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