FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, May 4: Darjeeling MP and former BJP leader Jaswant Singh today made it clear that a separate Gorkhaland state would take a long time to happen and cautioned the leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha against expecting it to be created overnight.
On a visit to his constituency, Singh told The Telegraph that what he was advocating for the moment was the creation of “a state within a state” till such a time that the situation was politically conducive for the creation of a separate state.
In fact, what the Morcha had demanded in its “secret document” sent to the Centre was akin to Singh’s formula to resolve the Gorkhaland issue at least for the time being.
Morcha leader Bimal Gurung had made demands ranging from a separate high court to a body similar to the Assembly in the interim arrangement for the hills, though he had been careful to keep police out of the purview of the set-up.
“I have also been ceaselessly working with the Union government, (and the) home ministry, for the concept of a state within a state. The governor (in the new set-up) will be there to represent the Centre and should not be answerable to the state government,” added Singh.
As if to caution the Morcha leadership, Singh said today: “For Gorkhaland, learn from the historical experiences of creating states in India. In all such demands for bifurcation of states, there have always been stages. For example, how many years did it take for Mizoram and Nagaland to come into being?”
Only too aware that neither the Centre nor the Bengal government are in any mood to concede to the Morcha demand for a separate state, Singh said: “During the formation of a new state or a new territory, there will not be a straight line. There will be stops and pauses.”
The movement, in fact, is currently going through a phase of “stops and pauses” in its quest for a separate state.
The Morcha has said it will not settle for anything less than the inclusion of the Dooars and the Terai in the interim set-up, which will form the geographical boundary of the separate Gorkhaland state, if and when it comes into being.
In fact, the Morcha has said this demand will form the only agenda during the next rounds of bureaucratic and political-level tripartite talks. The state and the Centre, however, have so far refused to concede to it, leading to a deadlock.
Appearing to be advocating patience for the Morcha leaders, Singh said: “Nothing can be achieved at one go, get the government (interim set-up) in your hand, administer the area and then after, build on. Everything has to take place stage by stage.” (Patience for less & less or more & more ?!!)
Giving instances of similar disputes that have arisen during the creation of other states in the country, Singh said “such things happen” but are eventually resolved.
“The creation of Uttarakhand was always accompanied by territorial problems,” Singh said. “The state was formed, protests continued and later the disputed areas were added. Jharkhand was created after much protest from Bihar. These things happen.” (That was when BJP was in power, so will Rahul Gandhi also take up the Gorkha cause ?!!)
But for the moment, Singh wants to utilise his MP local area development funds to bring development and amenities to the Darjeeling hills.
MEANWHILE THE STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE ADDS
Jaswant arrives in Darjeeling
SILIGURI, 4 MAY: The Darjeeling MP Mr Jaswant Singh arrived in Darjeeling today, though his arrival seems to have failed to enthuse the GJMM -the party which once hoped the BJP stalwart elected by the hill party’s support would galvanize the public and political opinions at the national level in favour of the Gorkhaland demand.
But now, after less than a year elapsed since his expulsion from the BJP, the GJMM leadership does not seem to take much note of the veteran Parliamentarian’s visit to his constituency. Apart from the diminution of his political stature following expulsion from the BJP, the enthusiasm for Mr Singh has further dipped with several hill-based parties like the GNLF and the CPRM throwing weight behind the fresh election demand in the Darjeeling constituency.
In a piquant contrast to the previous times when tumultuous welcomes awaited him in the Darjeeling hills, he arrived almost unnoticed this time. More conspicuously, the GJMM mandarins seem inclined to pass it cursorily, calling it ‘a routine visit to his constituency.”
Asked to comment on Mr Singh’s visit an influential GJMM leader, Mr Amar Lama said that he had no knowledge of any political programmes for him. “I do not know even how long he would stay here. There is no political import save for the fact that it is a routine visit on the part of the MP to his constituency,” he said.
Declining to say much on the visit, another important GJMM central committee member, Mr Jyoti Rai said that his party had not much to do with it. “It is, however, a good news for the constituency that he has come here after a considerably long time. Perhaps he was not well, or maybe, he was busy writing books,” he said.
However, the GJMM media secretary, Dr Harka Bahadur Chettri said that his party would continue to utilize his stature as a veteran Parliamentarian. “His role in championing the Gorkhaland cause on the floor of the Parliament is yet to be exhausted and we would use him in full in future,” he added.
MEANWHILE: SOME GLARING RECENT EXAMPLES
EDUCATION: School job panel delay irks Morcha – Too long time coming ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Kalimpong, May 4: The Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation (JSTO) has expressed concern at the delay in initiating the process to regularise the services of ad hoc teachers at hill schools. The organisation, an affiliate of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, blamed the government for the DGHC’s laxity “in attending to burning issues of education”.
In a letter faxed to school education minister Partha De last night, JSTO secretary Bejoy Pradhan regretted that the DGHC was yet to forward a proposal for the constitution of the temporary recruitment board. The proposal had been agreed upon at the two meetings that the organisation had with senior officials of the state education department in Calcutta in March.
On March 25, additional chief secretary (education) Bikram Sen had directed the DGHC authorities to send a proposal for the constitution of the board at the earliest.
The five-member board comprising two members from the field of education, two others recommended by the DGHC and a person of eminence from the hills was expected to scrutinise the qualifications of the ad hoc teachers and recommend their appointments for permanent jobs.
The JSTO said although it had suggested the names of the board members long back, the DGHC was yet to take follow-up action. At the meetings, the government had said the JSTO was free to recommend the names of the members, which the DGHC could accept or ignore.
“The organisation has lost its confidence in the delivery mechanism of the DGHC. Since the administration of DGHC is being run by officials appointed by the government of Bengal, the government cannot absolve itself of the laxity shown by the DGHC in attending to and pursuing the burning issues of education in the hills,” said the letter.
The JSTO has pointed out that the education department of the DGHC has had five secretaries in 18 months, and such frequent changes were seriously hampering the execution of administrative decisions.
“Our concern regarding this matter was communicated to the principal secretary, DGHC (Surinder Gupta),” said Pradhan.
The meeting with Sen was a follow-up to the March 16 talks the JSTO had with the education minister. Dey had then agreed to regularise the services of 474 teachers and 78 non-teaching staff members working in the hill schools.
The assurance followed the non-co-operation agitation launched by the JSTO to fulfil its demands which, besides job regularisation, included recognition and upgrade of schools, and confirmation of teachers in-charge (read acting headmasters) as permanent school heads.
Morcha dharna to halt course shift – Janta College Agitation gets steadily worse, Bengal remains unconcerned ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Kalimpong, May 3: Four frontal organisations of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha along with the Citizens’ Rights Forum organised a dharna at the subdivisional office here today to protest the shifting of library science course from the Kalimpong People’s (Janata) College to Siliguri.
More than 20 protesters sat on the office premises from 11am to 12.30pm. In the absence of Kalimpong subdivisional officer Amyas Thsering, they met deputy magistrate G.L. Thsering and wanted to know the response of the state government to their demand.
They reassembled at the office around 2.30pm and warned that the government’s continued silence on the issue could lead to serious trouble. Members of the Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation (JSTO), Gorkha Primary Teachers’ Organisation, Janmukti Karmachari Sangathan and the Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan took part in the protest.
“If the government continues to pay no heed to our peaceful protest, we will be forced to take to the streets on a much bigger scale. We have decided to sit on dharna for three more days. Representatives of the four Morcha affiliates and the Citizens’ Forum will take part in the protest from 11am to 2pm for the next three days and confine the SDO and other senior officials to their rooms,” said Hari Dahal, the Kalimpong unit secretary of the JSTO.
An official, who did not want to be named, said authorities in Calcutta were being kept posted about the developments.
The Kalimpong subdivision had already witnessed rallies and a shutdown to protest the government’s decision to transfer the library science course from the Janata college to Siliguri. The directorate of library services had cited “present administrative turmoil in Darjeeling” for shifting the course.
“The government has decided that one training course may be organised at additional district library, Siliguri, instead of Kalimpong People’s (Janata) College, due to present administrative turmoil in Darjeeling,” reads a letter sent by the director of library services to the secretary of the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad and the district library officer, Jalpaiguri.
Although the opening paragraph talks only about one course (library science), the subsequent content of the letter says “the courses” may be organised in Siliguri “until and unless the situation of DGHC area of Darjeeling becomes normal”. The organisations have decided to intensify the agitation if the order is not revoked in three days. Dahal, however, refused to reveal the next course of action.
Police scan on garden union strength – 14 arrested for Tunbari tea estate clash
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
May 3: Police are worried about the law and order situation in the Dooars brew belt with repeated clashes in recent times between the supporters of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad and the CPM or the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
Inspector-general of police, north Bengal, K.L. Tamta, has instructed the Jalpaiguri superintendent of police to submit a report on the strength of trade unions in each tea garden in the Dooars to find out if there is the possibility of further breach of peace
The police woke up to the problem after yesterday’s clash between the members of the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union, formed by the Parishad recently, and those of the Citu-affiliated Cha Bagan Mazdoor Union, in Tunbari tea garden, 115km from Alipurduar in Jalpaiguri district. Ten people were injured in the clash that was followed by a four-hour road blockade by Parishad supporters, demanding the arrest of Citu workers.
The tribal outfit had blamed the CPM trade union for assaulting its supporters.
“The clashes are taking place because of the emergence of a new trade union. I have instructed the Jalpaiguri police chief to contact the garden managements and to get a picture of the actual situation so that we can act promptly and settle disputes through dialogues,” Tamta told The Telegraph.
The police officer, however, ruled out the possibility of deploying additional forces in the area. “I do not think extra forces are necessary; the unions should settle all differences through talks,” said Tamta.
Fourteen people were arrested in connection with yesterday’s violence. Danga Bek, the secretary of the Malbazar block committee of the Parishad, said if the arrests had not been made, a strike would have been called in all the tea gardens in the Dooars.
The Citu, however, denied its involvement in the violence. “I have not heard that our supporters are among the arrested people,” said Chanu Dey, a member of the Jalpaiguri district committee of the Citu.
The general secretary of the Parishad, Tezkumar Toppo, said: “We have told our trade union leaders in the Dooars that they should not go into any confrontation with rival unions and should remain peaceful even in the face of provocation. However, the administration has to see to it that no one foments violence in the area,” said Toppo.
Extra days sought for count
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Raiganj, May 3: The North Dinajpur district administration has sought more time to complete the national census as enumerators had to keep away from the blocks hit by the April 13 storm because the victims mistook them for relief workers and demanded help.
“When the census workers went to the devastated villages and asked questions about their income and household details, the people thought a list was being prepared to send them relief. I had received information that those engaged in the work were feeling insecure. We wrote to the census directorate in Calcutta for an extension of 20 days to complete the exercise,” said additional district magistrate Dibyendu Das, who is the census officer for the district.
He added that in the letter, the devastation caused by the storm had also been mentioned so that the census authorities grasped the situation the workers found themselves in.
The census began all over the country on April 1 and is scheduled to be completed on May 15.
“We have been told that the appeal has been forwarded to the census commissioner under the Union home ministry in Delhi. If we are not granted the extension, we will not be able to complete the exercise in storm-affected blocks like Hemtabad, Raiganj, Karandighi and Itahar,” said Das.
Mousumi Chakrabarty, the census supervisor for Karandighi, said: “Our workers reported the tension in the storm-affected areas and we suspended the work on April 14.” She added that about 12 days had been lost because of the storm.
Subol Das, a primary school teacher of Bazargaon in Raiganj block, said the situation was tense when he had gone to carry out the exercise. “We found that most of the houses had collapsed and people were living under the open sky. We were surrounded by the villagers demanding shelter and food and we were almost beaten up.”
SILIGURI SPORTS: SMC to set up soccer academy – and nothing for the Hills ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, May 3: The Siliguri Municipal Corporation will start a football academy this month to nurture budding players from the town and its surrounding areas.
The non-residential academy will be run at Kanchenjungha Stadium with the help of the Siliguri Mahakuma Krira Parishad.
The SMC has plans to start the academy with 30 footballers. “We will select 30 in the age group of eight to 12 years from different coaching centres and tea estates of the subdivision with the help of the coaches of the Krira Parishad,” said Kajol Chanda, member, mayor-in-council (sports).
The deputy mayor of the SMC, Nantu Pal, said they had proposed the academy in the last budget meeting. “In the previous board meeting, we sanctioned Rs 2.50 lakh for football kits, diet, conveyance allowance and remuneration for the coach in the academy.”
Pal, also the general secretary of the Krira Parishad, met Mohun Bagan Athletic Club general secretary Anjan Mitra here on Friday. During the meeting, Mitra agreed to extend cooperation to the SMC for the academy.
“Such initiatives are welcome for promoting budding footballers from the region. We have already started our own residential academy in Jalpaiguri last year, which our coaches from Calcutta visit regularly. We will instruct them to visit the SMC academy also to guide the players and the coaches,” Mitra had said.
The Mohun Bagan official hoped that the SMC academy would be a good platform for the budding footballers of the region considering the accessibility of the town and its available infrastructure that includes a large football stadium. Mitra also had plans to make his Jalpaiguri academy play a friendly match here in July.