GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Hill special for Queen’s baton – a psychological snub to Bengal’s cultural hegemony ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, July 2: Hill flavour will mark the welcome ceremony of Queen’s Baton in Darjeeling with all the programmes lined up for the day smacking of traditions associated with the communities living here.
The baton will be received at Rangpo (Sikkim-Bengal border) on July 18 after which it will be brought in a convoy till Chitray in Kalimpong subdivision. Well-known sports personalities will run for a kilometre with the baton from Chitray to Teesta Bazar from where it will be brought to Batasia.
“Members of different communities like the Tamangs, Rais and the Sherpas in their traditional dresses will line up from Teesta to Batasia. Welcome arches will be erected all along the route,” said Pasang Bal, the district information and culture officer.
A 6-km marathon from Batasia will end at Gymkhana Club in Darjeeling where a cultural programme showcasing the traditional dances — like snow lion and yak dances — will be organised from 6pm. “Darjeeling hills is a melting pot of all communities and this aspect will be displayed. Only traditional songs and dances will be performed during the function,” said Bal.
The baton was initially scheduled to reach Darjeeling on July 17 and was supposed to leave for Guwahati the next day. “However, there has been a change of plan and the baton will be kept in Siliguri on July 19 before it flies off the next day,” the official added.
Kurseong will also have its tryst with the historic event as a marathon run is being planned from the tourist lodge there to the railway station. A list of sportspersons who will be allowed to “touch” the baton has already been sent to the organisers of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and a final list is expected soon.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has promised to ensure that the Queen’s Baton relay is a smooth affair. This means that agitation like closure of government offices is being ruled out till July 19.
The relay was flagged off from Buckingham Palace in the presence of President Pratibha Patil on October 29 to mark the curtain raiser for the Commonwealth Games.
Growth mantra at time of Morcha lull – Ministers rattle of development projects for hills q Statehood campaign focus in Dooars – too little too late, but ‘Thank You’ anyway, if it can at all ever become a reality ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
July 2: Two Bengal ministers went up to the Darjeeling hills with development mantra on their lips at a time the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is making conciliatory gestures as part of a damage control exercise to redeem its image.
Municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya announced in Darjeeling town today a slew of development projects for the region. In Kalimpong this morning, the minister of state for public works, Dasarath Tirkey, said that the government was “committed to the welfare of the hills”. (by inaugurating a Tagore statue after a bypass road ?!!)
Bhattacharya, the CPM MLA from Siliguri, was on his first “official” visit to Darjeeling since 2007, when the Morcha came into being.
Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council administrator and Morcha bete noire B.L. Meena also visited the hill station with the minister after a long absence. Meena had been operating out of Pintail Village, on the outskirts of Siliguri. Bhattacharya, however, said he had instructed Meena to work from Darjeeling, one of demands of the hill people.
“Governance has to be (re-)established in the hills,” Bhattacharya said, giving the green light to a host of projects for which the hills have been agitating for almost a decade.
“Recruitment of teachers in schools has not taken place for a long time. The School Service Commission has remained defunct (from 2000 because former DGHC chairman Subash Ghisingh was opposed to it) here. There are 753 vacancies in primary schools and 300 in the secondary sections. We will form an ad-hoc recruitment committee and the process will start within two months,” said Bhattacharya.
“The ad hoc committee will comprise district officials only,” Bhattacharya said. He said the demands of 895 casual teachers for permanent job status would also be looked into.
Funds no longer seem to be a problem for the Darjeeling hills (see chart). (any wonder why ?!!) “The DGHC has been directed to start renovating the Mirik lake with Rs 1 crore in the first phase. The total funds sanctioned for Mirik is Rs 3 crore,” said Bhattacharya. Around 50km from Darjeeling, Mirik is a tourism hotspot.
The minister has directed the district administration to simplify the process of issuing SC/ST certificates and immediately release the compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to families of those killed in landslides. He also said arrangements for distribution of patta (land rights) — to those who have lost land to landslides — would be expedited. “An additional Rs 1 crore will also be sanctioned for construction of houses damaged by Cyclone Aila,” said Bhattacharya.
The minister’s new-found enthusiasm for the hills, however, has raised a few eyebrows.
“With the Morcha in the backfoot, the government thinks it can make its presence felt in the hills. It is surprising that the minister announced so many projects in one sitting, while the same were stonewalled by the state when the demands had been made earlier,” said a resident of Darjeeling.
The Morcha had to face a backlash after ABGL chief Madan Tamang was murdered in May. Although the public fury was contained, Bimal Gurung’s party has been treading carefully, avoiding confrontation with the administration. It had cut short its indefinite strike in the hills last month and had also removed the Gorkhaland Personnel from some of the DGHC properties it had been occupying after Meena filed FIRs.
Today, the Morcha announced that it had decided to suspend the two-hour road blockades that it had been organising since Monday.
At this juncture, it is easier for the state government to try and get a toehold in the hills.
Bhattacharya refuted the allegation that the CPM was trying to make its presence felt at the time when the Morcha has relaxed its agitation. “My party has hardly any presence here. I have come here for development. There is no need for me to be visible,” he told a media conference at the circuit house. Earlier, Bhattacharya had held a meeting with the administrative officials.
In Kalimpong, Tirkey laid the foundation stone of the 16-kilometre bypass that will connect Seventh Mile to Deolo. Vehicles bound for places other than Kalimpong will not have to enter the town once the Rs 24-crore bypass is constructed.
“There must be peace in the hills. The state government will do all it can to ensure the speedy development of the region,” Tirkey said at the programme.
CPM reforms promise in Morcha citadel – can Asok live upto it or just typically Bengal true lies ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
July 2: Promise of development on their lips, two Left Front ministers today reached the Darjeeling hills at a time the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is making conciliatory gestures as part of a damage-control exercise to redeem its image.
Municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya today announced in Darjeeling town a slew of development projects for the region. In Kalimpong, the minister of state for public works, Dasarath Tirkey, said the government was “committed to the welfare of the hills”.
Bhattacharya, the CPM MLA from Siliguri, was on his first “official” visit to Darjeeling since 2007, when the Morcha was formed.
“Governance has to be established in the hills,” Bhattacharya said, giving the green light to a host of projects for which the hills have been agitating for almost a decade.
“Recruitment of schoolteachers has not taken place for a long time. The School Service Commission has been lying defunct here. We will form an ad hoc recruitment committee and the process will start within two months,” Bhattacharya said.
The minister said “the DGHC has been asked to renovate the Mirik lake”. He said Rs 3 crore has been sanctioned for the project. (See chart)
Bhattacharya has directed the district administration to simplify the process of issuing certificates to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The flood of promises has raised a few eyebrows in the hills. “With the Morcha on the backfoot, the government thinks it can make its presence felt in the hills. It is surprising that the minister announced so many projects together though the same were stonewalled by the state when the demands had been made earlier,” said a Darjeeling resident.
The Morcha had faced a public backlash after the daylight murder of Gorkha leader Madan Tamang, for which the hill outfit has been blamed. Bimal Gurung’s party has been avoiding confrontation with the administration since the May murder. Bhattacharya denied the allegation that the CPM was trying to take advantage of the Morcha’s soft stance. “My party has hardly any presence here. I have come here for development,” he said.
Tirkey today laid the foundation of the bypass that will connect tourist hotspots Seventh Mile and Deolo in Kalimpong.
Asok wants separate SSC for Hills – but is that what the Hill people want, far removed from ground reality; lost in the trees to see the forest ?!!
From The Statesman
SILIGURI, 2 JULY, 2010: Visiting Darjeeling for the second time in two-months, the state urban development minister Mr Asok Bhattacharya today assured to push for a separate school service commission for the Hills. Also, the minister has promised facilitating the revival of the dormant primary school council in Darjeeling in a month’s time.
As of now, Darjeeling Hills does not come under the purview of the state School Service Commission (SSC) that regulates appoint of secondary teachers across West Bengal.
“Since the Darjeeling Hills is not covered by the SSC, a large number of teaching posts in the secondary schools here are laying vacant for a long time, impeding the growth of education in the Hills. Hence, I, along with our Rajya Sabha MP (Mr) Saman Pathak, have decided to impress upon the state education minister to come up with a separate SSC for Darjeeling in next two months time. Also, we would urge the education minister to revive the primary education council in Darjeeling and start filling up the vacant posts at the earliest possible,” Mr Bhattacharya said on returning from the Hills visit.
The urban development minister and the MP would call upon the education minister Mr Partha De in Kolkata on 7 July over the issues.
Mr Bhattacharya visited Darjeeling for the second time in two-months today and held a two-hour long administrative meeting at the Darjeeling circuit house with the district magistrate, the IG of police, the SP, DGHC administrator, the SDO Sadar and others. The last time he visited the Hill town was on 28 May, to offer condolence to the bereaved family of assassinated Madan Tamang.
As per observers, the frequent visits are an indication of the CPI-M’s effort to regain lost footing in the Darjeeling Hills as the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha’s (GJMM) grip seems to be loosening.
FROM THE PLAINS OF DARJEELING
Plan to woo Terai Adivasis – by Bengal or the Morcha for its continued neglect – the news slant not shameless ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, July 2: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s Terai branch committee has decided to woo the tribals of the region to support it’s statehood demand, a day after the Adivasis met the state chief secretary to press for Sixth Schedule status for the Dooars and Terai.
“The state government has started a campaign against our party for delaying the next level of tripartite meeting and it is trying to misguide the tribals against us,” said Shankar Adhikary, the chief convener of the Morcha’s Terai branch committee, after the meeting at Milanmore, about 10km from here, today.
“We have decided to organise our campaign in the rural and tea garden areas across the Terai, telling people about the benefits they will get once the region is included in Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh,” Adhikary said.
Parishad state general secretary Tezkumar Toppo, however, refused to say much on the Morcha move. “I have nothing to say about their campaign. Our supporters are not going with them,” he said.
Call to end ‘confusion’ – power comes from the barrel of confusion or simply misinformation ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, July 2: The Trinamul Congress today demanded that the Congress should end the “confusing situation” in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation by “formally” inviting it to participate in the “decision making process”.
“We have expressed solidarity with the Congress-led board in March-end. Though three months have passed, we have not been formally invited by the Congress to support the board,” Gautam Deb, the district Trinamul president, said over the phone from Calcutta.
“Our state leaders have made it clear to us that we should get out of this confusing situation. In Siliguri, everybody is of the notion that the SMC is run by the Congress-Trinamul combine, while we are nowhere in the decision-making process. It is uncomfortable for us and we want to get rid of it.”
Deb, who claimed he had discussed the matter with Union minister Mukul Roy and some state other leaders in Calcutta, said: “It is not possible for us to extend support in such an informal way for an indefinite period,” he said.
On March 30, Deb said, the the Congress had promised that the mayor and the chairperson would step down, the board would be dissolved and then, on the basis of mutual discussion between the two parties, the office-bearers would be re-elected. “But till date, not a single step has been taken by the Congress,” said Deb, who is also the Trinamul leader at the SMC.
Since the formation of the civic board by the Congress, the Left Front has been formally declared as the Opposition party by mayor Gangotri Datta. Trinamul, however, has neither extended its support in writing to the board, nor has it disassociated with it. But there have been instances when Trinamul councillors have opposed the measures taken by the chairperson or the mayor.
The Congress mayor refused to say much on the Trinamul move. “We cannot comment as the decision has to be taken by our party,” Datta said. “We will follow whatever instructions are given to us.”
Observers believe that Trinamul with 14 councillors — one has resigned on Wednesday — wants to mount pressure on the Congress. In case it does not support the board, the Congress will have to seek Left support — like it had done it during the election to the mayor and the chairperson’s posts in October — to save the board. Or else, the board will be dissolved.
“In both cases, Trinamul will reap the benefit. If the Congress listens to Trinamul and asks the mayor and the chairperson to step down, the board will be dissolved automatically. The party can then have a hold on the board,” an observer said. “On the other hand, if Trinamul withdraws support and the Congress seeks the Left support, Trinamul can highlight the Congress’s alleged hobnobbing with the Left a few months before the Assembly polls.”
State to set up new BSF frontier – closing the barn door now, how effective ?!!
From The Statesman
SILIGURI, 2 JULY, 2010 (SNS): In order to check infiltration and to ensure more security along India-Bangladesh border the state will set up a new BSF Frontier in central West Bengal, a senior BSF official said today.
“A senior BSF official has already been posted as IG in Malda to ready basic infrastructures for setting up another Frontier named ‘Malda Frontier’ which will tentatively start functioning by October this year”, the Inspector General of BSF, South Bengal Frontier, Mr CV Murlidhar, said over phone from Kolkata. “The objective of this new frontier is to ensure more security along the border”, Mr Murlidhar said.
With the new frontier the state will be getting more battalion of BSF. According to BSF officials, at present the state has 36-battalion of BSF working along the border but after formation of the new Malda Frontier it will be getting at least 12 to 14 battalion. It be noted that many stretches of the border are porous where authorities could not complete fencing in low laying and riverin areas to check border crime and infiltration.
Under the new frontier BSF authorities will create more sector offices in the Central West Bengal comprising some districts including Murshidabad, Malda and two Dinajpurs.
At present the BSF has one sector office at Narayanpur in Malda, under South Bengal Frontier, to monitor a part of this district and a large part of South Dinajpur district. However, Berhampore sector office in Murshidabad controls more than three blocks in Malda area. A part of North Dinajpur district, which is under the control of the North Bengal Frontier, may come up under Malda Frontier.
Senior BSF officials are working to demarcate the jurisdiction of a new frontier and in search of a suitable place for setting up its new office of Malda Frontier near Malda town.
MEANWHILE IN BRIEFS FROM THE TELEGRAPH
Rescued girls back at home
Malda, July 2: Seven tribal girls aged between 18 and 20 were handed over to their families today after they were rescued from New Delhi and brought back to Malda yesterday.
A gang of traffickers had sold the girls to an agency in Delhi by luring them with lucrative job offers in October 2008. The girls were working as domestic helps at different houses in Delhi. On the basis of a complaint by one of the trafficked girl’s mother, Gangaram Murmu and his wife Malati had been arrested from Habbibpur on June 21. The girls had been taken to Delhi by Malati. But after the girls left with Malati, their parents lost all contact with them. The girls said they had been tortured physically and mentally in Delhi
Calcutta: Justice Maharaja Sinha of Calcutta High Court on Thursday directed the district magistrate of South Dinajpur to produce before him by July 12 all documents relating to Balurghat Lok Sabha election last year. The order was given on a petition by Trinamul Congress candidate Biplab Mitra, who had lost the election to Prasanta Majumdar of the RSP. He alleged that unfair means had been adopted during the counting of votes.
Siliguri: The NBSTC has changed its schedule for long distance bus services on July 4 because of an all-India transport strike the next day. Siliguri-Jaigaon-Calcutta and Siliguri-Calcutta (AC) buses will leave Tenzing Norgey Central Bus Terminus at 2.30pm and 3pm respectively. Also, the buses bound for Bankura, Tata Jamshedpur, Asansol and Krishnagar will leave the terminus at 2pm, 12 noon, 3pm and 6pm.
Siliguri: Some Calcutta-bound trains will be diverted because of maintenance work on tracks on July 4. The Sealdah-bound 2344 Darjeeling Mail on July 4 will be diverted through Howrah. The NJP-bound 2343 Darjeeling Mail will leave Howrah at 11.10pm. The Sealdah-bound 3154 Gour Express will be diverted to Calcutta station on July 4. The 3153 Gour Express will leave Calcutta station the same evening.