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Sunday, October 2, 2011

After quake, perched atop a cave-in Topple fear for toy train workshop...Opening of 83rd Sarbojanin Durga Puja...Sikkim bar on Chhangu tourists - Road not stable for so much traffic: Govt...Funds to repair back-up road...Old boys’ soccer skills on display...AAGSU to observe ‘Black Day’ to denounce Terrorism-

After quake, perched atop a cave-in Topple fear for toy train workshop
MRINALINI SHARMA, TT, Siliguri, Oct. 2: The almost 100-year-old toy train workshop at Tindharia after suffering 30 cracks in the earthquake is now perched precariously — just 200 metres above a recent cave-in where the ground had disappeared along with the road.

The cave-in had occurred on Wednesday, 10 days after the quake, and a portion of NH55 along with the toy tracks was washed away when the landslide struck followed by heavy rainfall.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), which is in charge of the toy train, had been worried about the 30 cracks in the Tindharia workshop building, 30km from here. Around 60 metres of the boundary wall on the rear of the workshop, too, had collapsed in the earthquake. The recent cave-in, just below the right side of the building, has now added to the worry.
“The workshop is an old structure established almost 100 years ago. There were already 30 cracks on the wall and the floor, some of them two-inches wide. Now after the cave-in, the problem has aggravated. The vertical distance between the road and the workshop is just 200 metres. Another bout of heavy rainfall may cause the slope in between as well as the damaged portion of the workshop to collapse,” said R.P. Singh, the assistant divisional mechanical engineer at the Tindharia workshop.
The workshop that was established in 1915 is famous for having manufactured many toy train locomotives in the past. Among them are loco 42, named Tindharia and built in 1919, number 43, which was called Kurseong and made in 1923, and number 44 christened Darjeeling and manufactured in 1925. Now, the workshop with its 90 employees who are mainly local people, only repairs steam locos and coaches. The damaged portion of the building comprises a wheel shop where wheels of the toy trains are made and repaired. The DHR officials alleged that although the Northeast Frontier Railway’s headquarters in Assam’s Malegaon had been intimated, there has been no specific instruction yet on the relocation of the wheel shop.
“A team of NFR engineers had inspected the workshop. But we have not received any instruction on relocating the wheel shop to a safer site in the workshop. We cannot initiate the relocating process on our own since the machinery is heavy. No restoration work has started either,” a DHR official said.
Sikkim bar on Chhangu tourists - Road not stable for so much traffic: Govt
BIJOY GURUNG, TT, Gangtok, Oct. 2: The Sikkim government has decided not to permit tourists on the earthquake-hit Jawaharlal Nehru Marg that leads to Chhangu Lake and Nathu-la until it is made safer for travellers.
The 52km JN Marg from Gangtok is the main road link to Sikkim’s tourist trinity: Chhangu, Baba Mandir and Nathu-la, the border pass at 14,400ft. The road is also used by army personnel posted in the forward areas on the India-China border.
More than 20 landslides, big and small, had blocked JN Marg after the September 18 earthquake that left 60 people dead. Fourteen of the dead were from East Sikkim, where Nathu-la and Chhangu are located. East Sikkim was most affected by the quake after North, the most picturesque of the state’s four districts.
Project Swastik of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) partially restored the road by September 29, allowing the army and the civilians in the six villages near Chhangu — located at 12,400ft — and above to replenish their stocks.
A Sikkim tourism department team along with local drivers and police had conducted a joint inspection on Friday to find out how safe JN Marg would be for tourist traffic to Nathu-la. Local villagers who depend on tourism for their livelihood have been insisting that visitors be allowed, considering the short duration of the October-November tourist season. The next peak season comes only in April.
“Since the safety of tourists is of paramount importance, the department of tourism and civil aviation along with the stakeholders and other concerned associations have decided to defer issuing permits to tourists visiting Nathu-la till the condition of the road is stabilised,” the tourism department said in a media release yesterday after going through the inspection team’s report.
“Although the road is open for the local people, it is not advisable to run heavy vehicles on it. JN Marg is still very fragile. There are several stretches with boulders hanging precariously above them. Moreover, movement of too many vehicles will hamper the restoration work by the BRO,” the media release said. The tourism department appealed to all stakeholders to co-operate till “further information”.
Tourism joint secretary Rinzim Chewang Bhutia said protecting tourists was the department’s top priority. “When it comes to the safety of tourists, we don’t want to take any chances. There are several stretches along the road that are very narrow, allowing only one-way traffic. On average during the peak seasons, more than 250 vehicles carrying tourists ply on JN Marg. Movement of vehicles could be affected at several places. Also, we don’t want to expose our tourists to the danger of falling boulders,” Bhutia said.
He said tourist traffic on JN Marg would not be allowed for the next few days. “It (ban) could last for a week. We may take a call after the Puja break,” Bhutia added.
He said the absence of tourists would give some “breathing space” to the BRO. “We must give some time to the BRO to work freely on the road. Their work will be hampered if vehicular movement increases,” Bhutia said.
Barring North Sikkim and Nathu-la in East, tourists are free to visit South and West districts, which too have “several beautiful places”, Bhutia said.
Funds to repair back-up road
VIVEK CHHETRI. TT, Darjeeling, Oct. 2: The National Highways Authority of India has sanctioned Rs 1.2 crore to repair Rohini Road, which is not under its jurisdiction, in a move that is largely seen as a compensatory effort for not being able to open NH55 for most parts of the year.
With the highway shut, heavy vehicles are taking a detour through Rohini Road that is maintained by the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.
Trilok Dewan, the Darjeeling MLA and a member of a board that is currently administering the DGHC, said: “The DGHC has already received Rs 1.2 crore from the authorities. We are waiting for the monsoon to get over and very soon the repair will start.”
Officials of the NHAI said a proposal to grant funds for the repair of Rohini Road, which is serving as an alternative route, had been sent to the Centre. “But we cannot say if the funds have been sanctioned.”
Rohini Road bifurcates from NH55 near Sukna and joins the highway at Kurseong again.
Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh said he was consulting engineering firms in New Delhi to conduct a survey on NH55. “We need to get some technical expertise to look into the state of affairs of the highway.”
Last week, a 150-metre stretch on NH55 had caved in after a landslide near Tindharia.
Singh said the cave-in was not because of the recent earthquake but was triggered by heavy rainfall and illegal mining in the area.

Old boys’ soccer skills on display
RAJEEV RAVIDAS, TT, Kalimpong, Oct. 2: Nearly 1,000 former students invaded the Mela Ground today to cheer their mates, the old boys of several hill schools who fought it out in a game of soccer — a friendly tourney aimed at renewing old friendship.

The inter-school alumni football tournament was organised by the Kalimpong chapter of the Sasonians, the alumni association of St Augustine’s School (SAS, hence Sasonians).
For the record, the final was won by the former students of St Roberts School, who defeated Kumudini Homes 4-3 in a penalty shootout. But the real cheers were for the spirit of the boys-turned-men of 37 years and above. Nobody below 37 years had been allowed to participate in the 12-day soccer tournament.
In all, eight alumni teams — SAS, Scottish Universities’ Mission Institution (SUMI), Kumudini Homes, Dr. Grahams’s Homes, Kalimpong Government High School, St George’s School of Pedong, St Robert’s School of Darjeeling and Ghoom High School — took part. “This is the second edition of the tournament. The idea behind organising such a tournament was to promote friendship and good health,” said Britto Lepcha, the chairperson of the Sasonians’ Kalimpong chapter.
An inter-school band marching contest was also held. However, since most of the schools in the town are on over 10-day long Puja vacation, only three schools participated. The band from Kumudini Homes was adjudged the winner and SUMI was declared the runner-up over the current students of SAS.
The Sasonians ended their annual party with a dinner for the present and former teachers of their school at a local resort. A local band, Constructing Four Fingers, was there to liven up the night with music.
“The dinner is a way for us to thank the teachers for their contribution in our development right from our formative years,” said Lepcha.
AAGSU to observe ‘Black Day’ to denounce Terrorism
- AAGSU will organize a silent candle light march across Assam in memory victims of the Bhimajuli Massacre of 2009 denouncing ‘Terrorism’ on Tuesday 4th Oct 2011.
PR, KalimNews, Guwahati (19th Sept 2011): The All Assam Gorkha Students’ Union (AAGSU) apex organization of Gorkha students and youths of Assam will observe ‘Black Day’ denouncing the 2009 Bhimajuli terrorists attack on the Gorkhas during Durga festive season and will take out a silent candle light march centrally at Bhimajuli under Sonitpur dist. of Assam in memorium of Bhimajuli massacre victims and calling for peace and tranquility on 4th Oct 2011 Tuesday. Various district, zonal, regional and colleges unit of AAGSU will hold candle light gathering in small groups in small towns and villages across the state to register their protest.
In a statement issued to the media Nanda Kirati Dewan, Information and Publicity Secretary AAGSU said,’ 12 persons including 7 Gorkhas were killed in a gruesome attack by the anti-talks faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) militants at Bhimajuli near Balichang police outpost area under Biswanath Chariali subdivision in Sonitpur district on 4th October evening in 2009 during festive Durgapuja celebrations and several injured. This day should be seen one of darkest day of secular and democratic nation like India so we the AAGSU term it as a ‘blackday’ and observing it with a silent candle light march and black mask and badges denouncing terrorism of all forms. Gorkhas of Assam and the Northeast will never give any space to terrorism of any form and denounce it vehemently in strongest terms. Gorkhas have been known as brave revolutionary fighters so we are believer of democratic means of revolutions and will not tolerate at any cost, any attempt to terrorize and make Assam, heaven of terrorism.’
‘We appeal all terrorism defying individuals, organization join hands with the AAGSU to register protest against darkest day of secular democratic state Assam and denounce terrorism by organizing small candlelight gathering in their respective villages, towns and cities at the same time extend festive Durgoutsav greetings to the people of Assam and Eastern India. May this Durgoutsav and the blessings of Goddess ‘Maa Durga’ bring permanent peace, harmony and tranquility in the state with progress and development as desired.’ the AAGSU leader added,

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