BENGAL POLITICS IN DARJEELING & DOOARS: Weeklong rallies for more than hills – Morcha promises deal in next meet – for areas that are rightfully theirs and wrongfully usurped by Bengal – the ‘excluded’ and ‘partially excluded’ areas – Gorkha Adivasis made into minorities in their own lands by Bengal influx, now leery about it too ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, Nov. 10: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today announced a week of rallies and public meetings starting November 14 to press for the inclusion of the Dooars and the Terai in the interim authority for the Darjeeling hills and to ensure that the new body is in place by December-end.
Morcha assistant secretary Binay Tamang said the rallies would take place simultaneously in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, Soureni, Bijanbari, Gorubathan, Sukhiapokhri and Sonada in the hills and in Bagrakote, Birpara, Kalchini and Jaigaon in the Dooars. The rallies will also be held in Panighatta in the Terai and in Siliguri.
Earlier in the day, Morcha chief Bimal Gurung sounded confident that the interim authority would be put in place by the end of the year and that the “deal” would be signed at the very next round of the political-level talks.
Addressing members of minority communities at Darjeeling Gymkhana Club, Gurung said: “All issues have been discussed. During the next round of political-level talks, we will only have to sign the deal.”
In an emotional speech, Gurung tried to justify the need to accept the interim authority at this juncture. “The interim set-up is only a temporary arrangement mooted by the Centre as it is clear that no major decision can be taken by the political parties before the 2011 Assembly elections,” Gurung told the audience. “We have thoroughly studied the Centre’s proposal and have extracted almost everything we wanted, except the home department.”
The Morcha president said given the current political scene, the party could not “adamantly” stick to its demand for a separate state and that accepting the interim authority was “an indirect means to achieve separation”. “We are now in a position to be administratively separate from Bengal,” Gurung said.
He also appealed to professionals who have gone outside the region for want of opportunity here to come back to run the interim set-up. “Once the interim set-up is in place, the Morcha leadership will not occupy the chairs there but will carry on with the demand for Gorkhaland,” he added.
Drawing a distinction with GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh’s style of functioning, Gurung said: “I have come to you to seek suggestions on the interim set-up. I do not believe in dictating to you like the earlier dispensation. I need suggestions from my elders and this is why even after meeting the Union home minister I have come to you to be transparent and to seek your advice.”
As reported in The Telegraph, Gurung said a joint committee would verify the feasibility of including areas in the Dooars and the Terai in the interim authority and that the report would be submitted by May 2011.
He also claimed that the interim set-up would get around Rs 1500-2500 crore for two years. “With the funds, we have to ensure that every nook and corner of the hills is developed within two years. Earlier the DGHC used to get a central assistance of only Rs 22 crore.”
Gurung also said the interim body would have powers to create and fill vacancies in Group C and D categories. “Earlier the DGHC had to take permission from the state government to do so but now we can not only create but also fill up the vacancies in the interim authority,” he said.
Gurung signed off by offering his “best wishes” to the people of the hills “not just for Christmas and Losar (a Tibetan festival) but also for the interim set-up”.
Plains not to send students to fashion fest – a glaring example of this parochialism, shows a very scared psyche ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, Nov. 10: Most colleges in and around Siliguri will not send students to a three-day fashion show to be hosted by the Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha.
The college authorities, however, said students who wished to participate in the fashion show could do so in their individual capacity.
The student wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha planned the fashion show apparently to garner support for the inclusion of the Terai and the Dooars in the interim set-up for Darjeeling and to strengthen the ties between the students in the hills and the plains.
“We have not received invitation to the fashion show as yet. However, the college will not take any initiative to send students to the programme because the event is organised by a student outfit and not by the university or any government department. If students wish to participate, they can do so in their personal capacity,” said Ashim Mukherjee, the principal of Siliguri College of Commerce.
The Siliguri Women’s College also spoke in a similar vein. “We will stick the invitation on the notice board of the college. Students can take part in the contest on their own if they want to. But the college will not form any team for the fashion show,” said Ruma Bhowmik Sengupta, the principal of Siliguri Women’s College.
Pragya Shri/Sushri Pahari Pratik, scheduled to be held from November 15, the Vidyarthi Morcha’s foundation day, will be choreographed by Kuntanil, a fashion designer and the centre-in-charge of INIFD, Siliguri.
While some institutions refused comments, others cited their inability in sending students because of approaching exams.
“As there are semester exams next week, we will not send our students to the event even if we receive an invitation,” said Jayaraman Suresh, the principal of Gyan Jyoti College.
Reactions from student unions varied from one college to another. “We will consider the matter when the college receives the invitation. If the event is good, we may participate in it under the banner of students’ union,” said Samrat Pal Chowdhury, the general secretary of the Chhatra Parishad-backed students’ union of Siliguri College of Commerce.
The SFI-backed union at Surya Sen College ruled out arranging anything for the programme.
Amrit Yonzone, the vice president of the Vidyarthi Morcha, said: “The invitations have been sent to many colleges in the plains. Student wings in the plains may be affiliated to different political parties but it is the duty of the unions to work together for the betterment of the students. We are only trying to showcase students’ talents. There is no political undertone in our initiative and it would be unfortunate if some unions make such charges.”
Parishad rejects state meeting invite – finally after over half a century of independence in India Bengal’s lies and insincerity understood, a mango tree does not ever give oranges, does it – no hard we hope and the sales pitch says otherwise ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, Nov. 10: The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad has turned down a government invite for a meeting in Writers’ Buildings on Friday, alleging that a talks arranged on such a short notice only exposed the state’s insincerity.
“Our state leaders have received the letter (from the backward classes welfare department) yesterday. But it is not possible for us to attend the meeting in such a short notice. A number of issues mentioned in the letter need to be discussed both at the regional and state levels before we sit across the table with state officials,” said John Barla, the president of the Dooars-Terai regional unit of the Parishad. “The haste with which the letter has been sent is a proof of the insincerity of the state government, which is desperately trying to prove its concern for us but unfortunately not in reality. It is a courtesy to provide adequate time in such cases.”
According to Parishad leaders, the letter written by M. Pandit, the joint commissioner for reservations and a joint secretary of the department, says issues like the state recruitment policy for tribals and the migration of tribal populace in search of jobs will be discussed at the meeting.
“We have grievances on a number of issues related to employment and provisions of reservations in government jobs. Unless the state provides us time, how can we prepare ourselves for the meeting,” Barla said. “This is an attempt to appease us on the eve of the Assembly elections. We are not ready to rely on these moves by the state.” Parishad state president Birsa Tirkey today intimated the department in Calcutta of their inability to attend the meeting.
Expressway hurdle for North 3 – Frequent alignment changes stall work on east-west corridor – the same glaring example, promises galore – but just accident deaths, excuses-excuses-and even more-excuses as well as inaction; Bengal’s only legacy ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, Nov. 10: Work on the east-west corridor is yet to start in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts, where residents have to wait for at least three more years for the four-lane highway connecting Porbander to Silchar.
Repeated changes in alignment have led to delay in constructions between Ghoshpukur, 30km from Siliguri, and Salsalabari in Alipurduar on the Bengal-Assam border while work in the rest of the country, including North Dinajpur, has started.
“The reason (for no work) is repeated changes in alignment,” said R.K. Chaudhry, the project director of the National Highways Authority of India posted in Siliguri.
The initial alignment suggested by NHAI was through the Dooars and included NH31. It drew severe criticism from wildlife NGOs and the state government as four reserve forests falls on this stretch. The animal lovers and the government had argued the construction of the expressway would pose a threat to wildlife and cause depletion of forest cover.
The issue went to court and finally, the route was changed to Ghoshpukur-Bagdogra-Fulbari-Jalpaiguri-Dhupguri-Falakata-Alipurduar.
“We conducted the survey and prepared the detail project report (DPR) on the second route when the businessmen in Bagdogra protested, fearing eviction. Again, we had to change the alignment, bypassing Bagdogra. Now, the road will take a right turn from Ghoshpukur and join the bypass running parallel to the Teesta canal till Fulbari before heading for Jalpaiguri,” Chaudhry said. “This led to fresh DPR for the Ghoshpukur-Fulbari stretch which took some more time. Moreover, we need a no-objection certificate from the state irrigation department now and have to incorporate it in the DPR. A letter has been sent to the secretary of the irrigation department and we are awaiting a reply.”
Explaining the next course of action, Chaudhry said: “We will forward the NOC to our higher authorities and on completion of certain formalities, tenders would be floated, the contractors fixed and finally, the work awarded. It would, as it seems, take another year or so for work to commence on the stretch.”
The four-laning is complete in major portions of Assam and Bihar. It is almost complete between Ghoshpukur and Purnea More in Dalkhola in North Dinajpur district, the point where the corridor enters Bihar.
Even as the four-lane corridor continues to elude north Bengal residents, the condition of NH31D, the Siliguri-Jalpaiguri-Mainaguri-Dhupguri-Falakata route, continues to remain deplorable. The NHAI authorities, however, claimed that Rs 10 crore is being spent for its repair, which would be completed in a month or so.
Daily commuters and bus owners are not ready to buy the story. “We can no longer bank on the NHAI. From state ministers to officials, all of them had made promises but the roads continue to be the same,” said Pranab Mani, secretary of the North Bengal Passenger Transport Owners Coordination Committee that had once called a month-long bus strike in protest.
Manindra Chatterjee, a government employee who commutes daily to Mainaguri from Siliguri, said: “The corridor idea seems strange and unreal. They can’t even maintain existing roads, leave alone build new ones,” he said.