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Friday, June 24, 2011

Landslide death toll16 in Sikkim .... Nicole mom denies being in touch with absconding son .... GJMM reaffirms its stand on Gorkhaland.... PCS supports AIDS control programme..... Concession to Blind in train fare

Landslides in west Sikkim caused death of 16
Prabin Khaling, KalimNews, Gangtok, June 24: Sixteen persons were killed in multiple slides which broke out in various places of West Sikkim yesterday night due to torrential rainfall between 8:30 pm to 11 pm collapsing the entire inter-district connectivity, power and water supply, said authorities.
The heaviest death toll was reported from Khurong Kewa Dara along Pelling-Dentam road, some 15 kms away from Geyzing, the district headquarters of West Sikkim where 14 people including an unidentified three months old toddler were buried.
Two persons were also killed by slides at separate places, Tikjuk and Lower Pelling in West district.
“Fourteen people were buried when a house in which they had taken shelter at Khurong Kewa Dara collapsed after being hit by a massive slide at around 11:30 pm. Two more persons were killed at other locations by slides”, said West district collector Santa Kumar Pradhan.
Pradhan informed that multiple slides which broke out due to heavy rainfall between 8:30 pm and 11:30 pm have virtually collapsed the entire inter-district connectivity along with power and water crises in various parts of the district. Even the district headquarters is suffering from power and water supply problems.
We are trying to restore connectivity with the rest of the State by opening the Legship-
Gangtok road by evening, said the district collector before
his mobile went off due to empty battery.
According to the details pieced from disaster management officials and local volunteers, the heavy casualty at Khurong Kewa Dara took place due to a misplace notion of security among the victims. There are some seven houses in this village and four families living in kutcha houses had taken shelter in a two-storied wooden house belonging to Indra Maya Gurung yesterday night. The house was the only shop in the village.
“The families who were living in kutcha houses were sacred of slides taking place due to heavy rainfall and they had taken shelter in the wooden house considering it to be a secure place. However, a heavy slide peeled off the road above and with boulders and crashed into the house which collapsed”, said disaster managed officer Zigmee Bhutia.
Eight bodies have been dug out so far, said the official.
If the victims had remained in their houses, they would have survived.
Among the deceased were five members of a family from Darjeeling who were working as labourers in the village recently. They have been identified as Kumar Rai, Maya Tamang, Anu Rai, Anup Rai and Buddha Rai. Their antecedents are not known much as the people who knew them more are also among the death.
Two couple from Nepal working as labourers in the village is also among the killed. They were Tek Bahadur Chettri, Januka Chettri and their 3-months child, Dawa Tamang and his wife Sukmaya Tamang.
The locals who were killed have been identified as Pramila Gurung (17), Phipraj Subba (21), Pujan Subba (12) and Srijang Subba (8).
Eleven others had escaped death by either managing to scamper to safety or being a ‘foot away’ when the building crashed under the weight of the slide. Four of them including house owner Indra Maya Gurung have been admitted to district hospital at Geyzing for treatment.
“The moment I felt that a slide had broken out in the road above, I grabbed my two kids and along with my wife ran away outside. Moments later, the slide came crashing down from 100 feet above the road. The road simply broke off and I felt that a whole hill side was coming down”, said survivor Nima Tamang (23), a Nepal resident who was working as a labourer in the village. He along with his wife Barsha, son Raj (3) and daughter Rekha (4) spent the night in a cave near the village.
Meanwhile at Tikjuk in West Sikkim, a physically challenged woman was killed when she was trying to escape a slide in her village at around the same hour. Deceased Man Maya Subba (55) was running along with her sister from the slide near their house when she was buried in the slide, officials have informed.
At Lower Pelling, Raj Kumar Thakur, a barber by profession was also killed when his katcha house was hit by a slide, police sources informed.
Communications like road, mobile and telephone have been severely crippled in the district due to slides. 

What’s stopping arrest, asks mom - Nickole’s family questions CBI version

VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Darjeeling, June 24: Nickole Tamang’s mother has questioned the motive behind the CBI’s inability to arrest him specially when it had so much details on his whereabouts.
In a report submitted to the Calcutta High Court yesterday, the CBI had said Nickole, a prime accused in the Madan Tamang murder case, was hiding in Pashupatinagar in Nepal. He had entered the neighbouring country on March 15 this year with two of his aides.
The agency had also said after Nickole’s escape from a CID camp at Pintail in Siliguri on August 22, 2010, he had visited several places in south India, including Kochi and Coimbatore. Nickole, a central committee member of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, had also hid himself in a tea garden in Darjeeling.
“I promise on my four-and-a- half-year-old granddaughter that there has been no communication with my son. I will be happy if he is again in custody as I will then know that he is alive. Why couldn’t the CBI arrest him if they know so much about his whereabouts,” said Bina Tamang. “I want my son to be produced alive. This is all I want at the moment.”
After Nickole’s disappearance, his wife Pema Tamang had filed a habeas corpus petition before the court demanding that the CID produce him in person. The CBI, however, took over the investigation in December last year. “We were hopeful that the CBI would be able to unearth the truth about the incident. They visited us twice and we also gave them our cellphone numbers,” Pema said.
ABGL leader Madan Tamang was killed by a khukuri-wielding mob on May 21 last year. The murder case is alo being investigated by the CBI.

Bina said the last time she had met Nickole was on August 18, 2010 when he was in CID custody. “After that I have had no communication with him. I long to hear his voice. Once the case was transferred to the CBI, I was hopeful (that we would see him), and I am still hopeful. I still trust the agency and hope that they will unearth the truth,” the mother said.
Even though the CBI yesterday sought six weeks’ time to re-arrest Nickole, the bench of Chief Justice J.N. Patel and Justice Asim Kumar Roy has directed the agency to produce him in court within four weeks.
Himangshu Dey, the advocate representing the CBI, told the court that the agency was trying to get the Interpol to issue a red-corner notice so that it could send a team to Nepal to arrest Nickole. The CBI had earlier announced a reward of Rs 2 lakh for information that could lead to Nickole’s arrest.
Questions, however, are being raised on whether the CBI can arrest Nickole from Nepal within four weeks, specially after the wide publicity of the case and the agency’s disclosure that the murder accused is holed up in Nepal. “If the accused is in Nepal will he not escape from that country given the wide publicity of the case,” is the common refrain in the hills.
The Indo-Nepal border is unfenced and porous.
Nicole mom denies being in touch with absconding son
Deep Gazmer, TNN, June 25 2011, DARJEELING: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Nicole Tamang's mother Bina Tamang on Friday rubbished allegations that she was in touch with her absconding son. Nicole is a prime accused in the murder of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) president Madan Tamang. 

"I have neither met nor heard from my son since I last saw him in custody on August 18 last year. How can I be in contact him when I have no clue to his whereabouts," said the 68-year-old mother of the accused GJM leader in her house at Singamari in Darjeeling on Friday. "In fact, if the CBI is right, why are they not arresting him when they know where he is? I am yearning to hear his voice," said a weeping Bina.  
The Darjeeling police had recovered a cellphone, allegedly belonging to Nicole, from the murder site at Upper Clubside Road on May 22. The ABGL leader was brutally hacked to death by a khukuri-wielding mob just as Tamang was about to give a public speech that morning.
"I will be relieved if the CBI arrests him. At least, I will know that he is well and in sight. Though I know from heart that he is innocent," said the mother, who is a retired government employee. Nicole was arrested by the CID and Darjeeling police on August 16 from Kaijaley. He mysteriously disappeared from CID custody from a DGHC guest house at Siliguri on August 22.
Pema, 37, Nicole's wife, who had filed a habeas corpus case in the high court, said that the CBI was wrong in blaming the family. "We had high hope on the CBI. We thought they would give us justice, but instead they are blaming us without any reason," she said. The CBI had spoken to both Pema and Bina a couple of times and asked them about Nicole. The CBI had also taken their cellphone numbers. "The CBI spoke to us a couple of times and taken our phone numbers. But that was about it," said Pema.
Pema, a homemaker, said the family was troubled since the mysterious disappearance and that it was facing difficult problames. "My younger daughter is ill for quite some time and the elder one is in a hostel. It is really getting difficult to even meet even the daily household requirements since my husband was arrested," she said.
GJMM reaffirms its stand on Gorkhaland
Siikim Mail: Gangtok, June 24: A meeting of the Gorkha representatives from all the States of India including Sikkim was held at Darjeeling on 23rd of June. The meeting was organized by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha Central Committee. The delegation from Sikkim was led by Shri Bhawani Pradhan. During the meeting Bimal Gurung, the GJMM supremo made it clear to all the present Gorkhaland supporters that the party has not deviated from its main demand of Gorkhaland.
Clarifying the doubts raised amongst the supporters of separate statehood after the meeting held at Kolkata on 6th and 7th June, Roshan Giri explained the provision and future implication of the present proposal of the West Bengal Government. All the State members expressed their happiness and supported the decision of the central committee including Sikkim. The Sikkim branch has already started to clarify the doubts raised in the minds of the people after the Kolkata meeting through public meeting.
Further GJMM has once again reiterated that the party will not interfere in the internal politics of Sikkim and will work only to support the legitimate demand for Gorkhaland. The said meeting was also attended by Assam, Nagaland, Mijoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Delhi, Hariana and Andhra Pradesh.
Asok asks Didi to go slow
Manas Ranjan Banerjee, SNS, SILIGURI, 24 JUNE: Apparently recovering from the electoral drubbing, the former state urban development minister, Mr Asok Bhattacharya, sarcastically advised the new state government to go slow on development.
“The members of the new government should remember the adage that one moves faster when one is not in a hurry,” he said during a media conference in Siliguri yesterday.
Not naming the chief minister and her colleagues, the former minister said they were running fast but are on a wrong track. “The result would be a disaster for the common people if they keep moving the same way. Development can hardly be brought about overnight. It warrants right and long-term planning and sustained and painstaking endeavour,” he said.
Taking potshot at Miss Mamata Banerjee, Mr Bhattacharya said that the Switzerland cacophony would turn ludicrous unless it was duly supported by ground-level seriousness.
“Are those who keep renting the sky with the Switzerland fantasy aware that the climate has been changing fast turning the region more sweltering and sultry than ever? The humidity we have been experiencing here is something uncharacteristic for the sub-Himalayan region. Does the fantasy bring comfort when we keep sweating all through?” the CPI-M leader asked.
“I would rather ask the new government to go slow and steady without rushing for magical mumbo-jumbo,” he said.

PCS supports AIDS control programme
KalimNews:Press Club of Sikkim (PCS) in support of Sikkim State AIDS Control Society (SSACS) is observing ‘International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking’ on 26th June, 2011. A Mountain bike rally on the theme of Life Does Not Rewind will be held during the occasion wherein journalists from different media houses will participate. The flag off of the bike rally will take place at Vajra, Balwakhani, Gangtok and will end at Ranipool Bazaar, East Sikkim. The participants will deliver awareness messages on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on their way to the flag in point. Founder Vice Chancellor of Sikkim University (SU), Prof. Mahendra P Lama will be present to flag off the rally.
Concession  to Blind in train fare
KalimNews, PIB:The Ministry of Railways has decided to extend facility of concession in rail fare to completely blind persons and mentally retarded persons in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains. The concession for both the categories would be 25 per cent in 3rd AC and AC Chair Car in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains. Same concession will also be admissible to one escort accompanying such person.
The concession will be effective on tickets purchased on or after 01.07.2011. In case of tickets already issued for travel on and after 01.07.2011 refund of difference of fares will not be admissible.
Presently the concession in rail fair for both the category of persons is 75 per cent in Sleeper Class, AC Chair Car & 3rd AC and 50 per cent in 2nd AC &1st AC in all trains except Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains. Same concession is also admissible to one escort accompanying such person.
For availing concession by blind persons, certificate in prescribed proforma issued by RMP or Government Doctor or Head of the Institution for Blind listed in IRCA Coaching Tariff is required and for mentally retarded persons also certificate issued by a Government in prescribed proforma is required.
RTI activist Akhil Gogoi arrested, section 144 imposed
Digambar Patowary/ HT :Guwahati, June 24, 2011: RTI activist and secretary of KMSS ( Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti) Akhil Gogoi was arrested from Guwahati Press Club premises on Friday for stimulating violence on June 22 at state capital. Three people including a nine year old boy were killed in police firing in the violence.
At the time of his arrest Akhil Gogoi was addressing media about the June 22 violence at the state capital where he alleged that government agents were fomenting riot near the state secretariat.
"No member of KMSS was involved in clash with police, torching vehicles. These were handiworks of government's agents. Government has been trying to derail our movement. I do not fear my arrest. People of Assam will come out against anti democratic works of Assam government," said Gogoi before his arrest.
Gogoi was taken to Panbazar police station from the Press Club. After his arrest, KMSS supporters gathered outside the police station and shouting anti government slogan. The Kamrup district administration imposed 144 in Guwahati city to thwart any protest against Akhil Gogoi arrest.
"Akhil Gogoi has been arrested," said Pallav Bhattacharya, IG (Central Western Range) of Assam Police. Gogoi was produced at Kamrup CJM court and court remanded him to police custody for three days.
On Thursday, chief minister Tarun Gogoi reviewed the law and order situation. Government set up an inquiry committee and hinted for tough action against the instigators of June 22nd violence.
On Thursday 10 cases under various sections (333, 353, 427, 143, 147, 149, 434, 357, 339 and 435) were registered against Akhil Gogoi at Dispur police station alleging his leadership in large scale violence and arson at Dispur on June 22 during protest rally against eviction drive in Guwahati hills. Of the ten cases registered, four were non bailable cases.
The cases were lodged at Dispur police station by ASTC ( Assam State Transport Corporation), Kamrup ( Metro ) district administration, civilians whose property were destroyed by irate protesters. After police-protesters clash, three buses of ASTC, police gypsy, ambulance of a private hospital, and several private vehicles were set ablaze by protesters.
After the arrest of KMSS secretary, Akhil Gogoi's supporters and encroachers who were evicted recently from hills blocked the NH 37 at Garchuk in Guwahati.
Five district units of KMSS, Sivasagar, Sonitpur, Nagaon, Dhubri and Dhemaji had called for 12 hours district bandh on Saturday against Akhil Gogoi's arrest.
About Akhil Gogoi
Akhil Gogoi is a Marxist, RTI activist and general secretary of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS).
Akhil along some others had founded KMSS in 2005. From its formation, KMSS started movements for farmers' right, for tribal peoples' right over land.
His Dayang Tengani movement for "land settlement" to tribal people in Golaghat district was a big success for the KMSS.
KMSS launches agitations on patently non-exotic issues such as Public Distribution System thefts, construction of big dams in fragile seismic territories, non-implementation of MG National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), Rights to Information (RTI) Act etc.
KMSS agitation against construction of big dam and eviction of tribal people for construction of dams in Assam-Arunachal border enjoyed huge support from common masses in the state.
Akhil Gogoi came to national attention after he was awarded the Shanmugam Manjunath Integrity Award in 2008 for his relentless fight against corruption and attempts to bring transparency in government functionings.
In 2010, he was awarded the national Right to Information (RTI) Award by Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) for his for his role in exposing Rs 1.25 crore scam in Sampoorna Gram Rozgar Yojna (SGRY) and Rs 60 lakh scam in the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) in Golaghat district of Assam by using the RTI Act. He donated the entire sum of Rs. 2lakhs of the award to his organisation KMSS.
KMSS is now a part of the Medha Patkar led National Alliance of Peoples Movement. He was behind organizing Anna Hazare's meeting at Guwahati in support of lok pal bill.

BSNL guard protest
TT: A BSNL office shut during a strike by security guards in Kalimpong on Friday.
The guards went on strike in the hills, demanding that they be paid on a par with their colleagues in Calcutta. The protest was organised by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-affiliated Janmukti United Labour Welfare Organisation (BSNL Security Guards Sector). The striking guards also closed down the BSNL office in Darjeeling and held a demonstration.
The strike was lifted after the authorities assured the agitators that the demand for pay hike would be considered. Pictures by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha and Suman Tamang.

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