GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Key posts bear Trinamul boycott brunt

GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Key posts bear Trinamul boycott brunt – and a few more nails in the CPM political coffin ?!!

Partha Chatterjee - consolidating power without bias for the good of all Bengal and its people ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY BARUN GHOSH AND SOUMEN BHATTACHARJEE

Calcutta, Sept. 29: The politics of non-cooperation has apparently thrown the process of nominating the heads of two key government posts into uncertainty.

Leader of the Opposition Partha Chatterjee, of the Trinamul Congress, has decided to stay away from two meetings on Friday to finalise the appointment of the state chief information commissioner and the chairperson of the state human rights commission, apparently because the chief minister will be present.

According to rules, a three-member committee consisting the chief minister, a cabinet minister nominated by him and the leader of the Opposition selects the chief information commissioner. The head of the human rights commission is nominated by the chief minister, the Assembly Speaker and the leader of the Opposition. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will chair the meetings to nominate the two commission heads in his Assembly chamber.

But in keeping with Trinamul’s avowed stand of boycotting meetings and events attended by Bhattacharjee, whom Mamata Banerjee has dubbed the “architect of state-sponsored terrorism”, Chatterjee has decided not to attend Friday’s meetings.

However, Chatterjee, who has been sent an invite to attend the meetings, said he would not be present because the Assembly elections were round the corner and the task of nominating the officials should be left to the next government.

“I will not participate in either of the two meetings because I think the task should be left to the government that will assume charge after next year’s Assembly elections. With less than seven months to go for the elections, Buddhababu’s government should not do anything in haste,” Chatterjee said.

He seemed unfazed when told a delay in making the key appointments would jeopardise the functioning of the two commissions. “Only seven months are left for the next Assembly polls,” he iterated.

A state home department official said: “It will be impossible to appoint the heads of the two commissions without the presence of the leader of the Opposition.”

The tenure of the former chief information commissioner, Arun Bhattacharya, ended on August 31. The term of the acting chairman of the state human rights commission, Justice Narayan Chandra Sil, a former Calcutta High Court judge, ends on October 5.

Chatterjee had also boycotted a meeting convened in July to appoint the chief information commissioner. Governor M.K. Narayanan had suggested another meeting after the government informed him about the Trinamul leader’s decision.

A state information commission official said around 30 appeals were submitted daily to the panel. Over 1,000 cases are yet to be disposed of, he added.

“We receive applications from people every day, but they are not being disposed of,” the official said.

Several applicants complained they were facing problems getting information on various government activities.

“At present, the information commission is not legally valid because the post of the commissioner is vacant,” said Saroj Khettry, the president of an NGO that deals with right to information issues.

Similarly, if the chairman of the humans rights commission is not appointed before October 5, people will not be able to get justice in cases concerning violation of human rights by the law-enforcing agencies, an official said.

State urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said several development projects, including those under the centrally sponsored Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, could not be implemented in the Opposition-run civic bodies because of Trinamul’s “non-co-operation”.

“The Opposition runs nearly 90 of the 126 civic boards. Development work in all the 90 boards is being affected because of the Opposition’s non-cooperation. They refuse to attend meetings to discuss the implementation of development schemes,” he said.

Civic ‘honeymoon’ ends – the ‘commie-congie’ nexus now at odds ?!!

Trinamul Congress councillors throw away documents at the civic board meeting in Siliguri on Wednesday. (Kundan Yolmo) - a Bengal culture of fish market style disruption with no other more dignified and civil alternatives ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Siliguri, Sept. 29: The Trinamul Congress today walked out of the meeting of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation declaring that the “honeymoon with the Congress was over”, in a repetition of what it did a year ago.

The board meeting that began at 1pm and marred by protests concluded with Trinamul councillors walking out of the room four hours later. On October 1 last year, the Trinamul councillors had left the meeting after losing the elections to the posts of mayor and chairperson after the CPM voted in favour of the Congress nominees.

“The Congress-led board is functioning with a tacit understanding with the Left Front. We had extended informal solidarity on the basis of a negotiation on March 30 but could not carry on any further as the board is indulging in corruption. We feel the honeymoon with the Congress is over now,” said Gautam Deb, the Darjeeling district Trinamul president and party leader at the SMC. “We were silent since March 30 for the sake of the alliance. But now we want to make it clear that unless the Congress renews the negotiation process by dissolving the present board, we will abstain from extending support.”

According to political observers, the Trinamul move is expected as the Congress leadership, despite repeated reminders from its ally, has been running the board alone. The Left, although the principal opposition, has not brought any no-confidence motion against the board as a strategy to widen the rift between the two parties.

“After Mamata Banerjee’s recent visit when she had specifically ruled out joining the board unless the Congress severed ties with the CPM, such a reaction from Trinamul was expected. It will further help the party raise allegations on the CPM-Congress nexus,” an observer said.

Today, the trouble began when Trinamul councillor Ranjan Silsharma alleged that no steps were taken against an SMC employee accused of misappropriating funds nine months ago. He was joined by Deb and Krishna Pal, who pointed out that although there was no building committee at the SMC, the civic board was approving site and building plans in every meeting.

Mayor Gangotri Datta tried to reply to the charges but failed to satisfy them. By then, the Trinamul councillors raised their voices, prompting Sujoy Ghatak, the member, mayor-in-council (conservancy), to ask the protesters to stop passing comments. This infuriated the Trinamul councillors who flung the reports of previous board meetings in the air and walked out.

The mayor later said what the Trinamul councillors did today was an attempt to malign the board’s image. “If they have complaints against the board, they should place them in a proper manner.”

Opposition leader in the SMC Nurul Islam said the councillors, being responsible public representatives, should behave “properly”.

EARLIER

Mamata tour benefited both, says Morcha – Party withdraws fast for Nickole Tamang – but even a small humanitarian gesture from Bengal’s next CM, our  Mamata Didi would have done wonders for her own image of empathy, which is clear of the Bengal empathy for a just Gorkha Human Rights cause ?!!

Nickole Tamang’s mother offers juice to a Morcha supporter to end the fast. (Suman Tamang) - Now a question of Amnesty International's Cause of Human Rights and confirmation of Nicole's Gorkha Cause of separation from Bengal's uncaring rule, accused by Bengal and the ABGL accusers, while made to disappear by Bengal's CID before being sentenced as guilty - murdered in custody or a strange escapee ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI

Darjeeling, Sept. 28: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today said Mamata Banerjee’s visit had been “mutually beneficial” and her proposal to set up a secretariat in the hills was on the lines of the party’s demand for an interim set-up for the region.

Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the spokesperson for the Morcha, today said: “The visit has been mutually beneficial. The message is we are ready to welcome any leader willing to listen to us. This also proves that our agitation is not against any community.”

Chhetri said Mamata, too, would benefit from the visit as she was able to come to Darjeeling where no Left Front leaders had dared to in recent times, hinting that it would be a slap on the face of her arch rival, the CPM. The Left party is also the bete noire of the Morcha, which had once forced the CPM to cancel a meeting in Darjeeling that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was supposed to attend in November 2007.

On the proposal for a secretariat in Darjeeling, Chhetri said: “The offer for a secretariat is on the lines of our demand for an interim set-up. If our people do not have to travel far to get their problems addressed it will definitely do us good.”

As expected, the Morcha refused to accept that Gorkhaland could not be achieved. When reminded that Mamata had underlined her stand to keep the state united, Chhetri said: “The success of the demand (for statehood) will depend on our agitation and not on who is supporting us or not. The demand is legitimate and it is achievable.”

Roshan Giri, general secretary of the Morcha, thanked Mamata for the railway initiatives she announced yesterday. “She has agreed to all our demands. But we want speedy implementation of the projects or else, it would be another betrayal. However, we are hopeful that Mamata will keep her promises.”

On the Morcha’s decision to skirt the Gorkhaland issue during the meeting with Mamata, Chhetri said: “She had visited Darjeeling as a Union minister and we were more concerned about including Darjeeling in India’s railway map.”

Giri also said that Thursday’s tripartite talks have been postponed. “The meeting is being postponed for a few days because of a reshuffle in the state’s bureaucracy,” the Morcha leader said.

The Morcha today lifted the indefinite fast after requests from Nickole Tamang’s mother and wife. Seven Yuva Morcha activists had been on fast from September 17 demanding that Nickole, a prime accused in the Madan Tamang murder, be produced alive in court.

Nickole allegedly fled CID custody on August 22. The Morcha has alleged that he had died in custody.

Buddha rail proposal under fire – how absurd can one get ?!! slowing, not stopping trains – the correct political answer ?!!

Buddhadeb - rather politically naive ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Alipurduar, Sept. 29: At least 10 organisations in the Dooars have resented the chief minister’s proposal to the Centre to suspend plying of trains through forests at night to avoid elephant deaths on tracks.

Some of the organisations felt that the chief minister should pay more attention to important matters —like the state of roads in the region — than elephants. They said they would meet Union minister Jairam Ramesh to complain about the state forest department’s alleged negligence.

The chief minister wrote a letter to Ramesh, the Union minister of state for environment and forests, on Monday, asking him to make the railways stop running the trains from 6pm to 6am in the Gulma-Rajabhatkhawa section, a distance of 147km. Bhattacharjee’s letter came four days after seven elephants were mowed down by a goods train at Banarhat in Jalpaiguri district. “The trains that run through these tracks during the day should have a speed restriction of a maximum of 20kmph. Such elephant corridors,” the chief minister wrote.

Joy Shankar Choudhury from Nanda Devi Foundation, an NGO, blamed the lack of fodder for elephants straying out of the forests. Forest officials should be more active. “Train is the lifeline of the Dooars. If the forest staff patrol the area properly and pass the information to the railway on time, this kind of incident can be avoided,” he said.

Amal Dutta of the Alipurduar Nature Club and Larry Bose from the Nagarik Mancha also spoke on similar views. “Running of trains cannot be stopped at night. The Centre has spent crores of rupees for gauge conversion. It is the forest department which should be more active and keep elephants confined to jungles,” Dutta said.

Secretary of the Alipurduar Chamber of Commerce Prasenjit Dey said they expected that the chief minister would pass orders to repair the national and state highways in the Dooars as the traders were facing huge loss on the puja-eve.

“More than 30 lakh of people in the Dooars are suffering for bad roads. But to the chief minister, seven elephants are more important,” Dey said and added they would meet Ramesh during his visit on October 2.

He said although Left Front ministers from north Bengal had brought the situation to Bhattacharjee’s notice several times, he did not care at all. “Only yesterday he wrote to the surface transport minister in Delhi to repair the national highways soon.”

Secretary of Alipurduar Town Byabsayee Samiti Paritosh Das echoed Dey. “We have sent several representations to the government and expected the chief minister to intervene. But we have not seen any result so far,” he said.

Blockade

Local people and businessmen at Falakata Station More today blocked NH31 from 9am to 2.30pm to protest the potholed and dusty highway. The agitation was withdrawn after police intervention.drastic steps are needed as the tracks run through four wildlife sanctuaries and across 20 identified.

Forest to explore stop-transport right – Wildlife boss can stall trains: Raha – the curse of Lord Ganesha, but communists don’t believe in God, do they ?!!

The sad sight of an elephant hauled by cranes - could have been so easily avoided had the drivers been vigilant and speeds controlled ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Sukna, Sept. 29: The principal chief conservator of forest today said his department was exploring the option of invoking a law under which it had the right to regulate and control transport movement in sanctuaries and wildlife parks.

The PCCF, Atanu Raha, said the chief wildlife warden of the state had been conferred legislative powers to control transport in the forest areas but the department would consult experts before implementing them.

“We might take a look at the law and try to assess that to what extent the CWLW can impose restrictions on transport movement through forests,” Raha said. “We are not saying that the restrictions will be imposed immediately, but we can look into this aspect.”

Seven wild elephants were mowed down by a speeding goods train on the night of September 22 in Jalpaiguri district. The incident had sparked outrage across the country with the railways and the ministry of environment and forest indulging in a blamegame. The railways said, Moraghat, where the incident occurred, was not a notified jumbo zone and it should have been informed about elephant movement as decided in an earlier meeting. The forest department said goods trains should not travel on forest routes at night and because these trains do not have specific timings, it was difficult to inform the nearest railway station about elephant movement.

A meeting was held between the two departments in Delhi yesterday to discuss the running of trains through the forests of north Bengal. The forest officials endorsed the appeal sent by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh to try and stop the running of night trains through forest areas. But the Railway Board members at the meeting said it was not possible to do so. In fact, after rejecting the appeal they said the frequency of trains through Siliguri-Alipurduar route would be increased.

Raha, who attended the Delhi meeting, said if the railways remained undeterred, the state forest department would have to exercise the powers conferred by the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, on the state’s chief wildlife warden.

“We had placed a number of proposals which the officials of the ministry also endorsed and insisted that the railways accept them, but the Railway Board members rejected them and said more trains would be run on the route,” the PCCF said.

He said the railway officials had been asked to gradually reduce the number of trains running through the forest at night. “We asked them to increase the number of trains during the day. Also, it was suggested from our side that the railways could double-line the other route, via Jalpaiguri, Mainaguri, Dhupguri and Falakata, and run the goods train through that route,” Raha said.

With the Railway Board unwilling to agree to any of the proposals of the state forest department and the ministry, they have been requested to discuss the issue with their superiors at the highest level so that some decision could be arrived at.

The PCCF also commented on the decision of posting a forest employee at the railway control room at Alipurduar.

“We can post a man there, but it will be useless as elephant movement at night is difficult to track and has no fixed patterns that can be followed. It is not a realistic plan. I have requested the ministry to carry out a survey on elephant corridors located outside the reserve forests but along the railway track between Siliguri and Alipurduar. This data will help us know more about the corridors outside the forest,” Raha said.

On Ramesh’s visit here on Saturday, the PCCF said all the relevant information had already been submitted to the minister. “ We will be with him and apprise him of the state of elephant conservation in our forests in north Bengal,” the PCCF said.

Bridge over Basra restored but with risk – patchwork politics, already resigned to failure ?!!

The temporary bridge over the Basra river in Hamiltangunj and school students cross the bridge on bicycles on Wednesday. (Anirban Choudhury) - waiting for speedy completion ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Alipurduar, Sept. 29: A temporary bridge over the Basra was thrown open restoring communication between Hashimara and Kalchini, more than two months after it was washed away by water.

Since yesterday, the residents of Hashimara, Jaigaon, Dalshingpara, Satali, Madhu have started using the bridge that does not have any railing, risking their life. Although cycles and two-wheelers are allowed at present, but smaller vehicles can ply after a week, said the block development officer of Kalchini.

On July 20, a flash flood in the Basra river swept away the bridge, forcing around 15,000 people of the areas to travel 30km extra to reach the block headquarters at Kalchini and Hamiltangunj, a wholesale market in the area.

The traders in Hamiltangunj have incurred a loss of at least Rs 1 crore before the festival season as, like in previous years, they could not do business primarily because the people from across the river could not reach the trade hub for absence of the bridge.

The Hamiltangunj traders had repeatedly requested the BDO to expedite the construction of the bridge. The BDO, R.S. Sun Das, had also assured the businessmen that the bridge would be ready by September 17. But the deadline could not be met. Another target of completing the bridge by 23 of this month set by the administration was also missed.

Barun Mitra, the secretary of Hamiltangunj Byabsayee Samiti, said the bridge had been damaged for the past two months and a large number of people from Madhu Tea Estate, Satali, Hashimara were not able to come to the Hamiltangunj market. “We have already suffered a loss of at least Rs 1 crore this year because of the negligence of the administration which does not bother about the traders here.”

Citing the example of last Sunday when there was no customer in the weekly market at Hamiltangunj, Mitra said for the past two months, the traders had been suffering. “Puja is knocking at the door but a number of businessmen could not sell a single item today.”

The BDO said the PWD that had been constructing the bridge had set a deadline and accordingly he told the traders. “But heavy rain hampered the work.”

He admitted that travelling on the bridge without the railing was risky. “I have asked the PWD officials to arrange for a temporary railing on the bridge for the safety of the people. However, an iron railing will be in place once the bridge becomes ready for smaller vehicles by the next seven days,” Sun Das said.

However, the traders’ body was doubtful whether the situation would improve by the next seven days. “Today, the BDO told us that within seven days smaller vehicles would start plying on the bridge, but we are doubtful,” said Mitra. “Even if the vehicles run on the bridge, the condition of the traders will be no better because people have already completed their shopping from other places.”

HC strike called off for ‘salaries’ – precisely the need for separation from  a parochial Bengal Judiciary System for the Gorkhaland Regional Authority ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH LEGAL REPORTER

Calcutta, Sept. 29: The seven-day-old strike by high court employees was “adjourned” today, sources attributing the move to discontent among the staff over the uncertainty about getting salaries before the Puja.

The agitating employees, however, said the ceasework had been called off “for the time being” to honour an “appeal” from Chief Justice J.N. Patel.

Leaders of the five employees unions of the court, pressing for the implementation of a revised pay scale, met the chief justice in the afternoon.

The court’s puja vacation starts on October 7 and had the strike continued till then, the employees would have had to go without two months’ salaries.

In the puja month, the employees get a month’s salary in advance because the vacation continues for around 30 days.

The high court will reopen on November 8.

EDUCATION & PAROCHIAL DISCRIMINATION: Hill college strike from today – Teacher smells plot in SFI allegation – Morcha campus shutdown till October 5

EDUCATION & PAROCHIAL DISCRIMINATION: Hill college strike from today – Teacher smells plot in SFI allegation – Morcha campus shutdown till October 5 – atrocious and discriminatory results issue deliberately left out of report, too embarrassing for a parochial Bengal ?!!

Darjeeling Government College now shut and with unbelievably absurd results - shows just how parochial and snide Bengal can really get in playing with the future of hill students ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Darjeeling, Sept. 29: The Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha has called a strike in all the 15 colleges across the hills from tomorrow till October 5 to fulfil several demands the outfit had placed before North Bengal University.

The strike is a fallout of the poor results in Part I and Part II exams of undergraduate courses recently, sparking protests from the students as well as the teaching fraternity, who had accused the NBU of gross negligence.

Nima Sherpa, the press and publicity secretary of the student wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, said they had a prolonged meeting today at Darjeeling Government College with those representing the hill colleges in the NBU’s executive council and the under-graduate council.

“None of them could give us satisfactory answers regarding the poor results and other demands that we had raised from time to time. We have called the strike as a last resort and we will not allow the salaries of the teachers and the non-teaching staff to be disbursed during the period,” said Sherpa.

Many institutions like Darjeeling Government College had registered a pass percentage of only about 30 in the exams. Barring Ghoom-Jorebunglow Degree College and Southfield College, results were pathetic in other institutions also.

Sherpa also said the students were demanding a change in the academic session of the colleges on the lines of the schools in the hills. At present, the academic year of the schools begins in March and ends in November, while classes are held in the colleges from July to April.

“We also demand that the NBU’s exam timings be also changed. The varsity holds exams from 2pm and 5pm, making it very difficult for students to return home, especially in remote places because of lack of transport,” said Nima.

He said the NBU had not yet responded to the demand for the reassessment of Part I and Part II exam answer papers without fees. “We had given the NBU time till tomorrow to respond and they have not said anything yet. They have also shown little compassion for students from the hills as many of them had failed in exams by just a single mark. If there is no response to these demands, the strike will continue beyond October 5,” he said.

However, the Vidyarthi Morcha will allow the MSc post-graduate exams slated for October 1 and 4 to take place.

Slap slur on professor – Scandalous – politically from the frying pan into the fire, just not culturally adept at education, is Bengal ?!!

Student protestor beaten and in hospital in Siliguri - each Bengal party better or worse than the next ?!! (Darpan)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Siliguri, Sept. 29: A third-year student of a college, who was admitted to the district hospital here today after she fainted, alleged that she was slapped by a professor on the campus.

Sudeshna Dutta said the professor, a member of the Trinamul Congress’s education cell, had picked on her because she was an SFI member. An FIR has been filed against two teachers.

A student of philosophy (honours), Sudeshna, alleged that Krishna Pal, a lecturer of history at Siliguri College, had used abusive language before slapping her when she tried to return her a book.

“Since my attendance was low I had gone to the staff room yesterday to get permission from the head of the department to attend classes. As soon as she saw me, Krishna Ma’am started scolding me for not returning her book. Sangeeta Raha, a teacher of our department, too, joined her. She abused me saying I was a girl of loose morals. I left the room saying that I would return the book tomorrow,” Sudeshna said from her hospital bed.

Today, around 2.30pm Sudeshna along with some of her friends had gone to return the book to Pal.

“Today too she used filthy language. When I tried to say something in my defence she slapped me in front of my friends,” Sudeshna said. She was admitted to the hospital by her classmates after she fainted. “The book is just an excuse and Krishna Ma’am is victimising me for being a SFI supporter,” Sudeshna said.

SFI supporters confined the teachers in the staff room for over two hours demanding action against Pal. They withdrew the siege after principal, Malay Karanjai, assured them that a Teacher’s Council meeting would be held tomorrow to discuss the issue.

“We demand the college authorities to take strict action against Pal. She is always victimising students for supporting the SFI,” Amit Goswami, the general-secretary of the SFI-backed union at the college said.

Both Raha and Pal have denied allegations against them.

“I have not slapped her. Sudeshna had borrowed the book from me two years ago. The girl was not coming to college after the third-year classes began. I had just asked her to return my book. This is a tactics of the SFI to malign me because I am a Trinamul supporter,” Pal who is also the convener of the Trinamul education cell said.

“We have had more than 100 classes and Sudeshna’s attendance is only eight. What are we teachers here for if we can’t even tell a student to attend classes regularly,” Raha said.

“The girl had fainted but she is stable,” said Sreshendu Paul, the doctor who treated Sudeshna said.

AND ON THE BRIGHTER SIDE

Exposure trip for teens – Army hosts kashmiri students – a gentle dose of the Gorkha beauty, culture of tolerance and patience ?!!

The students from Jammu and Kashmir with GOC BK Sharma in Kalimpong on Wednesday. (Chinlop Fudong Lepcha) - a far cry from the stone throwing culture in Kashmir ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Kalimpong, Sept. 29: A 25-member team of students from Jammu and Kashmir were hosted for two days by the army here as part of its Sadbhawna tour programme, providing the young minds an exposure to a world beyond their strife-torn state.

The students from Poonch, Rajouri, Reasi and Doda in the Valley were brought here by the Striking Lions Division of the army, headquartered at the Durpin hills, about 3km from the town. Most of the students are from Class IX to XII

“This is an educational-cum-motivational tour for these youngsters. The aim is to expose these fresh minds to the world outside the Valley,” said an army officer.

During the course of their stay that ended today, the students were taken to tourist hotspots in and around the town. They also interacted with the army officers and local people. “We are very grateful to the army for providing this opportunity to us. We have learned so many things from this tour. We can go back home and play a constructive role in our society,” said Altaf Hussein, a student.

Some among the students were victims of militancy that has been raging in Kashmir for two decades now. “I lost my mother to militants. Two of my brothers were also injured. We want the circle of violence to end as quickly as possible,” said Mohammed Rafiq, another student.

His friend Mohammed Yousuf said only a handful of people were engaged in violence. “There is not much disturbance now. A few created problem taking advantage of a weak political system.” The Class XII student said he wanted to join the IAS.

The students were introduced to the general-officer-commanding of the division Maj. Gen. B.K. Sharma today. They later left for Darjeeling. The students will also visit Sikkim before returning home.

MOUNTAINEERING: Global climb role for HMI

MOUNTAINEERING: Global climb role for HMI – nothing to beat natural inborn experience, Tenzing Sherpa and all ?!!

The HMI building in Darjeeling. (Suman Tamang) - recognition long overdue ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH FRONT PAGE
BY VIVEK CHHETRI

Darjeeling, Sept. 29: The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute has become a member of the Union Internationale Des Association D’Alpinisme (UIAA), paving the way for the Darjeeling-based institution to play a global role in framing rules and policies on climbing.

The UIAA, headquartered at Berne in Switzerland, is also known as the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation and is the global body that governs mountaineering. The Indian Mountaineering Federation, based in Delhi, is already a member of the UIAA.

“The HMI has been made a member after its track record was reviewed by the UIAA. It is the only institution which has been granted membership apart from the IMF,” Col. Neeraj Rana, the principal of the HMI, told The Telegraph.

Every aspect of the HMI was scrutinised by the UIAA after the principal had applied for the membership one-and-a-half years ago.

The HMI has also been given voting rights, which essentially means that it can play a pivotal role in framing international rules and policies on mountaineering.

The UIAA lays down training standards to be followed world-wide and recommends or certifies a particular equipment for mountaineering as safe. It sends experts from the UIAA to check whether member federations are following basic guidelines laid down by the UIAA. Besides, any new climbing technique has to be approved by the UIAA.

Now that the HMI has become the member of the global body, the certificates issued by the institute for its basic and advance courses will be recognised across the world.

“So far, we have trained 1,600 foreigners from every corner of the world, although we were not sure whether our certificates would be accepted internationally. We no longer have to worry about the recognition as the logo of the UIAA will now be on our certificates,” said Rana.

Tenzing Norgay’s son Jamling Tenzing Norgay, an Everester based in Darjeeling, congratulated the HMI for the achievement. “It would do wonders to the brand image of the institution and bring about global acceptability of its courses. Being one of the premier institutions of the country, this should actually have been done much earlier,” said Jamling, who himself was trained at the HMI.

Tenzing was the director of the institution till his death in 1986. The HMI was set up by Jawaharlal Nehru a year after Tenzing become the first climber along with Edmund Hillary to scale Mount Everest on May 29, 1953.

The inclusion of the HMI in the UIAA was welcomed by mountaineers in Calcutta as well. Mrinal Chatterjee of the Institute of Climbers and Nature Lovers said the development was a feather in the cap of the HMI. “We are happy about the development. As the UIAA is an internationally acclaimed body, the HMI will definitely benefit technically,” Chatterjee, who is also an HMI member, said.

Amulya Sen, mountaineering adviser to the Bengal government, said: “The present administration of the HMI is dynamic and I am happy with this. The UIAA has been trying to include sports climbing in the Olympics. The HMI stand to gain by this development.”

The HMI can now expect more international students to visit the institution.

“As part of an exchange programme with the UIAA, professionals from abroad will come and impart training at our institution and vice-versa,” said Rana, before leaving for Italy to give a presentation on the HMI at a conference organised by the UIAA. “Our revenue has reached Rs 87 lakh per annum and will easily cross the Rs 1 crore mark this financial year.”

A 17-minute film on the HMI’s expedition to Mt Makalu, To the Summit and Beyond, recently received the award for the best documentary at the International Adventure Film Festival held at Lyon, France, on September 17.

“The documentary was on the success of our climb to Mt Makalu, the fifth highest peak in the world,” said the principal.

The HMI team not only became the first Indian team to scale Mt Makalu but had also made a world record by sending five members, the most number of people to the peak at a single point of time. During the expedition, Rana had also set a world record of paragliding from the highest point, when he took 17 minutes to reach Mt Makalu’s advance base camp from Camp II, situated at 22, 473 feet.

In 2003, the HMI team had also sent a team to Mt Everest.

“The HMI is preparing to take a team from the Northeast to Mt Everest in March 2011. There will be 16 climbers and eight support members in the Northeast team,” said Rana.

HMI scales global mountaineering peak – proud of a much neglected Darjeeling where it comes to glory hunting by the Bengal psyche ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH BENGAL PAGES
BY VIVEK CHHETRI

Darjeeling, Sept. 29: The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) has become a member of the global body governing mountaineering, paving the way for the Darjeeling-based institute to play an international role in framing rules and policies on climbing.

The Delhi-based Indian Mountaineering Federation is already a member of the Switzerland-headquartered Union Internationale Des Association D’Alpinisme (UIAA), also known as the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation.

“The HMI has been made a member after the UIAA reviewed its track record,” said Col. Neeraj Rana, the principal of the HMI. Rana had applied for the membership one and a half years ago.

The HMI has also been given voting rights, which means it can play a pivotal role in framing international rules and policies on mountaineering.

The UIAA lays down training standards to be followed worldwide. It recommends mountaineering equipment and certifies them as safe. It sends experts to member federations to check whether basic guidelines are being followed. New climbing techniques have to be approved by the UIAA.

Certificates issued by the HMI for its basic and advanced courses will be recognised across the world, now that it has become a member of the UIAA.

“So far, we have trained 1,600 foreigners, though we were not sure whether our certificates would be accepted internationally. We will no longer have to worry about recognition as our certificates will now have the UIAA logo,” Rana said.

Tenzing was the director of the institute since its formation in 1954 till he died in 1986. The HMI was set up by Jawaharlal Nehru a year after Tenzing and Edmund Hillary became the first to scale Mount Everest on May 29, 1953.

More international students and professionals are expected to come to HMI as a result of the recognition.

“As part of an exchange programme with the UIAA, professionals from abroad will impart training at our institution. Our teachers and students can also go to foreign institutes,” said Rana, before leaving for Italy to give a presentation on the HMI at a conference organised by the UIAA.

SIKKIM NEWS: Tibetan refugees off voter list

SIKKIM NEWS: Tibetan refugees off voter list – nothing to do with Buddhist demonstrations earlier ?!!

A Buddhist Monk votes in Kalimpong during the LS elections in April 2009 - Tibetan Refugee or naturalized Indian Citizen ?!! (Himal News Files)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, Sept. 29: A total of 5,899 names including those of 55 Tibetan refugees in Sikkim have been deleted from the electoral rolls of the state in the past five months during the summary revision process, state chief electoral officer V.B. Pathak said here today.

Briefing the media about the revised electoral rolls, Pathak said the names were deleted by the district electoral officers on grounds of death, migration and duplication.

Altogether 3,817 names were struck off the rolls as the persons were dead and 1,613 names were deleted because the voters have shifted, or transferred their names to other parts of the country, he said.

The remaining 469 names were deleted because they appeared twice. This list also includes the names of the 55 Tibetan refugees.

Most of the names that were deleted on account of deaths and migration were done suo-motu by the election department.

The rest were deleted following objections from the public and subsequent inquiries conducted by the department.

Pathak added that the 55 Tibetan refugees, whose names were deleted as they are not supposed to enrol themselves on the Indian electoral list, were from the East and North districts.

While the administration stumbled across the names of 44 Tibetan refugee certificate holders in North district, 11 names were spotted during the revision in East.

“They have been warned and other government agencies concerned with Tibetan refugees have been informed about the development. They will be initiating necessary action,” said Pathak.

According to the revised rolls, the total number of voters in Sikkim currently stand at 3,10,629. This means an increase of 10,464 voters (3.49 per cent) after 3,00,165 people participated in the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls in Sikkim last year.

The chief electoral officer attributed the increase to the increase in the number of people who have reached the age of 18 and also inclusion of those who were left out during the earlier revision of rolls.

The summary revision process ended on September 15 and the draft electoral rolls will be soon published, said Pathak.

He also said the election department has achieved 100 per cent Electoral Photo Identity Card coverage in Sikkim.

“We are also holding a photo exhibition on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti at Gangtok in collaboration with the directorate of advertising and visual publicity, ministry of broadcasting, as part of the year long diamond jubilee celebration of the Election Commission of India,” said Pathak.

The exhibition will showcase 60 photos prepared by the directorate on national events and related to state elections, he said.

NATIONAL POLITICS: Hand on heart – India’s ‘bigger story’ faces Ayodhya test

NATIONAL POLITICS: Hand on heart – India’s ‘bigger story’ faces Ayodhya test – is India going to behave in a secular, matured and judicious manner, or is there still prejudice and frustration at its administrative bungling and ineptness ?!!

Ayodhya Verdict - has India really politically matured ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SANKARSHAN THAKUR

New Delhi, Sept. 29: A nervous shiver runs through calls for calm resounding across the political spectrum as the clock ticks close to a judicial verdict on the Ayodhya dispute by the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court tomorrow.

The all-round and even-toned commitment to the court’s decree has been widely perceived as a silver lining to the unravelling of probably our most intractable row.

But the divisive history of the wrangle has led many to apprehend there might be a dark cloud attached to it.

Renewed appeals for peace echoed from high portals today, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi leading the exhort to restraint in the name of India’s plurality and syncretic tradition.

“It is my humble request to all of you to accept the verdict in the same liberal spirit and great tradition that this country is known for. Have faith in the judiciary and maintain peace and communal amity at all costs. India’s biggest strength is the emotional unity of its people,” Sonia said in a plea that, at once, evoked new faith in public equanimity and old fears that tomorrow’s ruling may breach it.

Following up on two cabinet resolutions over the past week and a message from the Prime Minister, Union home minister P. Chidambaram invoked the past and the future to buttress the case for communal concord.

He quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s “Ishwar Allah tero naam, Sabko sanmati de Bhagwan” and put premium on the belief of the young in a new India that he held had “moved on”.

Contending that the India story was a “much bigger story”, Chidambaram said: “India has moved, especially for people born after 1992. They have a very different world view. Young people have moved on and they recognise that the India story is more than a dispute over religious places.… It (India) is a much bigger story.”

But as he allayed cause for anxiety, Chidambaram emphasised preparedness to meet any threat to law and order.

Cleverly, though, Chidambaram quoted the stated positions of various parties, including the BJP, on respecting the court’s verdict, and put the onus of calm equally on them.

The government has been emphasising that tomorrow’s ruling is not the end of the road for either party; there is the option of an appeal to the Supreme Court and the government hopes it will quickly be exercised by whichever set that feels aggrieved.

At the political level, though, the jousting was sharp and left room for the eruption of a fresh blaze over the disputed site.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati sought to pass the buck even before the verdict has been pronounced. She complained tonight that enough security forces had not been made available to the state and the Centre would be “fully responsible” if any untoward incident took place.

“The state demanded 642 companies of the central forces against which only 52 companies had been allocated,” Mayavati said in a statement.

Asked the reason for the almost panicked appeals for peace, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh pointedly named the BJP. “The BJP’s attitude does not inspire confidence,” he said. “They behaved irresponsibly even after giving an undertaking to the Supreme Court.”

The BJP, which fielded its Muslim face in MP Shahnawaz Hussain, took exception to Singh’s invective and labelled him provocative. “The BJP is a responsible political party. It has already appealed for peace. Digvijay Singh should not cross the limits of propriety and give nonsensical statements that could breach peace,” Hussain said.

But having showcased its commitment to constitutionalism, the BJP is keeping its side-burners revved. While Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has gone public with mature advocacy of public composure, party senior L.K. Advani was sharp in re-emphasising the case for a Ram temple at the disputed site on his rath yatra anniversary return to Somnath last week.

The BJP’s dare is frontal: even if the Hindu claimants lose tomorrow, can the Congress eradicate the “de facto Ram-lalla temple” that already exists on the site?

A meeting of the party’s core committee has been scheduled after the verdict to devise the party’s line; it could well determine what may lie between the silver lining many see and the dark cloud many shiver at.

Ayodhya chants peace – but do the politicians who prey on communal tensions for conscienceless personal gain ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY ARCHIS MOHAN

Ayodhya, Sept. 29: The buzzword in the twin towns on verdict day-eve is peace.

On a day P. Chidambaram quoted Gandhiji’s favourite lines — Ishwar Allah tero naam, sabko sanmati de Bhagwan — the common people in Ayodhya and Faizabad courted peace in their own quaint way, pasting stickers with couplets on vehicles or putting them up in paan shops.

Faizabad desh se kahega, faisla jo bhi ho shahr shaant rahega” (Faizabad will tell the country that whatever the verdict, the town will remain peaceful), went a sticker on a truck. “Aman mera chaman, Hind mera watan” (Peace is my garden, India is my country), went another in a shop. Elsewhere, people handed out pamphlets with appeals for peace.

Contrary to apprehensions of trouble, it seemed business as usual here. Shops and schools remained open. Men and women, both Hindus and Muslims, milled in the streets near the Hanumangarhi temple, the biggest in Ayodhya, shopping for provisions and vegetables.

The only thing that betrayed their anxiety was their shopping bags. Most bravely said the twin cities would remain peaceful whatever the verdict, but were unwilling to take chances. “It is better to be prepared. I am stocking up on provisions,” said R.P. Singh, a resident.

One of the original petitioners, Md Hashim Ansari, said he was confident the security arrangements would ensure there was no trouble. “I have several Hindu friends. I can walk into any of the 8,000 temples here. The priest of Hanumangarhi is a friend. Trouble, if any, will be created by politicians,” the 90-year-old, who lives on the outskirts of Ayodhya, said.

He then talked of politicians who, to his mind, had exploited the Ayodhya dispute to their advantage. “They built their political careers, minted money. I was the original petitioner. But look at my children and grandchildren — they are drivers,” he said, sitting on a wooden bed in a dilapidated house.

A tailor by profession, Ansari said the verdict, whichever way it went, should be respected by all. He said he had yet to decide if he would move the Supreme Court if the verdict did not go in his favour. “We will decide that tomorrow,” he said.

Peace key to nervous Congress, BJP smug – the test of the times ?!!

SANJAY K. JHA AND J.P. YADAV

New Delhi, Sept. 29: A slightly nervous Congress leadership feels that the immediate priority should be to ensure that the verdict is not followed by untoward incidents.

The Congress is confident that it can minimise the political impact of the verdict if communal harmony in the country is not disturbed significantly.

An eruption of violence will discredit the party much in the same manner as the P.V. Narasimha Rao government’s record in the early nineties.

The Congress leadership is convinced that many political parties are seeing this as an opportunity to revive their fortunes. “If the next few days pass off peacefully and the matter goes to the Supreme Court, we can overcome the threat without significant losses. We are keeping our fingers crossed,” a cabinet minister said.

The party’s deep sense of unease was reflected in Sonia Gandhi’s decision to issue an appeal for peace, although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, home minister P. Chidambaram, the cabinet and the party had issued similar pleas in the past few days.

Sonia said in a statement today: “It is my humble request to all of you to accept the verdict in the same liberal spirit and great tradition that this country is known for. Have faith in the judiciary and maintain peace and communal amity at all costs. India’s biggest strength is the emotional unity of its people.”

Sonia also recalled India’s pluralistic and secular ethos, the collective rationale of the society and the capacity to honour judicial pronouncements.

Although the Congress had often stated the Ram temple was no more a big political issue, party general secretary Digvijay Singh justified the flurry of appeals: “On both sides, there are fringe elements who thrive in a communally charged environment. They would like to polarise the body politic.”

The Congress has learnt lessons from the mistakes of the Rao regime and asked the government to deal with the situation with an iron hand.

But the party said it was not very confident of the attitude of BJP-led governments. Digvijay, who expressed satisfaction with the Mayavati government’s preparations, said: “The BJP’s conduct does not inspire confidence.”

Digvijay, who was blasted by the BJP today for his acerbic remarks, said: “If the BJP and the Sangh parivar maintain peace and harmony after tomorrow’s verdict, I will reconsider my views. But their conduct and character so far have been suspect.”

He added: “The communal forces will not be allowed to create trouble this time. But there are some elements in the Sangh parivar who would like to incite trouble.”

The BJP leadership has been trying to change but the Congress wants to ensure that the blame falls on the Sangh parivar in case violence breaks out.

The BJP today fielded its Muslim face, Shahnawaz Hussain, and accused the Congress of stoking communal tension through “irresponsible” statements.

Unlike the tense Congress, BJP leaders today appeared relaxed, calculating that whichever way the verdict goes, it did not have much to lose.

Hussain said: “The BJP is a responsible political party. It has already appealed for peace. Digvijay Singh should not cross the limits of propriety and give nonsensical statements that could breach peace.”

BJP sources said the party had deliberately adopted the strategy of not jumping the gun before the verdict. Party insiders said all leaders had been told to refrain from issuing sensitive statements. A meeting of the party’s core committee has been scheduled after the verdict to devise the party’s line.

The BJP feels it can afford to wait and watch as it will be the Congress that may find itself in a tight corner if polarisation sets in after the verdict.

The only worry, BJP leaders admit, is the upcoming poll in Bihar, where Nitish Kumar is nervous over the issue. The party, however, is discounting the possibility of Nitish severing ties with the BJP as it is too late now.

Gandhi on PC lips – but well away from the tense areas ?!!

NISHIT DHOLABHAI

New Delhi, Sept. 29: A day before the Ayodhya verdict, the Centre invoked Mahatma Gandhi.

“Ishwar Allah Tero Naam, sabko sanmati de Bhagwan ,” Union home minister P. Chidambaram said, reciting lines from Gandhi’s favourite bhajan . While pleading with “Ishwar” or “Allah” to bless everyone with wisdom, he took care to omit the opening lines that refer to Ram and Sita.

The bhajan, a part of the Mahatma’s daily prayers, was sung by the thousands who joined the Dandi march. Its tune was composed by Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. The original hymn is about Ram, but it was tweaked into a secular version by Gandhians.

The same version, sung by Mohammad Rafi, played on several television channels today. Doordarshan telecast patriotic songs and Gandhi’s pictures, following these with the slogan “Yehi hamari pehchan hai (This alone is our identity)” and the song Bharat me hai vishwas (We have faith in India).

Television channels have been asked by the Centre not to run any news bulletins or pictures that could provoke communal passions.

Chidambaram usually does not go beyond a few words of Hindi, although he did recently speak at the Hindi Divas celebration organised by his ministry. Promotion of Hindi falls under the purview of the home ministry.

Today, he quoted the Hindi verse while making an appeal for peace after the Ayodhya verdict. “I would once again appeal to all sections of the people of the country to cooperate with the government and uphold the values that are dear to our country. I wish to conclude by quoting two lines from Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite bhajan,” he said, before reciting the lines without the musical intonation.

Chidambaram had earlier appealed for peace on September 22 when the verdict was expected on September 24.

The home minister often refers to the Mahatma in Parliament, especially when it comes to countering the BJP. During a debate in the Rajya Sabha last year, while quoting from Amartya Sen’s Idea of Justice, Chidambaram read out a reference to “Mohandas Gandhi” and then quickly added “Mahatma Gandhi”.

Today he said though the government does not foresee any trouble, it has kept security forces ready.

Singed in 1992, towns pray – Tense Dabaka & Dhubri want to ‘get it over with’ – let good sense prevail all around in a secular India ?!!

SARAT SARMA AND BIJOY KUMAR SHARMA

Dabaka/Dhubri, Sept. 29: Md Tafajjul Ali and Rathin Das, businessmen from Kurkur basti and Nayamati in Dabaka, had witnessed communal violence rock this town in Nagaon district nearly 18 years ago with 39 persons being killed by the time the sun had set on December 6, 1992.

A day before Allahabad High Court is scheduled to deliver its Ayodhya judgment, Ali and Das today spoke the same language with the drift being “let’s get it over with.”

“It has been nearly 18 years since so much blood was spilled here…the images remain vivid in the memory and every time the Ayodhya issue comes up in some form or the other, tension resurfaces. Let tomorrow be the last time when we hear about it,” 45-year-old Ali said. “We all have full faith in the judicial system,” he added.

Das agrees. “We do not want to revisit 1992. There are a lot more things to do around here — development being the priority. Let the issue be settled once and for all and the court is the right institution to do it since we as a people have failed to resolve the matter among us.”

The feelings of Das and Ali found echo in Dhubri, several hundred kilometres to the west of Dabaka, where 14 persons had died in communal violence on December 8, two days after the Babri Masjid demolition.

As in Dabaka, an air of uneasiness hangs heavy over Dhubri town, notwithstanding the sane voices of Tazmul Hoque or Ram Nath Sharma, both of whom had lost their near and dear ones. Hoque lost his brother, Monowar Hussain, then 26, and Sharma lost his nephew, Nabal Kishore Sharma, then 30.

A resident of ward 7 of Dhubri town, Hoque shudders to even recall the day. “That is long gone. For the past 18 years, I have tried to forget it. There is no point in bringing up the matter. I only hope that everyone exercises utmost restraint, no matter what the court decides. 1992 must not be allowed to happen again, it is our responsibility,” he said.

Sharma, 70, of Railgumti in Dhubri said, “I know the pain of losing a dear one. I can understand how others who lose their near and dear ones feel. Bahut ho gaya … ab aur nahin (Enough has happened, let it not happen again),” he said, struggling to keep his emotions under control.

Police are leaving nothing to chance in both the places. Hojai police have formed four peace committees, one in each police station area.

“Right now, we have a company of CRPF while another is reaching Dabaka from Hamren subdivision of Karbi Anglong district tonight. We are keeping a tight vigil through patrolling,” Hojai subdivisional police officer Prasanta Dutta said.

“Some people had moved out from some interior areas during the past few days for safety and security. But they returned after we assured them of safety through the peace committees,” he added.

Nagaon deputy commissioner M. Angamuthu visited Dabaka on Monday to take stock of the situation and review security preparedness.

Giving out a stern warning, Dhubri superintendent of police Dipak Choudhury said, “Let everyone understand that none is above the law and anyone found inciting trouble will not be spared. I have forces to face any situation.”

He said additional Assam Police battalions had reached Dhubri and were being deployed in areas that had a history of riots and communal tension.

CRIME WATCH: Trafficking alert for cops… NGO writes to President on ‘prostitution rackets’

CRIME WATCH: Trafficking alert for cops… NGO writes to President on ‘prostitution rackets’ – preying on the beautiful, innocent hill girls ?!!

Nagaland police personnel stand guard in front of Commonwealth Games headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI) - no more different and with the same cultural empathy of the Indian Gorkha Forces against abhorrent crimes against humanity ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Silchar, Sept. 29: Assam police headquarters in Guwahati has asked all the police stations in the state to be on alert against the possible trafficking of women during the Commonwealth Games beginning in New Delhi from October 3.

The police headquarters was tipped off by the Intelligence Bureau about a few Assamese women being lured to Delhi with promises of safe and respectable jobs.

Women, particularly from Kokrajhar and Barak valley districts, were offered upto Rs 5,000 a day for their services as escorts to tourists during the 12-day sports jamboree.

The superintendent of police of the intelligence department in Guwahati, B. Barua, visited the town on Monday to review the situation in the three Barak valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi.

Barua said some women, who had fallen victim to trafficking, have already been identified and arrangements were being made to bring them back to the state. A careful vigil by the police would soon be mounted in the railway stations, inter-state bus depots and airports in the state to prevent the attempts of ferrying women to the capital.

A few NGOs would also be engaged for keeping a watch on trafficking in the state.

Barua warned that there was a possibility of many unwary women from Assam ending up in brothels in Delhi.

Sources said state police were now in touch with their counterparts in Delhi to block trafficking.

MARRIAGE ISSUES: Better Late Than Wrong

Malvika Subba - Beauty Queen, Model, Actress, Socialite and Media Personality - a choice between a marriage of convenience, love and/or both ?!! (Photo forwarded by Lazy Daisy)

MARRIAGE ISSUES: Better Late Than Wrong – what’s wrong about being so right,  are the current generation going to respect the younger generation’s thoughts or just be socially leery and chauvinistic ?!!

Lazy Daisy - a choice for happiness, a basic human right for all ?!!

From Living.com
By Malvika Subba
Forwarded by Lazy Daisy

We find them everywhere—women in their late 20s and also some in their early 30s still ‘not married’. Has this generation turned rebellious or are they united in the mission to ‘wait till the right person comes along’ or is it something else? Former Beauty Queen speaks her mind and opens her heart….

When I got a call from (the) ECS office asking me to write an article about women marrying late, I asked myself, why me? But on second thoughts, I realized, why not?

I am a 29 year old Nepali woman who is not married. Not Unmarried but “Yet to be married”! See, I have issues with the word ‘Unmarried’. I mean if you actually break it down, it can mean Un- Married, which eventually means, married once but now Un-Married! Which I am not!

As a teenager, I always thought I would get married after graduation, and after I got a job. Most of my friends from school got married after high school or by the time they were 20. But for me it was too early to even think about marriage, and my family supported me in that matter.

I started working fulltime in the media at the age of 21 after I became Miss Nepal. There was a certain sense of independence, and freedom I felt, providing for myself. I had a life of my own; I could do anything, travel wherever I wanted. Since then, I did not want to be anything else but me. I cherished and revelled in it and still do– my freedom and independence.  Especially for women who work in the media, we want a partner, who would accept us with the profession that we are in.

I have had issues in my relationships, where my partner would want me to leave my line of work in the media and work on something else. He did not want me to appear in the papers, or on television. He basically wanted  me to disappear from the entire hype. At one point, I thought I could give it all up for that person. But then, I realized I was being someone else; something that I was not and I was unhappy. It just wasn’t worth it.

There are many women like me in the media, who go through the same problem. Mahima Pandi Bhattarai, Media person, married at the age of 29 in 2009. She says, “I talked to my husband and the family about not giving up my media career before I got married. Once they were okay with that, after a year, we decided to tie the knot. My career is everything to me; this is who I am, and I wanted someone who would accept that fact, and I got one.”

I am one of those “rare” women, in my friends circle and in the family who is yet to be married. Yes, the pressure is constantly there. I have stopped attending weddings, as the first question people ask me, rather than a “how are you?”, is the dreaded question ,”when are you getting married?” I mean, it used to be, “When are you getting married?” Till about two years ago.

Now, it’s more along the lines of, “Bihe garne bela bhayena”?(Isn’t it time you got married?) It has become more amusing than irksome! As if, there is an age bracket set  by the country or the constitution, that women HAVE to get married at a specific and predetermined age. Who sets these age bars? The society? You? Us? Please feel free to enlighten my bemused state of mind. This question has been a source of ceaseless wonder for the last couple of years.

Sushma Singh, a banker by profession, got married at the age of 39, last year. Yes, 39! She says, “Till the age of 30, my focus was on my career, rather than on marriage. The need to be independent was more paramount before I settled down and I wanted to excel in my career.” When asked, why she chose to marry late, she says,” I didn’t get married for a long time as I never found the right partner. Even the men I met in between, I did not find anyone who could commit to me, in terms of marriage. But once I did, it was an easy decision to make.”

The main issue as to why women (and men likewise) are marrying late, a prevailing trend, is not just because, they are career oriented, ambitious or independent, it’s also about finding the right person that you feel you can spend the rest of your life with. Promi Pradhan, HR Professional who works at Himalayan Bank agrees, “I was in a relationship for 5 years with my husband before we got married. I was 32. I chose to get to know him better before settling down. I had to be completely sure that this was what I wanted.”

One of the most common notion, that all of us have about marriages, is that, women have to change a lot after marriage, the responsibilities, the problems and the adjustments that come along. There is a sort of negative feeling, that we have after hearing stories of bad marriages from friends or people we know.

Promi echoes the same skepticism, “I had doubts, about how the relationship would change after marriage, but then after getting married, it has become even better and fulfilling. He is very supportive and I feel lucky that I can confide in him in terms of my career.” Mahima and Sushma , agree on this sentiment. They say that, they too had negative perceptions about marriage, but once they found the right person, it changed completely for the better.

I have seen families giving pressure to women, concerning marriage, and they are obligated to get married because of this. Most of them do work out, touchwood, but some of them don’t. I have dear and near ones, who have been through divorces, or fall prey to bad marriages, as they probably married the “wrong” person, or probably, they couldn’t adjust to the old idea of marriage and got married only because of the constant pressure.

“In Nepal, women are pressurized a lot to get married. Because of that, they either are prone to depression or end up marrying the wrong person,” says Promi.

My mother started pressurizing me after I turned 27. At 29, it has kind of reached its threshold. I can sense her frustration when I start talking about the pros and cons of marriage, or if I am totally against it. There have been times, when I have felt worn out because of this pressure. I left for Delhi for a year to get away from this madness. And I did make some mistakes in my relationships because of this continual pressure.

Marriages should happen when you feel it’s right, not when you have to. The key factor is: couples need to be compatible, communicative, flexible, and understood. The question of marriage comes much later.

I have even contemplated, adopting a baby after a certain period. I thought, if I don’t get married till I am 35, then I would love to have a child, and be a mother. The idea remains, if ultimately I don’t get married.

But the main thing, I still insist, is I am not married yet, as I haven’t found the man who would take me as I am. I am a public figure, people talk about me, I am seen in the papers and television; I am confident, strong and independent, yet a child at heart at times .That is who I am, and if they cannot accept that simple fact, and love me as I am, then I am better off being single!

I have nothing against marriages. I do want to get married someday, but I guess until the day finally comes, I will remain “Yet to be married”!

(So, do men have what it takes to appreciate and enjoy equality of thought, career and lasting joy in life ?!!)

Girls’ clubs fight against tea community evils – Young members put dropouts back in school, prevent child marriage in gardens of Assam – women have equal rights to choose or not to, for that is their choice – after all they are the future generations’ mothers to be ?!!

Members of the Adolescent Girls’ Clubs at Khanapara. (Eastern Projections) – ready not to succumb to the pressures and prejudices of family and society ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY ANUP SHARMA

Guwahati, Sept. 29: The achievements of the young members of Adolescent Girls’ Clubs, who belong to the tea community of Assam, far surpass their age.

Two members of the clubs, Gayatri Tanti and Binita Kheria of Jokai tea estate in Dibrugarh district of Upper Assam, are students of Classes VIII and X. But they are successfully fighting against the evils of child marriage and child labour prevalent among their community for generations.

The Adolescent Girls’ Clubs (AGCs), an initiative of Unicef in association with the Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association (Abita) and Bharatiya Chah Parishad, has provided girls from the tea community a platform to discuss the issues plaguing them. The basic objective of the clubs is to get teenagers to go to school and stay enrolled, apart from engaging them in various positive activities like sports and discussions.

About 75 children like Gayatri and Binita took part in a state-level consultation programme held at the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development here yesterday to finalise an action plan for the prevention of child marriage. It was organised by the state social welfare department with technical support from Unicef. “The AGCs are helping us a lot — from discussing our issues to taking up social evils. We also discuss issues of child trafficking,” Gayatri told The Telegraph. The clubs have also given them the opportunity to play and enjoy their childhood, she added.

Tilumoni Gogoi, a project co-ordinator of Unicef, who is handling the AGC project, said, “Recently, these girls saved one of their friends from the evil of child marriage. The parents of Sunita Teli, 14, had fixed her marriage with a boy from another garden. Sunita came to the AGC and informed her friends who went to her house and convinced her parents about the ill effects of child marriage. They finally gave in and cancelled the marriage.”

She added, “We have brought these girls to participate in the state-level consultation and they have given important feedback to the programme. Most of them stressed strengthening the education system and ensuring enrolment of students in schools to prevent child marriage.”

The girls and women of the tea community are a neglected lot. Not only are they married off when they enter their teens, but are also victims of violence as alcohol flows freely in the gardens after sundown. Gogoi said the young members of the Adolescent Girls’ Clubs had been able to put 83 dropouts back in school since 2007 and stop eight child marriages in gardens around Dibrugarh in the last two years. “This is a great achievement for us,” she added.