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Monday, September 5, 2011

Govt prod to start poll groundwork - Morcha agrees not to link panel report to elections... GJM's call to celebrate GTA Bill...Tea wage meet fail... First flight takes off today... Army nod to wall up tanks for jumbo safety...Son reunited with mother after 40 years

Govt prod to start poll groundwork - Morcha agrees not to link panel report to elections
VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Darjeeling, Sept. 4: The state government has told the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha that the election process for setting up the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration should start immediately, independent of the report to be filed by the joint verification committee on territory demand.
Earlier, the general perception in the hills was that the process would start after the panel submitted its recommendations, though the Morcha had not made any specific demand on this.
Morcha spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri said the party had no problems if the election process got underway and admitted that the message not to link the two had been had been conveyed to the chief minister in the Assembly on Friday when the GTA bill was passed.
“She (Mamata Banerjee) did make it clear that the election process should be started immediately and it is not to be linked to the report of the committee. That the two are independent processes and can start concurrently is also reflected in the bill and we have no problems if the election process is started,” he said.
Chhetri, however, said this did not mean that the elections to the GTA would be held before the panel submitted its report in February. The Morcha has demanded that some of the Gorkha-dominated areas in the Dooars and the Terai be brought under the jurisdiction of the GTA. The panel is looking into the demand.
As a first step to start the poll process, the delimitation of the existing 28 DGHC constituencies has to begin. According to the GTA bill, the number of constituencies has gone up to 45. Although the delimitation cannot be completed till the territory panel submitted its report, a major part of the job can be done because most of the constituencies are in the hills.
“I think the process of bifurcating the constituencies in the hills will be immediately started by the government,” said a Morcha leader.
With the passing of the bill, the final structure of the autonomous hill body has become clear. A chief executive will head the GTA, unlike the chairperson in the DGHC. He will be assisted by a deputy chief executive.
The GTA Sabha will consist of 45 elected and five nominated members. The chief executive and the deputy chief executive will nominate 14 members from the Sabha to form the “executive sabha”.
The daily proceedings of the GTA Sabha will be conducted by a chairman and a deputy chairman.
Explaining the working of the GTA Sabha, a Morcha leader drew a parallel to the Assembly. “The GTA Sabha will be like an Assembly and the executive sabha is the cabinet. The executive sabha members will be in charge of the different departments.”
The bureaucracy of the GTA will be headed by a principal secretary (also known as principal executive officer) not below the rank of a secretary or commissioner of the state government. While appointments to Group A rank will be through the state public service commission (PSC), recruitment’s to groups B, C and D will be made by the GTA thorough a sub-ordinate service selection board.
Under Section 31 (1) of the bill, the GTA has been given the power to impose, levy and collect taxes and fees like those related to registration of vehicles, licences and water supply. Sub-section 3 of Section 33, however, makes it clear that vehicles already registered with another authority need not re-register again. Under Section 27 of the bill, the state government has also agreed to form a Regional Transport Authority for the GTA area with the district magistrate as chairperson.
GJM's call to celebrate GTA Bill
Marcus Dam,TH,Kolkata, Sept 5:Bill paves way for formation of new autonomous self-governing body for Darjeeling hills
The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) leadership has called for a day of celebrations in the Darjeeling hills on Tuesday to mark the passing by the West Bengal Assembly of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Bill 2011 that paves the way for the setting up of a new autonomous self-governing body for the hills and certain mouzas in the Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling district. The Bill was passed on September 2.
The new body — the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) — is a step towards the creation of Gorkhaland, the GJM leadership has been iterating.
“The passing of the GTA Bill is a major achievement ….. It is one step forward for a Gorkhaland state,” GJM assistant general secretary Jyoti Kumar Rai told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling on Sunday, two days after the GJM MLA from Kalimpong, Harka Bahadur Chettri, had in the State Assembly expressed the hope that a day would come when the House “will justify the just demand for Gorkhaland”.
Tea wage meet fail
TT, Calcutta, Sept. 4: A tripartite meeting to decide on the increase in the wages of tea garden workers in the Dooars and the plains from Rs 67 a day proved inconclusive today as planters insisted that they would effect the hike only in three phases.
The meeting was attended by labour minister Purnendu Bose and his cabinet colleagues Partha Chatterjee and Gautam Deb and the representatives of the planters and trade unions.
The planters proposed a hike of Rs 8 annually for the next three years. But the union rejected the proposal.
“The garden owners want the wage to be raised by Rs 24 to Rs 91 over three years. They said they would enhance the wage by Rs 8 a year. But we wanted the wage to be increased at one go,” said Binoy Chakrabarty, the president of the RSP-affiliated UTUC.
First flight takes off today

TT, Cooch Behar, Sept. 4: The first commercial flight from Cooch Behar will be almost fully packed when it lands in Calcutta tomorrow as the air service from this small north Bengal town resumes after 18 years.
The 18-seater Dornier 228 aircraft of Northeast Shuttles is expected here from Guwahati at 7.40am. It will take off with 13 passengers from here at 8am to reach Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Calcutta at 9.20am. On the return trip, the take-off time from Calcutta is 10am with a touch down at Cooch Behar at 11.20. The flight will leave 10 minutes later for Guwahati where it is expected at 12.20pm.
While a Guwahati-Cooch Behar one-way trip will cost Rs 1,500, a ticket from the Assam capital to Calcutta will come for Rs 6,500 for one person. (See chart)
The regional executive director of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), Gautam Mukherjee, said here today: “We are happy that after a long period of uncertainty commercial flights are going to be resumed from here. It is largely because of the efforts of chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the civil aviation ministry. The Guwahati-Cooch Behar-Calcutta flights and back will operate for five days a week, barring Wednesdays and Sundays.”
He said the AAI had spent Rs 40 crore to upgrade the Cooch Behar airport and improve passenger amenities. A team of district policemen had been trained by AAI security experts on how to man the passenger terminal, carry out baggage checks and look after the overall security of the 171-acre airport.
“If there is a steady demand for seats, larger aircraft like the 22-seater ATR can be used. However, for that the runway has to be lengthened to 1,400 metres. It is now 1,069 metres. That will not be a problem as at the end of the runway lies the Mora Torsa river. A culvert can be constructed over it to extend the runway,” he said.
The state government under Mamata had asked the AAI to assess the possibility of setting up small airports and re-launching of existing ones. Mamata had asked for feasibility studies to launch air services from Digha, the Sunderbans, Asansol, Balurghat and Malda town.
While the AAI has given the green light for flights from Balurghat, it has rejected Malda for the high-rises and mobile towers dotting the airport vicinity.
On July 19 this year, Mamata had “flagged” off from Siliguri a trial flight from Cooch Behar to Calcutta via video conferencing. She had announced on that day that regular commercial flights would start in September.
Mukherjee said the flights would be operated by the Guwahati-based Northeast Shuttles.
“I have made inquiries with Northeast Shuttles and they have informed me that 13 tickets have been booked for the Cooch Behar-Calcutta sector tomorrow. The airline’s Captain Mani (the operational chief) has also informed me that the demand was good till October. The state government is paying for eight seats on each flight, both ways, to help out the airline. If the demand is sustained, this subsidy can be waived later,” the AAI executive director said.
Sources at the airport said Northeast Shuttles has already engaged a local travel agent who will handle the ticketing and has been given a counter at the terminal.
“We thank the chief minister and the airports authority. Now there can be a change in the economy of the district. We have an industrial estate but no investors. Patients need to travel during emergencies to Calcutta. Even the people of Guwahati, who rely immensely on hospitals in Cooch Behar, will be benefited by the air link,” said Rajendra Baid, the president of the Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce here.
Price of one way tickets
Guwahati- Cooch Behar: Rs 1,500
Cooch Behar-Calcutta: Rs 5,000
Guwahati- Calcutta: Rs 6,500
Army nod to wall up tanks for jumbo safety

TT, Siliguri, Sept. 4: The army has agreed to increase the height of the walls around reservoirs and set up barbed wire fences to prevent wild elephants from falling in the tanks in Bengdubi, forest minister Hiten Barman said today.
“They said they could not cover the reservoirs because of the existence of the arms and ammunition depot. The tanks have been built to help in case there is an accidental fire. The officials have, however, said they will increase the height of the tank walls and set up barbed wire fencing around the reservoirs to keep elephants away,” said Barman after a meeting with army officials in Bengdubi today.
There are 38 open water tanks in Bengdubi, 20km from here, and since August 8, five elephants have fallen in them.
Although foresters had expressed concern over the issue, the army that helped rescue the animals from the reservoirs kept mum.
“We have also decided to strengthen the existing elephant squad at Bagdogra by increasing its manpower and providing a dedicated vehicle for it. The squad members will exchange information with the army personnel regularly about elephant movement so that necessary measures can be taken to drive the animals into the forest. We have also planned to dig ponds in the jungle so that elephants do not enter the army area in search of water,” Barman said.
The army establishment is spread over 13.5sqkm in Bengdubi forest.
The minister added that the forest department would take up the issue of elephants being killed in Nepal with the Centre. “We will request our chief minister to take up the matter with the central government so that the state can start a dialogue with the neighbouring country on how to prevent the killings,” he said.
Son reunited with mother after 40 years
IANS, Guwahati,Sept 4: Abandoned when he was four in Assam, reduced to begging on the streets of Nepal's capital Kathmandu and now a computer engineer in the United States, who reunited with his sister and mother after four decades on live TV. Life for Indian American Kisan Upadhyay has turned full circle.
"I am emotional, excited, overwhelmed by this reunion and that too on a live televisions programme where I talked and saw my mother and elder sister after maybe 40 or 42 years," Kisan said on Thursday night during a prime time live show on News Live, a satellite television channel in Assam's main city Guwahati.
Kisan joined the 90-minute show live from Durham, in the Untied States, while his mother Umoti Devi spoke from Kathmandu and sister Maya Devi from Tinsukia in eastern Assam.
The story of the trio that started 40 years ago in Guwahati and ended on Thursday night rivals even the most dramatic celluloid thriller.
"Now, will you come and take me? I am old and have lost my eyesight, but happy I found you.
I want to be with you for the rest of my life," Umoti Devi, in her mid-70s, told her son on the show with tears rolling down her cheeks. "I didn't abandon my two children, I was forced to do so as my husband had two other wives and ill treated me," Umoti said, wiping the tears.
Kisan, an IT specialist at the Duke University, said he had hunted for his mother and sister for four decades, but found no luck until the channel has contacted him on August 12.
Live reunion on television
(Assamese channel News Live aired an emotional reunion between a mother and her son and daughter after 40 long years. And the story, they claimed, had created television history as it involved three countries TERESA REHMAN reports on the sequence of events that gave new meaning to reality TV In Guwahati, the television channels’ battle for TRPs is getting hotter by the day. And it has to as the city airs as many as eight channels catering to the northeastern region).
Aug 20 18:30:44, 2011: With everyone vying for a pie of the limited revenue from advertisements in a region which is almost out of the corporate radar, they are adopting ingenious means to reach out to the masses. Along with news, views and entertainment is a strong dose of reality shows to spice up the whole television experience. Recently, in a rather ‘filmi’ style, the channel News Live aired an emotional reunion between a mother and her son and daughter after 40 long years. 

And the story, they claimed, had created television history as it involved three countries – USA (where the long-lost son resides), India (Assam) where the sister was discovered and of course where the television channel is aired from and Nepal (where the mother was discovered and where they had initially lost each other). It was a thrilling moment for all viewers as they could see visuals from two different countries on skype apart from the scenes from India. 
The story began when two officials of Assam police, Rajen Singh and Pranabjyoti Goswami discovered through a facebook friend in Nepal about another friend, Kisan Upadhyay (currently based in Durham, USA). Kisan who is an IT professional based in the USA had been desperately trying to look for his mother. They sought these police officials to look for her as Kisan’s father was also in the Assam police. 
These police officials managed to track Kisan’s dead father, Indralal Upadhyay, who had been a constable with the Assam police. They tracked a couple who were Indralal’s neighbours. They appeared on TV and gave clues about Kisan’s mother and sister. 
Rajen Singh said, “The response to the show has been tremendous. Overnight mine as well as Kisan’s friends list on facebook had increased manifold.” The animated show was hosted by the Managing Editor of the channel Syed Zarir Hussain who acted the Sutradhar. Gradually, Kisan’s poignant tale fell into place. Kisan’s mother had abandoned her children and husband and was last seen in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district. Kisan and his elder sister were taken to Nepal by some relatives. There they had a tough time. Kisan’s sister Maya Devi alias Shannu worked as a domestic maid whereas four-year-old Kisan worked at a hotel and then fell ill and was hospitalized. And for a while he had to even beg on the streets of Kathmandu. 
He was then taken to an orphanage and this was the time he had lost touch with his sister as well. Kisan completed his studies from Nepal’s Tribhuvan University and later settled in Durham, USA. But he could not forget his mother, who he had last seen when he was just four years old. The suspense-packed story which ran into several episodes had another aunt and cousin pitching in their bit. And finally Kisan’s elder sister was tracked in Bahadur Tea Estate in Assam’s Tinsukia district. One episode comprised of the emotional reunion of Kisan with his elder sister. Television audiences watched spell-bound as the brother and sister met online after 40 long years. Kisan had just got up and was preparing breakfast. 
He said he was excited and highly emotional. He spoke to his sister in Nepalese and he addressed her as ‘Didi’. Their maternal aunt was there in the studio to testify that she was indeed the long-lost sister. Maya Devi asked her brother, “Show me the dimple on your cheek.” And he did! The host Hussain asked Maya Devi if she had any doubts if Kisan was her brother. Maya said she was convinced that he was indeed her long-lost brother. And she narrated the traumatic times they had faced in Nepal after their mother had left them. “Its God’s wish. 
I can’t believe it. I quietly prayed for him all these years though I never physically tried to search for him.” She did say that her mother came to meet her some 25 years back after she had got married. She said her mother’s name is Umoti Devi. 
Things unfolded dramatically and Umoti Devi was discovered in the next episode at a remote place in Nepal. She was being brought back by one of their correspondents to Kathmandu. Then it was the grand moment – a triangular reunion between the mother, son and daughter. 
Maya, when asked to express her feelings said, “It will be the happiest moment of my life. My children always asked about their grandmother and uncle. Now they will see them live.” Maya also added, “I met my mother some 25 years back. So I distinctly remember her face. I am confident that I will recognize her.”Then came the rather blurred image of Umoti Devi on screen live from Kathmandu due to the low bandwidth. Umoti was seen wiping her tears and the trio spoke to each other. Umoti says, 
“How can I forget the face of my own son and daughter? I want to be close to my son. I had tried to look for him on several occasions. Now I want to go with him.” She also narrated why she left them. Her husband Indralal had two wives earlier and she could not tolerate this fact. 
Then Umoti got to see her daughter-in-law Pam online. Kisan promised to get his visa and paperwork done as soon as possible and come to meet his mother and sister. Thus ended the seven-day saga on television which Kisan described as a ‘fairytale ending’ and a ‘movie coming to life’. Thanks to technology, facebook and reality television!

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