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Saturday, October 8, 2011

CM tour hints at project bounty - Mamata to be in hills on October 10...Morcha: Turf before polls...Gurung seeks more funds...Murder revenge for dad’s extortion protest...Three caught with arms - cops suspect links with militants...IIM Calcutta student dies on Dzongri trail

CM tour hints at project bounty - Mamata to be in hills on October 10

TT, Calcutta, Oct. 7: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will be in north Bengal next week on a four-day trip to Darjeeling and the Dooars with the message of development on her lips.
Mamata will spend two days in the Darjeeling hills — October 10 and 11 — before heading for the Dooars in neighbouring Jalpaiguri district. She is expected back to be back in Calcutta on October 14 before she goes to West Midnapore’s Jhargram the next day to address a public meeting organised by the Trinamul Youth Congress
Sources in the chief minister’s office said Mamata is expected to make several announcements related to tourism in Darjeeling and the Dooars.
Sources said Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung had invited Mamata to the cultural festival that is being organised in Darjeeling’s Mall, the hill town’s famous promenade.
“When she went to Darjeeling during the signing of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration accord, she had promised to visit the hills after Puja. Since she has been invited to the cultural fest, she decided to make use of this opportunity,” said a close aide to the chief minister.
Before coming to power, Mamata had promised to turn the Darjeeling hills into Switzerland. When the GTA agreement was signed, a number of projects were announced where the new authority and the Bengal government would have to work in collaboration. After the earthquake, Mamata was quick to reach out to the victims and visited the hills before heading to Sikkim, where 60 people were killed.
In Darjeeling, Mamata will meet the administrative officials and look into the progress of development projects that had been announced for the area. Meetings with the hill leaders, including those from parties other than the Morcha, are also on the cards. She will also inspect the plot earmarked for the north Bengal secretariat near Siliguri.
“Since the new state government has functioned for five months, people now want to hear from the chief minister her plans for the hills, the amount that will be spent on various projects and how she wants to help Darjeeling,” said Kurseong MLA and Morcha spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chhetri. “We appreciate her concern and visits to the hills but people now want to know in details her plans. We have full confidence that she would not come to the hills with empty hands and that she would make her visit an effective one.”
The chief minister is also expected to gift something to the Dooars. Trinamul leaders feel her first visit to the region as chief minister will open the doors of development in the region.
“She has several plans for the Dooars, some of which she had announced earlier. She had already announced a number of schools and colleges for the region. The government is also working on reorganising the districts, like carving out Alipurduar from Jalpaiguri. Her visit to the Dooars will be crucial,” said a senior Trinamul leader from the region.
Mamata will also hold meetings with administrative officials for the development of North and South 24-Parganas. On October 22, she will go to Delhi to attend a meeting of the National Development Council.
CM to begin district trips on Monday; Darjeeling first
SNS, KOLKATA, 7 OCT: As per her earlier announcement, chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to visit three districts ~ Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and West Midnapore ~ next week. According to officials at Writers’ Buildings, Miss Banerjee is scheduled to leave for Darjeeling on 10 October and she would participate in the tourism fair to be held in the Hills on 11 October.
Next day, the chief minister will visit the Dooars where she is scheduled to attend a programme of the Adivasi Vikash Parishad on 13 October. And on 15 October, Miss Banerjee is scheduled to reach Jhargram where she is likely to address a political rally apart from laying foundation stone for a bridge over the Subarnarekha river near Nayagram.
Earlier, the chief minister had declared that she would be visiting districts to take a note of the actual progress of the development projects undertaken after the Trinamul Congress came to power in the state. Meanwhile, chief minister today held a meeting with top officials, including the chief secretary, home secretary, director-general of police, ADG (law and order), commissioner of city police, at Writers’ Buildings to discuss the prevailing law and order situation in the state. Though officials termed the meeting a routine one, it was learnt that the Maoist problem was discussed at length.
Officials also said that they have come to know about the proposal given by the ultra-Leftists to restrain arms for one month under certain preconditions from newspapers and other media, but the letter is yet to reach the state administrative headquarters. The chief minister will attend the meeting of National Development Council in Delhi on 22 October. She will leave for Delhi on 21 October night.
GJMM MLA Dr Harka Bahadur Chhetri said the GJMM central committee would meet tomorrow in Darjeeling to decide the party’s approach vis-à-vis the chief minister’s visit. 

Gurung seeks more funds 
SNS, KURSEONG, 7 OCT: The Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) chief, Mr Bimal Gurung, said he had requested additional packages from chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee to deal with the numerous post-quake problems in the Hills. On 26 September the GJMM chief had criticised Miss Banerjee saying that she had been step-motherly in her treatment of the people in the Hills and had shown more concern for those in the neighbouring state of Sikkim.
According to Mr Gurung and others GJMM leaders, nobody from the government has taken a serious interest in dealing with the problems arising from the earthquake and the landslides.
Mr Gurung, speaking today at an event to mark the fourth anniversary of the founding of his party, said that following a request from Miss Banerjee, the GJMM had accepted the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) for the development of the Hills, Terai and the Dooars people in mind. But if the region fails to develop, he said, a new round of agitation would begin.
Mr Gurung said that in order to promote tourism in the area, a cultural programme would be organised in the three Hills subdivisions, including in Mirik.
The programme will be organised from 12 October to 30 October. He said that people should work for peace, and conveyed his good wishes to the people on the occasion of Dasain.
Morcha: Turf before polls
TT, Oct. 7: Bimal Gurung today said the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha will not allow elections to the panchayats and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration unless the Gorkha-dominated areas of the Terai and the Dooars were brought under the new hill authority.
The announcement — days before the chief minister’s visit to the hills — is being seen as a move to pressure the state government to include parts of the Dooars and the Terai in the GTA, though the recommendations of a government-appointed panel to examine this issue is awaited.
Gurung was addressing a public meeting at Chowrastha in Darjeeling on the occasion of the Morcha’s fourth foundation day.
The Morcha president said: “We have not obstructed the state government from holding polls in the four municipalities of the Darjeeling hills in December. But we will not allow elections to the panchayats and the GTA unless some areas in the Terai and the Dooars are included in the GTA.”
Gurung also added that the creation of a separate Gorkhaland state remains the ultimate objective of the Morcha. “We want to make it clear that Gorkhaland is our prime demand and we will achieve it at any cost. We have agreed to the GTA following an appeal from Mamata Banerjee who had promised to help develop the Darjeeling hills.”
The Morcha president expressed dissatisfaction over the lack of development in the hills in the past few months after Mamata took over as chief minister. “Mamata Banerjee had promised to develop Darjeeling into Switzerland but till date, no effective initiative has been taken on this front. The chief minister must walk her talk.”
He also urged the chief minister to ensure that, like Sikkim, Darjeeling, too, received central funds for post-earthquake relief and rehabilitation.
But Gurung sought to send a clear message that his party was committed to maintaining peace in the hills for now and announced a 20-day cultural festival, to which he is said to have invited Mamata.
“We will organise a cultural festival at Chowrastha from October 10 till 30 to expose the rich heritage of Darjeeling to the rest of the world,” he said.
Tourists have been flocking to Darjeeling despite the recent earthquake. Rajandrav Dayal, a regular visitor from Delhi, said: “This trip is no different from the others. I still see the same smiling faces around me. There is no perceptible trace of any adverse aftermath of the earthquake. I will continue to come back often in the future.”
The Morcha foundation day programme started with a parade by Gorkhaland Personnel, a squad of Morcha volunteers, followed by cultural events. Apart from Gurung, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri addressed the audience. Leaders like Darjeeling MLA Trilok Dewan, Binay Tamang and Dawa Lama also attended the programme
Three caught with arms - cops suspect links with militants

TT, Alipurduar, Oct. 7: Three persons with two 9mm pistols and 10 rounds of live cartridges were arrested from Jaigaon last night, a week after six members of the same gang were picked up with AK series rifles and bombs from across Jalpaiguri district.
Police said the gang was involved in several robberies across north Bengal. The trio were picked up after the six persons who were caught earlier spilled the beans. The police said the Alipurduar subdivision, of which Jaigaon is a part, is being used as a corridor to Assam and Bhutan where the gang is suspected to have links with arms dealers and militant outfits.
According to the police, the gang had robbed a jewellery shop in Siliguri on September 19 and had gunned down a security guard while fleeing.
Those arrested last week told the police that three members of the gang might meet at Manglabari near Jaigaon last night.
Accordingly, a team led by Binod Gazmer, the officer in charge of Jaigaon police station, reached Manglabari on the the Indo-Bhutan border and arrested the trio.
The police said one of the arrested men, Safiqul, was wanted in several cases of robbery across north Bengal. He was also involved in the jewellery shop burglary.
“The gang that committed the crime in Siliguri was led by Jallad who was arrested on September 29. Safiqul was the second man. A CCTV footage had also shown Safiqul entering the shop,” a police official said.
Safiqul is a resident of Jharnabusti in Jaigaon.
The other two arrested persons are Baharul Mian from Salkumarhat and Rafiqul alias Bumper from Shishubari, both in Alipurduar subdivision.
“They (the arrested persons) used to operate in places like Nagrakata, Banarhat, Metelli, Birpara, Madarihat, Kalchini, Alipurduar, Kumargram and Samuktala in Jalpaiguri. We suspect that militant outfits in Assam are trying to use the youths in the Dooars to collect funds by conducting robberies. The police have come to know that the gang was planning robberies in Birpara, Falakata and Jaigaon,” an official said.
Sugata Sen, the superintendent of police of Jalpaiguri, said they could not rule out the link with militant groups of the Northeast.
“We have information that some of them used to visit Assam frequently and they might have supplied some arms in lower Assam. Both the police and the CID are investigating the case to confirm whether they have links with any militant outfits. We cannot rule out such possibilities,” he said.
The three persons arrested last night were produced in the court of the additional chief judicial magistrate here and have been remanded in police custody for 12 days.
Murder revenge for dad’s extortion protest

TT, Raiganj, Oct. 7: Four youths were arrested last night for allegedly murdering a 20-year-old and trying to pass off the crime as an accident.
Sahadeb Poddar was allegedly killed after his father prevented the youths from extorting money from a group of pandal hoppers on Wednesday. His body was found beside his motorcycle, near his house.
Police sources said, although the murderers had tried to make it look like an accident, there were signs of bludgeoning on his face and chest.
Sahadev’s father Rabindranath said he was sitting in front of his house at Bondor area near here on Wednesday night when he saw four-five youths trying to collect money from a car driver forcefully.
“Around 11pm some youths stopped a car carrying some pandal-hoppers near my house. They took the name of a local club and asked for Puja subscription. When the driver and the passengers refused, the group started abusing them. Seeing this, I walked up to the youths and asked them to leave the area. But they started quarrelling with me. When our neighbours started gathering at the spot, the youths fled,” Rabindranath said.
He added that after 15-20 minutes the youths came to his house and started banging on the door.
“They threatened to kill me and my family members and kept abusing me. When I did not open the door the youths left.”
Around 4am, Rabindranath’s neighbour informed him that his son, who was out on his motorcycle to visit pandals, was injured in an accident near the house.
“We rushed to the spot and took Sahadev to the district hospital but he died there within 10-15 minutes,” said Rabindranath, a cloth merchant.
He added that he suspected that the youths had killed his son to teach him a lesson and they made it look like an accident to hide the crime. Rabindranath filed a complaint against five youths with Raiganj police yesterday.
On the basis of the complaint, four youths were picked up last night and were produced in the court of the chief judicial magistrate today.
Pintu Saha, Tinku Roy, Biltu Rabidas and Mahadeb Biswas have been remanded in jail custody till October 31 and they will be produced in court on November 1.
“Our men went to the accident spot but they did not see any signs of accident. The two-wheeler that was near the spot was not damaged. This is absurd in case of an accident,” said Dipankar Bhattacharya, the superintendent of police of North Dinajpur.
He added that three-four stones, all stained with blood, were recovered from a bush beside the road.
“We suspect that the youth was murdered and then his body and motorcycle were left at the spot to make it look like an accident,” Bhattacharya, said.< “We have names of some more youths who were involved in the incident. We are conducting raids to arrest them,” he said.

IIM Calcutta student dies on Dzongri trail
BIJOY GURUNG, TT, Gangtok, Oct. 7: A 26-year-old student from IIM Calcutta died yesterday while on his way back from Dzongri, allegedly of altitude sickness.The student has been identified by Sikkim police as Srinath Damarla, a resident of Hyderabad.
“Damarla died around 9am yesterday at Tshoka. He was a student of IIM Calcutta and was returning to Yuksom after complaining of uneasiness. Prima facie, the reason for his death seems to be altitude sickness. We have registered an unnatural death case,” said West district superintendent of police Rajiv Ranjan. Dzongri, in West district, is 4,030m above the sea-level.
An autopsy was done today at the district hospital in Geyzing, the administrative headquarters of West Sikkim. Two of his family members have arrived, the police said.
Details pieced together from police and tour operators revealed that Damarla was part of a 40-member group on their way from Yuksom to Dzongri. Among the trek group, 26 were foreigners and rest were students from IIM Calcutta.
Yuksom is 138km from Gangtok, and a gateway to Dzongri. The Yuksom-Dzongri trek takes around five days to complete. A road exists only till Yuksom. From there, trekkers have to take the help of guides and porters to reach Dzongri.
On the way to Dzongri on Sunday, Damarla complained of dizziness, headache and body weakness, syndromes associated with altitude sickness.
He tried to come back to Yuksom on October 5 with a guide and some porters. He managed to reach Tshoka (3,000m), a midway point on the Dzongri trek.
“Damarla rested for the night at Tshoka and seemed okay. He had breakfast the next morning and had walked some 15ft down when he collapsed and died,” said a tour operator. The other members of the trekking group are on their way to Yuksom.
Doctors said abrupt climbing to altitudes of more than 15,000ft (or above 4,500m) without proper acclimatisation can lead to complications and even death.
“A person can suffer from high-altitude pulmonary oedema, which is accumulation of fluid in the lungs. This can lead to heart failure or cerebral attack and cause death,” said critical care specialist Subrata Maitra.
“One can also suffer from high blood pressure. Together, these can be termed as high-altitude sickness,” he said. Lukendra Rasaily, the president of Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim, said TAAS would bear all expenses incurred in bringing down the body. “Whatever help is required, we are providing it. We have asked our members in Yuksom to provide all assistance to the other trekkers,” said Rasaily.
A 69-year-old American trekker had died of altitude sickness on the Dzongri trail in October 2009. The body was brought down with great difficulty to Yuksom, where it was cremated.
The same year but earlier in October, a tourist from Surat had died of altitude sickness in Dzongri.

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