GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE: ABGL meet without hurdle – nor that large an audience, just over 50 curious onlookers ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Darjeeling, Aug. 13: The ABGL organised a meeting in Kurseong today after its efforts to hold political programmes in the hills had been scuttled twice in the past fortnight by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
The last meeting held by the ABGL was at Kaijhalay in Bijanbari block in mid-July. Since then, no meeting could be organised by the oldest party in the hills, as the Morcha or its frontal organisations called strikes to synchronise with the ABGL’s programmes.
The ABGL had planned a meeting at Sukhiapokhri on July 30, but it was postponed after the Morcha had called a general strike on the same day. Although the Morcha had not said directly that it would not allow the ABGL to hold public meetings, the message was very clear when Bimal Gurung’s party had called the strike at Sukhiapokhri “to maintain peace in the region”.
The ABGL cancelled the meeting at the last moment and instead, announced a similar programme in Kurseong on August 10.
However, the Kurseong meeting, too, had to be postponed with the Morcha-affiliated Janmukti Chalak Mahasangh, a union of transporters, deciding to call a general strike on August 10 to protest against the delay in repairing NH55 and the rise in the prices of essential food commodities.
“We are determined to hold public meeting across the hills in the days to come,” Dawa Sherpa, the working president of the ABGL, told the gathering in Kurseong.
Most of the leaders spoke against the interim set-up at the meeting, saying it was not the demand of the general public. “Interim set-up is not something that the people have longed. It is a demand made by a particular party and not by the public. So, if it is implemented, it should be kept by the party to themselves,” said Sherpa.
“We are only opposing those people who have lied to the public, have misused mid-day meals funds and have terrorised the common people,” said Sherpa.
The meeting was also attended by Bharati Tamang, the widow of slain ABGL leader Madan Tamang. “I am sad that all those involved in the murder of my husband have not yet been booked. I will continue the fight for justice no matter how long it takes,” said Bharati Tamang, who is also the president of the party.
Subash seeks special status on hill deal eve – old n toothless ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, Aug. 13: Subash Ghisingh has made a last ditch attempt to get Delhi to confer the Sixth Schedule status on the Darjeeling hills, warning the Centre and the state that any other administrative arrangement would force the GNLF to revive its original demand for Gorkhaland.
Ghisingh, who once lorded over the hills, submitted memorandums to the Prime Minister, home minister, finance minister and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on August 10 during his visit to the capital. Copies have also been forwarded to the governor and the chief minister of the state.
The GNLF’s effort comes at a time when there are indications that the Centre is trying to ink a pact for an interim authority with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha by August 31, sources said.
Arguing his case for special status, Ghisingh said during pre-Independence the Darjeeling hills along with the Khasi, Garo, Jayantia and the Mizo hills had been classified as a “backward tract”, “non-regulated area” and “partially excluded area”. “After Independence, only the north-east of India got justice under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution,” the letter reads.
Ghisingh said the interim set-up being thought of for the Darjeeling hills is already in place since a memorandum of understanding for the Sixth Schedule was signed between the Centre, state and the GNLF on December 6, 2005. The GNLF has also cited the resolution adopted by the Assembly in favour of the Sixth Schedule on March 16, 2006, and the presentation made by 22 state legislators before the parliamentary standing committee in support of the special status.
“The whole episode of the past peaceful and amicable settlement of 1988 (for the formation of DGHC where the GNLF had agreed to drop the demand for Gorkhaland) and 2005 will come to a tragic end, automatically opening the door for the GNLF to revive its original demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland,” Ghisingh said.
Hill tour project shelved – for the hills, plains or the entire region ?!!
FROM THE TELEGAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, Aug. 13: The Ambuja Group has put on hold a tourism project planned in association with the world famous Makaibari Tea Estate because of the political turmoil in the Darjeeling hills.
“It is true that we had planned a tourism project in Makaibari Tea Estate in association with the garden management. However, we have put the project on hold because of the present political situation in the hills. The plan is ready but it will take some time for us to put in place the infrastructure and make the project operational,” Harsh Neotia, the chairman of Ambuja Realty Development Limited, said here today.
The hills plunged into political uncertainty ever since the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha revived the agitation for a separate state two years ago. As strikes and violence became the order of the day, tourism took a beating with domestic and international visitors reluctant to come to the hills.
Sources said according to the project conceived jointly by Neotia and owner of the estate Rajah Banerjee, a resort would be developed on 24 acres of land. The resort will cater for both domestic and international tourists and the developers hope the globally-known Makaibari brand and the garden’s location will work as USPs.
Neotia said the group had also plans to launch a project at Lataguri on the fringes of Gorumara National Park in the Dooars. “Around Rs 25 crore will be invested in the two tourism projects in north Bengal,” he said.
In Makaibari, sources said, Ambuja would present the concept of a leisure hotel in the form of “kutir” or cottage, much like the Ganga Kutir developed by the company at Raichak, 50km from Calcutta.
The chairman said the group wanted both the projects to be completed together. “Unlike in the hills, there is no political strife as such in the Dooars. But our idea is to create a tourism circuit in north Bengal. We intend to stick to that plan and will develop both the properties simultaneously. We are waiting for improvement in the situation in the hills and will definitely implement both the projects,” said Neotia. He was addressing a news conference to announce the setting-up of the third City Centre at the Uttarayon Township in Matigara.
“We will be bringing in new and top notch brands like Shoppers Stop, Spencer’s, KFC and Crossword to the City Centre for the residents of Siliguri and neighbouring areas,” said Neotia. “Also, the Big Cinemas will open a four-screen multiplex with a capacity to accommodate 1,000 people.” He added that City Centre Siliguri would be opened in December.
The real estate major has two City Centres in Bengal and both are in Calcutta.
“More than 5,000 people would be employed at the City Centre that we hope will develop as a hub of economic activity in north Bengal,” said Neotia.
Poor rural power rap for NTPC – with a knuckle duster, while Bengal or the Centre sits and earns bank interest ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Raiganj, Aug. 13: Bengal power minister Nirupam Sen today took the NTPC to task for completing only eight per cent of a central project for rural electrification in North Dinajpur and asked the power company to finish the work by the year-end.
The minister reviewed the progress of the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana with officials of the NTPC and the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited in the presence of the district magistrates of South and North Dinajpurs.
Four ministers from the twin districts and the zilla parishad sabhadhipatis were also present in the meeting held at Karnojora multipurpose hall.
Sen said the NTPC had been entrusted with the Rs 144 crore rural electrification job in October 2008 and asked the power major to complete it within 18 months.
“Even though 22 months have elapsed, the NTPC could complete a meagre eight per cent of the job. This is ridiculous. The NTPC authorities could not give any satisfactory reply for the poor performance,” Sen said.
The minister said it transpired from today’s discussion that the NTPC had given “sub contract” to some other organisations. “But it did not monitor the work. I have told the NTPC officials to complete the job by December 31. If required, they will have to strengthen their infrastructure and engage efficient engineers,” Sen said.
Sources said the district administration and the zilla parishad officials would have another round of meeting with the NTPC on August 19.
Till July 16, the electrification in 107 of the total 1,342 mouzas could be completed in North Dinajpur.