GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE: ‘Strict’ strike retort to buckling Morcha jab – Helpline to be shut & picket threat – painting a rosy picture for the CPM for a known reason ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, June 23: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today announced that helplines for tourists would be withdrawn once the bandh resumes on Friday, striking a firm note after relaxing the indefinite shutdown for 48 hours.
Not only that, the party has also iterated its resolve to enforce the strike more vigorously with party volunteers setting up pickets in different parts of the hills.
Not wanting to be seen as buckling under pressure after striking a conciliatory note yesterday by withdrawing its lathi-wielding squad of volunteers from five government properties and announcing the relaxation, Morcha assistant secretary Binay Tamang said today: “We have decided to strictly enforce the strike once it resumes on Friday. We expect all tourists to leave the hills by tomorrow evening and we will no longer keep the helplines open.”
Till yesterday, the Morcha had deputed the All Hill Transport Joint Action Committee, a party affiliate, to issue “permits” and arrange for vehicles for tourists and local people wanting to leave Darjeeling. But today Tamang said: “We will only allow those people with emergency work to move during the strike period and nobody else.”
Unlike in the past when Morcha pickets were visible all across the town, this time when the indefinite strike started on Saturday the party had desisted from deploying its cadres in the busy areas. But today Tamang said the cadres would be back once the bandh resumes.
The Morcha also said it would not withdraw its squad of volunteers, the Gorkhaland Personnel, from any of the other government properties that it is still occupying.
But sources close to the party said despite the game of “one-upmanship” that has been going on between the Morcha and the government, it would not risk a confrontation with the authorities.
The Morcha had been pushed on the backfoot after the backlash that followed ABGL leader Madan Tamang murder for which it has been blamed. Bimal Gurung’s party had been pushing to drive home the point that it was against violence. It had even been more accommodating than in the past, not obstructing rallies by rival outfits.
“There is little chance of the Morcha picketing in the main town square where there is heavy deployment of paramilitary forces. Even though the party wants an image changeover, it can hardly risk indulging in any form of violence at the moment,” said an observer. Picketers are likely to be increased in the fringe areas of the town.
While trying to send a tough message to the state, the Morcha has also tried to convey that “the interest of the common people” was still on its mind.
“In the interest of the common people we have, however, decided to keep the food and supply department open on Mondays and Tuesdays. Ration dealers can lift their foodgrain from their godowns on Wednesdays. The vehicles ferrying foodgrain must paste ‘on PDS duty’ along with the name of the village on the windscreens,” said Tamang. Banks, too, will be allowed to remain open on Mondays.
Other programmes like demonstrations in front of police station will start from Friday. “The once-a-week torch rally will also be taken out across the hills, Terai and Dooars on Thursdays,” added Tamang. The central committee of the Morcha will hold a meeting at 11am in Darjeeling tomorrow to discuss the current situation in the hills.
Scramble to stock up hill larders – no report on Bobbbc blockade and Siliguri traders suffering ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
Darjeeling/Siliguri, June 23: People in the hills today scrambled to stock up on food before the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha resumes its strike on Friday morning with truckloads of vegetables, fruits and fish leaving the markets in Siliguri for destinations uphill.
However, as the 48-hour relaxation in the strike was announced by the Morcha late last evening, the people had to buy vegetables which were not fresh at higher prices.
While ladies’ fingers flew off the shelves, despite being priced at Rs 32 a kilo, tomatoes were sold at Rs 28, gourds at Rs 32 and potatoes and onions at Rs 12.
“We were forced to buy stale vegetables at more than double the price. Ladies’ fingers usually cost Rs 5 to Rs 6 a kilo. We have to wait till tomorrow morning when fresh stocks arrive from Siliguri,” said a woman shopping at Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling.
Mohan Sharma, an ABGL leader, said political parties should call strikes as a last resort. “We think the Morcha strike has served no purpose. Strikes should be called as last resort; a lot of thought should be put in before one calls a strike,” said Sharma.
More than 40 vehicles loaded with food items had left the Siliguri Regulated Market at Champasari for the hills by noon today. “Had the relaxation in the strike been announced much earlier yesterday, we would have got more buyers from the hills,” said Tapan Saha, the secretary of the Siliguri Regulated Market Wholesalers’ Association. He added that the market lost business worth at least Rs 30 lakh daily during strikes in the hills.
“We sell food items worth Rs 70-80 lakh daily and 40 per cent of the purchase is done by shopowners from the hills,” said Saha.
The flow of the food items was not wholly uphill.
Khubal Prasad, a ginger trader at the regulated market, received a truckload of the condiment after four days. “I get ginger from the Mirik area. The strike will resume on Friday and my anxiety will increase,” he said.
MEANWHILE FROM THE PLAINS OF DARJEELING
Fake note ‘kingpin’ held with Rs 1.42 lakh – tip of the iceberg, no concern for National Security ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Malda, June 23: A kingpin of a fake note racket who confessed that he had conducted transactions worth Rs 3 crore with counterfeit currency every month was arrested from near the Indo-Bangladesh border last night. Fake notes with face value of Rs 1.42 lakh were recovered from him.
Acting on a tip-off, a police team had been waiting for Bakul Sheikh, a 40-year-old resident of Duishatobigha in Kaliachak. “As soon as Bakul got down from a bus at Baliadanga to hand over the fake notes to a carrier from Kerala, we pounced on him and seized the money,” said deputy superintendent of police of Malda Abhijit Mukherjee.
Bakul has confessed to the police that he had transacted business worth nearly Rs 3 crore a month with the fake notes. “He admitted that the notes were printed across the border with the help of the ISI,” Mukherjee said. Bakul has been remanded in police custody for five days by the chief judicial magistrate of Malda.
“We had been looking for him for long and had raided his house repeatedly. Even the BSF had raided his house several times. But he had been giving us the slip always,” Mukherjee said. “The accused was a poultry trader till six years ago when he lived from hand to mouth. But the lure of easy lucre made him join the fake currency racket. He has become a millionaire over the years and had bought large plots of land in Kaliachak and Habibpur and has lakhs of rupees in bank accounts. His network of carriers has spread from Kerala to Uttar Pradesh.”
District police chief Bhuban Mondal said Bakul’s arrest would be of great help in busting the fake note racket. “So far, we had been catching the carriers of counterfeit notes. This is the first time we have picked up a kingpin. We hope to get more information from him.”
Bakul’s house is hardly 50 metres from the international border. This gave him a “strategic advantage” to flee to the other side of the border at ease. “We have seized his cellphone and have been examining the call list to find out his conacts,” an officer said.
Voter kiosks at rail stations – strange move, what significance, any ulterior motive ?!!
Malda, June 23: The Election Commission of India has instructed district magistrates across the state to set up kiosks at important railway stations to photograph people going out for work and issue them voter identity cards. But the cards can be issued only if the names are on the voter list.
According to additional district magistrate of Malda Tarun Sinha Roy, this is the first time that the commission has given such a directive.
“We will operate photography kiosks in Malda Town station from July 9 to 23. Our staff will take pictures of those going to work to distant places like Mumbai and Delhi and we shall announce the distribution of new voter identity cards at a later date,” Sinha Roy said.
The kiosks would be operational between 5pm and 7pm when most of the long-distance trains leave for north and southern India.
Most of the people who go to other states to work as labourers are the ones who do not have voter identity cards, Sinha Roy said. About a lakh of people, mostly men, go out of the district as migrant labourers each month, he added.
The chief election commissioner of India, Navin B. Chawla, has convened a meeting with district magistrates and superintendents of police of all the 19 districts in the state in Calcutta on July 8 to review the situation in connection with next year’s Assembly elections.
The notification has asked the district magistrates to keep ready several key information related to the polls.
According to sources in the district administration here, the chief election commissioner has asked for a list of vacant posts of civil and police officials, the names of officials who are serving in their home districts and those who have been serving in a particular post for more than three years.
Sinha Roy said 98 per cent of the voters in the 12 Assembly segments in Malda had received their voter cards. In Sujapur, the distribution is the lowest at 96 per cent. “We are working towards distribution of cent per cent voter cards before the next election and we will publish a draft voters’ list on July 9,” the additional district magistrate said.
IN BRIEFS FROM THE TELEGRAPH
Four killed by lightning
Jalpaiguri/Balurghat June 23: Four persons were killed in the past 48 hours after they were struck by lightning.
Three persons died at Bhotpatty in Mainaguri block near Jalpaiguri today. Neighbours said the trio were inside a hut when the lightning struck them. An eight-year-old girl was killed after she was struck by a bolt from the sky at Chakandharu near Balurghat this morning. Rekha Burman was hanging clothes on the line at her uncle’s house when the bolt struck.
Jaigaon: Twelve people were injured when the bus they were travelling in toppled on its side on NH31 at Madarihat on Tuesday night. The accident occurred when the bus tried to avoid a truck coming from the opposite direction. The bus was travelling to Siliguri from Assam. The injured were taken to Birpara State General Hospital and nine of them were released after first aid. Later, another bus took the remaining passengers to Siliguri. The drivers of the bus and the truck are absconding. Both the vehicles have been seized.
Jalpaiguri: Minister for fire services Pratim Chatterjee laid the foundation stone of a fire station at Haldibari in Cooch Behar district, 25km from here, on Wednesday.
Calcutta: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Wednesday criticised Mamata Banerjee for not expressing regret or seeking apology for calling CPM cadre Arabinda (Bapi) Dhar, who died after being shot at during the civic polls on June 30, a “notorious criminal”. Bhattacharjee, instead of naming Banerjee, referred her as the “leader of the Opposition party” at a meet to mourn Dhar’s death.
Kokrajhar: Suspected NDFB militants kidnapped a 40-year-old man from his residence at Ballimari in Chirang district on Tuesday evening. Police suspect Alhas Monirul Islam was abducted for ransom.