DGHC mixes GJMM rally demand
Statesman News Service
SILIGURI, June 6: The Darjeeling district administration has hardened its stand against the Gorkha Jan Mutki Morcha's intended rally at Naxalbari.
The GJMM has launched a hunger strike agitation at several places in the Siliguri sub-division demanding permission for the rally.
The Jalpaiguri divisional commissioner and officiating Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council administrator Mr Beharilal Meena today categorically stated that the district administration was not considering the GJMM demand on the issue.
“We are open for dialogue with the GJMM leadership only on development issues, not about the rally demand,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, North Bengal, Mr Kundanlal Tamta said that the police might seek additional force from the state to tackle the situation arising out of the indefinite fast programme of the hill-based outfit.
Mr Meena said that as far as the Naxalbari rally issue was concerned, it was for the state administration to decide.
“As for the district administration, it is ready to discuss any issue related to development in the hills. Development is a more vital issue for us,” he said.
He further said that so far no decision on the rally demand had been taken at the state administration level.
Speaking on the issue, the IGP, north Bengal said that the police might demand additional force from the state government to tackle the Gorkha Jan Mukti Mocha's ongoing fast and agitation at several places like Naxalbari, Bagdogra and Salugara.
“The police would try to avoid any confrontation with the GJMM agitators, but we must be prepared for any contingency that might accrue from the continuing agitation,” Mr Tamta said.
Commenting upon the proposed GJMM rally at Naxalbari Mr Tamta said that it was difficult for the administration to accept the GJMM rally demand at Naxalbari.
“The situation may turn for the worse any time with the Gorkhaland demand being raised from the fasting sites.
We are apprehensive that if permission is given to GJMM to hold the rally at Naxalbari the situation may head for an ethnic conflagration,” the IGP, north Bengal said.
Relay fast for regular job
OUR CORRESPONDENT - The Telegraph
Kalimpong, June 6: The Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan has decided to launch a relay hunger strike from tomorrow to demand regularisation of jobs for the 8,000-odd ad-hoc employees of the DGHC.
The hunger strike will continue till June 27. “If our demand is not met by then, we will launch an even bigger agitation,” Machendra Subba, the president of the organisation, said at a rally at Mela Ground here today. The contract of the ad-hoc employees ends on June 30.
Almost around the same time Subba was making the announcement, DGHC administrator B.L Meena told reporters at the circuit house here that the Bengal home secretary, Asok Mohan Chakrabarti, would discuss the issue with representatives of the organisation in Darjeeling tomorrow. “We have submitted a proposal to the government. We will discuss how to proceed with it,” Meena said.
The proposal includes paying basic salary and dearness allowance to ad-hoc employees belonging to Groups A, B and C according to the norms of the Bengal government. For Group D employees, the council wants a daily wage of Rs 128.21. Currently, the ad-hoc workers from Groups B, C and D are paid between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,000 monthly.
Subba, however, said nothing short of job regularisation would do. “It is the responsibility of the government to secure our future. The state must work out a mechanism to solve our problem,” he told the gathering of about 7,000 contractual employees who had converged here from different parts of the hills.
Bhuan Khanal, a spokesperson for the organisation, said the central committee would meet before going on for talks with the home secretary and senior officials at Lal Kothi, the DGHC headquarters.
A delegation of the Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation met Morcha president Bimal Gurung in Darjeeling today and urged him to set up a cell to look into the problems of education in the hills. “The president agreed to depute a central committee member to discuss the issue with us,” said Gyalbo Lama, the media and publicity secretary of the teachers’ body. The meeting is scheduled here for June 14.
Home secy focuses on hill growth
- Govt repeats greater autonomy offer. DGHC to convene pay meeting today OUR BUREAU - The Telegraph
Siliguri/Kalimpong, June 6: Bengal home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti today reiterated that the government would not support the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland but instead work for increased autonomy of the hill council in Darjeeling.
The home secretary arrived in Siliguri this morning on his way to Kalimpong to attend a couple of review meetings. “The chief minister had specifically stated the state government’s stand in this regard. There is nothing new to add,” he said.
At a recent meeting with leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha who are spearheading the revival of the Gorkhaland demand in the hills, the chief minister had asked them to focus on greater autonomy for the DGHC instead.
Chakrabarti said issues like regularisation of DGHC contractual employees and better utilisation of council funds would be discussed at the review meetings. He added that he was not scheduled to meet the Morcha leaders during his trip.
DGHC contractual workers later gheraoed Chakrabarti at Kalimpong.
About the Morcha’s demand for permission to hold a public meeting in Naxalbari in the Terai, the home secretary said: “Officials here had proposed that the party organise the meeting at Nepania Bustee close to Naxalbari, but they refused.”
Currently, 48 Morcha supporters are on an indefinite fast in four locations over the demand. Chakrabarti said the government was “keeping a close watch on them”.
After the review meeting in Kalimpong, the DGHC administration said it would take action against hill contractors who have received full payments, but not completed their work. This has been one of the main demands of the Morcha.
DGHC administrator B.L. Meena said the council has also decided to take up development work in the hills on a priority basis. “We have asked the secretaries and engineers to complete the ongoing works and the money will be released (to them).”
Meena said the 100 days’ work scheme would continue in the hills despite the recent mass resignation of gram panchayat pradhans at the behest of the Morcha. “The Darjeeling district magistrate has been asked to appoint executive officers, who will do the work of the pradhans,” he added.
Instant auction put off
OUR CORRESPONDENT - The Telegraph
Siliguri, June 6: The Tea Board of India has asked Siliguri Tea Auction Centre to put on hold the implementation of the instant-auction system, after having given the go-ahead less than a fortnight ago.
Siliguri Tea Auction Committee (Stac) wanted to give the new system a trial run from June 10. Almost 74,500kg of tea (2,435 packages) worth Rs 70,000 has already been stocked in warehouses with sampling and cataloguing done.
Earlier, the Tea Board had said it gave the go-ahead to Stac because none of the stakeholders had objected to the proposal. But today, H.M. Dwibedi, the consultant to the Tea Board, said some brokers and producers’ associations (Indian Tea Association and Tea Association of India) in Calcutta expressed their reservations about the new system.
“They were of the opinion that the 2 per cent cash discount given to buyers at instant auctions may go against the sellers,” Dwibedi said. “We have convened a meeting on June 18, in which we will discuss all aspects once again. Till then, we have asked Stac to put its plans on hold.”
Dwibedi, however, agreed that instant auction would “reduce time and cost and bring in transparency in the auction system”.
“It is very embarrassing for us,” a Stac member said about the Tea Board’s decision to delay the implementation of instant auction.
“We are now worried about the huge quantity of tea that would be held up because of this delay,” Anand Agarwal, a seller-member of Stac said. “If the Tea Board allowed us to hold at least one instant auction, it would have helped us avoid delay in payments.”
Dilip Singh, an unlikely hero
SILIGURI, June 6: Mr Dilip Singh of Shilpa Samity Para in Jalpaiguri town is a public hero now!
This 34-year old bachelor is the one, who led the stranded Darjeeling Mail passengers in stopping their co-passenger, the state urban development minister Mr Asok Bhattacharya from taking up an alternative road journey up to Siliguri from Kishanganj (Bihar) during the Left sponsored 12-hour West Bengal bandh on Thursday.
As a result, the CPI-M minister, had to spend over seven hours in the stranded train, swallowing the bitter bandh pill that the ruling Marxists often thrust upon the public.
Dilip was later arrested by the police on his arrival at New Jalpaiguri yesterday afternoon, but only to release on PR bond late in the night following an all round pressure.
Since then, Dilip is being flooded with numerous calls, congratulating him for instigating the ‘much needed protest against the Marxist minister's selfish manoeuvre'. Interestingly, with the every passing minute, the number of such calls is on the rise.
“Among the hundreds who have hailed me through calls include, Congress MLA Mrs Deepa Dasmunshi, poet Mr Mridul Dasgupta, Kolkata based activist Mr Prasun Bhowmick and the activists of the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR),” Mr Singh informed.
Mr Singh, who happens to be a sales professional, interestingly, also received a call from the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha. The GJMM is angry with the urban development minister for his anti-Gorkhaland stance.
“I don't think that I have done anything exemplary, but yet I am grateful to all who are making the congratulating calls,” Mr Singh said, adding that he was especially grateful to Mrs Deepa Dasmunshi.
“This morning also she called me up and assured that the complaint registered against me with the GRP, Kishanganj would be dropped,” he said. Mr Singh is also thankful to the Trinamul MLA, Mr Tapash Pal, who reportedly pursued the IG, north Bengal last night for his release.
Dilip, who also edits a monthly Bengali little magazine published from Jalpaiguri, was attached with the Congress’ student wing, the Chhatra Parishad during his days at the AC College in Jalpaiguri.
“But these days, due to professional business I am not attached with any political party and often indulge in literary activities as an escape,” he said.
Mood changing, people now ready to defy bandhs
Express News Service
Kolkata, June 6 As industry and the service sector is picking up in Bengal, public mood seems to be turning slowly against bandhs. Where harsh words from the courts criticising the bandh culture of the political parties failed to have much effect, reports of last two days from across the state shows that people across party lines have begun to rebuff strikes and strikers.
If passengers of Darjeeling Mail prevented fellow traveller and minister Ashok Bhattacharya on Thursday from switching to a car to avoid bandh supporters blocking the train — over a thousand passengers of another train removed another CPM blockade and forced the railways to take the train to its destination.
According to officials in Siliguri, the North Bengal-bound Uttar Banga Express, which left Kolkata on Wednesday evening, was stopped by CPM supporters first at Aluabari in North Dinajpur district at 6.30 am on Thursday. Passengers got off the train and requested the picketers to clear the railway tracks. When persuasion failed, nearly 1,200 passengers chased away the 20-odd CPM bandh supporters and got the train to start moving again at 8.30 am. Fifteen minutes later, the train stopped again at Rangapani station due to a signal. According to sources, after nearly 30 minutes, some passengers approached the station master and requested him to clear the line.
The station master said some people were blocking the line at a level crossing 1.5 km ahead, and that he was not in a position to change the signal.
The passengers lost their cool and ransacked the station. The station master, alongwith the other staff and the small Railway Protection Force contingent fled to the nearest police station at Phansidewa.
A big police contingent had to be despatched to Rangapani station. But the passengers were adamant and compelled the police to remove the 50-odd people blocking the tracks.
The train finally reached New Jalpaiguri at 1pm — five hours behind schedule — but five hours before the bandh ended.
These two incidents, involving two long-distance trains, were the most important displays of people’s power reported during the bandh. But scores of others showed that even in the cities and small towns, people are ready to defy bandh supporters ¿ be is sponsored by the ruling party or the Opposition. Today, in Kolkata, while shops and major markets remained closed, hundreds went about their business on cycles and motorcycles. Or they just walked.
Confronted with these reports, CPM state secretary Biman Bose was prompt to sympathise with passengers of trains held up by bandh supporters. “I am sorry about the suffering faced by the passengers,” Bose told reporters. Minister Bhattacharya, who was forced to stay on the blocked train when his plan to board a car was foiled, said: “Truly, when passengers of a long-distance train are stuck, they suffer a lot.”