GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE: BJP state secretary joins Madan party – BIG DEAL, no more hopes or attempts at Jaswant’s MP chair ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, June 30: The state secretary of the BJP today resigned from his party and joined the ABGL, plunging into uncertainty the fate of the BJP in the hills and raising questions about its future course of politics.
Sherpa is the convener of the Democratic Front, a conglomeration of seven outfits — including the BJP — opposed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
Bharati Tamang, the president of the ABGL, said: “My husband (Madan Tamang) always wanted Dawa Sherpa to join the ABGL and had talked to him about it before his death. Today, I see his wishes being fulfilled.” Sherpa was inducted into the ABGL at a programme held at the party office on Laden La Road.
Sherpa’s switch to the ABGL, whose chief Madan Tamang was murdered on May 21, was not unexpected. The Morcha had been accused of masterminding the attack and has been in the backfoot since then. (not the ruling CPM who are still trying to derail all the Gorkha aspirations ?!!)
After Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh’s re-induction into the BJP, questions were raised about the party’s continuation in the front. With Singh openly backing the Morcha, many hill leaders had been wondering how the BJP could continue to remain with the front.
Sherpa was being “flooded” with queries on how long the hill BJP intended to oppose the Morcha when the central leadership was actively supporting it.
Sherpa, who had faxed his resignation to the BJP state committee last evening, said: “My joining the ABGL was being discussed much before Jaswant Singh was re-inducted into the BJP. The ABGL officially sent me a letter last week, requesting me to join their party and after much thought I decided to accept the primary membership. I think I will be able to work for the hill people with the ABGL.”
But the speculation doing the rounds is what the hill BJP will do in the circumstances.
Sources in the BJP said there were essentially two choices before the district unit of the party. First, with the departure of Sherpa, who was one of the spearheads of the opposition to the Morcha, other relatively unknown party leaders may make a quiet exit from the front.
But the more likely option is that most of them will follow in Sherpa’s footsteps and join the ABGL. The sources said the BJP, which has hardly any organisational presence in the hills, will only become weaker after Sherpa’s departure. They said almost all in the party are Sherpa’s supporters and are expected to follow the leader. (and who exactly are they, we pray – any vacancies ?!!)
“Till early this year, the Darjeeling unit of the BJP was led by G.S. Yonzone. After Sherpa emerged, Yonzone and his supporters resigned from the party,” said a BJP source. “After this, Sherpa and his supporters took control of the district committee and all of them are expected to join the ABGL.”
The source said with Sherpa and his supporters gone, there was a possibility that a new committee would be formed which would be more amenable to the central leadership. “In the coming few days, the picture will become clearer,” a hill BJP leader said.
Hill team meets CM – message clear on Separate State, or still purposely deaf ?!!
A six-member delegation of the Darjeeling Civil Society led by Bijay Kumar Pradhan met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and state municipal affairs and urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya for 30 minutes this evening at Writers’ Buildings in Calcutta.
“We told the chief minister that there is not a single person in Darjeeling who is against Gorkhaland and that it was the government’s responsibility to sit for a meeting with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and come up with a solution as early as possible,” said Pradhan after the meeting.
The delegation also told the chief minister that the government must not be a silent spectator and should make efforts to maintain law and order and peace in the hills “so that the rights of the common people are not trampled (by whom – not the CPM ?!!) by anyone”. The chief minister told the hill team that the people, too, should raise their voices, Bhattacharya said. (deaf is he, for so long ?!!)
Morcha duo get bail – no more peaceful protests that count allowed in Darjeeling without legal ‘book throwing’ by Bengal ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
Darjeeling, June 30: Two Gorkha Janmukti Morcha activists today surrendered before the judicial magistrate, a day after police booked them for setting up road blockades in the hill town, reports our correspondent.
Dhan Maya Tamang and Babita Ganguly have been granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 1000, each. The duo had been accused of unlawful assembly, criminal intimidation and restraining public servants from discharging duties.
The Morcha has been organising two-hour blockades very day to protest the lathicharge on its supporters in Kurseong on June 16. Yesterday, the party had appealed to its supporters to join the blockades in more numbers.
MEANWHILE BELOW THE PLAINS OF DARJEELING
DOOARS ADIVASIS: Tribe protests tourism venture – Bengal’s BCW minister skips, hops and jumps loops ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Alipurduar, June 30: The Totos have demanded that the backward classes welfare department prioritise infrastructure development over the setting up of tourist lodges in Totopara.
Sensing the Toto fury and apprehending an agitation, BCW minister Jogesh Burman had skipped the inauguration of the two-roomed tourist cottage at Madarihat-Birpara, 72km from Alipurduar, on Sunday, department sources said. The official reason cited was bad weather.
“We were ready with the arrangements, but we also had information that there could be an agitation. We had conveyed it to the minister,” said one of the organisers of the programme.
The Totos, one of the ingenious tribes of north Bengal, have to cross three streams and an equal number of rivers — none of which have bridges — to reach their homes in Totopara, the only place where they are found. Usually the water is knee-deep but in monsoon vehicles have to wait for hours on the banks for the water to recede.
“Totopara is 22km from Madarihat. During monsoon, it remains cut off from Madarihat for several days. In this situation, spending lakhs on a tourist cottage is ridiculous. If it was meant to draw tourists so that we earn a living from tourism, then the roads should have been constructed first,” said Ashoke Toto, a member of the Toto Kalyan Samiti.
Ashoke alleged that this year five boys had applied for jobs in the Eastern Frontier Rifles under the Scheduled Tribe quota but the officials on the interview panel in Salua had dismissed them saying the there was no tribe called the Totos in the state.
He also alleged that two years ago the North Bengal State Transport Corporation had started plying buses between Madarihat and Totopara but the service stopped after a few months.
Such is the government apathy that although Rs 45 lakh was spent on a reservoir and a pipeline along the Hawri river near the Toto village, it was washed away within six months because the site selected was wrong.
Minister Burman, however, dismissed the Toto allegations and hinted that the infrastructure changes were not in the pipeline because visitors to Totopara would like a taste of adventure tourism.
“Eco-tourists mainly visit this region in winter when it is easy to reach Totopara. This type of tourists like adventurous journeys through forests and rivers. So I believe the condition of the road will not be an obstacle to the promotion of eco-tourism. Once it is started, local people will be involved in the project.”
Dyke cracks threaten village – instant action in Bengali speaking areas, how come, very non-parochial ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Malda, June 30: The Fulahar is rapidly eating into the embankment along a 1-5km stretch on the river’s left bank, posing an immediate threat to hundreds of people living at Manikchak.
This morning, District magistrate of Malda P.K. Samanta, superintendent of police Bhuban Mondal and the executive engineer of the irrigation department Subrata Majumdar visited Kalitola-Mathurapur, 40km from here.
The local people pointed out to the team that in previous years, too, severe erosion had taken place, but the intensity was much higher this time. They also said several cracks had developed on the embankment and the river would breach the bank any moment.
“The Kalitola-Mathurapur area is densely populated and there are many huts which are directly alongside the embankment. There are also agricultural fields and mango orchards; we are all living in great anxiety. I have told the district magistrate to take immediate steps so that a major disaster is prevented from happening,” said panchayat pradhan Sanat Karmakar.
The Fulahar meets the Ganga about 3km from the spot. “The Fulahar is flowing furiously and causing the erosion because its water level is higher than the Ganga’s. While the Ganga is flowing at 21.82 metre today, the Fulahar’s water level is 25.90 metre,” said Majumdar. He added the Fulahar was also carrying the water flowing down from the hills in north Bengal where there had been heavy rain in the past week.
Executive engineer Majumdar said: “As the Ganga usually rises from July, we have to take up the repair on an emergency basis.”
After touring the affected area, Samanta said the situation was “grim”.
“We need to create another embankment in the Mathurapur-Kalitola area and it will be 1km-long. For the construction, Rs 6 crore is needed. I have instructed the irrigation department to act immediately. Moreover, another Rs 2 crore will be required to repair the cracks which have appeared in the old embankment,” said the district magistrate.
He added that he was writing to the state government to release funds. “We are also concerned about a pumping unit of the public health engineering department in the affected area that supplies arsenic-free water to the nearby places. We have to protect that at any cost,” said Samanta.
Met office keen to extend radar area – good for the Siliguri Corridor, but for the Hills, upto Sikkim and Bhutan ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, June 30: The regional Met office in Jalpaiguri has asked the India Meteorological Department for a Doppler radar to provide detailed information on the weather and increase its area coverage from 100km to a radius of 500km.
“Considering the changing nature of the weather in the region where thunder storms and heavy wind have become a common phenomenon along with unpredictable monsoon, we had send a proposal to the IMD for procuring the device,” said Gopinath Raha the regional Met officer of Jalpaiguri.
The IMD functions under the Union ministry of earth sciences.
According to the Met official, the cost of the equipment would be around Rs 30 crore and it would be the first device to be installed in north Bengal and the second in the state. “The first Doppler weather radar was installed at the Met office in Alipore in Calcutta,” Raha said.
Currently, the Met office at Jalpaiguri can provide information on temperature, humidity and rainfall in a 100-km radius for 24 hours.
But constant updating of the records and its forecast is not possible for the Met officials. “Now, we can provide weather updates for 24 hours and cover a limited area in north Bengal. But this is not sufficient for thorough monitoring of the climate of the region. Once the new device is installed, we can cover about 500km in radius and provide detailed information on the weather,” he said.
The Met office, however, is presently developing a site at Gosala More, in Jalpaiguri town, about 44km from here. The office now functions from Shilpasamitipara.
Once completed, the building will house the meteorological observatory-cum-field maintenance centre where the flood meteorological office of Jalpaiguri and the seismology and meteorology office of Siliguri will function.
“The new centre would be developed on a 104 cottah plot of land which we have bought from the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority. We have received Rs 2 crore from the IMD for the centre. The work will start from the first week of July,” said Raha.