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Friday, May 20, 2011

Morcha willing to give new govt time,,,, GNLF exodus....कैदीहरूलाई सुधार गर्न सरकारी पहल शुरू... Sikkim track work to start by year-end

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, May 20: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has adopted a wait-and-watch policy, willing to give Mamata Banerjee time to settle down, before charting out its future course of statehood agitation.
Bimal Gurung’s party had said earlier that it would give Mamata time to solve the immediate problems — like the “debt she had been left with by the earlier government” — before they broach the statehood issue.
Both sides had been trying to build up rapport for sometime. Mamata had invited not only the three hill MLAs, but also the Morcha leadership to the swearing-in at Raj Bhavan today. A fourth MLA, the Morcha backed Wilson Champramari from Kalchini, had also been invited.
On May 17, too, the Morcha MLAs had been invited to a railway programme in Siliguri, a gesture appreciated by the party.
The Trinamul-Congress alliance could win Siliguri and Matigara-Naxalbari seats, known to have considerable Gorkha population, with the support of the Morcha.
Moments after the swearing-in, the chief minister said in Calcutta that solving the hill imbroglio would be one of the priorities of her government and that she wanted the tripartite meetings involving the state, Centre and the Morcha to continue.
Morcha spokesperson and Kalimpong MLA
“We hope she will take some bold decisions in our favour. At the moment, we will have to wait and watch. Let us see how things shape up,” said Chhetri.
He, however, reminded the new government about the hill mandate. “The election results clearly show that the mandate is for Gorkhaland as other parties which came up with issues like the Sixth Schedule and regional autonomy had to forfeit their deposits. Our demand is creation of Gorkhaland,” said Chhetri.
Asked if Mamata would agree to even discuss the statehood issue since she had ruled out the division of the state, Chhetri said: “We believe that after having won the election she can speak a lot more freely now. She has to understand that the hills have voted for statehood.”
Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, who had led the party’s delegation to Calcutta, had said earlier in the day that Mamata had expressed her desire to visit the Darjeeling hills at the earliest.
GNLF exodus
GNLF supporters have started resigning en-masse from the party across the hills, citing lack of confidence in the leadership which has dumped the demand for Gorkhaland.
Manju tea garden, the native place of the GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh, are among the places where the party members have announced their resignation. “After holding a meeting with our supporters today, we are of the opinion that the GNLF leadership is aimless and the best option is to resign from the party,” said Kiran Rasaily, a GNLF leader in Manju.
Those who quit the party belonged to Gairi Gaon, Manju School Dara and Dara Gaon in Manju, areas around 60km or so from Darjeeling.

Amidst Gorkha Janmukti Morcha bandh in Darjeeling, witch-hunt continues
Amitava Banerjee, HT, Darjeeling, May 20: Amidst the 24 hour Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) bandh in the Darjeeling hills of North Bengal, the witch-hunt continued. A Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) supporter was attacked in Kurseong and another in Darjeeling town on Friday. In Darjeeling, Puran Rai, 45, a teacher, was attacked by an armed group at Bhutia Bustee. Rai a GNLF supporter suffered major head injuries and was rushed to the Darjeeling Sadar Hospital where he had to undergo a surgery.
"We have knowledge of the incident but no FIR has been lodged yet," stated DP Singh, Superintendent of Police (SP), Darjeeling.
One GNLF supporter Prem Mukhia who had also been appointed the GNLF polling agent during the recently concluded Assembly elections was attacked by an armed mob in Upper Burbong Bustee in Kurseong today. "He has been admitted in the Kurseong sub divisional hospital," stated Nima Norbu Bhutia, Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO), Kurseong.
Meanwhile the GJM demanded that GNLF Chief Subash Ghising's "Z plus" category security be relinquished immediately and that he be arrested. On the occasion of the "Black flag" day on Friday protesting the fatal attack on GJM supporter Robin Rai, rallies were taken out all over the Hills.
Addressing the rally in Darjeeling, GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri stated, "The present strife is owing to Subash Ghising's instructions. He has been provoking his supporters to launch attacks on the GJM. His Z plus category security should immediately be removed and he should also be arrested."
In Bengal, Pranab Mukherjee, Mamata Banerjee and Subash Ghising fall in the Z plus category bracket. The difference between Z and Z plus is that of a bulletproof vehicle which comes with the Z plus category.
On May 15, Raghubir-bustee in the Ringtong Tea Estate below Sonada was the witness of post poll clashes between the GNLF and the GJM. The clash had ensued when GJM supporters were returning back from a victory celebration. Following a scuffle between the GJM and the GNLF, one Robin Rai (29) of the GJM was hacked on the neck with a sharp weapon allegedly by GNLF supporters. Rai had been admitted in a private nursing home in Siliguri with a vein rupture. He had been put on life support systems. On Wednesday he was proclaimed dead by doctors.
Sensing trouble, GNLF Chief Subash Ghising also left the Hills on May 15 for the plains of Jalpaiguri district. He is residing in Jalpaiguri at present.
Soon after news of the death of Rai, GJM supporters went on a rampage in the Hills vandalizing and torching houses of GNLF supporters. A spontaneous bandh was observed in Kurseong town and Sonada. Late at night a Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) office was torched in Kurseong town.
The GJM called for a 24-hour bandh call on Friday. However vehicular movement, tea estates and cinchona plantations were exempted from the bandh.
Meanwhile the 4 newly elected GJM MLAs from Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Kalchini (in Dooars) along with General Secretary Roshan Giri, left for Kolkata to attend the swearing in ceremony of Mamata Banerjee slated for Friday. The GJM have won all three hill seats defeating the GNLF candidates by more than a lakh vote each.

कैदीहरूलाई सुधार गर्न सरकारी पहल शुरू - अब अपराधको कारण खोजिने
मनोज वोगटी, कालेबुङ, 18 मई। डेड़वर्षको हुँदा नै आमाले छोड्यो। सातवर्षसम्म पुग्दा न पढ्नुको ठेगान थियो, बस्नुको। बुद्धि आएदेखि गाड़ी पुछ्‌ने काम शुरू भयो। त्यसपछि खलासी बन्यो। त्यसबेलादेखि नै उसमा गाड़ीका पूर्जा चोर्ने अनि महिलाहरूलाई जिस्काउने बानी बस्यो। लगभग पन्ध्र वर्षे केटो अहिले त्यही बानीको कारण संशोधानागृरमा छन्‌। चोरीको आरोपमा। तिनी भन्छन्‌, तपाईं जस्तै होला मेरो आमा। आमा भेट्‌न पाए म सबै काम छोडिदिन्छु। हेर्नुहोस्‌ न यता पक्रा परेर उता हुलिदिन्छन्‌, उता पक्रेर यता हुलिदिन्छन्‌। मेरो जीवनको अर्थ के हो? कालेबुङ थानामा डाकिएको पत्रकार सम्मेलनमा पश्चिम बङ्गाल जेनरल जस्टिस्‌का चेयर पर्सन श्रीरूपा मित्र चौधरीले कालेबुङ संशोधानागृहमा अपराधको दण्ड भोगिरहेका अपराधीहरूसित गरिएको अन्तरक्रियामा एउटा अपराधी केटोले तिनलाई दिएको बयान सुनाइरहेकी थिइन्‌।
 तिनले भनिन्‌, वास्तवमा उ अपराध गर्न चहॉंदैन। यदि उसले आफ्नो आमा भेटे उसको नयॉं जीवन शुरू हुने रहेछ। आखिर महिला अनि बाल-बालिकाहरू किन अपराध संसारमा आउँछन्‌? म यही कुरा खोज्न आएकी हुँ। भारत सरकारलाई अपराधीहरूलाई कसरी दण्ड दिनुपर्ने भन्ने कुरामा होइन अपराधीहरूलाई अपराध गर्न बाध्य तुल्याउने कुन कारकहरू प्रमुख छन्‌?भन्ने कुराको पनि चिन्ता छ। अपराध गरेर संशोधनागृहमा आएका महिला अनि बालबालिकाहरूमाथि लिङ्गीय भेद छकि छैन भन्ने कुराको पनि सुर्ता छ। अपराध गर्नेहरूलाई दण्ड दिन होइन, उनीहरूलाई अपराधको संसारबाट कसरी परिवर्तन गर्न सकिन्छ भन्ने कुरामा पनि चिन्ता छ। यसैकारण यसप्रकारको पहल गर्न सरकारले नयॉं नीति नै निर्माण गरेको छ, जसलाई कार्यान्वयनमा ल्याउँदै पश्चिम बङ्गाल सरकारको डाइरोक्टोरेट अप करेक्सनल एडमिनिष्ट्रेशनको पक्षमा श्रीरूपा मित्र चौधरी दार्जीलिङ आइपुगेकी छन्‌। उनी राष्ट्रिय महिला कंग्रेसका अध्यक्ष अनि केन्द्रिय सामाजिक कल्याण पर्षदका सदस्य पनि हुन्‌।
पश्चिम बङ्गालभरिका मोठ 55 वटा संशोधानागृहका कैदीहरूमा तिनले मोठ सय वार्ता राख्नुपर्ने छ। यसकारण तिनले आफ्नो अभियानलाई दार्जीलिङबाट शुरू गरेकी छन्‌। तिनले भनिन्‌, दार्जीलिङबाट यो पहल शुरू गरियो किन भने दार्जीलिङमा पनि लिङभेद्, आवश्यकता र द्वन्द्वात्मक परिस्थिति छ। यहॉं समस्या छ, यसकारण अपराधका सम्भावनाहरू छन्‌। यहॉंका महिला अनि बाल कैदीहरूको मनोभाव यस्तोे स्थितिमा कस्तो छ, भन्ने कुरा बुझिनुपर्छ। तीन दिनदेखि नै आफू दार्जीलिङ जिल्लामा रहेको बताउने चौधरीले दुइ दिन अघि खरसाङ र दार्जीलिङ अनि आज कालेबुङको संशोधानागृहका कैदीहरूसित अन्तरक्रिया गरेको बताइन्‌। तिनले भनिन्‌, सरकार चहान्छ, उनीहरूले दण्डकोरूपमा फेरि अपराध गर्ने प्रेरणा नपाओस्‌। उनीहरूको वास्तविक मनोदशा र उनीहरूलाई अपराध गर्न प्रेरित गर्ने तत्वहरूबारे अध्ययन हुनुपर्छ। जसको निचोड़ले उनीहरूलाई परिवर्तन गर्ने सुत्र निकालोस्‌। यसको निम्ति पहल शुरू भइसकेको छ। 
वर्षको अन्तमा बङ्गालभरिका संशोधनागृह आवासीहरूको अन्तरक्रियाद्वारा पाइएको निचोड़हरूको आधारमा एउटा निर्देशिका सरकारले तयार गर्ने छ। जसलाई हेरेर उनीहरूप्रति गरिनुपर्ने सरकारी दायित्व पूर्ण हुन सकोस्‌। दार्जीलिङ संशोधनागृहमा पुरूषको निम्ति चारवटा शौचालय हुनु अनि महिलाको निम्ति केवल एउटा हुनुले यहॉंको लिङ्गीय विभेद स्पष्ट पारेको छ। कैदीहरूलाई राख्ने, उनीहरूलाई दिने वातावरण, उनीहरूले पाउनुपर्ने सुविधा सबैमा पनि परिवर्तन ल्याउने निर्देशिका बनाइनुपर्ने देखिएको छ। तिनले महिला अनि बालक-बालिकाहरू अपराध गर्न नचाहने भए पनि यसदिशामा उनीहरूलाई धकेल्ने अनेक कारण हुन सक्ने बताउँदै ती कारणहरूलाई अध्ययन गरेर नै उनीहरूलाई परिवर्तन गर्न सकिने कुरामा नै सरकारी नीति केन्द्रित रहेको बताइन्‌।
राज्यभरिका 55 वटा संशोधनागृहका कैदीहरूमाथि सर्वेक्षण गरिने अनि यसको रिपोर्टले कैदीहरूको निम्ति उपयुक्त समाधानको मार्ग बनिने कुरामा आफ्नो विश्वास रहेको पनि तनले बताइन्‌। तिनले भनिन्‌, धेरै बालक-बालिकाहरूसित अन्तरक्रिया भयो, जहॉं उनीहरूको निरपराध मानसिकता अघि आएको छ। यसले बताउँछ, उनीहरूलाई परिवर्तन गर्ने दिशा यो नीतिले प्राप्त गर्ने छ।
Headlines: GPTO has called 2 days all educational institutions and education offices of departments bandh on 23 and 24 May 2011.
Mamta Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal wants speedy solution to Darjeeling problem through talks. Tripartite talks will be called at the earliest.
Mamta gifts mini secretariet at North Bengal.
GJM MLAs led by Roshan Giri met Mamta Banerjee.
Rahul Sinha, BJP State President termed GJM as deceiver for losing Madarihat seat. 

Sikkim track

TT, Siliguri, May 20: The laying of tracks on the Sevoke-Rangpo route aimed to include Sikkim in the railway map will start at the end of this year, senior officials of the Northeast Frontier Railway have said.
The doubling of the tracks that connect north Bengal to the Northeast would also commence shortly, followed by laying of tracks between Chulsa and Naxal in the Dooars, the officials said.
“As of now, we are carrying out surveys and studies on the hill terrain through which the rail route would be built till Rangpo in Sikkim,” said S.P Singh, the deputy chief engineer (constructions) of the NFR posted in New Jalpaiguri (NJP).
“The data collected through such studies are being regularly sent to Delhi where the designing is being done to incorporate necessary alterations and changes. Also, as we have a section of forest cover and the presence of wildlife near Kalimpong, it is imperative that we obtain no-objection certificate from the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) before the commencement of the construction.
“Given the present state of progress, it seems that we would be able to start laying the tracks by the end of this year.”
The project, launched by Mamata Banerjee as railway minister in 2009, is considered ambitious, given the nature of the terrain. She had also announced that the rail track would be extended to Gangtok from Rangpo and another route from Mirik too would connect the capital of Sikkim to the plains in Bengal. Mirik in Kurseong sub-division is around 50km from here.
“The surveys on both these routes (Rangpo-Gangtok and Mirik-Gangtok) are complete. We are waiting for the final nod and funds in the coming days to lay tracks on these routes,” Singh said.
On April 19, a high-level team of MoEF officials had visited Siliguri to see the proposed rail route to Rangpo and assess its impact on the hills and the environment as a whole.
The deputy chief engineer said a preliminary survey had been also carried out for the Chulsa-Naxal route in the Dooars. “It is a 16km stretch and the rail line would move into Naxal (not Naxalbari), a small hamlet on the Jaldhaka-Jhalong-Bindu route, from the main track that passes through the Dooars,” Singh said. “Here too, we need to have permission from the Union forest ministry and the state forest department to execute the project. A new station has been proposed at Metelli, near Chulsa in the Dooars.”

“The work of doubling tracks in the two stretches — Ambari-Falakata to New Mainaguri and New Cooch Behar to Samuktala Road — will, however, start as soon as railway land is available for laying the second track on these routes,” the NFR official said. “Around Rs 20 crore has been allotted for these projects.” Singh also said the new broad gauge track between Siliguri Junction and Aluabari Road — a second alternative route between Islampur and Siliguri — is ready. “It was also formally inaugurated by the rail minister on May 17 and we expect to commission it by May 31,” he said. Once commissioned, NFR sources said, the “railbus” (a single compartment train with an engine and capacity of around 70 people) will start running between Bagdogra and Siliguri Junction. 
Bus postings for Sikkim girls- women as conductors
TT, Gangtok, May 20: Two Sikkimese women have successfully completed seven months as conductors in government run buses here. Of course, passengers still gawk when Pemala Bhutia and Jyoti Subba ask them to shell out the bus fares. One reason is probably because conductors here do not have uniforms and dress casually. “They are stumped when I ask them for the bus fare. Only after some time, they realise I am the conductor and start paying. Sometimes even women passengers find it difficult to believe that we are conductors,” said 24-year-old Pemala while sharing her work experience. Along with Jyoti, 26, Pemala received her appointment letter from the state government on October 13 last year. The two ladies were among the 10 bus conductors appointed at that time. They were familiarised with the bus, routes and rates for a few days at the SNT (Sikkim Nationalised Transport) terminus in Gangtok. But it is more “on the job training”, meaning they are learning while working, an SNT official says. Every day at 7.30am, Pemala takes the first SNT city runner for Gangtok from the terminus in Rumtek. The distance is 22km. The bus reaches the state capital around 8.30am. It then goes back to Rumtek again. Her passengers this time are mostly teachers and government employees. The SNT division falls under the state transport department. After her second trip from Rumtek, Pemala takes a break of around two hours in Gangtok before starting again. In the afternoon, too, she makes two trips to Rumtek, where she stays with her husband, an IRB jawan. “I get tired as I have to stand on the bus when all the seats are occupied,” she said. “But I enjoy full support from my family and my husband.” Sometimes, the lunch break gets cut down when the bus develops mechanical failures. “We have realised that we cannot extend help like the male conductors to the driver when the bus develops mechanical failure or there is a puncture,” Pemala admits. “No job is easy. This profession is challenging but I will not give it up as I have received good training from the department.” One question that the two women frequently face is why they chose to become bus conductors. “This is a government job and the government is paying me a handsome salary. No work is small,” pat came the reply from Pemala, a graduate from Sikkim Government College. Both the women are regular government employees. Pemala’s colleague Jyoti is also a graduate. She is a conductor for the SNT bus that travels daily from Gangtok to Jalipool, a distance of 20km. Jyoti is from Geyzing, West Sikkim. Her bus travels twice on the Gangtok-Jalipool route. Jyoti, who lives with her father, reaches the SNT terminus in Gangtok on time for her first trip at 7am on another bus. The SNT is basking in the success of the women conductors. “The state government has been encouraged to appoint more educated Sikkimese women to the post of bus conductors. The policy to empower women is well entrenched in the programmes of the state government. We are satisfied with the performance of these two ladies,” said SNT (operation) joint secretary Navin Chhetri. “Pemala and Jyoti have become role models for Sikkimese women.” He added that the department will give special preference to educated Sikkimese women while appointing bus conductors in the SNT division in the future. Sikkim follows the 33 per cent job reservation for women though this is the first time that they implemented the quota in the bus conductors’ job. “We want to appoint lady bus conductors on city buses which cover short distances from Gangtok — to places like Singtam, Ranka and Tintek,” said Chhetri. Currently, the department runs 22 city buses.
Mt Kanchenjunga topper

TT, Darjeeling / Behrampore, May 20: On a day Mamata Banerjee climbed to the seat of power in Writers’ Buildings, Basanta Singha Roy and Debashis Biswas became the first Bengalis to scale Mount Kanchenjungha, the third highest mountain in the world. Basanta, 50, an employee with a nationalised bank, and Debashis, 40, an income-tax official, climbed the peak, braving strong winds and unstable weather. The duo stood at the top of the mountain at 7.40am, along with three Sherpa brothers, Passang Pusur Sherpa, Pemba Chhoti Sherpa and Ang Tashi Sherpa. Loben Sherpa of the Kathmandu-based Loben Expeditions told The Telegraph via e-mail that the five-member team had started the ascent from the summit camp about 6am today.
“At 7.40am, Pemba informed the base camp over walkie-talkie that they had reached the top and all of them were fine. This was relayed to me via sat phone by Lila Rai from the base camp around 7.50 am,” said Loben. “Basanta and Debashis were the first from Bengal to conquer Mt Kanchenjungha. They were also the first civilian Bengalis to summit Mt Everest (29,029 feet) in May last year,” said Loben. He also said the three Sherpas were the first brothers to have climbed the peak together. Both Basanta and Debashis, who work and stay in Calcutta, are members of the Mountaineering Association of Krishnagar in Nadia district. Even though people were glued to the television sets for Mamata’s swearing-in at Raj Bhavan, there were scenes of celebrations in Krishnagar. Members of the association, who received the news at 7.45am, announced the feat to the residents of town through loudspeakers. “They had started the expedition from here (Krishnagar) on March 28 and 368 days after conquering Mt Everest, they were on top of Kanchenjungha that stands at 28,169 feet.
They had scaled Mt Everest on May 17, 2010. No mountaineers have climbed two peaks in a gap of 368 days,” said Arup Sarkar, a member of the association. A large number of people came to the association office to offer congratulations. “There were phone calls also as people felt very happy about the achievement,” said Sarkar. He added that Kanchenjungha was conquered last by a British-American team in 1998.Basanta and Debashis climbed from the Nepal side of the mountain. Climbing is banned on the other side that falls in Sikkim as the mountain is considered a holy place in the hill state.
Mamata Banerjee sworn in as West Bengal Chief Minister

Kolkata:Poriborton (change) has come to Bengal. On Friday, minutes after 1 in the afternoon, Mamata Banerjee took oath to become the first woman Chief Minister of West Bengal.Kolkata: Poriborton (change) has come to Bengal. On Friday, minutes after 1 in the afternoon, Mamata Banerjee took oath to become the first woman Chief Minister of West Bengal.It was a historic moment for the state and personally, one that the diminutive giant-slayer has waited for all her life. Mamata took oath in Bengali marking a change of guard that will see the end of 34 years of uninterrupted rule by the CPI(M)-led Left Front. Among the several thousands present was former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Mamata had sent a personal invitation to him yesterday. Also there were Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister AK Antony. The Mamata Banerjee ministry has 43 members apart from her. Of these 36 are Trinamool Congress members, and there will be seven Congress ministers. The ministers are now taking oath. The Trinamool Congress list of ministers include Amit Mitra, Partha Chatterjee, Manish Gupta, Subrata Mukherjee, Abdul Karim Chowdhury, Sadhan Pandey, Upen Biswas, Sabitri Mitra, Bratya Basu, Madan Mitra and Noore Alam Chowdhury.   
Gun lost in police quarters break-in

Raiganj, May 20: Thieves broke into four rickety quarters on the police station premises here last night and decamped with a loaded service revolver, gold ornaments and about Rs 10,000.
The North Dinajpur district superintendent of police has issued a show-cause notice to sub-inspector Tamal Kanti Guha who had left the revolver behind in his room despite being on duty. No one has been arrested in connection with the burglary that took place when the quarters were empty.
All the four quarters are one-roomed with tin roofs and wooden doors. The robbers broke open the doors to enter the rooms. They forced open trunks and almirahs, in which the revolver, money and the ornaments were kept. Clothes and other things were left strewn around in every room.
While three of the quarters belonged to sub-inspector Guha, assistant sub-inspector Humayun Karir and constable Pampa Roy, the occupant of the fourth quarters was a PWD employee.
The inspector in charge of Raiganj police station, Sujit Ghosh, said the PWD employee was not present in his room last night. The sub-inspector and the lady constable, Pampa Roy, were on duty at the police station from 10pm, while the assistant sub-inspector was on night patrol.
“All the three had reported for duty on time. When the assistant sub-inspector returned to his quarters around 5am, he discovered the break-in. He was the first to inform us about the incident and we have started a high-level inquiry,” said Ghosh.
The superintendent of police of North Dinajpur, Milon Kanti Das, said about 30 grams of gold had been stolen from the lady constable’s room. “The thieves have also taken Rs 10,000 in cash from the rooms, but what is most alarming was the theft of the service revolver belonging to the sub-inspector. It is a .38 revolver and was loaded fully with six rounds,” said Das.
The police chief said the investigation was being conducted keeping in mind two aspects.
“No petty thief will break into a police quarters. Also, they were in the know that the three police personnel would be on duty and absent from their quarters. Whoever broke in had a thorough knowledge of the circumstances and had a clear idea of escape routes. We are trying to find out where they got all these information,” said Das.
The second aspect of the probe centred on the missing revolver. “We have to find out why the sub-inspector had left behind his service revolver in his quarters despite being on duty. The norm is that whenever a weapon is issued to a policeman, he has to carry it all the time. I have already issued a show-cause notice to the particular officer and he has been asked to reply by 7pm today. We will take appropriate action against him once we get his reply,” said Das.
Guha, the officer whose revolver was stolen, said while on duty at the police station, he had to attend to a lot of telephone calls and that was why he had kept the revolver under lock and key in a trunk in his quarters. “I had kept the revolver in my quarters many times like I did last night. Unfortunately, the thieves broke in and took it away. I will reply to the show-cause,” said the sub-inspector.
Rain does little to mar Didi sheen on screen
- siliguri cheers, celebrations muted in malda and on deepa turf 
TT, Siliguri, May 20: The people of north Bengal like the rest of the state had welcomed the winds of change. Today, they battled wind, and rain, to watch on giant screens Mamata Banerjee and her council of ministers being sworn in at Raj Bhavan.
In Siliguri, hundreds assembled on Hill Cart Road to witness the historic event on two giant screens put up by the Youth Congress and Trinamul while rain lashed the foothill town that was once a red fort. Trinamul’s Rudra Bhattacharya has defeated the CPM’s Asok Bhattacharya from the Siliguri seat this time.
As Mamata took oath, the crowd clapped and cheered relentlessly, shouting slogans and welcoming the change after 34 years of Left regime. The next round of cheer came when Gautam Deb, the MLA of Dabgram-Fulbari and Darjeeling district Trinamul president, walked up to the dais and took oath as a cabinet minister in the new government.
Trinamul supporters offered sweets to people who had assembled and released tri-coloured balloons.
“It was overwhelming to see the response of people whose enthusiasm was no less than those who celebrated in Calcutta,” said Milan Dutta, a general secretary of Trinamul in Siliguri. “We had never thought that people in such large numbers would come to see the telecast on the giant screen. The celebrations were emotional but remained peaceful.”
Hundreds assembled in front of Sree Bhawan, the Youth Congress office, too, where another giant screen had been put up. “People from different walks of life came and waited patiently for the telecast to begin,” Sujoy Ghatak, the Darjeeling district Youth Congress president, said. “They enjoyed every bit of the function and remained seated till the end of the programme. We had to continue the event even as the new chief minister headed for Writers’ Buildings.”
“There was, however, an undercurrent of disappointment as no Congress leader from north Bengal took oath as a minister in the new government,” he added.
Celebrations or mass watching of the swearing in was not limited to Siliguri alone. Giant screens had been put up across other parts of north Bengal too — the region saw five MLAs being sworn in as ministers.
Besides Deb the other ministers from the north are Manikchak MLA Sabitri Mitra, Abdul Karim Chowdhury of Islampur, Balurghat’s Shankar Chakraborty and Sitalkuchi’s Hiten Burman.
In Balurghat, giant screens had been erected at Mongolpur More. Trinamul supporters greeted each other with sweets while Rabindrasangeet played on loudspeakers. The enthusiasm was more in Congresspara where Shankar Chakraborty lives.
The Islampur Trinamul had put up a giant screen at Old Bus Stand to watch Karim Chowdhury take the dais. His wife Sabili told journalists: “He (Abdul Karim) had been with the people of Islampur over decades and has worked for them. He will focus on local issues and help improve the socio-economic condition of the people here.”
In Cooch Behar, loud speakers had been fitted to television sets to enable people listen to the swearing-in. 
The enthusiasm was not so palpable in Malda or Raiganj, perhaps because none of the MLAs from the Congress there have been taken in as minister. The two areas are known to be Congress bastions. There is little love lost between Raiganj MP Deepa Das Munshi and Mamata. Deepa had fielded rebel candidates against four Trinamul nominees in North Dinajpur.
Malda Congress president and MP Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury said over the phone from New Delhi: “I have no idea why the party high command could not submit its list of ministers. However, we from the Malda Congress have sent just one name, that of Lebu. He will be the only (Congress) minister from the district and that will be settled in a few days time.”
Lebu or Abu Naser Khan Chowdhury is Abu Hashem’s brother and the MLA of Sujapur. The other MLA in the family is Isha Khan Chowdhury, Abu Hashem’s son.
PROMISED LAND - Tatas welcome, minus 400 - Sleepless CM: Mamata begins with Singur and makes ministry at midnight
TT, Calcutta, May 20: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has sped off the blocks by saying what her constituencies wanted Mamata Banerjee to say but doing at Writers’ what the “do-it-now” years had never seen. The first decision Mamata took as chief minister today was to return 400 acres to farmers who were unwilling to part with their land in Singur — a promise that had pitchforked her to power and will now test her government’s ability to get around legal and contractual hurdles.
“A few decisions were taken at today’s cabinet meeting. The first is that 400 acres will be returned in Singur. Papers will be prepared in this regard. If the Tatababus are interested in setting up industry there, they can. But it will have to be on 600 acres. The 400 acres will have to be returned,” Mamata told her maiden media conference as chief minister at Writers’ Buildings. But beneath the familiar reassurances on Singur and nimble-footed dance around tricky questions such as the fate of the central forces in Jungle Mahal, the chief minister set a scorching pace that reflected the impatience of 34 years. Ministers have been told to work on Saturdays and the cabinet will meet every fortnight instead of once a month. 
A chief minister’s office will be set up to handle “big and important work” — something Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee set up after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections but failed to draw talent. “Hard work is required now,’’ Mamata said but did not mention the “do-it-now” slogan that became little else after Bhattacharjee made it the signature tune of his government. She practised what she preached on Day 1. Mamata was at Writers’ well past midnight, apparently chopping and changing the portfolios of the 37 ministers who took oath today. Around 12.15am, Partha Chatterjee read out the list of portfolios. Mamata left at 12.25am. (Top) Mamata leaves Writers’ at 12.25am; (below) Partha Chatterjee takes oath. Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta and Amit Datta The new government appears to be banking on a Tamil Nadu precedent of 1997 when a state-specific amendment was introduced to facilitate the return of the Singur land to the original owners.  
Under the acquisition act in existence since 1894, land acquired for a public purpose cannot be returned and can only be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The Supreme Court too has delivered at least three judgments preventing the return of such land. Asked whether the Tatas would be asked to invest in Bengal, Mamata said at the Writers’ rotunda this evening: “I told you just now. If the Tatas want to invest on the 600 acres, we will be very happy. Everybody is welcome in Bengal.” Reminded that the Tatas still held the lease of the Singur land, Mamata said: “Our government will deal with it legally. Give me some time. We have just taken over. I don’t know about deadlines, but I’ve drawn the boundary line.” Mamata asserted: “Everything will be done legally by the government.’’ Contacted later, a Tata Motors spokesperson said this evening: 
“At this point of time, there has not been any official reaction from the Tata group on the Singur issue. Hence, I can give you no guidance on this.” The chief minister was categorical, asked whether the state government’s agreement with the Tatas would be made public. “The moment I lay my hands on that, you all will come to know. We are very transparent,’’ she said. If land was the opener, the other priorities listed by Mamata reflected her eagerness to reassure her core constituencies. She announced that a special package would be prepared for the minorities after seeking the advice of retired judge Rajinder Sachar, whose report on the plight of Muslims in Bengal put the Left on thin ice. “Our second cabinet decision is that a package for the minorities will be prepared. We will request Justice Sachar… we will take his advice on how to proceed. 
The chief secretary has been told to talk to him. We need to do something for the minorities,” she said. The third cabinet decision was to set up a review committee to examine the cases of political prisoners. “Many people were put behind bars out of revenge. This panel will review the matter, case by case,” the chief minister said. She said a separate department would be set up to review the issuance of BPL (below poverty line) cards and monitor the 100-day work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme Mamata also spoke about development in Jungle Mahal and announced that a special package would be drawn up. “We will frame a special package for Jungle Mahal… schools, colleges, madrasas… for overall development there.”
Asked what her government would do with the joint forces in Jungle Mahal, Mamata evaded a direct reply. “Now see. There were central forces stationed there when elections were held. So, let’s see what will happen now. I will cross-check and say.… There has to be development and co-operation,” she said. Mamata said instructions had been given to seize illegal arms. “We want peace to prevail… there can’t be any compromise on peace,” she asserted. On Darjeeling, she said: “I will sit with people on Darjeeling. I had earlier said that I need three months’ time.”
The following were her other announcements
  • She won’t travel in a bullet-proof car

  • Finance minister Amit Mitra has been told to find out the state of finances.

  • A mini-secretariat will be set up for north Bengal

  • The health and education departments will be “revived” and “neutrality” introduced.

  • The chief secretary has been asked to form an expert committee and submit a report within a month on how to conserve water for irrigation.

  • People’s event vs ‘perfect’ ritual - Unshackled from formal do: music and mirth
    DEVADEEP PUROHIT, TT, Calcutta, May 20: A Tagore song at the end of the swearing-in ceremony was not the only change that Bengal witnessed today. The one-and-a-half-hour programme — completed with clockwise precision — was replete with variations as it stood out from other such government dos.
    Mamata shares a light moment with Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaram after the oath-taking ceremony. (Amit Datta)
    Chants of “Didi, Didi”, frequent applause, clamour to click a picture of the new chief minister and a mad rush to shake hands with Mamata Banerjee and touch her feet — all these robbed the ritual-driven event of its gravity.
    “You may call it the democratisation of a ceremony like this. People from all walks of life have come to attend the programme. This is indeed a change from the past,” said a city-based businessman who did not wish to be named.
    Writer Navaneeta Dev Sen echoed the view. “It was nice to see people from all backgrounds at the programme. It was a people’s programme and not just another government function. Mamata has made a great start. One hopes that she will manage to retain this connection with the people.”
    The swearing-in at the same place five years ago — Tata Motors’ Nano project in Singur was announced the same day — was different from what took place on the sprawling Raj Bhavan lawns today.
    “There was enthusiasm about the future of Bengal and the Tatas’ decision to invest in the state but there was no curiosity about the people in the government. The ceremony was formal to the core, everything looked so perfect and orderly,” recounted a senior bureaucrat.
    That was, however, not the case today.
    Like Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee during the last swearing-in, Mamata remained seated on the dais but she constantly kept fiddling with her phone. There was a place earmarked for the MLAs, just like 2006, but many of them were seen moving around freely. Those in the audience also moved around in the pandal despite the imposing presence of senior Union ministers — Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaram — Mamata’s cabinet, senior police officers and bureaucrats.
    “This is the feeling of freedom and spontaneity. With Mamata as chief minister, people of this state feel liberated,” said artist Suvaprasanna.
    He said he had requested governor M.K. Narayanan to include a Tagore song in the event.
    “The setting comes across as a celebration of change. But it also marks the beginning of curiosity. We really want to know how much Mamata can deliver,” said a city-based businessman.
    Unlike the swearing-in of 2006, which had witnessed the re-endorsement of Brand Buddha, nobody announced any big-ticket investment today but the air was not devoid of hope. If the mother of a “martyr” was expecting better law-and-order situation, the businessmen were hoping for a boom in Bengal.
    “I think that the excitement level is much higher today simply because nothing had been happening in Bengal in the past three years. There is a general mood of optimism around,” a businessman said.  
    Career fair from today
    TT, Siliguri, May 20: A three-day career fair will begin at the City Centre in Uttarayon Township here from tomorrow.
    The three-day event, organised by Calcutta-based Sape Events and Media Private Limited in association with The Telegraph and Ananda Bazar Patrika, will have around 80 stalls. The organisers said institutions from Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Calcutta, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Dehra Dun, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh will put up stalls in the fair along with those from Siliguri. Students can get information on advertising, animation, biotechnology, computer training, fashion designing, film technology, finance, graphic designing, hospitality and travel, IT, insurance, interior designing, law, management, mass communication, sales and vocational courses at the fair.
    TT, Siliguri: Officials of the Jalpaiguri central excise division, Siliguri customs along with the central excise and service tax commissionerate destroyed 6,357kg of cannabis on Friday. S.K. Das, the commissioner of customs and central excise division, said the cannabis was set afire at Bhutkihat in Jalpaiguri district.
    TT, Siliguri: Members of the State Government Employees’ Federation (Unified) submitted a memorandum to the superintendent of the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital on Friday protesting alleged irregularities under the Janani Surakhha Yojna scheme at the hospital and demanded an inquiry.
    Road death
    TT, Malda: Abdul Malik, a 37-year-old resident of Chanchal, was killed after he was knocked down by a motorcycle at Ranikamat on NH81 on Friday. While Mallik died on the spot, the person riding the two-wheeler has been admitted to the Malda district hospital with injuries.
    NBU seminar
    TT, Siliguri: The department of history at North Bengal University will organise an international seminar on “memoirs and history: exploring new dimensions” from May 23 to May 25. The three-day event would be held at the conference hall of the varsity.

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