Showing posts with label crisis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crisis. Show all posts

Why has the demand for Gorkhaland returned to Darjeeling?

9:52 AM
Why has the demand for Gorkhaland returned to Darjeeling?

Written by Aniruddha Ghosal

The demand for a seperate Gorkha state is an issue that since its first origins in the 1970s has dictated politics in the hills.

September 28, 2016  In 2009, Mamata Banerjee’s proximity to Bimal Gurung was a cause of great concern for the Left. At the time, Gurung-led GJM had perfected the bandh-boycott movement in their Gorkhaland movement – indefinite shutdowns, boycotting government taxes, telephone, electricity bills, blocking national highways to paralysing panchayats. As a 12-hour bandh returns to Darjeeling, it is apparent that while a lot has changed since 2009 – some things haven’t.

Prime among them is the sheer fervor of the Gorkhaland demand – a fervor that Bimal Gurung, now on the back foot hopes will provide him enough ammo to combat friend-turned-foe Mamata Banerjee as she continues her tactic of dividing the hills, combining development with the creation of different boards. Meanwhile, Darjeeling waits, anxiously.
demand for Gorkhaland
Demand for Gorkhaland a file Photo

Bimal Gurung and Gorkhaland, today
On the face of it, the 2016 Assembly elections were a victory for Bimal Gurung. But the party’s performance – particularly in Kalimpong, which had historically been Gurung’s political backyard – have left the party worried. Even more worrying is the string of senior party leaders fleeing ship and joining the Trinamool Congress, including GTA chairman Pradeep Pradhan, joining the TMC. Unsurprisingly Gurung relaunched the Gorkhaland demand, while simultaneously filing a plea in the Supreme Court challenging the West Bengal government’s refusal to transfer administrative power and various subjects to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, in spite of a tripartite agreement that was reached within the state and union governments in 2011.

Gurung’s dominance of politics in Darjeeling began in 2007, with him emerging as the voice for the demand for a seperate Gorkha state, the issue that since its first origins in the 1970s has dictated politics in the hills. The movement had seen its most violent phase between 1986-88 when Subhash Ghishing’s Gorkha National Liberation Front lead the movement, until his lieutenant Gurung began his own party with the GJM in 2007. Journalist and long time observer Romit Bagchi, in his book, “Gorkhaland: Crisis of Statehood” points out that the “singular quality” that allowed Gurung to replace Ghising’s leadership was “his invincible loyalty to the paramount cause of the community” – the demand for statehood. Writing in 2009, Bagchi predicts that “people would not accept a mellowed Bimal Gurung who speaks the voice of reason and restraint”.

His opposition believes that Gurung’s popularity has been waning, with many believing that he fell into the very trap of “reason and restraint” while joining hands with the Trinamool. Now, Gurung knows that he’s cornered by Trinamool Congress – who has begun a tactic of ‘divide and rule’ – that has left him virtually alone. His decision to relaunch the Gorkhaland protest – with bandhs and boycoots – is not just a case of ensuring political relevance, but also a return to the form of politics that he is most familiar with.

Mamata Banerjee’s tactics
Meanwhile Mamata Banerjee’s politics, of divide-and-rule combined with the unwavering rhetoric of development (which the opposition alleges is just that, rhetoric) has allowed her to make inroads into the hills. On October 2009, Mamata Banerjee – the then rail minister – flagged off the long awaited New Jalpaiguri-Digha Weekly Express and said that the railway link between Darjeeling hills and the sea would usher in a “new era” with “enormous possibilities” and “fresh employment opportunities”. In the past six years, none of this has changed. In her last speech in Kalimpong, Banerjee announced the government’s decision to accord Kalimpong seperate district status, a longstanding demand of the area while once again launching into a speech laden with the rhetoric of development. A slew of new announcements and projects, along with the customary call for “peace” – Banerjee’s politics seems unchanged.

But in the run up to the 2016 elections, Banerjee started announcing the creation of development boards for different communities living in Darjeeling – the Lepcha Development Board and the Tamang Development Board. This apart from the GTA which is responsible for governing the whole of Darjeeling district. While the Gorkhas remain the dominant community here, the Lepchas, Limpus, Tamangs, Bhutias, Rais, Dukpas, Sherpas, and Tibetans also form a sizeable population. In the speech at Kalimpong, Banerjee announced, “More boards will be announced”

Via indianexpress

Bimal Gurung will soon leave for Delhi to meet PM Modi

5:27 PM
Darjeeling, June 21: Bimal Gurung today said he will soon leave for Delhi to apprise the Prime Minister of water scarcity in the hill town and to talk to him about the proposal of a new water project.
Bimal Gurung will soon leave for Delhi to meet PM Modi
Bimal Gurung Congratulating Narendra modi as new PM in Delhi - a file photo
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief also said that he would go for a medical check up in the capital.

"I will be visiting Delhi soon. There is a huge scarcity of water in the hills. We plan to come up with a project to bring water from Srikhola, which will involve the use of gravity. I will meet Modiji with this proposal along with other senior functionaries in Delhi and also tell them about the water scarcity in the hills," Gurung said on the sidelines of an event to mark the International Yoga Day. Around 300 people took part in the programme.

It was not clear, however, if the hill leader has sought an appointment with the Prime Minister.

Today, Gurung also said that the tripartite meeting, which was scheduled to be held in the hills on June 23, had been postponed.

Darjeeling municipality supplies around 7-8 lakh gallons of water everyday while the hill town needs almost double the amount daily.

Although the Balasun water project, which is likely to bring relief to the hills, is about to be completed, Gurung is mulling on an alternative project through which, water would be brought from Srikhola, about 90km uphill from Darjeeling.

"I am also going (to Delhi) for medical treatment," Gurung said today.

His ailment was not immediately known. In the past, Gurung has had problems with his throat, sources said.

"I have directed the chairmen of the hill municipalities to look into the issue of water scarcity. There are many illegal connections because of which, common people are not getting enough water supply," Gurung said.

"Darjeeling municipality has already started disconnecting illegal lines and I appeal to the people to help them in this endeavour," he added.

On Friday, the civic body took up a drive to clean Darjeeling and it snapped several illegal water connections. The development came close on the heels of Gurung's "best ever" meeting with Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday.

After the meeting, the chief minister had said that they had discussed issues related to keeping Darjeeling clean and green.

Today, Gurung announced his plans to go to Delhi after following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's yoga session in New Delhi that was beamed live on an LED screen installed at the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan here.

Darjeeling MP S.S. Ahluwalia was present at the screening.

Gurung said the meeting of the Centre, state and the GTA has been postponed. "The meeting was scheduled for June 23. I hope that the meeting will be held soon. I really do not know the reason why it was postponed," he said.

Gurung's announcement to meet to Modi comes at a time the CBI has named him and 22 others - almost all top-rung leaders in his party - in a chargesheet filed in connection with the murder of ABGL chief Madan Tamang.

The anticipatory bail hearing of the chargesheeted people is likely to be held on July 1.

Source: Telegraph

Jorebunglow shuts down as Municipality cuts water lines allegedly 'illegally'

11:01 AM
The Darjeeling Municipality and residents of some parts of Jorebunglow have come to logger heads, following the municipality shutting down water lines to many homes.
Public poster as Jorebunglow shuts down as Municipality cuts water lines allegedly 'illegally'
Public poster as Jorebunglow shuts down as Municipality cuts water lines allegedly 'illegally' 
According to Municipal authorities, they shut down water lines that had been tapped directly and 'illegally' from the Rambi pipeline. But Jorebunglow residents claim their connections were legitimate.

Municipal authorities stated that, "majority of those connections are illegal... in fact most of those buildings do not have proper documentation, and we have not approved any water connection... they were tapping directly into the water lines and literally stealing water... We have no problem in reconnecting those that can show us proper documentation..."
 Jorebunglow people Protest by shutting down business establishments.
 Jorebunglow people Protest by shutting down business establishments.
However, Jorebunglow residents disagree, one of them said, "see Darjeeling municipality has failed to provide drinking water to the residents of Jorebunglow... all the water that goes to Darjeeling town region, goes from here... and we are deprived... we don't even have public water taps here... we will shut down Jorebunglow if they don't restore water connections."

Municipal authorities are however standing by their actions, and have said, "We need to restore proper procedure in Darjeeling, we cannot allow the situation to continue as it is... we request the public to support us in our endeavour to clean up our system... we shave started with Jorebunglow which is Ward - I and we will move to other wards in similar fashion... we will not allow theft of public property anymore... this needs to stop."

When asked if and how Jorebunglow residents can appeal for restoration of connection, the municipal authorities said, "they are welcome to visit Darjeeling Municipality with their land deeds and building permits, we will verify who have been given genuine connections and restore those immediately... those who do not have legitimate permit need to apply for the same, they have to follow the due process of the law... they cannot and should not be allowed to hold the community hostage by shutting down business establishments... we request the people not to support illegal connections... those who use public resources like water, should also have to be willing to pay for it."

Via - TheDC

Gas balloon cylinder exploded in Darjeeling, several injured, 3 critical

11:12 AM
In an incident of gas balloon explosion in Darjeeling Kanija Fatima has lost one of her legs in the blast. Three/3 other women, Sakila Khatoon age 24 , Kanij Fatima age 24 and 45 year old Rajia Begam all residents of Darjeeling are said to be in critical condition and have been moved to Siliguri.
Bimal Gurung visit the victim of the Gas balloon cylinder explosion in Darjeeling
Bimal Gurung visit the victim of the Gas balloon cylinder explosion in Darjeeling - photo DC
The explosion took place around 7:30 P.M near Kalimpong Motor Syndicate at the venue of the Muhharam Remembrance celebrations in Darjeeling every year. According to the sources, the cylinder had gone empty, and the person operating the balloon stand was mixing the chemicals to fill more gas into the cylinder, when it exploded. Meanwhile, the balloon stand owner seems to have absconded and is yet to be traced.

Taimul Ali a resident from Islampur who was in a visit to Darjeeling and 5 year old Iftikar Ali are the other victims, however, their condition are said to be stable.

GTA Chief Bimal Gurung along with other high ranking GTA and District Officials visited  the District Hospital where the injured have been taken.

News Credit - DC

Red Bank tea garden starvation crisis

11:30 PM
''If things are not taken care of, we might lose one person or the other every week.''

"PLease take me to an orphanage home. I want some food. I want to live,'' were the words of a paralysed lady, accompanied by her mentally disturbed son. The lady resides in the Red Bank tea garden area in Nagarkhata, Dooars, which has been witnessing severe starvation related death cases. 32 deaths have been reported so far, most of them aged between 25-50 years. The appalling condition has taken shape after the tea garden remained closed permanently from October 2013. It is utter shame for India, which boasts about Darjeeling tea to the world outside.

''A tea garden worker may die every week in Red Bank tea garden due to starvation''
''A tea garden worker may die every week in Red Bank tea garden due to starvation''
The tea garden gradually began to close from 1983, after which it occasionally opened for one to two months in a year. Tea garden workers worked day in and out during the period to provide meals for their family. When the tea garden was partially closed, workers received some relief funds. But, the problem aggravated when the inflow of relief funds stopped.

Red Bank tea garden, which has a population of 8000 people, are left in a miserable state now. Out of the 8000, 25 percent are Nepali's, while the rest are Adavasis. There are 900 houses in the region, all fighting for survival, thinking about the next meal. Thoughts of another dinnerless night dominate their mind. Even after 32 people fell victim to extreme starvation and malnutrition, giving birth to various problems, five to six people are still critically ill, and if not taken care of, they might just add to the death count. They need to be taken to the hospital immediately, as their condition is deteriorating every single day.

''I could not control my emotions. I broke into tears, after seeing the shocking condition of the tea garden workers in the area. Their utensils were empty, nothing in the name of food,'' said Bhaskar Tamang, Dooars Coordinator for Team Who Cares, who surveyed the area. ''If things are not taken care of, we might lose one person or the other every week.''

The condition of the workers are reflected with their empty rice and dal bowls. They have nothing to eat, hence leading to a catastrophic situation. Bhaskar understood the magnitude of the situation when he met the Panchayat Pradhan, as his rice bowl also lay empty. ''If the Pradhan does not have any food to feed, how can one expect others in the area to feed themselves,'' added Bhaskar.

Though, the workers receive ration, but remains insufficient. They receive 5kg of rice, 5 kg of flour and 5 kg of pulses, which they are expected to use for a month, which is not possible. Rather, the rice bowls empty within two weeks. Medicines are also provided to the sick, but what help would that be when they do have not have any food to feed on? Some of these deaths have resulted from Tuberculosis as well. ''Workers, who are ill, lack nutrition, so the medicines also do not work on their body,'' said the founder of Who Cares, Aron Yonzone.

What surprises us even more is the lack of support from local politicians, who prior to the Lok Sabha elections made several visits, delivering fake promises. The workers in the area complain that none of the politicians even made a single visit after the elections are over. GJM, the ruling party in Darjeeling few days back made some demands to uplift the people from tea gardens, but ironically, when it comes to visiting these workers, they are nowhere in the frame. But, it has been claimed that Prof. Mahendra Lama's team made a visit in the area.

As per Prof. Lama these unprecedented death took place due to various factors. He said, '' Some main factors are hunger, malnutrition and physical distress. They were under severe pressure, as they did not have any income, no economic activities, children were also not able to go to schools. Basic amenities were a problem as well.'' He also puts his finger across to the West Bengal government, who he feels is also responsible for failing to provide the basic amenities.

If one pins their hopes on the Bengal government, the death count will cross the three figure mark, before the concerned people in the writers building act. It was in 2004 when the Supreme Court had asked the Bengal government to take action on the then starvation deaths reported from Darjeeling and Dooars tea gardens.

The condition was so dire that the workers had to then feed on rats and snakes as well, along with tea flowers, wild leaves etc. Had the condition been looked into by the Bengal govt. then, the prevailing situation would not have come to the fore. The closure of around more than 20 tea gardens then had affected more than 21,000 permanent workers. The situation could be same this time around as well, as Red Bank alone does not exemplify such starvation cases in tea gardens. Other tea gardens like Surendranagar is in no good situation either.

To avoid similar cases, residents of Darjeeling from different corners of the globe have took upon themselves through social networking site, Facebook, where they are drawing plans to save people from such cases. Though, the group, which includes people from different walks of life have met for a just cause, they have already set up a bank account, where donations can be made to save brothers ans sisters (tea workers) of Darjeeling and Dooars, who have glorified the name of Darjeeling in the past, by their simple act of plucking leaves and help India gain revenue. In turn, India turns a blind eye to the hapless workers.

The blame for such pathetic condition goes to the tea garden owners also, who might have abandoned the tea gardens, but it has only been done physically, not legally. There are chances that the owners can be moved to the courts for their act as well. Had the gardens been legally abandoned, some other owners could have come into the picture and maintained the garden, which unfortunately, is not the case.

In 2005, a labourer in Chungthung took his own life as he was not able to feed his family members. In a suicide note, he had blamed the owner, Anil Agarwal for his death, but nothing resulted out of the suicide note, inspite of the promised action against Anil. Even the so called, Plantation Labours Act has been misused by the owners as well. In spite of PLA being outdated, there are a number of positive things in the act as well, which are, in fact, used by the owners as per their whims and fancies.

''PLA act is not as bad as one thinks. But, it is the tea companies, which notoriously looks into the loopholes and takes advantage of the situation. For instance, PLA states that the tea company needs to provide a school if there are around 13 or more children in the area, after which the government would supply teachers to the school, but this is not followed,'' said Bejoy Limbu, who has prepared a dissertation on Tea labourers and farmers in Darjeeling. Even a Crèche is considered compulsory, but when was the last time you heard about a Crèche in a tea garden?

If the starvation related death cases are not looked into with greater importance by the higher authorities, such deaths could be a regular phenomenon in tea gardens. Millions of rupees have been used to conquer mars, space, built nuclear weapons etc. but when it comes to feeding a hungry person, why does the nation sleep?

Source: merinews

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