, Congress won 37 of 62 seats at stake in today's poll.
”Elections will be held in 62 of the 126 Assembly constituencies of Assam on Monday in the first of the two phases in the State. This phase will determine the prospects of 485 candidates, which include 38 women.
A total of 85,09,010 voters will exercise their franchise in 11,264 polling stations.
The ruling Congress is seeking a mandate for the third consecutive term and it is the first time since the Emergency that an incumbent party is seeking a mandate thrice in succession in the State.
The first phase of polling is crucial for the ruling party as it won 37 of these 62 constituencies in 2006. It won a total of 53 seats that year. Of the 10 seats won by the Bharatiya Janata Party in that election, nine were from the constituencies going to the polls on Monday. The Asom Gana Parishad won seven of these 62, and won a total 24 seats in 2006. Both the AGP and the BJP are trying to make inroads into these 62 seats to prevent the Congress from scoring a hat-trick. The All-India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) won three seats and the Communist Party of India (CPI) won one out of these 62 seats.
Prominent among those whose fate will be decided in Monday's polling are: Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi from Titabar constituency; senior Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader Brindaban Goswami from Tezpur; State BJP president Ranjit Dutta from Behali; Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bharat Narah from Dhakuakhana; Water Resource Minister Prithibi Majhi from Lahowal; Public Works Department Minister Ajanta Neog from Golaghat; Industries and Commerce Minister Pradyut Bordoloi; Fisheries Minister Nurzamal Sarkar; Excise Minister Gautom Roy; Urban Development Minister Dinesh Prasad Gowala; Speaker Tanka Bahadur Rai from Barchalla; and Deputy Speaker Pranati Phukan from Naharkatia.
This is the first time since 1991 that the State is going to the polls with almost all insurgent outfits engaged in peace talks with the government. All the past Assembly, parliamentary and other polls had been overshadowed by insurgent violence, boycott calls and threats. This time, the Paresh Barua faction of the ULFA called a bandh to oppose Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's election rallies on Saturday and carried out a bomb attack on Rajiv Bhawan in Guwahati.
Trinamool, Congress to have joint poll campaign
TH, KOLKATA: Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee whose parties have forged an electoral alliance for the upcoming Assembly elections in the State met here on Sunday and discussed joint election campaigns in the coming days where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi would be present.
“We will be having joint campaigns at several places and I have got to know from Pranabda that both the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi will be present at some election meetings also. The details will be chalked out”, Ms. Banerjee said after the meeting held at Mr Mukherjee's residence in the south of the city. Earlier in the day Mr. Mukherjee told reporters that discussions had already started on when national leaders of the Congress would be able to come to hold joint election campaigns with the Trinamool Congress leadership including Ms. Banerjee.
He pointed out that there was a problem regarding election campaigns in areas which are going to the polls on April 18 – the first in the six- phase elections in the State. Parties in this region will have a limited number of days for addressing rallies in view of the restrictions on the use of microphones till 5 pm on April 13 because of the ongoing higher secondary examinations.
The last day of campaigning in areas going to the polls in the first phase is April 16.
Ms. Banerjee said that permission will be sought from the Election Commission for use of microphones at rallies from April 9.
Accusing the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front government of “trickery” by arranging the examination schedule in a way that barely 48 hours would be available for campaigning with microphones in a region which has nearly a crore voters and spans 54 Assembly segments, she said that the matter will be taken up with the Election Commission.
Mr. Mukherjee, however said that despite these difficulties “there are the elections in Kolkata, Howrah and south Bengal (in the later phases) where there are candidates from both parties in the alliance. There will certainly be a joint campaign in these areas…How and where will it be held, these details are yet to be worked out”.
KalimNews: 5th Super Cup Inter-Zonal Men National Boxing Championship 2011 held at Mumbai from 30th March to 3rd April 2011 in which Shiva Thapa bagged Gold medal while Govind Thapa won Best Boxer Trophy in this Championship.
Shiva Thapa (Bantam 56 kg) scored 4:1 and defeated Anil Kumar of East Zone. Govind Thapa (Light 60 kg) won Gold Medal in this Championship and scored 3:2 and defeated Vijay Kumar of Haryana. Thapa brothers hail from Assam.

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