GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DETERIORATION: Limping hill railway thrown off tracks – Double blow to toy train: losses and morcha strike – situation fast deteriorating under Bengal, will get far worse before it gets any better ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, July 6: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s call for indefinite closure of government offices from today has dashed the hopes of tourists looking forward to rides on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway that has been suffering from an annual average loss of Rs 4 crore for the past few years.
“We had come to Darjeeling hearing that the indefinite strike had been called off. A ride on the world famous toy train was first on our itinerary. So, we thought that we would book our tickets for a ride to Kurseong, realising little that the closure of offices included the DHR too. But at the station we were told that all toy train services have been suspended,” Tulika Sahay, a tourist from Patna, told The Telegraph over the phone from Darjeeling. The Sahays arrived in Darjeeling on Sunday on a week-long vacation.
A group of five tourists from the UK who had experienced rides on the other two world heritage railways of India — Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Kalka Shimla Railway — had planned to wrap up their trip to India with a DHR ride. “We arrived in Siliguri today and got to know of this office strike which includes the DHR too. We are staying here throughout this week and hope the strike is withdrawn so that we can enjoy a ride in the toy train,” Evie Hone, a girl from the group, said.
The heritage hill railway service was limping back to normality after the indefinite strike called by the Morcha for four days from June 19. Of late, the tourists were availing themselves of the rides but the sudden call for closure of offices has suspended the toy train services completely.
“The occupancy of services was around 60 to 70 per cent, if not full, in the past week. It means around 60 passengers took the trains in the Kurseong-Darjeeling sector, while around 40 availed themselves of the joyride between Ghoom and Darjeeling. Some people have also made advance bookings. Now we have no option but to refund their money. The DHR is incurring a loss of Rs 4 crore a year,” a DHR source said.
The DHR authorities have adopted a “wait and watch policy”. “We will wait and watch for a few days before approaching the Morcha to request it to keep the DHR out of the purview of the office closure,” director P.P. Roy said.
Shutdown threat to Tata gardens – tribal trade union wants suspended workers back – ABAVP in blackmail Tata mode, risking their own future ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, July 6: The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad has threatened to shut down the four gardens of Tata Tea in the Dooars if eight suspended workers of one of the estates are not reinstated in the next few days.
The threat comes amid the growing clout of the tribal outfit, which has been making inroads into the Dooars and the Terai displacing the older trade unions like Citu and Intuc, and the garden management’s determination to stick to its decision.
Leading a group of 50-odd workers, the leaders of the tribal outfit and its trade union, the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union, today demonstrated at the deputy labour commissioner’s (DLC) office in Jalpaiguri, demanding immediate discussions. They denied that the suspended workers — six of them women — had assaulted the medical officer of Nowera Nuddy garden in August last year.
“We have requested the DLC in writing to arrange for a tripartite meeting (between the labour department, trade union and management),” said Suresh Oraon, the tribal trade union’s garden president. “The accused workers, including six women, had been suspended in a biased manner. We want them to be reinstated immediately.”
Uttam Lohar, the unit president of the Parishad at Nowera Nuddy with 922 permanent workers, said the outfit would launch a movement if its demands were not met.
“During the inquiry conducted by a one-man panel appointed by the management, the accused workers did not get a chance to present their case,” Lohar said. “If they are not reinstated in the next few days, we will launch a movement against the management and close down the garden.
“We will ask the workers of the other tea estates owned by the same management (Tata Tea) to support us. We might stop work in these estates, too, if our demands are not met,” he added.
On August 10 last year, the management of Nowera Nuddy in Jalpaiguri’s Malbazar had suspended the eight workers on charges of assaulting the garden’s medical officer R.K. Ratan Singh and ransacking the dispensary. The doctor had not issued maternity leave to a pregnant worker, the workers had alleged. The management had cited lawlessness to shut down the garden, which opened on August 28 after a tripartite meeting between the workers, garden officials and the labour department in Jalpaiguri. But the eight workers were suspended for organising the attack and an inquiry was started against them. The tribal trade union had at that time not yet been recognised by the labour department although its popularity had started rising. Rather the August talks were attended by both Citu and Intuc and the West Bengal Cha Mazdoor Sabha.
But contrary to the decision arrived at in the meeting, the suspended eight forcibly joined duty under the leadership of the Parishad. This prompted the management to close down the garden once more on September 14. After several rounds of talks, work resumed on December 12 and since then, the garden had been functioning normally. The tribal union had not participated in the December talks either, as recognition was yet to come but its parent organisation, the Parishad, continued to support the accused workers.
“The inquiry was conducted by someone who never heard the workers. He submitted the report on April 10 this year which reached us on June 18. The management, on the basis of this report, upheld the decision of suspension which we want to be withdrawn immediately,” Lohar said.
The garden management, however, is determined to keep the workers under suspension till necessary action is taken against them.
“The decision to suspend them was taken on the basis of a consensus at the tripartite meeting held in December last year,” said Prabir Bhattacharjee, the secretary of the Dooars Branch of Indian Tea Association of which Tata Tea is a member. “According to the rules, the accused workers had been suspended during the inquiry. Now that the report is with the management, it is for them to decide what steps would be taken against those found guilty of assaulting the medical officer and ransacking his office.”
Sources in the tea industry said measures against the workers could range from sacking them to stopping their annual increment and obtaining written undertakings.
Power trouble for 500 houses – not to mention Kalimpong, Kurseong and Darjeeling too ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Balurghat, July 6: About 500 houses in Daralhat are having to do without power for almost two weeks now with the two transformers that supplied electricity to these households lying idle.
With no electricity in the area the residents are not being able to store water in the tanks as the pumps are not working.
Tempers are not yet flying because temperatures are not so high, but with most missing out on the World Cup matches, there is no guarantee that peace shall reign.
One of the transformers of the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited was struck by lightning 17 days ago and the other, 500 metres away, had caught fire 14 days ago.
Since then, the houses that used to receive power from these two transformers, have plunged into darkness.
Most of the residents are queuing up at nearby tube wells to collect drinking water. For household work, most have to rely on water fetched from ponds.
“The pump in our house is not working. It is very inconvenient to carry water from the ponds and the tube wells everyday,” said Pradip Sarkar.
Residents of Daralhat, 15km from here, alleged that the staff at the local power department office at Tapan had asked for bribe to carry out the repairs.
Today, the members of a local club along with some affected residents set up a blockade on the Balurghat-Daralhat road in protest. The blockade that began around 10am was withdrawn an hour later.
“We are facing immense hardships and added to that is the ongoing World Cup that we are unable to watch. Some of us go to our relatives’ houses elsewhere to watch the matches in the evenings. But the late night matches are missed by most,” said Subhas Mondol, a member of Daralhat Yuva Sangha. He said the club had hired a generator tonight to watch the semifinals between Uruguay and the Netherlands.
“The panchayat offices, health centres, schools and markets here are without power for more than 15 days now,” said Shamsul Haque Chowdhury, a teacher of the local high madrasa.
“We have been talking to the panchayat and zilla parishad members but they have not done anything yet. We are going to launch an intense agitation if nothing is done in a day or two,” he added.
Yesterday, some residents met the zilla parishad member, Biplab Sarkar, and demanded a solution to the problem.
“I have spoken to the officials at the Tapan office. They have said there is a problem with the transformers and they will look into the matter immediately,” he claimed.
However, Abhijit Chanda, divisional engineer (electrical) of the power department, said he was unaware of the situation.
“No one has informed me about the problem yet. I am asking for a report and will look into the matter,” he said.
Microsoft tie-up with IT academy – first to get the power & political situation right, or to install massive inverters ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Alipurduar, July 6: The Dooars Academy of Technology and Management has tied up with Microsoft India to launch its IT Academy Programme for the first time in north Bengal.
Mayank Gandhi, the company’s programme manager for India, was present at the academy here today when the programme was launched.
“The programme will help students access more than 1,500 Microsoft curricula free of cost and instructors can become Microsoft-certified trainers to give the latest technology-oriented training to students,” said Gandhi.
He said the students will also be able to access the Microsoft reference library and they will have access to e-learning.
Kushal Moitra, the secretary of the academy, said the course would start from August this year.
He said the academy would provide loans to students from the backward classes if they get enrolled here.
Bison bikes help rescue boy – snatch wave or KLO infiltration or influence growing – vigilant bikers united ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Alipurduar, July 6: The six-year-old son of a Chopra businessman was rescued early this morning from the clutches of his kidnappers after a search that spread over two districts and more than 60 hours.
Members of Bison Club in Falakata chased the abductor’s car, but it almost overran two of them who tried to stop him by propping up their bikes on the route.
Srimanta Sarkar’s son Anup had been picked up by his employee Biswajit Biswas from school in Chopra on Saturday. Sarkar has a jewellery shop and a business in cable connections. Biswas had been working for him for the past eight months. When the boy could not be found and neither could Biswas, the family grew suspicious and filed an FIR against him.
Later at night, Biswas called up the family and asked for Rs 14 lakh as ransom.
The police tracked down Biswas’s position by tracking his calls. By Sunday evening, they were sure he was in Jalpaiguri district. By then Biswas’s friend Amar Das who had introduced him to Sarkar had been arrested and he disclosed how his bike had been used to carry away Anup. The school authorities had described Das’s bike to the police.
“We contacted our counterparts in Falakata and they did the rest. We rescued the boy but Biswas fled,” said Dilip Karmakar, the inspector in charge of Chopra police station.
The Falakata police had asked the local Bison Club to keep watch in the area. Biswas had asked Sarkar to meet him on a culvert in Falakata with the money. The family was ready with police escort in plainclothes. Smelling something amiss, Biswas, who came in a steel-coloured Maruti Omni, dropped Anup near the pre-arranged spot and sped away.
Members of Bison Club on motorcycles gave chase and tried to stop the car. At one point, the vehicle almost ran over Gopal Roy and Gobinda Das, who had blocked the route with their bikes. Both of them were injured and Roy was admitted to MJN Hospital in Cooch Behar in serious condition.
David Lepcha, the subdivisional police officer of Alipurduar, said: “The car fled but we are sure we will be able to identify it soon. The little of the number plate that we could read showed that it was a private vehicle from Siliguri.”
The car had gone towards Jaigaon near the Bhutan border.
Tableaux, human chain for baton – Siliguri snatching Darjeeling’s glory, Gorkhas denied, any wonder why ?!!
FROM THE TELEGhRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, July 6: Colourful tableaux and a human chain will welcome the Queen’s Baton when it arrives in Siliguri on July 19. A walk for Commonwealth Games is also being planned as an awareness campaign to receive the baton.
The baton for the 19th Commonwealth Games will reach Bagdogra on July 15 and will be kept in an army establishment in Siliguri for the night. Next morning, it will be taken to Gangtok and will reach Darjeeling two days later, sources in the Bengal Olympic Association said. The baton will come back to Siliguri on the return leg.
“Mantu Ghosh, a sports personality, will receive the baton at Sukna on July 19. She will be accompanied by other sportspersons who have played for the country,” urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya told reporters here today.
The minister held a meeting with the officials of the district administration, representatives of the BOA, Siliguri Municipal Corporation and the Siliguri Mahakuma Krira Parishad to discuss the arrangements.
“We are expecting the baton to be handed over to us at Sukna around 2.30pm. The sportspersons in small groups will carry the baton from Sukna to KanchenjungHa Stadium via Dagapur, Darjeeling More, Mallaguri, Air View More and Venus More, covering 15km. Tableaux and human chain will greet the baton on both sides of Hill Cart Road,” said Nantu Pal, the deputy mayor of the SMC. Students, teachers and sports-lovers of Siliguri will participate in the walk for Commonwealth Games to be organised in town on July 10.
“At the stadium, a programme by members from different communities depicting the rich cultural heritage of the region will be held to welcome the baton at 5.30pm. The baton will be kept in an open space in the stadium so that the people can see it,” Pal added.
Kamalesh Chatterjee, the general secretary of the BOA, said the baton would go to Guwahati on July 20.
MEANWHILE FROM THE PLAINS BELOW DARJEELING
Teenager arrested for water poisoning – vengeance a fallout of psychological frustration ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Malda, July 6: A teenager who was expelled by a high school four months ago for allegedly putting vermilion on the forehead of one of his classmates was today arrested on the charges of poisoning the water of a tube well of the institution. A Class VI student fell ill after drinking water.
Sushmita Mondal, the Class VI student of Ramakrishna Sikshaniketan High School at Chitkol in Gajole, 35km from here, has been admitted to the adjoining Hatimari block hospital in a serious condition.
The headmaster of the school, Sudipta Mitra, said the teenager who was studying in Class X had been handed a transfer certificate in March for putting vermilion on the forehead of one of his classmates. He mixed poison to the water pipeline of the school apparently to avenge his punishment.
Today, Mitra said he had noticed a hand-written chit near the tube well that read: “I am Kulesh Mondal. I have mixed poison with the water pipeline to kill all the students to avenge the insult on my daughter.”
The headmaster grew suspicious and alerted the students by ringing the school bell and announcing that no one should drink water from the tube well. “But before the alert was sounded, some of them might have taken water,” Mitra said.
Mitra compared the hand writing of the chit with school records and became sure that the mischief was committed by the expelled student.
By then, the villagers rushed to the teenager’s house. Sensing trouble, the boy tried to flee by catching a train, but was caught at the Gajole station, police said. The mob locked him for more than five hours in a classroom of the school. When the police arrived, the mob heckled the law enforcers and gheraoed them also. Block development officer of Gajole Azmal Hossain and a police reinforcement later rescued the boy and the men in khaki.
The BDO said the villagers were angry with the boy. “We managed to pacify the crowd by assuring them that exemplary punishment would be meted out to the boy.”
Additional district superintendent of police Kalyan Mukhopadhyay said the boy had been arrested. “We are trying to ascertain the age of the boy. If he is a minor, we shall send him to a juvenile court.”