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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Runners on ancient trade route... Strike threat for teacher appointment -- 4000 recruits sought for hill primary schools... Smugglers kill jawan near border outpost... Toy train services to resume in June

Runners on ancient trade route
Rajeev Ravidas, TT, Vishwas Bhamburkar, the 37-year-old entrepreneur from Ahmedabad, Amit Joshi, 35, a funds manager with an insurance company in Mumbai, 28-year-old Brijesh Gajera, a software engineer from Bangalore, and Asha Arora, a technical officer in the Central Scientific Instruments Organisation in Chandigarh.
“Roshni has been running marathon throughout India. She could be an inspiration for our youths. We all came together to organise this event to show our appreciation to Roshni as well as to inspire others in the hills to follow in her footsteps,” said Samten Kabo, a former footballer and a member of the Kalimpong Veterans’ Club.
The event was jointly conducted by the Veterans’ Club, the Kalimpong Press Club and the Pedong Youth Sports Association. Roshni is at present a legal executive with a Mumbai-based multinational firm.
Roshni said she and her fellow runners were overwhelmed by the response of the local people to the event. “The climb from the Teesta was very difficult, but we could do it because of your support,” she said at the end of the run.
Vishwas, who ran an additional 15km, said the event was a good practice for the Comrades Marathon he plans to take part in South Africa later this year. “The Comrades Marathon is an 89-km ultra marathon which is also known as the Ultimate Human Race,” he said.
The runners started from Suntaley at 6am and all of them reached the destination between 1pm and 2pm. When the first runners were half-a-kilometre short of Kalimpong, a group of senior citizens jogged with them till Thanadara. From Thanadara, 25 students joined the run right up to Pedong, which is a distance of about 22km.
“Running is a hobby for all us. It has become part of our life. We get a definite high after a run,” said Roshni. She said she was hoping that youngsters from the hills would take to running in a big way by seeing people like her group run just for fun.
The youngsters, she said, could pursue long-distance running as a career if they practice seriously right from their early days.
Strike threat for teacher appointment -- 4000 recruits sought for hill primary schools
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, May 2: An agitation by primary school teachers starting tomorrow may spiral into a hill-wide strike at a time the Assembly elections are on and there is little chance of fulfilling the agitators’ list of demands.
The agitation will start with a dharna for three days from tomorrow for the fulfilment of a slew of demands, including the appointment of more than 4,000 teachers, failing which the teachers have threatened to cripple education in the region.
The main grouse of the Gorkha Primary Teachers’ Organisation that issued the threat was that no new primary schoolteacher had been appointed in the Darjeeling hills since 1997.
“Every year, around 100 teachers are retiring from these primary schools. However, no teachers have been appointed since 1997. Around 12-13 schools have only one permanent teacher each,” said Bhushan Thapa, the secretary of the GPTO.
“While 83,774 teachers were appointed in the rest of Bengal last year, not a single vacancy was filled up in the hills.”
The GPTO, affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, has decided to stage a dharna in front of the DGHC’s education secretary’s office from tomorrow.
“Teachers from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong will come in batches and stage a dharna for three days. If things do not work out positively, we will start a teachers’ strike in primary and secondary schools. We will not hesitate to call a general strike in the hills if nothing works out even then,” said Thapa.
The organisation claimed that the 770-odd primary schools across the hills were slowly getting dependent on ad-hoc teachers as no recruitment had been carried out in the past 14 years.
“Education has been completely neglected in the hills,” said Thapa, demanding that 4,000 primary teachers be appointed as early as possible.
The teachers have other complaints as well.
“Free text books have still not been distributed among the students (academic session has started since March) and the mid-day meal is not very regular,” said Thapa.
The other demands of the organisation are recognition of primary schools, and setting up of a district project office for the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, along with a pension cell in Darjeeling.
The teachers also want establishment of district primary school council, instead of district school board as in other districts, and appointment of a finance officer at the District School Board and sub-inspector of schools in all 13 circles in the hills.
The GPTO demanded that medical board for teachers be set up at Darjeeling Sadar hospital, instead of North Bengal Medical College and Hospital.
P.T. Sherpa, the secretary of the council’s education department, conceded some of the problems.
“Many of the demands raised by the teachers have to do with government policies. For example, SIs have not been appointed anywhere in the state. As far as distribution of text books is concerned, there were some technical difficulties,” he said.
Explaining what he meant by the technical difficulty, Sherpa said: “The District School Board had decided to switch over to the CBSE board. But the state government said such a change could not take place overnight and teachers needed to be trained first before they started teaching a new syllabus. This is why there has been a slight delay in the distribution of text books.”

Naivety aid for frauds
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, May 2: Keshab Kanti Sarma had earned more than Rs 2 crore and even bought land worth Rs 65 lakh in Guwahati in less than two years, but it is still unclear how many investors had been the victim of his financial fraud.
Police in Darjeeling said the naivety of the hill people was one reason why Sarma could net so many investors.
Darjeeling police chief D.P. Singh said the hill people might have been duped of crores.
“We are looking into the details of the investments and the case will be soon handed over to the CID (cyber crime wing),” said Singh.
Sarma and his associate Pranab Jyoti Barman, who was also arrested, have been accused of collecting money in the name of a non-banking finance company, Uni Pay2U. According to complaints, the duo had collected lakhs of rupees from the public promising to double the amount in 10 months but failed to keep the promise.
The 40-year-old Sarma, an employee of the Assam State Electricity Board, was arrested on Friday from a hotel on Ladenla Road.
He has been remanded in police custody for 12 days by the chief judicial magistrate’s court here.
The police are at a loss to fathom the lack of awareness among the hills over dubious investment schemes. “Such cases are also reported in the plains but it is relatively less. The hill people, especially from the villages, are falling victims to frauds and the only way out is to educate the people. We are looking at holding awareness campaigns,” said Singh.
The police have found out that a family from Nepal had invested around Rs 90 lakh in Uni Pay2, the fraud company.
“The amount invested from Darjeeling could also be a few crores. Since May 18, 2009, Sarma admitted to have earned more than Rs 2 crore and had also bought land worth Rs 65 lakh in Guwahati,” said Singh.
Sarma is wanted by the Bureau of Investigation of Economic Offences. But he was picked up on Friday after his wife lodged a police complaint in Noonmati, Guwahati, saying he had been kidnapped.
Sources in the Assam police had earlier said Sarma had faked his own abduction and had also made a ransom call.
Darjeeling police said veracity of the claims of the online multi-level marketing businesses was being investigated. “Online sites like Uni Pay2U, Visarev and Virgin Gold seem to be the ones Sarma was using to dupe people. Once a particular scheme got saturated he would switch to other online schemes,” said Singh.
Smugglers kill jawan near border outpost

TT, Balurghat, May 2: A BSF jawan was stabbed to death barely a kilometre from his outpost in Hili yesterday morning, allegedly by cattle smugglers rampant in an area without any border fencing.

Six persons have been arrested for the murder of H. T. Kantaraj, 36. Among the arrested, the scent of two brothers were picked up by BSF sniffer dogs from a slipper left at the site of crime.
The inspector-general of the BSF’s Malda range Ashok Kumar and deputy inspector-general Amarjeet visited the Bhimpur border outpost today.
According to BSF and police sources, around 2am yesterday, a gang of cattle smugglers was spotted by Kantaraj, alone on a patrol, very close to the BSF border outpost at Bhimpur. There is no border fencing in the 7km stretch in that area.
Police said the jawan, who hailed from Karnataka, was attacked by the smugglers who slashed his stomach, killing him on the spot before his colleagues could come to his aid. His screams for help had alerted the border outpost.
The gang of smugglers managed to escape under the cover of darkness, BSF sources said. The jawan’s body was sent for post-mortem to the South Dinajpur district hospital.
Indra Pahan said his sons Sushil and Swapan were not smugglers, but they were not home when the incident took place. Police sources said a slipper found at the spot was smelt by the BSF dog, which followed it to the Pahan house in Iswarpara, 3km from the border.
While the BSF officers refused to speak, sources in the district police said according to a new guideline issued by the Union home ministry, the border force had been instructed to fire only rubber bullets during any eventuality. However, it was learnt that the BSF men at Bhimpur were not equipped with rubber bullets.
South Dinajpur police chief Swapan Banerjee Purnapatra said investigations were on after the BSF filed a complaint that their jawan had been killed by cattle smugglers at the Hili border.
“We have already arrested six persons from the border area and investigations are on. We are stepping up security measures in the area,” the police chief said.
Toy train services to resume in June
TT, Siliguri, May 2: The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway authorities are hopeful that the restoration of the tracks along NH55 will be completed by mid-June and services on the Siliguri-Kurseong route can be resumed soon after that.
“We have started shifting construction material to the site and are ready to start work provided the state public works department gives us the green signal to go ahead. It will take us around a month and the Siliguri-Kurseong stretch should be operational by June end if we are able to start the work by mid-May,” said DHR director P.P. Roy.
The daily DHR services between Siliguri and Kurseong had been stalled after a 475-meter long stretch of NH55 was damaged in a landslide at the 14th Mile near Paglajhora, 35 km from here, on June 16 last year.
The toy train track that runs parallel to the road was also damaged in the mudslide and the services on the route were stalled.
Only the Kurseong-Darjeeling service and the joy rides between Ghoom and Darjeeling were operating after the landslide.
“Although the monsoon begins in the region by mid-May we have set a target to complete the track restoration by the end of June before the heavy rainfall sets in. Landslides are a perennial problem during the monsoon and the damaged stretch has always been prone to landslides. But intensive work has been undertaken to strengthen the zone in order to prevent such natural calamities in the future,” a DHR official said.
According to the PWD officials, the work of strengthening the highway is on and the road was opened for lightweight vehicles on April 14.
“There is still some work left to be completed on the road before we can allow the DHR to start the restoration of the tracks and that will take us another fortnight. A joint inspection of the site needs to be conducted and a meeting has to be convened with the hill railway authorities before they start work. The state PWD will simultaneously carry out the work of strengthening the damaged portion of the highway,” said Nirmal Mondal, executive engineer (NH division) of the PWD.
Mudslides block Nathu-la trade start
TT, Gangtok, May 2: The trade between Sikkim and Tibet through Nathu-la did not kick off today as customs officers from India failed to reach the spot because of mudslides along Jawaharlal Nehru Marg.
The slides blocked the road connecting Gangtok with Nathu-la at 9th Mile and 13th Mile yesterday afternoon, trapping some 112 vehicles carrying tourists from Chhangu Lake to Gangtok.
“Customs officials could not come to Nathu-la because of bad road condition and hence, there was no trade today. Chinese traders had come to the Nathu-la border gate but since no officials were present on this side, they returned around 10.30am,” said a police officer posted at Sherathang police outpost, where the trade mart has been set up.
Sources said the border trade, scheduled to open today, took place from May to November. The trade takes place on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Sources in the state commerce department said officials of the commerce and industries department, customs and immigration had finally reached the trading post about 11.30am. The trade usually begins at 10am and Chinese traders who had come in 30 vehicles had returned by then, the sources said.
No traders from the Indian side, however, went to Nathu-la said the sources.
Most of the vehicles left stranded at 9th Mile returned to Gangtok yesterday evening when debris was removed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO)’s Project Swastik personnel. Those who were still stuck in the slides were evacuated later in the day in a joint operation by the tourism department, police, JN Marg Taxi Drivers’ Association and Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim ( TAAS).
Mukul Rawat, a visual effect supervisor for Hindi films, his wife and two daughters were among those stuck at 9th Mile.
“We had gone to Nathu-la for sightseeing in a hired cab. On our way back, the weather turned bad and there was rain and fog. At 9th Mile, suddenly a big rock fell onto the road some 30-35ft from our car. Then, there was a mudslide. As we did not have such experiences before, we were all sacred. But our driver Bhanu Rai kept us telling us not to worry,” said Rawat of Mumbai.
Rawat’s concerns for his family vanished when he saw a quick response from the tourism department, police, BRO and other organisations.
“Never in my life had I seen three government agencies working together to handle a crisis. They practically lifted my daughter and took us to the other side where vehicles were waiting to take us to Gangtok,” he said.
Eight vehicles carrying 47 tourists were left stranded at 13th Mile and all were given shelter at the nearby army base last night. They returned safely to Gangtok this morning after the road was cleared by the BRO.
“The TAAS had pressed in 15 vehicles to pull the stranded tourists out of 9th Mile. Those stuck at 13th Mile were given shelter for the night by the army,” said TAAS president Lukendra Rasaily.
However, the tourism department did not issue any permits for Chhangu Lake today because of the fragile road condition.
नेशनल गोर्खा फोरमद्वारा काँग्रेसलाई भोट अपील गर्ने कार्यक्रम जारी
सर्व भारतीय परिप्रेक्ष्यमा 84 प्रतिशत गोर्खाहरुले काँग्रेस पार्टीलाई नै भोट दिएको तथ्यलाई आधार मानेर नेशनल गोर्खा फोरम फर काँग्रेसले यस पालिको विधानसभा चुनाउमा प्रत्यक्ष रुपमा भाग लिएको छ । नेगोफोले यही आँकडाको आधारमा काँग्रेस पार्टीलाई गोर्खाको सहज राजनैतिक पार्टी भनी घोषणा गरेको छ । नेगोफोको भनाई छ यति धेरै गोर्खा मतदाताहरुले काँग्रेसलाई समर्थन दिएर आए पनि यो मतदान असंगठित र अघोषित तौरमा भएकोले गोर्खा मतदाताहरुको यो समर्थन महत्वहीन मात्र नभएर अर्थहीन पनि हुनगएको छ । आफ्नो जातीय सोचसित मेल खाने राष्ट्रिय स्तरको राजनैतिक दललाई समर्थन गर्ने गोर्खाको निर्णय त सही छ तर जाहेरै नगरी दिएको समर्थन भएकोले व्यर्थ हुनगएको छ । नेगोफो चाहन्छ यो समर्थनलाई घोषित अनि रजिस्टर्ड गराएर आफूले समर्थन दिएको पार्टीसित सम्बन्ध मजबूत बनाउन ।यति गरेर मात्र समर्थन दिएको राष्ट्रिय दलको पृष्ठपोषण अनि सहयोगको लाभ उठाउन सकिनेछ । जुन पृष्ठपोषण अनि सहयोगको आज गोर्खा जातिलाई नितान्त आवश्यक परेको छ । अनि आगामी निकै वर्षसम्म केन्द्रमा काँग्रेसकै नेतृत्वको सरकार रहिरहने छ भन्ने तथ्यलाई पनि नकार्न पटक्कै सकिन्न । त्यसैले काँग्रेस पार्टीसित साँठगाँठ बलियो बनाउने मात्र होइन तर डंकाको चोटमा हल्ला गरेर काँग्रेसलाई अझ धेर समर्थन जुटाउने काममा लागिपर्नु पर्ने आजको स्थिति छ । तर यो काम खुद्रे पाराले स्थानीय स्तरमा गरेर हुने होइन, यो काम राष्ट्रिय स्तरमै गरिनु पर्छ । त्यसैले नेगोफोले गोर्खालाई काँग्रेसको पक्षमा मतदान गरिदिने अपील गर्ने अभियान राष्ट्रिय कार्यक्रमकै रुपमा ग्रहण गरेको छ ।
यही कार्यक्रम अन्तर्गत नेगोफोको प्रतिनिधि दलले राष्ट्रिय कन्भेनर सी.के.श्रेष्ठको नेतृत्वमा आसाम राज्यका अनि उत्तर बंगालका विभिन्न स्थानहरुमा भ्रमण गरेर त्यहाँका काँग्रेस अनि काँग्रेस समर्थित उम्मेद्वारहरुलाई भेटेर गोर्खा मतदाताहरुको समर्थन औपचारिक रुपमा जनाउँदै नेपाली भाषामा प्रकाशित अपील पर्चा त्यहीँकै उम्मेद्वारहरुको हातबाट वितरण गराइएको छ । यसरी प्राप्त अप्रत्याशित समर्थनले ती उम्मेद्वारहरु कृतज्ञ मात्र भएका छैनन् तर धेरैले चुनाउपछि पनि यो सम्बन्धलाई कायम राखेर साथमा काम गर्ने इच्छा जाहेर गरेका छन् । राष्ट्रिय स्तरमा गोर्खा राजनीतिका नयाँ समीकरणहरुको स्वरुप बनिंदै गएको आभास अनि चुनाउपछि यो स्वरुप अझ स्पष्ट हुने सम्भावना प्रबल देखिंदो छ ।
पश्चिम बंगाल चुनाउको अन्तिम चरणमा नेगोफोले खडगपुरका काँग्रेस समर्थित तृणमूल उम्मेद्वार श्रीमति बिलकिस खानमलाई समर्थन जनाएर नेपाली भाषामा तयारी गरिएको भोट अपील पर्चा पनि सहयोग स्वरुप वितरणको निम्ति प्रदान गरेको छ । सलुवा अनि छेउछाउका इलाकाहरुमा भएका धेरै गोर्खा मतदाताहरुलाई बिचारेर नै गोर्खा फोरमले यो कदम उठाएको छ । भविष्यमा भारतको जुनै राज्यमा चुनाउ भए पनि ती राज्यहरुमा पनि गएर गोर्खा मतदाताहरुलाई काँग्रेसको पक्षमा भोट दिने अपील गर्ने सिद्धान्त नेगोफोले लिएको छ भन्ने जानकारी राष्ट्रिय संयोजक श्री श्रेष्ठले दिएका छन् 

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