GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Jaswant caution on state creation – Go-slow (on Gorkhaland) message for Bimal Gurung – don’t follow SG’s footsteps with continued Bengal locks & admin blunders ?!!

Jaswant Singh in Darjeeling on Tuesday. (Photo by Suman Tamang)

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI      

Darjeeling, May 4: Darjeeling MP and former BJP leader Jaswant Singh today made it clear that a separate Gorkhaland state would take a long time to happen and cautioned the leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha against expecting it to be created overnight.     

On a visit to his constituency, Singh told The Telegraph that what he was advocating for the moment was the creation of “a state within a state” till such a time that the situation was politically conducive for the creation of a separate state.     

In fact, what the Morcha had demanded in its “secret document” sent to the Centre was akin to Singh’s formula to resolve the Gorkhaland issue at least for the time being.     

Morcha leader Bimal Gurung had made demands ranging from a separate high court to a body similar to the Assembly in the interim arrangement for the hills, though he had been careful to keep police out of the purview of the set-up.     

“I have also been ceaselessly working with the Union government, (and the) home ministry, for the concept of a state within a state. The governor (in the new set-up) will be there to represent the Centre and should not be answerable to the state government,” added Singh.     

As if to caution the Morcha leadership, Singh said today: “For Gorkhaland, learn from the historical experiences of creating states in India. In all such demands for bifurcation of states, there have always been stages. For example, how many years did it take for Mizoram and Nagaland to come into being?”     

The DGHC shortcomings - no repeats ?!!

 

Only too aware that neither the Centre nor the Bengal government are in any mood to concede to the Morcha demand for a separate state, Singh said: “During the formation of a new state or a new territory, there will not be a straight line. There will be stops and pauses.”     

The movement, in fact, is currently going through a phase of “stops and pauses” in its quest for a separate state.     

The Morcha has said it will not settle for anything less than the inclusion of the Dooars and the Terai in the interim set-up, which will form the geographical boundary of the separate Gorkhaland state, if and when it comes into being.     

In fact, the Morcha has said this demand will form the only agenda during the next rounds of bureaucratic and political-level tripartite talks. The state and the Centre, however, have so far refused to concede to it, leading to a deadlock.     

Appearing to be advocating patience for the Morcha leaders, Singh said: “Nothing can be achieved at one go, get the government (interim set-up) in your hand, administer the area and then after, build on. Everything has to take place stage by stage.” (Patience for less & less or more & more ?!!)     

Giving instances of similar disputes that have arisen during the creation of other states in the country, Singh said “such things happen” but are eventually resolved.     

“The creation of Uttarakhand was always accompanied by territorial problems,” Singh said. “The state was formed, protests continued and later the disputed areas were added. Jharkhand was created after much protest from Bihar. These things happen.” (That was when BJP was in power, so will Rahul Gandhi also take up the Gorkha cause ?!!)     

But for the moment, Singh wants to utilise his MP local area development funds to bring development and amenities to the Darjeeling hills.     

MEANWHILE THE STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE ADDS  

Jaswant arrives in Darjeeling   

SILIGURI, 4 MAY: The Darjeeling MP Mr Jaswant Singh arrived in Darjeeling today, though his arrival seems to have failed to enthuse the GJMM -the party which once hoped the BJP stalwart elected by the hill party’s support would galvanize the public and political opinions at the national level in favour of the Gorkhaland demand.  

But now, after less than a year elapsed since his expulsion from the BJP, the GJMM leadership does not seem to take much note of the veteran Parliamentarian’s visit to his constituency. Apart from the diminution of his political stature following expulsion from the BJP, the enthusiasm for Mr Singh has further dipped with several hill-based parties like the GNLF and the CPRM throwing weight behind the fresh election demand in the Darjeeling constituency.  

In a piquant contrast to the previous times when tumultuous welcomes awaited him in the Darjeeling hills, he arrived almost unnoticed this time. More conspicuously, the GJMM mandarins seem inclined to pass it cursorily, calling it ‘a routine visit to his constituency.”  

Asked to comment on Mr Singh’s visit an influential GJMM leader, Mr Amar Lama said that he had no knowledge of any political programmes for him. “I do not know even how long he would stay here. There is no political import save for the fact that it is a routine visit on the part of the MP to his constituency,” he said.  

Declining to say much on the visit, another important GJMM central committee member, Mr Jyoti Rai said that his party had not much to do with it. “It is, however, a good news for the constituency that he has come here after a considerably long time. Perhaps he was not well, or maybe, he was busy writing books,” he said.  

However, the GJMM media secretary, Dr Harka Bahadur Chettri said that his party would continue to utilize his stature as a veteran Parliamentarian. “His role in championing the Gorkhaland cause on the floor of the Parliament is yet to be exhausted and we would use him in full in future,” he added.  

MEANWHILE: SOME GLARING RECENT EXAMPLES     

EDUCATION: School job panel delay irks Morcha – Too long time coming ?!! 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT  

Kalimpong, May 4: The Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation (JSTO) has expressed concern at the delay in initiating the process to regularise the services of ad hoc teachers at hill schools. The organisation, an affiliate of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, blamed the government for the DGHC’s laxity “in attending to burning issues of education”.  

In a letter faxed to school education minister Partha De last night, JSTO secretary Bejoy Pradhan regretted that the DGHC was yet to forward a proposal for the constitution of the temporary recruitment board. The proposal had been agreed upon at the two meetings that the organisation had with senior officials of the state education department in Calcutta in March.  

On March 25, additional chief secretary (education) Bikram Sen had directed the DGHC authorities to send a proposal for the constitution of the board at the earliest.  

The five-member board comprising two members from the field of education, two others recommended by the DGHC and a person of eminence from the hills was expected to scrutinise the qualifications of the ad hoc teachers and recommend their appointments for permanent jobs.  

The JSTO said although it had suggested the names of the board members long back, the DGHC was yet to take follow-up action. At the meetings, the government had said the JSTO was free to recommend the names of the members, which the DGHC could accept or ignore.  

“The organisation has lost its confidence in the delivery mechanism of the DGHC. Since the administration of DGHC is being run by officials appointed by the government of Bengal, the government cannot absolve itself of the laxity shown by the DGHC in attending to and pursuing the burning issues of education in the hills,” said the letter.  

The JSTO has pointed out that the education department of the DGHC has had five secretaries in 18 months, and such frequent changes were seriously hampering the execution of administrative decisions.  

“Our concern regarding this matter was communicated to the principal secretary, DGHC (Surinder Gupta),” said Pradhan.  

The meeting with Sen was a follow-up to the March 16 talks the JSTO had with the education minister. Dey had then agreed to regularise the services of 474 teachers and 78 non-teaching staff members working in the hill schools.  

The assurance followed the non-co-operation agitation launched by the JSTO to fulfil its demands which, besides job regularisation, included recognition and upgrade of schools, and confirmation of teachers in-charge (read acting headmasters) as permanent school heads.  

Morcha dharna to halt course shift – Janta College Agitation gets steadily worse, Bengal remains unconcerned ?!!     

Janta College shift proposal - emptying the Hills educationally ?!!

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT     

Kalimpong, May 3: Four frontal organisations of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha along with the Citizens’ Rights Forum organised a dharna at the subdivisional office here today to protest the shifting of library science course from the Kalimpong People’s (Janata) College to Siliguri.     

More than 20 protesters sat on the office premises from 11am to 12.30pm. In the absence of Kalimpong subdivisional officer Amyas Thsering, they met deputy magistrate G.L. Thsering and wanted to know the response of the state government to their demand.     

They reassembled at the office around 2.30pm and warned that the government’s continued silence on the issue could lead to serious trouble. Members of the Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation (JSTO), Gorkha Primary Teachers’ Organisation, Janmukti Karmachari Sangathan and the Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan took part in the protest.     

Bengal quiet behind Admin Wall, intent clear ?!!

 

“If the government continues to pay no heed to our peaceful protest, we will be forced to take to the streets on a much bigger scale. We have decided to sit on dharna for three more days. Representatives of the four Morcha affiliates and the Citizens’ Forum will take part in the protest from 11am to 2pm for the next three days and confine the SDO and other senior officials to their rooms,” said Hari Dahal, the Kalimpong unit secretary of the JSTO.     

An official, who did not want to be named, said authorities in Calcutta were being kept posted about the developments.     

The Kalimpong subdivision had already witnessed rallies and a shutdown to protest the government’s decision to transfer the library science course from the Janata college to Siliguri. The directorate of library services had cited “present administrative turmoil in Darjeeling” for shifting the course.     

“The government has decided that one training course may be organised at additional district library, Siliguri, instead of Kalimpong People’s (Janata) College, due to present administrative turmoil in Darjeeling,” reads a letter sent by the director of library services to the secretary of the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad and the district library officer, Jalpaiguri.     

Although the opening paragraph talks only about one course (library science), the subsequent content of the letter says “the courses” may be organised in Siliguri “until and unless the situation of DGHC area of Darjeeling becomes normal”. The organisations have decided to intensify the agitation if the order is not revoked in three days. Dahal, however, refused to reveal the next course of action.     

Police scan on garden union strength – 14 arrested for Tunbari tea estate clash     

KL Tamta - politically unbiased ?!!

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU      

May 3: Police are worried about the law and order situation in the Dooars brew belt with repeated clashes in recent times between the supporters of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad and the CPM or the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.     

Inspector-general of police, north Bengal, K.L. Tamta, has instructed the Jalpaiguri superintendent of police to submit a report on the strength of trade unions in each tea garden in the Dooars to find out if there is the possibility of further breach of peace     

The police woke up to the problem after yesterday’s clash between the members of the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union, formed by the Parishad recently, and those of the Citu-affiliated Cha Bagan Mazdoor Union, in Tunbari tea garden, 115km from Alipurduar in Jalpaiguri district. Ten people were injured in the clash that was followed by a four-hour road blockade by Parishad supporters, demanding the arrest of Citu workers.     

The tribal outfit had blamed the CPM trade union for assaulting its supporters.     

Police at Malbazar - no repeats ?!!

 

“The clashes are taking place because of the emergence of a new trade union. I have instructed the Jalpaiguri police chief to contact the garden managements and to get a picture of the actual situation so that we can act promptly and settle disputes through dialogues,” Tamta told The Telegraph.     

The police officer, however, ruled out the possibility of deploying additional forces in the area. “I do not think extra forces are necessary; the unions should settle all differences through talks,” said Tamta.     

Fourteen people were arrested in connection with yesterday’s violence. Danga Bek, the secretary of the Malbazar block committee of the Parishad, said if the arrests had not been made, a strike would have been called in all the tea gardens in the Dooars.     

The Citu, however, denied its involvement in the violence. “I have not heard that our supporters are among the arrested people,” said Chanu Dey, a member of the Jalpaiguri district committee of the Citu.     

The general secretary of the Parishad, Tezkumar Toppo, said: “We have told our trade union leaders in the Dooars that they should not go into any confrontation with rival unions and should remain peaceful even in the face of provocation. However, the administration has to see to it that no one foments violence in the area,” said Toppo.     

Extra days sought for count     

Census only for the Big Fish or also the BPL sufferers ?!!

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT     

Raiganj, May 3: The North Dinajpur district administration has sought more time to complete the national census as enumerators had to keep away from the blocks hit by the April 13 storm because the victims mistook them for relief workers and demanded help.     

“When the census workers went to the devastated villages and asked questions about their income and household details, the people thought a list was being prepared to send them relief. I had received information that those engaged in the work were feeling insecure. We wrote to the census directorate in Calcutta for an extension of 20 days to complete the exercise,” said additional district magistrate Dibyendu Das, who is the census officer for the district.     

He added that in the letter, the devastation caused by the storm had also been mentioned so that the census authorities grasped the situation the workers found themselves in.     

The census began all over the country on April 1 and is scheduled to be completed on May 15.     

“We have been told that the appeal has been forwarded to the census commissioner under the Union home ministry in Delhi. If we are not granted the extension, we will not be able to complete the exercise in storm-affected blocks like Hemtabad, Raiganj, Karandighi and Itahar,” said Das.     

Mousumi Chakrabarty, the census supervisor for Karandighi, said: “Our workers reported the tension in the storm-affected areas and we suspended the work on April 14.” She added that about 12 days had been lost because of the storm.     

Subol Das, a primary school teacher of Bazargaon in Raiganj block, said the situation was tense when he had gone to carry out the exercise. “We found that most of the houses had collapsed and people were living under the open sky. We were surrounded by the villagers demanding shelter and food and we were almost beaten up.”     

SILIGURI SPORTS: SMC to set up soccer academy – and nothing for the Hills ?!!     

Kanchanjungha Stadium in Siliguri: breeding ground - for heroes in the heat ?!!

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT     

Siliguri, May 3: The Siliguri Municipal Corporation will start a football academy this month to nurture budding players from the town and its surrounding areas.     

The non-residential academy will be run at Kanchenjungha Stadium with the help of the Siliguri Mahakuma Krira Parishad.     

The SMC has plans to start the academy with 30 footballers. “We will select 30 in the age group of eight to 12 years from different coaching centres and tea estates of the subdivision with the help of the coaches of the Krira Parishad,” said Kajol Chanda, member, mayor-in-council (sports).     

The deputy mayor of the SMC, Nantu Pal, said they had proposed the academy in the last budget meeting. “In the previous board meeting, we sanctioned Rs 2.50 lakh for football kits, diet, conveyance allowance and remuneration for the coach in the academy.”     

With Bhaichung's vs Mohan Bagan ?!!

 

Pal, also the general secretary of the Krira Parishad, met Mohun Bagan Athletic Club general secretary Anjan Mitra here on Friday. During the meeting, Mitra agreed to extend cooperation to the SMC for the academy.     

“Such initiatives are welcome for promoting budding footballers from the region. We have already started our own residential academy in Jalpaiguri last year, which our coaches from Calcutta visit regularly. We will instruct them to visit the SMC academy also to guide the players and the coaches,” Mitra had said.     

The Mohun Bagan official hoped that the SMC academy would be a good platform for the budding footballers of the region considering the accessibility of the town and its available infrastructure that includes a large football stadium. Mitra also had plans to make his Jalpaiguri academy play a friendly match here in July.

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‘Big Fish in a Small Pond Syndrome’ – when will ‘Anti-New-Statehood’ forces in the ‘Siliguri Corridor’ realise what they ‘are & will be’ missing ?!!

Bengal's Delicacy: The Big One that 'didn't get away' ?!! - Angler Khurshid Ahmed proudly displays a massive 30kg + 'Mahaseer' at Teesta River (Photo - Himalaya Darpan)

GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Nothing ‘new’ today as ‘All India’ suffers from a ‘Bengal Dominated’ parochially responsible ‘weak press’ disconnect – ‘head in the sand’ syndrome, cause for India’s quagmire ?!!

Jaswant to arrive in Darjeeling today: May 4, 2010 – more ‘patience’ required ?!!

JUST A YEAR AGO

Jaswant sure of winning from Darjeeling

FROM CNN-IBN
BY SOUGATA MUKHOPADHYAY

Darjeeling, May 01, 2009: BJP veteran Jaswant Singh might just pull a rabbit out of his hat. Moving from the deserts of Rajasthan to the cool hills of Darjeeling, Jaswant has the support of the influential Gorkha Janmukti Manch (GJM), which had virtually cut off the hill district from the rest of West Bengal last year to demand a separate state, a demand that the BJP says it will meet if voted to power.

This promise has brought all sections under its umbrella. The power of the promise has even the minorities behind Jaswant. Darjeeling’s Christians, who had strongly protested the Kandhamal riots in Orissa when the BJP was in government are willing to forget that.

Nobert Sharma “Beyond any caste of religious consideration we will vote for the BJP for the cause of Gorkhaland and for that we are willing to take the risk.”

It’s this support that will give Jaswant the confidence of a win in his new constituency.

The BJP is confident about its share of votes in the hills. But it is apprehensive about voters’ response in the plains of Dooars and Terai which is also part of the Darjeeling constituency. And the key to the result would depend upon whether the Gorkha cause is able to dislodge the CPM in the plain.

(The rest …. as the saying goes …… is “history”?!!)

MEANWHILE

GJM Spokesperson points at CPRM’s UF for Future Gorkha Talks Bargaining Power Dilution – want in desperately without viable programs, just to have some respectable face – or content just to ‘cry foul’ from the sidelines for always, wrong ‘Political Timing’ for desertion ?!!

GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Hill comrades snap Morcha ties, CPRM unveils voluntary force – Demands Darjeeling MP Jaswant’s Resignation, what next ?!!

The CPRM’s May Day rally in Darjeeling on Saturday - any "Political Road Map" (PRM) for "Ways & Means" (WnM) ahead ?!! (Photo by Suman Tamang)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT 

Darjeeling, May 2: The Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) has used its May Day rally to announce the decision to sever its ties with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and to send a message across the hills that only it can stand up to Bimal Gurung’s party. 

Nearly 4,000 workers of the CPRM took out a rally in Darjeeling yesterday and unveiled its voluntary force, the Swyam Sevak Bahini, (trained by ?!!) which is being seen as a challenge to the Morcha’s Gorkhaland Personnel (GLP). 

“We had been unconditionally supporting the Morcha for the past three years to attain Gorkhaland but they only tried to derail our agitation and attack our members. Bimal is acting as if he is the son-in-law of the state government. Today, we announce our decision to sever all ties with them (Morcha),” said R.B. Rai, the general secretary of the CPRM. 

The rally started from the Darjeeling railway station around 11.30am, an hour after the Morcha-affiliated Janmukti United Labour Welfare Organisation had taken out its May Day procession from the same spot. Although members of the GLP and the Bahini were on the streets to control the rallies, there was no confrontation by either side. 

Sources in the CPRM said the party was drawing a pool of about 1,000 people for the Bahini, though only 200 of them, wearing red caps, had been brought here yesterday. The party, however, remained tight-lipped about the training and other activities of the Bahini. (wonder why, Bengal’s hand or no hand ?!!) 

While the supporters of the Morcha went up to Chowrastha to attend the public meeting addressed by the general secretary, Roshan Giri, the CPRM cadres assembled at Chowk Bazar. 

Rai, who is also a former Darjeeling MP, surprised many when he openly came out against the Morcha. In the past, the CPRM had drawn flak from different quarters for its soft approach towards the predominant party in the hills, whether it was the GNLF or the Morcha. Rai had even supported the Sixth Schedule status mooted by the GNLF but later provided unconditional support to the Morcha. (Habit of Betrayal ?!!) 

But the picture was different yesterday. “We are not promising Gorkhaland before next May Day. However, people must support us,” said Rai, ridiculing Gurung’s earlier statement that he would achieve the separate state by March 10, 2010. 

“They seem to have forgotten Gorkhaland and are now settling for an interim set-up. Gurung is seen carrying lakhs of rupees while attending public meetings and is throwing money everywhere. Agitation is not about money and the CPRM has no funds,” said Rai. (Back to Ghising’s DGHC with no Siliguri or Dooars ?!!) 

The CPRM also demanded the resignation of Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh. “We had also supported Jaswant Singh but now we want his resignation,” said Rai. (So, who will open parliamentary doors in Delhi ?!!) 

The new United Front - No MPs ?!! (Photo by DT)

The CPRM’s May Day meeting was attended by leaders of all parties, including the ABGL, BJP, Sikkim National Front and the Gorkha Rastriya Congress. (What about CPIM, TMC, GNLF & Congress ?!!) 

Observers believe the May Day celebrations gave the CPRM an opportunity to show that it was the sole force that could take on the Morcha in the hills. (Just for contracts ?!!) 

The ABGL president, Madan Tamang, said from the very beginning, he had no faith in Gurung, while Dawa Sherpa, the state secretary of the BJP, accused the Morcha of forgetting the issue of Gorkhaland. 

At the Morcha’s May Day meeting, Roshan Giri declared that the party would never abandon the Gorkhaland agitation and accused “the opposition of hatching a conspiracy to defame the Morcha”. 

MEANWHILE 

Case, dharna to stop college shift – Bengal continues dirty politics ?!!  

The delapidated Janta College in KPG - not in Bengal's interest ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT  

Kalimpong, May 2: The protest against the shifting of the Kalimpong People’s (Janata) College is set to intensify with different social organisations threatening to take the matter to court and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha deciding to stage a dharna here from tomorrow. 

The Gorkha Dukhi Niwarak Sanmelan, the Citizens’ Rights Forum of Kalimpong and assorted community associations have come together to form a pressure group called the Janata College Bachao Committee. 

The committee in separate memoranda submitted to the subdivisional and district administration has threatened to file a writ petition in Calcutta High Court to stop the shifting of the college from here to Siliguri. 

“If the administration continues to ignore our demand, we will file a writ petition in the high court. The alibi of administrative turmoil offered by the directorate of library services for the shifting of the college does not hold much water since other schools and colleges have been functioning normally in the hills all this while,” said Sonam Bhutia, the co-ordinator of the committee. 

A letter sent by the director of library services to the secretary of the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad and the district library officer, Jalpaiguri, reads: “The government has decided that one training course may be organised at additional district library, Siliguri instead of Kalimpong People’s (Janata) College, due to present administrative turmoil in Darjeeling.” (or in Bengal ?!!) 

Even though the opening paragraph talks only about one course (library science), the subsequent content of the letter states that “the courses” may be organised in Siliguri “until and unless the situation of DGHC area of Darjeeling becomes normal.” (Siliguri presumed to be ‘out of Darjeeling District’ ?!!) 

Sources said four frontal organisations of the Morcha — Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation, Gorkha Primary Teachers’ Organisation, Janmukti Karmachari Sangathan and the Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan — have decided to stage a joint dharna in front of the subdivisional office here from 11am tomorrow. 

“We will review the development everyday and then decide on the next day’s programme,” said a source. 

The Morcha has already enforced a shutdown and organised rallies to protest the shifting of the college. 

Loyalty switch triggers clash – Siliguri Corridor begins to burn, how many will have to ‘suffer’, how many more will have to ‘die’ ?!!

A tyre set afire in protest by Parishad supporters in Malbazar. (Photo by Biplab Basak)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT 

Alipurduar, May 2: Supporters of the Citu-affiliated Cha Bagan Mazdoor Union and those of the Progressive Tea Workers Union clashed in a garden here this morning, allegedly after a section of workers attended a meeting called by the recently formed labour union of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad. 

Ten persons were injured, two of them seriously, in the violence. 

Parishad members blocked NH31 near Malbazar for over four hours till around 12.30pm, demanding the arrest of those who assaulted their members in Tunbari tea garden, 115km from here. Police said trouble had been brewing since yesterday when the Tunbari workers attended a Parishad meeting. However, senior leaders from both sides had intervened and the matter was settled. 

This morning, fresh trouble broke out at 7.30 when Citu members armed with lathis allegedly attacked a group of Parishad supporters. The Parishad filed an FIR against 15 Citu supporters accusing them of assault. 

Tej Kumar Toppo, the general secretary of the Parishad, said the Tunbari workers were being exploited by sellers of country liquor. 

“We cracked down on them. Most of the workers’ wages went into paying off liquor dues. We had stopped this to a large extent and yesterday a large number of garden workers attended a meeting organised by us at the Saili tea garden,” Toppo said. He avoided comments when asked if Citu, the CPM’s labour wing, was involved in the liquor racket. 

Toppo alleged that Citu workers beat up the Parishad supporters after they returned from the meeting. Kismat Oraon and Parameswar Oraon have been referred to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital from the Malbazar subdivisional hospital. 

“The Citu support base has been severely eroded and they are trying to terrorise the workers,” Toppo alleged. 

Usha Rautia, a member of the Citu’s Jalpaiguri district committee, said it was the Parishad that was involved in the violence. 

The SDPO of Malbazar, Nikita Phaning, said a force was patrolling the garden. “Ten people were injured.” 

Border market blaze destroys 22 shops – Bhutan distressed ?!! 

The Bhutan border market on fire in Jaigaon on Sunday - no neighbourly help ?!! (Photo by Anirban Choudhury)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT  

Jaigaon (Alipurduar) May 2: Six fire engines fought for five hours early this morning to bring a market blaze under control, but not before 22 shops had been razed to the ground. Till noon, smoke was emanating from the burnt shops whose owners pegged the loss at Rs 10 core. 

A team from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory in Calcutta is coming to investigate the cause of the fire that started half an hour after midnight, a police officer in Jaigaon said. 

The people of Jaigaon have demanded a fire station in the area where the population is nearly 2 lakh. 

Md Taher, a worker at a construction site adjacent to the Jaigaon Super Market near the Bhutan border, had first spotted smoke coming out from a shop that sold bags. He alerted those who were sleeping in their shops. 

Bhutan to the Rescue – Bengal asleep, as usual – no Rapid Action Force, no helicopters ?!! 

HM King of Bhutan with Manmohan - Understanding requested ?!!

A fire engine from Phuentsholling in Bhutan — 500 metres from the market — was the first to arrive in 15 minutes followed by fire tenders from Hasimara and Alipurduar, 57km away. 

Bhutan allowed all the fire engines to fill up from its reservoirs in Phuentsholling. Otherwise, the market would have been burnt completely as there are no waterbodies within 20km.

The blaze was under control by 5.30am.

One fire engine arrived at noon (from ?!!) to spray water on the ashes giving out smoke. 

Ramprit Sha, who was sleeping inside a garment shop adjacent to the bag shop, said Taher’s shouts had woken him up. “A few minutes after I came out of my shop, the roof of the bag shop blew off and then the fire spread very fast.” 

Jhantu Jaiswal, the president of the Jaigaon Merchants’ Association, said as soon as news of the fire reached him, he had contacted the electricity office asking them to cut off the power supply to the market that had more than 500 shops. 

“But nobody arrived. We had no option but to do it ourselves. Had the wind fanning the flames not stopped and the two pucca buildings not been there, the flames would have reduced the market to ashes. As it now stands, the loss is not less than Rs 10 crore as the shops belonged to wholesalers. None of the shops had any fire insurance. Jaigaon has a population of nearly 2 lakh but there are no fire stations. We told Debasish Sen, the principal secretary in the municipal affairs department during his recent visit to Jaigaon, to set up a fire station here because the nearest one (in Hasimara) is 24km away.” 

Jaiswal recollected the fire in 1987 when all 522 shops in the market were gutted. “Foam had been sprayed from the helicopter but all the shops were burnt.” 

Pradeep Sarkar, the officer in charge of Alipurduar fire station, said had Bhutan not provided with a continuous supply of water, there would have been more problems. “Preliminary investigation reveals that negligence was the cause of the fire,” said Sarkar hinting at faulty electricity lines and appliances. 

Litan Ghosh, the owner of six shops — all of them were burnt — said his six-member family depended on the shops and he had no other sources of income. 

Job scheme blow to BRO labour flow – Centre bogged in a dilemma ?!!   

BRO labourers at work on the Gangtok-Nathu-la road in Sikkim.

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY BIJOY GURUNG 

Gangtok, May 2: At a time when the Centre is pumping in nearly Rs 1,200 crore to improve the road infrastructure along the India-China border in Sikkim, the implementing agency is facing labour shortage because of another central project, the NREGA. 

So much is the shortage that Border Roads Organisation officials here are apprehending that the strategically important road projects may get delayed. 

Project Swastik of the BRO, which looks after the highways of the state, has three widening projects at hand — 180km-long North Sikkim Highway (Rs 600 crore), 66km-long Gangtok-Nathu-la road (Rs 495 crore) and 96km-long NH31A (Rs 73.9 crore for the 41km-stretch in Sikkim, while the survey has not been completed on the Bengal side). The first two projects are scheduled to be completed by 2015. 

Besides local people, the BRO relies heavily on migrant population from Jharkhand, Orissa and parts of north Bengal for its labour force working in the high-altitude projects. 

However, according to the Project Swastik officials, the migrant labour component has dried up following the implementation of the central job scheme under the NREGA. Currently, the organisation is grappling with 20-25 per cent shortage of labourers in Sikkim. They are also not getting workers from Nepal in the expected number at this juncture. 

The BRO engages around 3,000 workers a day on an average for its projects in Sikkim. 

“The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has done well but the labour component has gone down because of the scheme. It has become a major problem across the country,” a BRO official said. “As a result, many labourers have stopped coming to Sikkim also. We don’t get our labour resources.” 

The BRO official also said the hydel power projects under construction in North Sikkim have also wooed maximum labourers by offering better remuneration. 

Sources said the BRO has sufficient machinery to overcome a percentage of labour shortage. “We have machines but labourers are also required for a host of manual work,” an official said expressing fears that the road widening projects may get delayed. 

The state rural development department has, however, offered a different view on the national problem of labour crisis. 

“The central scheme has brought an alternative opportunity of employment to the labourers who have now the capacity to bargain and negotiate. Labour force is available if you are only willing to give them a better package than the scheme offers. Employing labourers at low prices is not possible now,” said Sandeep Tambe, the additional secretary of the department. The scheme is like a safety net that provides a minimum of Rs 100 a day to a labourer. 

Speaking in general on the labour shortage in the country, Tambe said as more semi-skilled and skilled labourers were required for mega construction projects, one should probably look at the aspect of using high-tech machinery to replace the labour force. 

The official admitted that the labour market has totally changed because of the implementation of the central scheme. Earlier, opportunity was not available in villages, so men used to migrate to far away places, leaving their families behind. 

Sonia Gandhi - time for decision ?!!

“The NREGA has provided the opportunity and right to get employment in villages now, giving the rural people an option to stay at home and earn money rather than migrating to urban areas. So we need to go for more mechanised ways of construction, so that manual labour is required less in these mega projects,” said Tambe. 

(And, employment from the storm devastated areas of the Siliguri Corridor and the Maoist belt of Bengal or expensive, specialised mechanisation training ?!!) 

GORKHALAND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Battle of numbers at May Day meets – Security at venues to prevent clash – Prudent move ?!!

A truckload of Gorkhaland Personnel, a voluntary force raised by the Morcha, passes through Sukna, around 10km from Siliguri, on Friday. (Photo by Kundan Yolmo)

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT  

Darjeeling, April 30: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the CPRM, the two largest parities in the hills, will organise May Day celebrations here tomorrow, raising a possibility of confrontation between their supporters. (according to ?!!)  

As both the parties have pledged to ensure the participation of as many people as possible, police have decided to post adequate forces at the venues where meetings will be held.  

The CPRM had announced its decision to organise May Day programme more than a fortnight back. The Morcha-affiliated-Janmukti United Labour Welfare Organisation (JULWO) announced its plans today but claimed that the decision had been taken much earlier.  

“We had decided to hold a meeting sometime back. We were working on a handbook for the labourers titled Unmukti and it will be released at the meeting. We have been organising May Day celebrations for the past two years,” said David Rai, the president of the JULWO.  

The Morcha meeting will be attended by party president Bimal Gurung, along with general secretary Roshan Giri and another senior leader Amar Lama.  

Darjeeling town - too close for comfort, a division ploy ?!!

 

While the CPRM meeting will be held at Chowk Bazar, the Morcha has chosen Chowrastha, less than a kilometre away, for its programme that will begin at 10.30am.  

The two hill outfits have also decided to take out rallies which will start from the Darjeeling railway station, but at different times.  

“We will not go in for any confrontation and there is no reason to fear any law and order problem,” said D.S. Bomzom, the spokesperson for the CPRM.  

The ABGL has also decided to support and attend the CPRM’s meeting. In the recent past, the ABGL had to call off two meetings at Chowk Bazar after the Morcha decided to hold rallies at the same venue.  

The CPRM central committee is holding May Day function for the first time after the Morcha was formed in October 2007 and many believe that the party is trying to show its strength.  

“In 2007, the party’s central committee had organised the celebration in Kalimpong and in the past two years, our regional committees were organising (the programmes) at their respective places. This year, the central committee has again decided to organise the function,” said Bomzom.  

In the past two years, the CPRM and the Morcha have had their fair share of problems. (Really ?!!) The Morcha had at times openly criticised R.B. Rai, the general secretary of the CPRM, alleging that the communists were responsible for the death of the hill people during the 1986 Gorkhaland agitation.  

The CPRM was formed in 1997 by a group of hill leaders who had left the CPM.  

KL Tamta ... before

 

Also, the Morcha had opposed a 12-hour strike called by the CPRM on August 22, 2008, to demand the speedy trial of Chattrey Subba, who had been accused of masterminding an attack on GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh on February 10, 2001, at Saat Ghumti near Kurseong. Even though the Morcha opposed the strike, it, too, had been demanding a speedy trial for Subba.  

The respective parties are expected to bring in as many supporters as possible. “Our members from the town will definitely be attending the meeting and we are trying to get in supporters from tea gardens as well,” said Rai.  

KL Tamta ... now, looking prosperous ?!!

 

The CPRM has said they, too, have appealed to all their supporters to attend the meeting that will kick off at 11.30am.  

K.L. Tamta, inspector-general of police, north Bengal, who was in Darjeeling today to attend the closing ceremony of Traffic Safety Week, said adequate police would be posted for both the programmes.

Amalkanti Ray, the subdivisional officer of Darjeeling, said permissions had been granted to the two parties, as the venues were different.  

Funds misuse to dominate talks: Asok – and who pays for recent hotel bills in Gangtok ?!!  

Asok Bhattacharya in Sikkim - no 'Phoren' ideas ?!!

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU   

April 30: The misuse of DGHC funds by the frontal organisations of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, as alleged by the council’s administrator B. L. Meena, will be discussed in detail at the next round of political-level talks in Delhi, according to Bengal municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya.  

Meena had told the media on April 23 that the Morcha’s frontal organisations like the Nari Morcha and the Yuva Morcha were directly controlling the implementation of the DGHC’s development schemes.  

Bhattacharya — who is tasked to represent the state government, along with Bengal health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra, at the political level meeting — said in Gangtok today: “We will discuss the matter in an elaborate manner during the tripartite talks, as the charges are very serious.”  

Bhattacharya is on a three-day visit to Sikkim to oversee the organisational work of the CPM in the state. He, however, did not comment when asked how a party that had no electoral mandate could dictate the use of the DGHC funds.  

He iterated the Bengal government’s position on the Morcha’s Gorkhaland demand and said the party should accept the proposal for a more empowered council as an alternative to the statehood for the hills. “The proposal sent by the Centre and the one we will place at the next round of talks are better and more viable than the Morcha’s document on an interim set-up,” said the minister. (To make Bimal Gurung another Subhash Ghising ?!!)  

BL Meena - 10 crore suit, good enough ?!!

 

Meena’s allegation prompted the Gorkha Janmukti Nari Morcha to file a Rs 10 crore defamation suit against him in the court of the Darjeeling civil judge (senior division) today. “The case has been admitted and will come up for hearing on May 29,” said Taranga Pandit, a lawyer representing the Nari Morcha.  

When told about the defamation case, Meena said he had enough evidence to show the direct involvement of the women and youth wings of the Morcha in the execution of the DGHC projects.  

“I have inspected two sites where work is going on and I have specific written proof that the Nari Morcha and the Yuva Morcha are engaged in two projects being undertaken at Sukna High School. When I visited the spot, some eight to ten students (of the Yuva Morcha) admitted that they were doing work worth Rs 40 lakh. (so, who issued & got the contracts ?!!) I have spoken only about two projects in Sukna and I have papers with which I can go anywhere,” said Meena.  

He said while one project was on infrastructure development of the school, entailing an expenditure of Rs 18 lakh, the other was the erection of a boundary wall and development of a playground worth Rs 40 lakh.  

Meena, who has been accused by the Morcha of trying to derail the Gorkhaland movement, said today: “I have nothing against the ongoing movement and I am simply doing my duty. Whatever I have said is based on my findings and not to malign or implicate anyone or any forum. But if anyone blames me for making baseless comments, I am not ready to digest them. (?!!) The jobs in Sukna were assigned to a DGHC-empanelled contractor of the same locality, but were eventually taken up by the frontal organisations of the Morcha.” (Wonder How ?!!)  

With Meena standing by his accusations, the Morcha again said he was doing so to hide his “own incompetence”.  

“Our first question is if he has proof, what is he waiting for? By making these statements, he has virtually spoken of his own incompetence and he should resign. We want to make it clear that in no way is the Morcha or any of our frontal organisations involved in the execution of DGHC work,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha.  

Legal threat to restore hill peace – Problems in the plains of Darjeeling & Dooars ?!!  

Dawa Pakhrin - timely move ?!!

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT  

Siliguri, April 30: GNLF leader Dawa Pakhrin today threatened to move Calcutta High Court against the state and central governments for their alleged failure to restore normality in the Darjeeling hills.  

A former GNLF branch president of Kalimpong, Pakhrin also admitted a “difference of opinion” within the party, which he said, had been affecting its activities in the plains and the hills.  

“We have repeatedly written to the Centre, state and both the human rights commissions, highlighting the atrocities of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. It is unfortunate that nothing has been done to restore normality in the hills, resulting in eviction of over 250 families who are spending days in the plains in pitiable conditions,” said Pakhrin, who gave up his party post on April 20, at a media conference here.  

“We have decided to write a final letter to the chief minister and the Union home minister. If they continue with their silence, we will file a suit in the high court.”  

Pakhrin said: “The GNLF chairman (Subash Ghisingh) is harping on the implementation of the Sixth Schedule, while we are in favour of Gorkhaland, our ultimate goal. This difference of opinion is affecting our activities.”  

Trinamul, Congress gear up for poll fight – how many more ‘deaths and injuries’ in the Siliguri Corridor ?!!  

The Siliguri Corridor in contention - for India's National Security & Development, asked all North-East States for their input ?!!

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU  

April 30: The stage is set for a direct fight between the Congress and the Trinamul Congress in the elections to the three municipalities of Jalpaiguri, Englishbazar and Old Malda unless an anti-Left alliance is forged before May 7, the last date for the withdrawal of nominations.  

The Congress today took out a rally in Jalpaiguri with 23 candidates and the two Independents it is backing, before they filed their nominations. Trinamul candidates also filed papers for 10 seats in the 25-ward civic body. The party will declare the name for one more seat later.  

“The state leaders have endorsed our decision. If the Congress still does not allow us to fight from the 11 seats, we will put up our candidates in all the wards,” said Chandan Bhowmick, the secretary-general of the Jalpaiguri Trinamul Congress.  

In Malda, Congress supporters took out a procession that ended at the district collectorate, where candidates for all the 18 seats of Old Malda municipality and 11 seats of 25-ward Englishbazar civic body submitted their nominations.  

Slogans like “not a single seat should be spared for the Trinamul Congress in Barkatda’s Malda district” and “the CPM will cut a sorry figure” rent the air at the rally. Huge party flags, cutouts of the Congress’s hand symbol and posters gave the procession a festive look.  

“The Congress had decided to spare two seats for Trinamul in Old Malda, though they are very weak there. But they demanded six seats,” said Malda block Congress leader Nabaranjan Singha.  

He added that Trinamul’s demand for 15 seats in Englishbazar was “not acceptable” and only seven could be spared for the party.  

Malda district Trinamul Congress president Goutam Chakraborty said their candidates would file nominations for all the wards of the two municipalities on May 3.  

President of Malda Town Congress Bibhuti Ghosh said the candidates for the remaining 14 wards at the Englishbazar civic body would file their papers on May 3.  

“All said and done, we still believe that good sense will prevail on the Trinamul Congress leadership and they will accept seven seats that we are ready to offer them in Englishbazar,” said Ghosh.  

Both Ghosh and Singha, however, conceded that absence of a tie-up with Trinamul would shatter the chances of defeating the Left Front at Old Malda.  

Highway protest after girl death – Ire on Police, no goodwill ?!!  

Residents block the highway in Kushmandi on Friday. (Photo by Mithun Roy)

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT  

Balurghat, April 30: Angry residents of Kushmandi today attacked a police jeep after a speeding truck killed a 15-year-old schoolgirl and seriously injured her sister on a state highway.  

The mob blocked the Balurghat-Raiganj state highway for two hours from 1pm near the Lakshmitala bridge in Kushmandi, 75km from here. The district administration had to deploy the combat force to quell the fury. The situation was brought under control by the subdivisional police officer (SDPO) of Gangarampur, Kazi Samsuddin Ahmed.  

Firdousi Khatoon, 15, and her sister Rehena Khatoon, 14, were on their way to Kaliaganj, about 30km away, on the motorcycle of Nurul Islam, one of their acquaintances and a primary teacher, when the Dalkhola-bound truck hit them from the rear.  

The teacher fled soon after the incident. Local people, who gathered there, saw the girls groaning in pain and rushed them to the Kushmandi hospital.  

While Firdousi died on way to the hospital, Rehena has been admitted in a serious condition. None of the girls had helmets on their heads.  

Police overturned - no goodwill ?!!

 

The local people alleged that even though there was a police check going on near the accident spot, the law enforcers did not chase the truck nor arrest the driver.  

The SDPO, however, said the truck driver had been arrested in Kaliaganj and the vehicle seized.  

Rehena said from her hospital bed that both the sisters had gone with their father Azimuddin Ahmed, a law clerk, to an office in the morning. “After the work, they wanted to go to Kaliaganj to repair their watches. But father told us not to go.”  

On way to Kaliaganj, they met Nurul who was also headed there, Rehena said. “The teacher agreed to take both of us to Kaliaganj. After travelling a few metres, Nurul suddenly stopped his motorcycle and turned around to see the police conducting checks for papers. The truck coming from behind rammed into the bike.”

MAY DAY LAST CALL: to Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee & Co. from Kanchanjunga – please come ‘if at all you care’ for your ‘Ideal Legacy of Truth & Justice’ as you currently still hold ‘power’ in Bengal …

Kanchanjunga – of ‘Mystery, Majesty and Mists’ – May Day Last Call, don’t miss your chance !!! (By famed photographer Anubhav Sood)

 

Dear Esteemed Readers of Himal News,  

If you, or anyone you know, would  also like to send invitations to Bengal’s Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee & his Government with Photos of Kanchanjunga – please email them to himalgroup@hotmail.com on jpg format. Your contributions will be displayed here with your captions –       

Thanking you in anticipation of your contributions….

The Editor,
Himal News.

GORKHA POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Hill talks shifted to May end – more time for consolidation of consensus in Siliguri Corridor ?!!

Manmohan with the King of Bhutan - cordial & important meeting ?!!

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT     

Darjeeling, April 29: The next round of political-level talks between the Centre, state and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has been postponed to the end of May because of “important issues” presently under discussion in Parliament.      

If the Union home ministry had stuck to the earlier deadline of May 14 — that had been set for the second round of political talks — there would have been no time for official-level discussion necessary as a precursor to the tripartite talks.      

The last tripartite talks was held in Delhi on March 18. (First ‘Political Level Tripartite’ Talks ?!!)      

Interlocutor Lt Gen (Retd) Vijay Madan - pressed into urgent service ?!!

 

Lt Gen. (retd) Vijay Madan, the interlocutor appointed by the Centre, in an interaction with The Telegraph, said over the phone from Delhi: “One more round of official-level talks is needed to sort out some contentious issues. Since Parliament is in session till May 7, the official-level talks will be held soon after on a mutually agreed date.”      

Madan admitted that the political-level talks would in that case be pushed back by a few days. It could take place on May 25 but the date has not yet been fixed.      

“Some very important issues are being discussed in Parliament… But we do not want to undermine the Gorkhaland issue. It is of much importance and the home ministry wants to fully focus on it and this can be done only after the session is over in Parliament,” said Madan.      

After the March 18 tripartite talks, the Morcha participated in two more rounds of dialogue, one at the bureaucratic-level on March 29. The last meeting was with home minister P. Chidambaram on April 9. However, with the Morcha sticking to its stand to include the Nepali-dominated areas of the Dooars and the Terai in the proposed interim set-up and the state and the Centre opposed to the idea, the talks had not progressed much.      

Gorkha Supremo Bimal Gurung - more time for consolidation ?!!

 

Morcha president Bimal Gurung has been currently addressing a series of meetings across the Darjeeling hills to spread the message that the party will not accept a set-up without the territories (read Dooars, Terai) it wants. Gurung had also conveyed the same message to Madan during their meeting at Dudhia in Kalimpong last week. Asked about the stalemate, Madan said: “My job is only to listen to the views of all parties concerned. If I have any view I can only express it before the home ministry. Various views are being attributed to me by the media but I have only once spoken on record recently.”      

By “on record” Madan was referring to his conversation with The Telegraph where he had said the tripartite meetings would only involve the representatives of the Morcha, state and the central government. “The clarification was needed as it was getting crowded (with demands to be included in the talks),” he said.      

The reference was to the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad that had demanded that the next round of tripartite talks should include the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes so that the views of the tribals living in the Dooars and Terai could be aired at the meeting.      

During the first round of political talks, the Centre was represented by the minister of state for home affairs Ajay Maken and the Trinamul Congress minister of state for health Dinesh Trivedi. Siliguri MLA and municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya and health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra had represented the state.      

Cong and Trinamul to clash in 11 seats – as the Left is demoralised ?!!      

The Congress candidates for the Jalpaiguri municipal polls on Thursday. (Photo by Biplab Basak)

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT      

Siliguri, April 29: The Congress today announced candidates for all the 25 wards of the Jalpaiguri municipality, further alienating the Trinamul Congress that stuck to its demand for 11 seats.      

As Trinamul has also declared that its 11 candidates will file nominations tomorrow, there is no room for an alliance.      

“The only option left for the two parties is to reach a consensus in the next few days and withdraw the nominations accordingly by May 6 to ensure that there is only one candidate of either Trinamul or the Congress in each seat,” said a political observer.      

Jalpaiguri district Congress president Biswaranjan Sarkar, along with the chairman of the civic body, Mohan Bose, and other leaders, announced the candidates’ list this afternoon. While 23 candidates will be contesting on the Congress symbol, the rest will be Independents backed by the party. They will be fielded in Wards 11 and 13.      

“We had earnestly tried to clinch an electoral pact with Trinamul, but they kept on insisting that 11 seats be kept aside for them,” said Sarkar. “We had little option other than announcing the names for all the seats. We will be fielding Independents in Wards 11 and 13 based on the feedback we had received from the residents. All our candidates will file their nominations tomorrow.”      

Chandan Bhowmik, the district secretary-general of Trinamul, while announcing the candidates, including four women, said: “We want to make it clear that Trinamul has a support base and at the same time, it is interested in forging an alliance with the Congress. That is why we have refrained from fielding candidates in all the seats.”      

The observer said the Congress would face troubles in the other 14 wards also, though Trinamul has not fielded candidates in those seats. “It is not that the Congress candidates in the remaining wards can be sure of getting votes from Trinamul supporters as there will be an underlying resentment if no alliance is formed,” he said.       

Allies to go it alone in Malda civic polls – Lists out in Jalpaiguri, withdrawal of candidates only way to keep alliance intact – ‘SET-UP to include Malda also for ‘National Security Reasons’ ?!!      

CPM supporters on the Malda district collectorate premises on Thursday. (Photo by Surajit Roy)

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT      

Malda, April 29: The alliance between the Trinamul Congress and the Congress for the May 30 elections to Englishbazar and Old Malda municipalities has virtually gone haywire with both the parties sticking to their respective stands.      

The leaders of both the parties today made it clear that they would go to the polls independent of the other.      

Trinamul that has eight councillors in the Englishbazar municipality — the 25-member board is run by a Trinamul-Congress-BJP combine — has demanded 15 seats, but the Congress (having four now) is in no mood to spare more than five to six.      

Trinamul’s Malda district president Goutam Chakraborty said at a media conference that the party would not succumb to the Congress’s pressure. He claimed that his party was “powerful enough in the district to fight the elections alone”.      

Chakraborty defended the party’s demand for 15 wards since they have eight councillors in the present board as against the Congress’s four. The party has also asked for six seats in Old Malda. He said he had “clear instructions” from party chief Mamata Banerjee on not to compromise.      

Congress MLA from Englishbazar Krishnendu Chowdhury, however, described the Trinamul demand as “absurd”.      

“Trinamul does not have any foothold in the district. It has been demanding seats where the Congress is very strong. How can we accept such absurd demands?” Chowdhury said.      

“We can at best offer five or six seats to them in Englishbazar and two or three seats in Old Malda,” the Congress leader said.      

The 18-seat Old Malda municipality — one ward has been added this year — is presently run by the Left Front with 13 councillors against the BJP’s four.      

Both the Congress and Trinamul have declared that they would start filing nominations from tomorrow. However, they hinted that negotiations might continue till May 6, the last date for withdrawing candidature.      

But political observers believe that with both sides remaining adamant, an alliance is a remote possibility.      

Civic protest – time to appease the Left Front Students in Siliguri, maybe not ?!!      

Police Deployed in the Plains - CRPF finally leave Kalimpong ?!!

 

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT      

Siliguri, April 29: The DYFI today submitted a memorandum to the district magistrate of Darjeeling, demanding the immediate transfer of the subdivisional officer of Siliguri, while its parent body, the CPM, asked the mayor to step down as she was elected to the post with Left support.      

This morning, about 300 DYFI supporters shouted slogans against SDO Rajat Saini on his office premises, accusing him of ordering the lathicharge to disperse CPM members picketing in front of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation during the 12-hour Left strike on Tuesday. They also took out a rally from Hill Cart Road to the SDO office before submitting the memorandum to the additional district magistrate of Siliguri.      

“We demand steps against the SDO and N.C. Das, the police inspector who led the lathicharge, and a thorough inquiry on the attack on our supporters and councillors,” said Shankar Ghosh, the Darjeeling district DYFI secretary.      

Tapan Burman, the ADM of Siliguri, said: “I will forward it to the DM. I have also assured them of an inquiry.”      

State committee member of the CPM Jibesh Sarkar said they had extended support to mayor Gangotri Dutta after a request from the Congress. “On March 30, the present Congress-led board joined hands with the Trinamul Congress. Now we demand that she should resign on ethical ground and get re-elected.”      

HOT OFF THE WEB: Ashok Bhattarcharya’s unofficial visit to Sikkim remains suspicious      

Asok Da in Gangtok - to Nathula & Back - no 'phoren' items ?!!

 

From Voice of Sikkim
By Dhiren
(yet to be edited – but good, thorough reporting)      

29 April, Gangtok: West Bengal Minister for Municipal Affairs and Urban Development, and Town and Country Planning Ashok Bhattarcharya duo CPI-M leader from North Bengal who is on 3 days visit to Sikkim since 28 April seems to create a big mystery in Sikkim’s political arena.      

While talking to the Minister over his sudden visit to Sikkim, he denied to have come as an official trip but latter from one of the source it was hinted his visit to Sikkim was under willingness of Chief Minister Buddhadev Bharracharya and Chief Minister Dr Pawan Chamling.      

Today he visited Nathu-La in a day, saying that he is tired from a journey denied to give any statement to press, he assured to give his statement on 30 April. On 30 April Bhattacharya is returning back to West Bengal as told to press.      

The Sikkim Unit Bharatiya Janta Party BJP President Padam Chettri who has already commented Bhattacharya visit to Sikkim is a big conspiracy and intention to distract Gorkhaland issue.      

On other hand a strange thing popped out that CPI-M Sikkim Unit is not at all aware of the leader’s visit to Sikkim, as told by Anajan Updhayay and Balram Adhikari CPI-M leaders Sikkim Unit.      

Having asked to the Secretary of Sikkim Unit CPI-M over the visit. Mr Adhikari made a clean chit about not being informed about the visit officially.      

The mystery gallops all way around like, if the minister’s visit was a private one then why was a government all prepared for security as soon he arrived to Sikkim.      

Minister is said to have stayed at capital’s renowned Hotel during his Sikkim visit. BJP throttled that Poor people’s party CPI-M leader who is come to Sikkim all of sudden is not a big issue but big issue is expense of Hotel, the said overnight stay in the hotel costs Rs 13,000 per night which itself unveils the strategy of leader of Poor People’s Party CPI-M.      

Political arena in the state have started to  discuss the issue from all corners gossiping Chamling-Bhattacharya silent gestures but the biggest suspense is that this is the first visit of Bhattachary to Sikkim in 2010.      

Earlier he visited to Sikkim on 2008, during that time Chief Minister had slammed him in vocal. Yet the old, the dice may have changed until now but inside political atmosphere of Sikkim a new question have started to float in everyone’s mind with weried speculations.