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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

GNLF to be revived in Darjeeling, say activist.... Parishad shutdown kicks off with ransack... 1 month jail for ex-CM - Sikkim High Court asks Bhandari to surrender today.... Strike against SSB ‘torture’ ... Boys crushed under truck - Overtake bid results in accident

PTI, Darjeeling, Aug 9 : The Gorkha National Liberation Force headed by Subhas Ghising is thinking of challenging the tripartite agreement on Darjeeling for setting up the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, in court, a GNLF leader said today."The former DGHC administrator Mr Ghising has already signed a Memorandum of settlement on December 6, 2005 on the Sixth Schedule for the Darjeeling hills," GNLF leader and a central committee member of GNLF B B Pradhan told reporters in Kurseong.
"The GTA will not stand judicial scrutiny because it cannot be enforced as long as the agreement remains in force," Pradhan said.He claimed that preparations were also being made to revive the party in the hills in September, after Ghising was driven out from Darjeeling by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on July 26, 2008 and the recent debacle of the party in the recent assembly where it failed to win even a single seat."It is the only way to provide the people a political platform to express their grievances over the recently signed GTA agreement," Pradhan said."The party leadership had instructed us to keep a low profile, but that is ending, as the people need a strong platform to protest the stark betrayal of the Gorkhaland cause inherent in the GTA agreement. 
The people have understood that it is nothing, but rhetorical bluster," he said. GJM leaders, however, ridiculed the GNLF move to rejuvenated itself in the hills."They are a spent force as the people have given a clear mandate to us. We have not dropped the Gorkhaland cause which Ghising did while signing the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council agreement in 1988," a senior GJM leader said here.
Parishad shutdown kicks off with ransack

TT, Aug. 9: Two vehicles were ransacked and traffic was disrupted on four national highways as supporters of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad took to the streets to enforce an indefinite strike across the Dooars and the Terai to demand a hike in the wages of tea garden workers.
However, the Parishad-backed Progressive Tea Workers’ Union said it would not enforce the strike tomorrow as a meeting would be held between its leaders and the labour minister in Calcutta to discuss the wage demand.
Although one round of talks was held today in the state capital, no headway could not be achieved.
The strike received spontaneous support from the members of the CPM and the RSP at certain places today. Shops and business establishments were closed and vehicles were off roads because of the bandh.
The Parishad supporters had been on roads since morning, stopping vehicles and asking traders to down shutters in towns and villages.
Blockades were set up at Dagapur and Bagdogra to disrupt traffic on NH55 and NH31 respectively. As around 150 slogan-shouting people each assembled at both the places to block the roads, a large number of vehicles were left stranded. Some vehicles took a detour to reach the hills or plains or head for North Dinajpur.

A private bus was ransacked when labourers from Karala Valley Tea Estate near Jalpaiguri blocked NH31D. The workers started the road blockade at 11am, along with a number of local CPM supporters. No vehicles plied between Jalpaiguri and Dooars today.
The bus was going to Jalpaiguri when it was stopped by the Parishad supporters. The agitators threw stones at the bus and smashed the windscreens.
he blockade was withdrawn at 2pm when police intervened and requested the bandh supporters to withdraw from the scene.
The second incident of ransack occurred in Malbazar, where a truck plying NH31C was targeted by the bandh supporters. RSP members were also seen with the bandh enforcers in Malbazar.
The strike paralysed life in the Dooars with shops and business establishments being closed and private vehicles keeping off roads.
The bandh has been called to demand a hike in the daily wages of tea garden workers from Rs 67 to Rs 250. The Parishad union has been enforcing an embargo on the despatch of manufactured tea from the gardens in the region to press for the demand.
Most tea estates in the Dooars and the Terai were closed during the strike. Workers joined their duties only on a handful of tea estates in places like Malbazar, Nagrakata, Birpara and Kalchini. The three colleges in the Dooars were open, but attendance was thin.
The strike stood out for the spontaneous support it received from the supporters of the CPM and the RSP.
“Our party did not take any official decision to support or oppose the strike. We, however, joined the members of the Parishad-backed union in the interest of workers who are being underpaid over years by planters. Although tea prices have gone up in the past few years, the hike in the daily wages of the labourers remained meagre,” said Sukumar Kuzur, the secretary of the Citu-backed Cha Bagan Mazdoor Union’s Karala Valley unit.
The RSP, however, admitted that the party was backing the strike.
“We eagerly want the tea wages to be fixed at a rational rate and hence, supported the PTWU’s movement,” said Binoy Chakraborty, the state president of Utuc, the trade union of the RSP.
People in the Dooars and the Terai will face inconvenience in the days to come. Two apex bodies of 30 trade unions have called strike in 208 gardens in the plains on Wednesday and Thursday.
Chitta Dey, the convener of the Co-ordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers, said the planters’ attitude had forced them to go on strike.
“They have pushed us to a corner and we have hardly any alternative options now. The tea strike will be observed in all gardens in the Terai and the Dooars on Wednesday and Thursday. A general strike is likely to be observed on Friday,” said Dey
The planters said they were helpless and counting losses. “There is always an option to reach a consensus through talks,” said Amitangshu Chakraborty, the convener of the Bengal committee of the CCPA. “Any agitation or strike would affect the tea industry, including the workers, as well as economy of the region.”
The Parishad union mellowed during the talks in Calcutta today. The union said the revised wages should be fixed above Rs 90 and it should cross Rs 100 in the next three years.
Their earlier demand was that the wage be pegged at Rs 250 a day.

1 month jail for ex-CM - Sikkim High Court asks Bhandari to surrender today 

TT, Gangtok, Aug. 9: Sikkim High Court today sentenced three-term chief minister of the state Nar Bahadur Bhandari to jail for one month on corruption charges, upholding a conviction order passed by a CBI court in a 27-year-old graft case.
However, the sentence of simple imprisonment of six months passed by the lower court on October 25, 2008, was reduced to one month jail term with a fine of Rs 5,000 by acting Chief Justice S.P. Wangdi.
Bhandari, now 70, has been asked by the judge to surrender before the special judge (Prevention of Corruption Act) by 10.30 am tomorrow.
Bhandari, seizing the opportunity to score political points and public sympathy, said after the verdict that he was not going on appeal and would serve out the sentence. Bhandari is presently the president of the Sikkim Pradesh Congress.
Bhandari said he was upset with the Congress high command in Delhi because it had done nothing to rein in the CBI, which was prosecuting him. “It is a conspiracy of the Congress party that controls the CBI that has landed me in this situation. I can also launch a regional party once I serve out the sentence,” Bhandari said today.
But sources said Bhandari would make the “best of the situation” tomorrow at the time of his surrender and try to get “as much publicity as possible to gain the sympathy of the people”.
The former chief minister had been charged with defalcation of funds by the CBI under the Prevention of Corruption Act in connection with rural water supply schemes. The schemes were being implemented by the state rural development department during 1983-84 when Bhandari was serving his second tenure as chief minister.
Bhandari had moved the high court after the CBI court found him guilty and sentenced him to six months in prison.
Justice Wandgi, in his order today, observed that the prison term was being modified keeping in mind that “more than 27 years have passed since the commission of the offence and during the interregnum the appellant had no doubt suffered in body and mind”.
Sources in the court said the CBI started the investigations in 1984, soon after the Congress high command forced Bhandari to step down from chief ministership and appointed his finance minister B.B. Gooroong as head of the government. It was Gooroong who had asked the CBI to probe the allegations of corruption against Bhandari. Gooroong later joined the Sikkim Democratic Front.
A peeved Bhandari told journalists on the court premises that he would not appeal in the Supreme Court.
“I will go to jail for Sikkim and the Sikkimese people. I will stay in jail and write a book and the day I come out of prison after a month, I will go deeply into politics,” he said.
Bhandari had served a fortnight in jail in 1978 when the L.D. Kazi government slapped anti-national charges against him.
Strike against SSB ‘torture’

A roadblock set up at Manebhanjan to enforce the strike on Tuesday. (Suman Tamang)
VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Manebhanjan, Aug. 9: Residents of Manebhanjan, a town along the Nepal border, started an indefinite strike in the area from today to protest alleged harassment by the Sashastra Seema Bal.
The strike was total with traffic coming to a standstill and shops being closed. Roadblocks were set up across Manebhanjan, 27km from Darjeeling.
Local traders said the SSB had imposed restriction on the running of vehicles at night. The businessmen said as the vehicles were seized at the checkpost, the agricultural produce could not be taken to the Siliguri Regulated Market and resultantly, they were incurring heavy losses.
“The SSB started harassing our people for no rhyme or reason a few months ago. They tell us that we cannot ply pick-up vans at night and are seizing vehicles running between 6pm and 6am. If we don’t start the journey to Siliguri by 2am, our produce will command very low prices at the market,” said Chandan Pradhan.
Five pick-up vans stopped by the SSB jawans at the check-post yesterday are still there as the owners have refused to drive away the vehicles.
The local people alleged that the SSB jawans were harassing them in other ways also.
“Even our cattle are stopped by the jawans. We have to register at their check-post every time we move out of Manebhanjan, even if it is five times a day. The jawans even search school students’ bags,” said Raju Pradhan.
“If we arrive at Manebhanjan after 8-9pm, they force us to leave our vehicles at the checkpost and make us walk to the town at night. They want challan for everything we have bought. But it is not possible to get challans for small items,” said Raju.
The checkpost is situated a little less than a kilometre from town.
Chandan alleged that the SSB personnel were harassing the people for bribes. “On every possible occasion, they seek money from the local people and the traders,” said Chandan.
Manebhanjan is a major centre from where vegetables grown in the Rimbick-Manebhanjan area is collected and sold. Vegetables like cabbages, cauliflower, potato and squash are grown in about 20 villages near Manebhanjan.
L.K. Gohian, DIG, SSB, however, had a different take on the issue. “Our jawans are not allowing the vehicles to move at night as most of the vegetables are brought from Nepal by the traders. That is why the villagers were insisting on loading at night so that it is not detected by our personnel.”
The SSB official said people from Nepal could trade only through Pashupatinagar and Panitanki. “The customs offices are situated in these two places and if people from Nepal want to trade, they can do so from these two points, but not from Manebhanjan.”
Gohian admitted that even cattle were being stopped by his personnel. “That is because most of the cattle are brought in from the other side of the border. The bribe allegation is totally false,” he said.
The India-Nepal border is porous and one can step into Nepal from any place undetected.
Many believe there is some truth in the villager’s allegations. “For a very long time, Manebhanjan is known to be supplying vegetables. The villages near Manebhanjan feed Darjeeling to some extent. It is time that the SSB, district administration and the residents work out a solution to ensure that the local people’s produces do not go to waste,” said a local official.
Gohian said a special village committee had been formed to look into such grievances in the area and the panel would soon sit with the residents to work out a solution.
Residents, traders of Indo-Nepal border on strike
Amitava Banerjee, HT, Maneybhanjang, August 09, 2011:Residents and traders of Maneybhanjyang, a mountain hamlet located on the Indo-Nepal border in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal, have clamped an indefinite bandh protesting alleged highhandedness of the Shashashtra Seema Bal (SSB) troopers. The border settlement, 27 km from Darjeeling town has been closed down indefinitely from Monday. The problem revolves around transportation of goods through Maneybhanjyang after dark.
Boasting an agrarian economy, settlements in and around Maneybhanjyang depend on the Siliguri market in the plains for selling their produce. According to local residents, traders taking their produce down to Siliguri at night have to face immense harassment from the SSB.
"Trading takes place at the market in Siliguri from 6 am and is over by 7:30am. It takes us more than three hours to reach the market from here. We usually depart at around 2am from Maneybhanjang . The SSB detain the vehicles and allow movement only after 6am. By the time we reach Siliguri the trading is over and we have to sell our goods at throw away prices, incurring huge losses" alleged Raju Pradhan, a local trader.
Backing this up, a trader furnished a Bill showing that one KB Pradhan of Selimbong had sold a pickup full of vegetables for a mere Rs 4442 "The marked price was around Rs 30,000. As vegetables are perishable we are compelled to sell at whatever price we get rather than bringing them back to Maneybhanjang . We are compelled to reach Siliguri before 6am," said a trader.
"They ask us for bribes to the tune of Rs 1 lakh per month and threaten us that if this amount is not paid then trade would be stopped. The troopers are usually in inebriated state at night. They abuse us and physically threaten us. They detain the pick up vans and ask the drivers to call the owners in the morning. Then they demand for bribes. They even threaten to frame us if we don't pay up." alleged Vicky Agarwal, a local businessman.
The residents claimed that 5 loaded pickups have been detained since August 7 night with the vegetables rotting. "Around Rs. 2 lakh worth of vegetables is rotting in the 5 pick-ups. The strike will continue till the SSB stop harassing us" declared Pradhan.
Around 20,000 residents of the areas under the Sukhia-simana and Majua Gram Panchayat areas, mostly farmers, have been affected. The settlements include Rangit, Majua, Arubotey, Simuldanra, Ranadanra, Batasey and Hindudanra.
"We are dependent of the Maneybhanjang market. We sell our produce here and the traders take it down to Siliguri. If the Maneybhanjang traders stop buying then all the farmers will be affected. The SSB has to immediately stop harassing people" retorted Ambar Tamang of Dus Mile. Cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, beet, radish, potato and ginger find way to the Siliguri market from this region.
"The poor farmers coming to trade have to give the SSB vegetables and livestock as bribe," alleged Rangrung Bhutia who sells livestock and poultry.
The Maneybhanjang residents and traders handed over memorandums to the Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Darjeeling, Additional Superintendent (ASP) of Police, Darjeeling, Member of Legislative Assembly, Darjeeling and have decided to fax a copy to Jaswant Singh, Member of Parliament, Darjeeling.
"The ADM and ASP have assured to look into the matter. The ASP has asked us to lodge specific complaints in case of harassment and demand of bribe. If the SSB terror tactics continue then we will be compelled to launch a major agitation, " stated Chandan Pradhan, a trader.
Waving off the allegations LK Gohain, DIG, SSB, talking to HT said, "We have inputs from various sources that smuggling of goods takes place in the cover of darkness. We have not sealed this route but have asked the traders to transport their goods during the day. This would enable us to check the goods properly. Goods from Nepal are allowed owing to the friendship treaty India has with Nepal but the route through Maneybhanjang is not an approved route for this."
SSB, formed in 1963, was declared as the border guarding force and lead intelligence gathering agency for the Indo-Nepal border in January 2001. The Darjeeling district shares 105km of border with Nepal. There are 90 SSB Border Out Posts (BOPs) in this stretch.
The indefinite bandh which includes the close down of all business establishments, schools along with road blocks has also affected the flow of heavy vehicle to the Ramman Hydel Project area also.
Villagers in Hills protest SSB 'torture'
Deep Gazmer, TNN, Aug 10, 2011: DARJEELING: The Sasashtra Seema Bal (SSB) manning India's border with Nepal at Maneybhanjang, about 27 kilometer from Darjeeling, is allegedly harassing the locals, thus creating an atmosphere of animosity that could have serious repercussions on the security of the nation.
In fact, the unhappy trader community of Maneybhanjang has called an indefinite strike to protest SSB's pestering, which they alleged is taking its toll on their business and livelihood.
The villagers are particularly unhappy with the way the SSB is frisking their vehicles and luggage. "We are being treated as terrorists. They (SSB) are checking our vehicles and luggage with suspicion. But it must be remembered that we are local residents who are residing here since generations," said S Prasad Gupta, a local.
"The SSB behave rudely with us in a drunken state. They detain our vehicles carrying vegetables for long hours and even demand money in some cases," alleged Bicky Agarwal, a vegetable trader.
According to these traders, they prefer taking the goods at 2am in the morning so that by 6am the goods reach Siliguri. However, long checking and detention by the SSB personnel delays their trip every other day. "We have to sustain our livelihood by selling vegetables. But if we reach Siliguri late, we are forced to sell our products at half the original price," reasoned Chandan Pradhan, a farmer.
"We will not tolerate it any longer. We have called an indefinite strike will continue till our grievances area addressed. We will also submit deputations to the Darjeeling district magistrate, the SP and to the local MLA, for their intervention," added Pradhan.
SSB officials refuted the allegation, saying it was baseless. "We have not harassed any one. The goods are being brought from Nepal including cattle stocks, which is illegal. Goods can only be brought from Nepal from the Panitanki and Pashupatinagar custom check points," said SSB DIG L K Gohian.
"The allegation of taking bribe is also false. In fact, we have formed a village committee at Maneybhanjang for public relations," he added.

Boys crushed under truck - Overtake bid results in accident

TT, Siliguri, Aug. 9: Two 15-year-old boys riding a scooter were crushed to death under the rear wheels of a truck that they had tried to overtake on Don Bosco Road here this evening.
Manish Gupta and Aman Jindal, both students of Delhi Public School, died on the spot. The driver of the truck fled the spot, leaving the vehicle behind.
Witnesses said the accident occurred around 5pm. The two-wheeler was being ridden by Manish with Aman on the pillion seat. They were on way to Sevoke Road and tried to overtake the truck laden with rice.
“It seems that the boy who was riding the two-wheeler lost control while overtaking the truck. The scooter fell on the road with the boys and the rear wheels of the truck went over them,” said a police officer.
The truck stopped and the driver ran away. People rushed to the spot and found that the teens had already died. The intensity of the accident can be assessed by the condition of the scooter that was lying under the truck.
“A small stretch of the road is narrow as there is a boundary wall of a school on the left and houses on the right. Although there was not enough space to overtake the truck, the boys made an attempt and fell,” said Nikesh Agarwal, a resident of the area. “Hearing the sound of metal crushing and alarms raised by others, we ran to the spot.”

Shankar Mishra, a private tutor who lives nearby, also reached the spot. “I used to teach Manish in languages and science. I have no idea who the other boy was as Manish did not have to come to my house today for tuition.”
Manish was a Class VII student, while Aman was one year senior to him in the school. Manish used to stay with his family in a residential complex off Sevoke Road. “His father Bishnu Gupta is a railway contractor. He has two sons, of whom Manish was the younger. The elder son studies MBA in Pune,” said a resident of the locality.
Aman used to stay at Pranami Mandir Road and his father Ved Prakash Jindal is a businessman who deals in batteries. The Bhaktinagar police reached the spot immediately after the mishap and sent both the bodies for post-mortem. The mangled two-wheeler and the truck were taken to the police station, 500 metres away.
NBU results
TT, Siliguri: North Bengal University published results of Part III (honours) exams of BA, BSc and BCom on Tuesday. According to varsity sources, the pass percentage of BA is 78.49, BSc 86.28 and BCom 86.18. Marksheets have been dispatched to all colleges under the varsity and candidates can visit for results. The students seeking reassessment can apply through their respective colleges before August 24.

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