GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: MP advice: A step at a time for state – Jaswant says Delhi proposal is 75 % of ultimate goal achieved – JEPT (jurisdiction, elections, police and territory) issues to be cleared this tripartite meet before establishing final camp towards statehood summit, or slipping back down the Ghising Fault of lost consensus – which is stretched thin to near breaking point, as CPM designs to rout the Morcha ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, Sept. 1: Jaswant Singh believes that the interim authority for the Darjeeling hills proposed by the Centre and the state is more than half the battle won towards achieving statehood.
However, he skirted contentious issues like the territory of the proposed new body or the inclusion of other parties in the talks with the Centre and the state government.
Arriving in Bagdogra this afternoon, en route to Darjeeling, just a week before the next round of tripartite talks, the BJP MP from Darjeeling said: “An interim arrangement for the Darjeeling hills is, I believe, one step forward towards meeting the demand for a separate state. The journey to get that (statehood) is a stiff task and the setting up of an interim arrangement is achieving 75 per cent of the ultimate goal.”
Earlier, too, in what appeared to be a clear message to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Singh had said achieving statehood was a “step by step” process and each stage had to be conquered before reaching the summit.
Singh had told the Telegraph in May this year: “Nothing can be achieved at one go, get the (authority) in your hand, administer the area and then after that build on it.” Today also Singh gave the same advice, and once again underlined the need for patience for achieving that “ultimate goal”.
“Mount Everest cannot be scaled with a single jump,” Singh told the media at Bagdogra airport. “During the creation of a new state, there will be stops and pauses.”
The “stops and pauses” that Singh referred to is evident as several contentious issues regarding the set-up is yet to be thrashed out.
In the next round of tripartite talks at the official level scheduled for September 7, the participants are expected to work on issues like the territory of the proposed set-up, its tenure and its composition. Also to be thrashed out are issues like the jurisdiction of the district magistrate and the superintendent of police, and elections to the panchayats.
During his visit to Darjeeling, Singh is expected to discuss with the Morcha leadership the strategy to be adopted for the talks as well as the latest political situation in the hills.
Singh, however, appeared optimistic about the coming talks. “Even Sitaram Yechury, a senior CPM leader, during his recent visit to Darjeeling had said the present problems of the hills can be solved only through more autonomy and the people of the hills should welcome the interim set-up,” Singh said. “This reflects the position of the state government as well.”
Reacting to Singh’s views, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: “Negotiations are on, but there are many issues involved in setting up this interim arrangement.”
Asked whether his visit would remain confined to the hills, Singh said this time he would also visit Siliguri since it was part of his constituency. “I will definitely visit Siliguri and interact with the people there.”
More vehicles join strike – CPM rapidly losing consensus ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, Sept. 1: Truck and light vehicle owners in Jalpaiguri today joined the indefinite bus strike that entered its second day, narrowing down options for the thousands of passengers who now have to bank only on trains and government means of transport.
The North Bengal Passenger Transport Owners’ Coordination Committee has called the strike in the districts of Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Darjeeling, withdrawing 1,500 buses from potholed roads, which it said, were damaging their vehicles and increasing their expenditure.
“Yesterday, even though the fares of the light vehicles were exorbitant, those were at least available. But today, situation worsened as the light vehicles owners across Jalpaiguri district joined the strike,” said Madhusudan Roy, a daily commuter from Jalpaiguri. “As of now, the only means of transport is train from Jalpaiguri Town or Jalpaiguri Road station. It is also surprising that despite announcements by bus owners that they would not run the vehicles unless the roads were repaired, we have not heard from the state PWD or the NHAI which are in charge of maintaining the national and state highways.”
With transport movement — except government vehicles and buses plying from Bhutan and Assam — coming to a halt between the three districts, the pressure of passengers spilled onto the trains, particularly the local passenger trains that ply between New Jalpaiguri and Jalpaiguri, Haldibari, Alipurduar, Cooch Behar and Bamanhat.
“Thousands of passengers are swarming at the stations now and boarding local as well as express trains to reach different destinations in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts. The pressure has increased in NJP,” said G.D. Mondal, the station manager of New Jalpaiguri.
Many passengers said they have been using the trains since the deterioration of the road condition, despite the fact that it increased travel time.
“Many of us are using trains for the past two-three months. On the roads, there is either traffic congestion or a breakdown of vehicles. Ultimately, we are late. Trains are better though the travel time is more,” said Ramesh Lama, a resident of Mainaguri who attends office in Siliguri. Bus owners said neither the local administration nor the government has contacted them so far.
State PWD minister Kshiti Goswami held a meeting with senior officials at the circuit house here this afternoon. Another meeting on roads will be held with officials in Jalpaiguri tomorrow, administrative sources said.
Planters face state pay-up pressure – Interim hike hope for tea sector – to buckle or not to, on one hand fading political masters’ and on the other reduced corporate profits nearing bankruptcy ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, Sept. 1: The tea industry, under “extreme” pressure from the CPM-led state government which has its eyes on next year’s Assembly polls, is likely to accept the demand for an interim wage hike for its workers in north Bengal. The next round of talks to discuss the wage hike will be held in Calcutta on September 9.
In the last five rounds of meeting between the state, trade unions and the garden managements, the planters were unwilling to accept any interim hike since the 2008 wage agreement is in place till March next year. The 3 lakh workers in the gardens of Darjeeling and the Dooars and Terai receive a daily wage of Rs 67. The workers had demanded an interim wage hike because of the rise in prices of essential commodities.
“During the last meeting, we were under extreme pressure from state labour minister Anadi Sahu and we are now actively considering an interim hike,” said an industry source. The meeting was held in Calcutta on August 30.
Observers believe that the Bengal minister is exerting pressure on the industry with an eye on the coming Assembly elections. “The Left has much at stake in north Bengal. With the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad making substantial inroads, it is a difficult time for the Left in north Bengal now,” said an observer.
Since setting up base, the tribal outfit has been making inroads into the Dooars and the Terai displacing dominant unions like the CPM’s Citu and the Congress’s Intuc. The loyalty switch of workers that followed was such that during a strike called by the Citu on July 5, almost 80 per cent of the 227 gardens were open in the Dooars.
Till recently, the tea management was unwilling to budge from its stand to go for an interim hike. But now, when it has changed its stand, the Adivasi Parishad has made it clear that it does not want an interim hike but a new agreement where the daily wage of workers will be Rs 250.
“There is still some possibility of the negotiations falling through as the Adivasi Parishad is adamant that instead of an interim wage hike, the workers should be paid Rs 250 per day. This would be very difficult to accept,” a source said.
“So far the management had agreed only to repair the workers’ houses,” the source added.
The management is, however, pinning hopes on the labour minister to also impress on the Adivasi Parishad to accept the interim wage hike and keep the demand for Rs 250 daily wage for discussion at a latter stage. “Since the minister is exerting pressure on us which has forced us to change our minds, it is only right that he should impress on the unions, especially the Adivasi Parishad to be flexible,” said the source.
Sandip Mukherjee, secretary, Darjeeling Tea Association, said there were indications of a positive outcome in the next meeting.
“I can only say that the outcome should be positive,” said Mukherjee.
BRIEFS FROM THE TELEGRAPH
Siliguri: A patients’ help centre was inaugurated by mayor Gangotri Datta at the Siliguri District Hospital on Wednesday. The centre, to be manned by the Siliguri Red Cross Society, will provide information on the hospital facilities and the patients admitted there.
Malda: Debashis Bhattacharya took over as the principal of the proposed medical college in Malda on Wednesday. After a meeting with health and administrative officials, Bhattacharya recommended the setting up of a police outpost on the district hospital campus where the medical college would come up.
Alipurduar: A 43-year-old was arrested from Dalgaon Busti in Falakata late on Tuesday night in connection with a case of witch hunting. Police said on August 26, the body of Kandi Munda of the same village had been recovered from the Mujnai riverbed.
Investigations led the police to believe that Jagar Oraon had killed Kandi on suspicions that he practised black magic. Jagar was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days by the additional chief judicial magistrate on Wednesday.