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Monday, October 10, 2011

Hills, plains chalk out demand lists - Mamata on first Dooars trip after taking charge as chief minister......New beginning after quake & Puja - North inaccessible...Bharati Tamang wants to meet Mamata...GJM seeks quake relief package for Darjeeling

Hills, plains chalk out demand lists - Mamata on first Dooars trip after taking charge as chief minister

TT, Oct. 9: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad have lined up a series of demands to be placed before the chief minister when she arrives in north Bengal tomorrow.
Mamata Banerjee, who will spend the first two days of her tour in the hills, will formally launch the post-quake restoration work and lay the foundation of a car park in Darjeeling before she inaugurates the cultural fest a day before it commences.
In the plains, sources said, Mamata might lay the foundation of a school for tribal students in Kalchini, distribute post-Madhyamik scholarships and caste certificates while meeting Parishad leaders, who are wary of the Morcha and apprehensive about the Trinamul chief’s first visit to the Dooars as chief minister.
The tribal leaders were always against the Morcha’s statehood agitation. Since the signing of the agreement to set up the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, a government-appointed committee has been examining the Morcha demand to bring the Gorkha-dominated areas of the Dooars and the Terai under the new hill authority. The Parishad is vehemently against the formation of the committee.
“A delegation led by our party chief Bimal Gurung will meet the chief minister at 2pm tomorrow. In course of the meeting, we will hand over a detailed report of the damage caused to the Darjeeling hills by the earthquake,” said Binay Tamang, the assistant secretary of the Morcha. “On October 11, when she opens the cultural fest at Chowrastha, we will show her video clips of areas affected by the quake —places she had missed during her trip to the hills after the tremor.”
Tamang said the Morcha would also discuss with Mamata projects which “need to be immediately implemented” in the hills.
Party sources said the people of Darjeeling and its adjoining areas had been asked to join the opening ceremony of the cultural fest in their traditional attires. The tourist fest, to showcase the majestic world the Darjeeling Himalayas, will continue till October 30.
The Morcha will impress upon Mamata to ask for financial assistance from the Centre for the rehabilitation of quake victims in the hills on the lines of the one provided to Sikkim, party insiders said. Sources in Darjeeling district administration said the chief minister would visit Jorepokhri, on the fringes of Darjeeling town, to formally launch the restoration work. “She would then lay the foundations of a multi-storied car parking facility on Lebong Cart Road and the beautification of Chowrastha. Then she will participate in the cultural fest at the same venue,” a senior officer said.
The chief minister, who is expected in the plains by Wednesday, will meet a delegation of Parishad leaders in the Dooars that day.
“We will surely meet the chief minister but the time and venue are yet to be finalised. The committee formed to look into the Morcha's territory demand will top our discussions. We have been opposing this panel tooth and nail,” said Tezkumar Toppo, the state general secretary of the Parishad. “We will try to convince her that the formation of such a panel is irrelevant as almost everybody in the Dooars and Terai is against any move that will make them part of the GTA. The jurisdiction of the GTA should be confined to the three hill sub-divisions.”
The Parishad will also ask the chief minister to confer land rights to tea workers, set up a Hindi medium college, a training institute for Hindi medium school teachers and a bridge over the Teesta, parallel to the Coronation Bridge but further downstream. The proposed bridge near Sevoke Bazar is expected to help the people of the Dooars save considerable time and fuel when they go to Sikkim.
The Jalpaiguri district administration said it was not yet aware of Mamata’s complete itinerary. “ So far, we can say that she will attend two government programmes in Malbazar — and give away post-matric scholarships to tribal students and caste certificates to prospective beneficiaries. Further itineraries and venues are yet to be finalised,” said district magistrate Smaraki Mahapatra.
Sources in the administration, however, said the chief minister might visit Kalchini to lay the foundation of Raghunath Murmu Memorial School for tribal children. “She is also scheduled to hold an administrative meeting before she leaves for Calcutta. These are, however, yet to be finalised,” Mahapatra said.
New beginning after quake & Puja - North inaccessible
BIJOY GURUNG, TT, Gangtok, Oct. 9: Parts of North Sikkim still continue to be inaccessible though the administration and schools, crippled since the September 18 earthquake, are expected to function normally from tomorrow.
Temporary arrangements have been made so that 779 government schools with their 1.18 lakh students can start functioning. “Classes will start from tomorrow. Whatever temporary arrangements were to be done, has been done,” said HRD secretary C.S. Rao over the phone from Ravangla in South Sikkim. Construction of temporary structures on campuses, hiring buildings near schools for classes and introducing shifts in schools with low enrolments are some of the options that have been worked out.
Sikkim government spokesperson K.S. Topgay said aerial sorties to evacuate people stranded in North Sikkim and air-dropping of relief continued during the Puja break by the army choppers and the civilian Pawan Hans helicopters. Chungthang, Lachen and Lachung still remain cut off from Mangan because of landslides along the North Sikkim highway. Mangan is the administrative headquarters of the North district, 30km from Chungthang.
Apart from multiple landslides, a 400 metre stretch of the highway had been washed away between Toong and Theeng near Chungthang.
“We have managed to cut inside the rocky hillside to create a new road up to 350 metres. Now only 50 metres is left to be created,” said AK Das, the joint director of the Border Roads Organisation’s Project Swastik. “The spot is on a steep incline. Even the rock of the hillside is hard to break,” said Das.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who visited Sikkim on September 29 had directed the BRO to restore the North Sikkim highway to Chungthang by October 15. The highway is important as it is the sole link to the army and ITBP bases on the China border.
“All our resources and manpower have been concentrated at this point and the BRO is committed to open the road as soon as possible,” said Das.
Nearly Rs 16,000 crore has been released by the state government as ex-gratia for the 21,659 pucca and kutcha houses damaged in East Sikkim. This amount is in addition to the Rs 1.2 crore distributed earlier.
The ex-gratia ranges from Rs 3,000 to Rs 50,000, depending on the intensity of the damage and the type of house.
“We appeal to those, whose damaged houses have not be been recorded so far, to come to us by October 15. Our officials will survey these houses and we will release ex-gratia for the genuine claims. We don't want to leave out any genuine cases,” said district collector D. Anandan. Around 100 claims from owners of damaged houses were received at the district control room during the Puja break.
The claims should be reported to the administrative centre in Sichey, Gangtok, where the district authorities will resume work from tomorrow. Anandan has been camping at the district control room at MG Marg since the earthquake.
“We will be shifting to the district administrative centre from Monday and resume our normal functions along with relief work related with the earthquake,” said the district collector.
According to officials of North Sikkim, 3,361 houses have suffered major and minor damage in the Mangan subdivision including Dzongu. Assessment of the damage is in progress at Lachung, Lachen and Chungthang.
Bharati Tamang wants to meet Mamata
SNS, SILIGURI, 9 OCT: The All India Gorkha League (AIGL) president, Mrs Bharati Tamang has planned to meet chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee during her two-day Darjeeling visit from 10 October. Notably, Mrs Tamang had congratulated Miss Banerjee and sought an appointment with her when she took over charge as chief minister of the state. But the AIGL chief is yet to receive any communication from chief minister’s office.
“I am willing to meet her and would demand justice for my husband, Madan Tamang, who was murdered,” Mrs Bharati Tamang said.
“I am trying to get an appointment with the chief minister during her visit to Darjeeling. Though I repeatedly sought an appointment with her, I have not received any communication from her office till date,” Mrs Tamang said.
Mrs Tamang and her party also want to hand over a memorandum regarding the post-earthquake situation and would demand rehabilitation of earthquake victims who have been rendered homeless, restoration of damaged roads, problem of drinking water and electricity.
Besides, the AIGL would seek clarification about the state government’s stand on the pending electricity bills, other outstanding dues, including telephone charges, sales taxes and other various governments’ revenue.
GJM seeks quake relief package for Darjeeling
ANANYA DUTTA, TH, KOLKATA, October 10, 2011: On the eve of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's visit to Darjeeling, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership said on Sunday that the devastation in the Darjeeling Hills caused by last month's earthquake near the Sikkim-Nepal border had been largely ignored by the State and Central governments.
It also demanded a special package of at least Rs.1,000 crore for restoration work and resettlement of the affected.
“The devastation caused by the earthquake in Sikkim has received the attention it deserved. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Minister Chidambaram and AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi visited Sikkim and relief packages have been announced, but no such package has been given to the Darjeeling Hills,” Harka Bahadur Chettri, senior GJM leader and the party's MLA from Kalimpong told The Hindu over telephone.
Dr. Chettri said the GJM leadership would meet Ms. Banerjee on Monday and submit a memorandum. “We expect Ms. Banerjee to impress upon the Centre the urgent need to provide relief to the quake victims in Darjeeling hills,” he said.
Dr. Chettri pointed out that the death toll in Sikkim had been very high, whereas not many died in the Darjeeling Hills, but the damage to property on this side of the State border “is in no way less than that in Sikkim.”
“There are many remote places here where the government machinery has not yet been able to reach,” Dr. Chettri said, adding that the quake caused damage worth several thousand crores of rupees.
The Prime Minister had announced a special package of Rs.1,000 crore for earthquake relief in Sikkim during his visit there last month. Immediately after the tragedy, Ms. Banerjee had announced compensation to those killed and injured in the earthquake in West Bengal, but the State government had not announced any relief for those who lost their houses, Dr. Chettri said.
Plea for regular flights

TT, Cooch Behar, Oct. 9: The business community of Cooch Behar has faxed a plea to the chief minister, asking for her intervention to ensure regular flights from here.
The Northeast Shuttles, the airline providing the service on the Guwahati-Cooch Behar-Calcutta route, has suspended operations till October 31.
Except for the first flight on September 5 when all 18 seats were booked, there were not many takers for the service from the next day. The Mamata Banerjee-led state government is keen on linking small towns across the state with air service. The government had been paying for eight seats on each flight as subsidy.
“The company has been irregular in rendering service from the very second day. The airline has announced that there will be no flights throughout October. Such sudden halt in service will affect Cooch Behar’s prospects of trade and industrialisation,” said Rajendra Kumar Baid, the secretary of the Cooch Behar Zilla Byabsayee Samiti.
“The chief minister had taken keen interest in initiating this service, which is why we sent her the fax yesterday.”
“We want her to resolve the problem. We also want the flight fare to be brought down to Rs 3,000 from the existing Rs 5,000,” he added.
A delegation of the North Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry will also meet the chief minister with an appeal to resolve the same issue. “We have some other issues also which needs her attention, but primarily it is the air service. Our members are trying to fix an appointment with her,” said Bikash Das, joint secretary of the trade body. Captain Shoba Mani, the managing director of Northeast Shuttles, had said earlier this month that flights had been suspended as the pilots were on Puja leave.

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