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Thursday, May 19, 2011

GJM bundh peaceful... Mamta's new kingdom

Strike peaceful with stray incidents
KalimNews & TH: 12 hr of the 24 hr bundh called by GJM completed successfully with a few stray report of attack on GNLF supporters. GJM organised protest and condolence rally in  different parts of the hills. GJM supporters with black band and badge rallied in the town and market streets and organised meetings condemning the murder of Rabin Rai at Sonada. Rai was injured during an alleged attack by GNLF supporters he was taken to a nursing home in Siliguri where he succumbed to his injuries.
“Rai was a casualty of GNLF's politics of violence,” said GJM general secretary Roshan Giri.
News of the death sparked off fresh tension in parts of the hills with reports of violence in the Sonada area where GJM activists allegedly attacked houses of GNLF supporters.
A day after Rai was attacked, GNLF chief Subhas Ghising left the hills cutting short his stay there less than six weeks after he had arrived in Darjeeling, only to say later that he had chosen to do so because of the “continuous threats” from the GJM.
“The chances of peace will hopefully improve with his (Mr. Ghising's) departure,” Mr Giri said.
Traffic will be allowed to move despite the bandh call on Thursday, the GJM leadership has decided. Tea gardens and cinchona plantations were exempted from the purview of the bandh while all offices, banks, educational institutions, shops, markets, commercial and business establishments remained closed during the day. Vehicles plied on the road as usual.

Two knifed on death protest day
- Mob sets house on fire but traffic normal

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, May 19: Two GNLF supporters were stabbed this evening, hours after the house of another party supporter was burnt and razed to the ground in a continuation of the violence in the hills that followed the death of Rabin Rai yesterday.

A DGHC office was also set afire late last night at Giddepahar in Kurseong.
The family members of Puran Rai of Bhutia busty, who was admitted to the Darjeeling district hospital tonight, said they have not been able to identify the attackers. No police complaint was lodged either.
Police, however, said the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was behind the attack on Suman Mukhia. The 42-year-old from Burbong has been admitted to Kurseong subdivisional hospital with severe cuts on his head.
The alleged retaliations come on a day the Morcha has called a 24-hour general strike across the hills to protest the death of Rai. The 28-year-old was beaten up allegedly by GNLF supporters in Sonada on Sunday during a poll victory celebration. Four persons have been arrested for the attack.
Earlier in the afternoon, Darjeeling police chief D.P. Singh said: “The situation is now peaceful. The house of a GNLF supporter was razed to the ground at Lopchu at 4 this morning and a council office was also burnt down at Giddepahar in Kurseong last night.”
The Morcha, whose MLAs have decided to attend Mamata Banerjee’s swearing in ceremony in Calcutta tomorrow, has demanded the arrest of GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh, who fled the hills hours after Rai was attacked in Sonada. Bimal Gurung’s party also wants Ghisingh’s Z category security to be withdrawn. The GNLF president has been enjoying the security since February 2001 following an assassination bid on him at Saath Ghoomti near Kurseong.
Morcha supporters today brought out rallies carrying black flags. Transport, tea and cinchona plantations were, however, kept out of the bandh’s purview.
Addressing Morcha supporters in Darjeeling, general secretary Roshan Giri said: “We demand that Ghisingh be arrested as he instigated violence in the hills through his speech. The state government should also remove his Z category security as soon as possible.”
Morcha president Bimal Gurung and newly elected MLAs from Darjeeling and Kurseong Trilok Dewan and Rohit Sharma attended Rai’s funeral at Sonada’s Raghubir busty, 20km from Darjeeling. “Our president has taken up the responsibility of educating the two daughters of Rai, aged six and four years. Since, Rai was the only earning member of the family, the Morcha will get his wife a suitable job. The party will also provide financial assistance to the martyr’s family,” said Binay Tamang, the assistant secretary of the Morcha over the phone from Raghubir busty.
The Morcha has demanded that the 46 GNLF supporters named in the FIR be immediately arrested. “Eyewitnesses have also highlighted the role of local GNLF leaders, Pradip Pradhan, Suren Tamang and Roshan Tamang, in the attack. We will soon file a supplementary FIR with the police,” said Binay.
The Morcha has termed the attack on the houses of GNLF leaders as “public outcry”. Mobs set fire to two houses in Dilaram yesterday when Rai’s death news reached the hills late in the afternoon. Five homes were ransacked in Sonada simultaneously while two were pelted with stones in Kurseong. A house each in Kalimpong and Takdah were attacked also.
Asked if the party would condemn incidents like burning down of houses, MLA Sharma said: “This is a public outcry as an innocent Morcha supporter has been killed. We once again appeal to our supporters to maintain peace in the hills.”
Many believe that the reason behind the attack on the council office is because a section of contractual workers from this office had walked out of the Morcha-affiliated Janmukti Asthahi Karmachari Sangathan (JAKS). They have formed their own unit, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council Karmachari Sangathan. Although the office bearers of the new organisation maintain that they are an apolitical body, the Morcha has alleged that they have a tacit understanding with the GNLF.
The strike did not impact tourism, as there was no bar on transport movement. Hordes of visitors arrived in town today. “This is a good move taken by the Morcha to safeguard tourism. The party has shown that there can be protests while taking care of the tourism sector which contributes immensely towards the hill economy. We are hopeful that the decision to exempt transport from strike will now be a precedence which will be followed not just by the Morcha but also by other political parties,” said a tour operator.
Toppers of ICSE and ISC
KalimNews: Mukta Mukhia of St Joseph's Convent topped the ICSE examinees of Kalimpong schools. Mukhia of Sikkim scored 94.2%.
In the ISC examination Pratima Guha of Dr. Graham's Homes topped the list of Arts section by scoring 93.7 while Abhimanyu Ghalay of St. Augustine's School by scoring 93.5 % topped among the examinees of Science stream and Nima Lhamu Sherpa of Dr. Grahm's Homes topped the examinees of Commerce section by scoring 88.75%.
2nd Day of CMs Visit
Prabin Khaling, Namchi , May 18: Chief Minister on his 2nd day of his 36 days marathon tour of the state gave the message of being Self Reliant and Self Sufficient.
On his 2nd day of the tour which he kick started yesterday he visited several Damthang, Chemchey, Wok, Mamley Sikkip, Kamrang and Jawbari and adjacent villages near these areas.The main aim and objective of this tour being to bring the government and it’s plans and policies to the door steps of the people.
The Chief Minister interacted and enquired about the problems not only faced by the respective regions but also of the individuals and assured them to get rid of their grievances and problems, but with hope that the people will not be lazy but work centric and will work in tandem with the government which will not only lift them up but will also usher the individuals as well as the region where they belong to the path of prosperity. Water being one of the leading problems of the region Chief Minister Mr. Chamling directed the concerned Minister and the HOD to give top priority to the problem of water in the region and find long term solution for it.
Mr. Chamling also announced that Damthang being such an eco friendly area henc foth the area should be christened as Eco Friendly Town.
He also sanctioned to build a new water reservoir tank for the area and urged the people of Damthang to takup the profession of tourism seriously especially the youth and the younger generation as the region is blessed with such beautiful scenic beauties.Similarly Mr. Chamling also urged the youths and the younger generation of the all those areas to come up with innovative ideas plans and schemes to be self reliant for which he vowed to extend all the support from the government.
Connectivity which seemed to be problem for few of these areas, the Chief Minister assured the people of these areas that the condition of the roads and stretches will be up to the mark within no time.
He also asked the personnel from the line departments to immediately act upon the orders given by him and asked them to be prompt and effective.
He also met with the students and asked and enquired about the problems if they were facing any and advised them to choose such profession that can yield them profits and benefits for generations instead of hoping for some simple white color job in government.
Earlier he began the day with offering his prayers at Nadak Monastery in the outskirts of Namchi and also saw the model and the proper structure of the new Monastery which is being constructed.
He also paid a visit to Samduptse hills and inspected the wok of rope way which is being constructed and asked the officials of the concerned departments to finish the work in the stipulated time frame.
The reaction of the public seeing their Chief Minister and the top beauroctarts visiting them to their doorsteps were overwhelming, people who were present in numbers expressed their happiness and joy to the government for coming up with such innovative and unique idea of reaching the people from all the areas to know about their problem and the problems of the area.
They earn Rs 5.75 & the tea sells for Rs 25K

A women plucks first flush Darjeeling at the Happy Valley tea estate.Sayantan Bera, Tea grown on the steep slopes of Darjeeling hills, connoisseurs swear, is unlike anywhere else in the world.
Epicures use a plethora of adjectives to describe the 'champagne of teas': brisk, flowery, round, mellow and sparkling.
Brewed properly, the Darjeeling tea leaves yield a thin-bodied, light-coloured liquor with a floral aroma and a musky spiciness leading tea connoisseurs to label a variety of the tea as muscatel.

At the luxury Harrod's store in London a muscatel retails at over Rs 9,000 a kg.
The famed Makaibari gardens sell what the estate calls the world's most expensive tea - Silver Tips Imperial. Reputed to "cull one to celestial slumber", it is priced at $20 (Rs 900) for a 50 gm pack.
On February 27, this year, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's (GJM) plantation labour union - the only union in the hills - put a spanner in the wheels of this high-end business.
It placed an embargo on dispatches of the premium first harvest of the gardens, called the "first flush".
The union demanded a steep raise in the daily wages of tea labourers: from Rs 67 to Rs 120.

Two women examine processed tea leaves at a garden in Darjeeling.After a month-long standoff, the garden owners bowed to the politically strong labour union. The wages were increased to Rs 90.
Behind the one-time jump of Rs 23 - compared to a pitiful raise of Rs 14 in the past 11 years - is a story of Darjeeling's ethnic politics getting intertwined with labour issues in the tea gardens.
The hilly district in north West Bengal has witnessed much political and economic upheaval in the past three decades.

The violent movement for a Gorkha state, Gorkhaland, in the 1980s led to the creation of an autonomous body to administer Darjeeling district, the Gorkha Hill Council.
Barely had political trouble abated, the tea gardens were overtaken by an economic crisis with tea exports plummeting after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The turnaround came in 2004 after Darjeeling tea acquired a Geographical Indication status (GI)

Online help for aspirants to Delhi University through
The admissions into the prestigious colleges of Delhi University, to which hundreds of students flock to every year, will begin soon. Delhi University offers both undergraduate and post graduate courses through its colleges and central institutions in a wide variety of subjects. 
The admission process can be challenging to newcomers and fresh aspirants, especially those who have never studied in the metros. Almost all state student federations put up help kiosks to assist new students in the cumbersome process of identifying colleges, getting acquainted with cut-off marks, finding information about courses, scholarships, fees and hostel accommodation. Students of certain regions, especially Darjeeling-Dooars, have not been able to avail of such help. This year, the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh has made arrangements to help students from these areas, as well as any others from anywhere, who might need such help.
Through the website of the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh, students can have any doubt cleared. 
Please direct all aspirants to access the website at and submit their queries and doubts through the feedback form. They must leave behind their phone numbers and email addresses for a response to their questions. These will be answered individually by a team headed by Prof Munish Tamang, who teaches in Delhi University. The answers will also be featured on the website for collective benefit.
Please also help spread this information to benefit all students who might want to sxtudy in the capital of the country in some of the best colleges of India.- Joel Rai
For more information contact Munish Tamang 09810613360, HUMANITY HELPLINE KALIMPONG 
This group is created for giving helping hand to the needy people of hills in any aspect including students seeking admission in Colleges of Siliguri and medical help in Siliguri. 
Contact 9734098931
or browse  /
PTI: Reserve Bank today asked public to exchange 25 paise coins and those with lower denominations with banks before June 30, the day from which they would be demonetised or cease to be a legal tender for payment.
"Coins of denomination of 25 paise and below will cease to be legal tender from June 30, 2011. These will not be accepted for exchange at bank branches from July 1, 2011 onwards," the RBI said.
"The RBI has, therefore, appealed to the members of public to exchange these coins at the branches of banks maintaining small coin depots or at the offices of the Reserve Bank," the central bank said.

The exchange facility at specified bank branches or the Reserve Bank offices will be available till the close of business on June 29, 2011.
All-inclusive team hits berth ceiling Trinamul fills its quota, 7 for Cong
TT, Calcutta, May 19: Mamata Banerjee will start her innings as chief minister with a full-strength ministry, accommodating all the interest groups within the party and from across the state.
From Muslims to women to the Scheduled Castes to giant-killers, Mamata has included the sections she has been wooing assiduously for the past few years.
The new government will have 44 ministers, including Mamata, the maximum permissible number and one that equals the strength of the Left Front government.
The Trinamul Congress will take 37 berths, setting aside seven for the Congress. The Congress is likely to take a couple of days to fill its slots unless it irons out internal wrinkles before the swearing-in tomorrow.
The portfolios will be announced later. Mamata had earlier this week said she would initially go in for a small cabinet and add more ministers later, underscoring the need to include members from the minority community, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.
But Mamata has opted for a full-fledged ministry right from the word go, perhaps because of the political pulls and pressures over the past few days or because she could strike the balance she had been looking for to accommodate all sections.
Six members of the ministry are from the minority communities and five from the reserved categories. Her trusted lieutenants Firhad Hakim and Javed Khan have been allotted slots in the ministry along with Abdul Karim Chowdhury, H.A. Safwi and Justice Noor-e-Alam Chowdhury.
In her election campaign, Mamata had promised an “all-inclusive cabinet”. The list of Trinamul ministers reveals that Mamata has kept her word, including at least one minister from each district except Jalpaiguri, which is expected to be represented by a Congress minister.
North 24-Parganas, which has the highest number of Assembly seats, tops the districts with seven ministers. The district, from where Trinamul has wiped out the Left since the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, is followed by Calcutta and South 24-Parganas, with four each.
North Bengal, where Mamata’s tally has jumped to 16 seats from one in 2006, has been rewarded with ministers from Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda. Gautam Deb, the Trinamul Darjeeling district president instrumental in building the support base, was not ignored when Mamata drew up the list of ministers.
Apart from Mamata, the only other woman from Trinamul to make it to the ministry is Malda district president Sabitri Mitra. Having switched sides from the Congress to Trinamul a year ago, Sabitri, once a Ghani Khan Chowdhury loyalist, has been rewarded. She is the lone Trinamul candidate to have won from the district.
“A lot of effort went into creating a strong base in north Bengal, where the party was far behind the Left and the Congress. Out of the 26 seats we contested, we have emerged victorious in 16. Moreover, Mamata has big plans for the region. She needs ministers from these districts to implement the plans,” said a senior Trinamul leader.
The inclusion of Murshidabad president Subrata Saha in the cabinet will help Mamata take the development bandwagon to the district, where Congress strongman Adhir Chowdhury still calls the shots.
If identity politics played a big role in Mamata’s ride to Writers’, the list reflects that. Manjulkrishna Thakur, a leader from the Matua community, has found a place in the ministry.
Jungle Mahal, which gave Mamata seven of the 14 MLAs in the area, has got two ministers, reflecting her resolve to take development to the backward region.
Purnendu Bose, who has been with Mamata since the Singur and Nandigram days, has been accommodated.
Giant-killers like Amit Mitra, Manish Gupta, Rabiranjan Chatterjee and Bratya Basu have been given berths.
In her hour of triumph, Mamata has retained her faith in loyalists like Subrata Bakshi, Partha Chatterjee, Rabindranath Bhattacharjee, Jyotipriya Mullick, Madan Mitra and Malay Ghatak 
Trinamool to have 36 ministers, 7 likely from Cong
HT, Kolkata:There will be 36 Trinamool Congress ministers, while seven are likely to be from the Congress in the new West Bengal government to be headed by Mamata Banerjee. A list of 36 names of MLAs from the Trinamool Congress, barring Banerjee, has been received by the chief secretary's office from the Raj Bhavan, secretariat sources said.
"The Congress list of ministers has not yet been received," the sources said.
The Congress was likely to have seven ministers, they said.
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
Final touches are being given to the preparations for the swearing-in of West Bengal's first woman chief minister Mamata Banerjee, at the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata on Friday. The swearing in, at a ceremony in the presence of 3200 invitees drawn from among the top names in politics, business and art and culture, will take place at 1:01 pm as per the wishes of the Trinamool supremo.
Banerjee, who will be the eleventh chief minister of the state, will be administered the oath of office and secrecy by governor M K Narayanan on the southwest lawn of the 208 year old Raj Bhavan, where shamianas have been erected.
Narayanan has already appointed Banerjee as chief minister.
Banerjee will head the first non Left government to take charge of West Bengal, 34 years after a nine party Left Front government had come to power, led by Jyoti Basu in 1977.
Trinamool Congress and allies Congress and SUCI stormed to power in the state with a three-fourths majority, signalling the historic changeover in the state's politics.
Congress, which secured 42 seats, is likely to join the Mamata Banerjee government.
The huge guest list includes outgoing chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who has been invited along with wife Meera by Deputy leader of the Trinamool Congress Legislature Party Partha Chatterjee, who personally went to their Palm Avenue residence, the first visit by any Trinamool leader there, since the party came into existence in 1998.

Mamata resigns as rly minister
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, set to take over as West Bengal Chief Minister on Friday, resigned as railway minister on Thursday. Railway sources said Banerjee sent her resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Banerjee took over as Railway Minister of UPA-II government in May, 2009. She had also held the ministry for less than two years in the NDA government.
Mukul Roy of Trinamool Congress is the new railway minister
Trinanool Congress General Secretary Mukul Roy, currently Minister of State for Shipping, is being seen as the front-runner for taking over the Railway Ministry.
Banerjee, who engineered the landslide victory of the Trinamool Congress-Congress combine, will be sworn in as West Bengal's first woman Chief Minister on Friday.
How Much Poor Is Poor: Even Beggars Are Not Poor Enough!
Shahidur Rashid Talukdar, 19 May, 2011,
How much poor is poor enough? If you ask this question to the Planning Commission of India, you might be highly disappointed at the response. Many of India 's poor die out of hunger and because they don't have acceptable housing. Some of India 's poor even live in makeshift homes on train station platforms, an example of the 78 million Indians who lack proper housing facilities. Still, according to the Indian Planning Commission's criteria on what classifies as a poor person, many of these individuals may not be considered poor enough to be considered as living below poverty line (BPL).
Poverty is a widespread and well-acknowledged problem in India . To know how poor India is you need simply to look at the people and the places around and you will have good grasp of the situation. However, when it comes to the government accounts, the abjectness of the poverty situation seems to be grossly underestimated and even ignored in many circumstances.
Reacting to a petition by Peoples' Union of Civil Liberties , the Supreme Court of India recently asked the Planning Commission to fix the problem. "You ( India ) are a powerful economy” the court said. “Yet, starvation deaths are taking place in many parts of the country. What a stark contradiction in our approach. How can there be two Indias ?" The court also challenged the Commissions approach to estimating poverty level among the masses. As the Economic Times reported , “The Supreme Court slammed the Planning Commission, asking its Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to explain how the percentage of people living below poverty line (BPL) fixed at 36 percent and how has their purchasing power remained unchanged since 1991.”
Responding to the apex court's queries, the Planning Commission disclosed its criteria for determining a poor . According to the Commission, an urban Indian spending more than Rs 578 a month ($13) – roughly Rs 20 (less than 50 cents) a day would exceed its limit for the poverty line. The figures are even lower for rural India . If a villager spends more than 15 rupees a day on the entire gamut of basic needs including food, clothing, and shelter - the villager cannot be termed as poor enough and will not be entitled to receive benefits meant for poor
Based on these consumption levels, the commission has declared that only 41.8 percent of the rural population is poor and a mere 25.7 percent of the urban Indians need food, shelter and social benefits from the government. These criteria for persons living below poverty line (BPL) explain very well how half of India may starve to death but the Government may say India is not poor. By these measures, most beggars will find it difficult to make it to the list of poor people.
The Planning Commission's criteria of daily spending of less than 50 cents as an indicator for poverty not only shows their lack of concern for people but also shows their unawareness about the cost of living in the country. How can a person afford a nutrition content of 2400 calories , a minimum requirement for the rural India , from a meager 15 rupees (about 35 cents)?
This criterion grossly underestimates or rather ignores other expenses like housing, clothing, and medication. Where in Urban India one can find housing for less than Rs 600 ($ 14) given the rent of an average house is no less than Rs 3000 ($ 65) a month? The Planning Commission fails to account for the very basic amenities of life for the poor. This is highly disappointing, as the criteria for deciding BPL fail to capture the cost of bare minimum amenities for survival.
If we push the criterion up to the international standard spending of $ 1.25 (PPP adjusted) a day, the Planning Commission estimates about 45% of the Indian population is extremely poor. If the daily income per head is $ 2 then the family is described as poor and about 80 percent of Indian Population is poor by this criterion.
Comparing these figures with the developed nations, we can understand the relevance of the BPL criteria. United States , for instance, has hardly anyone living below this spending level of a dollar or two per day. The USA follows its own national poverty line, an income over $26000 a year for a family of 5, which is well above the international line of $ 1.25 a day.

So what can one think of the Planning Commission's stand: Is it sheer ignorance of the reality or a calculated strategic measure? If the level of poverty can't be reduced, lower the criteria to such an extent that most of the poverty will remain underestimated and hence unreported and ultimately, the problem will be ignored or at least it will not draw as much attention as it otherwise would.
But not everyone is as ignorant as the planning Commission's statisticians. The Supreme Court once again has noticed the inadequacy of the criteria for measuring the BPL level. The Court has directed the commission to re-evaluate its criteria for measuring poverty across the nation.
Thanks to the Supreme Court for intervening in this case. Otherwise, poor people would be dying hungry and shelter-less, while the Planning Commission would say they are not poor enough!
Shahidur Rashid Talukdar is a PhD student in Economics at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX. He may be reached at . He blogs at: .

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