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Roshni’s race for recognition

Run with Roshni Foundation
The lawyer from Kalimpong will be running with 19 runners from her foundation to raise awareness, ironically, about their indian nationality.
Amidst the violence and unrest in her hometown, Kalimpong in West Bengal, Roshni Rai is looking after folks who aspire to choose athletics in the small hamlet. On Tuesday midnight, she boarded a train with 20 runners from her foundation named Run with Roshni Foundation (RWRF) to participate in the TATA Mumbai Marathon which will be held on January 21.

The journey from Kalimpong to Mumbai in itself is a task which can only be completed with remarkable resoluteness. There is no direct connectivity via rail or air and taking the road route would account for almost a 50-hour journey.

At New Jalpaiguri Junction, connecting the city of Siliguri through railways is where Roshni and Co. could find a direct train to Mumbai. Some of them walked for hours with huge bagpacks looming over their shoulders to reach the railway station and some took buses for the same.

Running for an identity
On being asked for the reason behind such an arduous and exerting journey, Roshni says, “Recognition. That is one thing I have been fighting for. I am done explaining my nationality to everyone. We (Gorkhas) speak Nepali because it is our mother tongue. But that does not make us less Indian.”

“During a three-day course by Landmark Forum in 2011, people were talking about the languages that they knew. Someone said Gujrati or Marathi or Punjabi and when I said Nepali, I saw a dramatic number of heads turning towards me. Since that day, I was labeled with all the racist jokes on Nepal,” says Roshni.

 
Foreign expeditions
She has been a part of marathons in South Africa, the Czech Republic and England, and the lawyer has finished all of them. While she comes back to India, the racist remarks on her features and language fire up. “I came to Mumbai in 2004 to complete my master’s degree in law and the type of things I heard were highly insulting,” she recalls.

“I started running in 2007 and saw that it is a great medium to create awareness at the same time. I practiced a lot every day as running kept me away from  negative thoughts,” she further adds.

 After landing a job with Colgate as a corporate lawyer, Roshni was sent by her organisation to take part in the Prague International Marathon in 2010 where she ran for 42 km followed by the Comrades 89 km Marathon in South Africa. “Jai Gorkha! Jai Hind!” she screamed as she ran the final meters of those races.

 Subhash Ghisingh has been leading the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) for many decades demanding a separate state for the Gorkhas. Over the years, the conflict has grown between the West Bengal government and the GNLF along with similar groups. This often leads to the locals suffering from a lack of access to regular aids. Two of the runners from her team, traveled for 11 hours to fill the registrations for the marathon as there was an ‘internet ban’ in their area.

“We all decided to fill the forms as a group but their area did not have internet for a few days. Once the internet is banned, we don’t know when it will come back. So the two of them traveled for 11 hours to access the registrations. My lawyer friends from Mumbai were nice enough to sponsor many of our entries,” says Roshni.

The first running experience for her was not a memorable one as it left her bed-ridden for 10 days. She had to learn that everyone needs appropriate training to run a big race, which also became a reason for her to train the folks in Kalimpong.

Roshni along with 19 runners from RWRF will be competing in different divisions of the marathon on Sunday for the seventh consecutive year.
 
http://www.asianage.com

आगोले घर जलेर खरानी

House gutted into fire
बिहान लगभाग १०.३० बजे धजे गोलाई मङपु निवासी डम्बर प्रधान र चन्द्र प्रधान स्थानीय नाम सेकुवा भेनाको घरमा अचानक सर्टसर्किट भएको कारण आगलागी भएर तिनको घरको काठले बनिएको माथिल्लो तला पूर्ण रुपले खरानीमा परिणत भएको छ | मङपु थाना इन्चार्ज लगायत पुलिस बल, स्थानीय मानिसहरु लगायत दार्जीलिंग अग्नि समन विभागको दमकल र एनएकपीसी दमकलको सहयोग अनि प्रयासमा आगोलाई नियन्त्रणमा ल्याए पनि माथिल्लो तला काठको घर भने पूर्ण रुपले भष्म भएको छ | आगजनीमा कुनै ज्यानको क्षति नभएपनि अनुमानिक २ लाख मुल्य बराबरको गरगहना, सर समान, सरकारी कागज पत्र र खाना पकाउने किचनका जम्मै भाँडा वर्तन लगायत अन्य सामग्रीहरु पूर्ण रुपले नष्ट भएको छ ||

सिन्कोना मजदुर कर्मचारीको वेतन मुद्दामा गोरामुमोको पोस्टरिङ र हस्ताक्षर अभियान शुरु

GNLF trade union HPWU postering over labour salary
बितेको दिसम्बर महिनादेखि गोरामुमो पार्टीले गोर्खाल्याण्ड आन्दोलनकालको बन्द अवधिको सिन्कोना श्रमिक कर्मचारीहरुको वेतन जीटीएले अविलम्ब दिनपर्छ भन्दै शुरु गरेको अभियान पटक पटक चल्दै आइरहेको छ | श्रमिक कर्मचारीहरुको वेतन सन्दर्भमा गोरामुमो पार्टी अधिनस्थ ट्रेड युनियन एचपीडब्ल्युयुले गत वुधबार पुन: सिन्कोना निर्देशक डा० सामुयल राईसित भेट गरि बन्द अवधिको वेतनको कुरा चलाएको छ | कुरा चल्दा प्रत्यक्ष रुपमा वेतनको आदेश बितेको २२ दिसम्बरमा नै आइसकेको थाहा लागेको छ | तथापि आदेश आएपनि हाल जीटीए कोषमा पैसा नभएकोले श्रमिक कर्मचारीहरुको वेतन पाउन नसकेको हुनसक्ने कुरा माथि चर्चा भयो | तर जीटीए जस्तो व्यवस्थापनले दार्जीलिंग पहाडभरिकै विकाश व्यवस्थापन हातमा लिएर सरकारकै स्वरूपमा काम गर्ने भएपछि सिन्कोना श्रमिक र कर्मचारीहरुका वेतन दिने बेलामा उल्टो पैसा छैन भन्ने कुरोलाई गोरामुमो पार्टी ट्रेड युनियनले कथित षड्यन्त्र बताएको छ |
वेतन सम्बन्धमा कुनै पनि ट्रेड युनियन र राजनैतिक दलहरुले सरोकार नराख्दा १८ दिसम्बरदेखि एचपीडब्ल्युयुले मङपु सिन्कोना बगानको पाँचवटा विभाग र लाठपन्चर साथै अन्य गाउँमा पोस्टरिङ साथै श्रमिकहरुको हस्ताक्षर उठाउने अभियान थालेको छ | एचपीडब्ल्युयु को यस अभियान देखेर गोजमुमो टोली पनि तातिएको थियो | तर वेतन पाउनको साटो पैसा छैन भन्ने कुरोलाई एचपीडब्ल्युयुले मोर्चाको षड्यन्त्र अनि श्रमिकहरु कर्मचारीहरुले वेतन पाए जनताको अघि गोरामुमो हिरो हुन्छ भन्ने डरले मोर्चा र जीटीएले यस विषयमा राजनीति गरेको बुझेको छ | यसको मतलब मोर्चाले श्रमिकहरुका समस्या हल होइन तर ढाँटुवा राजनीति गरेर अझ समस्यामा पार्ने राजनीति गरिरहेको छ | निर्देशक राईसित भेट गर्दा तिनले वेतन अर्डरको रिपोर्ट पनि देखाएका थिए | जुन अर्डरमा जून र जुलाई महिनाको वेतन अर्डर छ | तर आज जीटीएमा पैसा छैन भन्ने कुरोलाई गोरामुमोले भविष्यमा मोर्चाले यसलाई राजनैतिक लाभ उठाउने साधन बनाउन रोकेर राखेको भनी बुझेको छ | मोर्चाको यस्तो नियतमाथि एचपीडब्ल्युले श्रमिक र कर्मचारीहरुका वेतन मुद्दालाई अझ तीब्र पार्न २४ जनवरीसम्मको मियाद दिंदै पोस्टरिङ गरेको छ | पोस्टरमा जीटीएले ६०० करोड पाउनमा सिन्कोनाको मजदुर कर्मचारीले पनि संघर्ष गरेको छ, जीटीएले मजदुर कर्मचारीको तलब किन रोक्छ ? पर्यटन उत्सव र मेलामा करोडौं खर्च गर्ने जीटीएले श्रमिकहरुको तलब किन दिंदैन? कसले सरोकार राख्छ ? भनी जवाब मागेको छ |
आगमी २४ जनवरी भित्रमा वेतन नदिए एचपीडब्ल्युयुले बगानको गन्ती रोक्ने, नारा जुलुस गर्ने, धर्ना दिने र आवश्यक परे भोक हड्तालसम्म बस्ने कार्यक्रम बनाएको छ | सिन्कोना राईसितको भेटमा एचपीडब्ल्युयुले खेलापाल भवन जलेकोमा जाँचको माग गरेको छ भने सिन्कोना बगान भित्र चलेको मनरेगा कामको हर हिसाब पनि मागेको छ | बुद्धबारको भेटवार्तामा एचपीडब्ल्युयुको पक्षबाट सचिव दिपकार राई, सभापति गणेश ठकुरी, एचपीडब्ल्युयु खरसाङ ब्रान्च सभापति चमन प्रधान, गोरामुमो खरसाङ ब्रान्च सदस्य आरबी प्रधान, एचपीडब्ल्युयु मङपु संयोजक ज्ञानदीप राई लगायत ट्रेड युनियन र पार्टीका सदस्यहरु पनि उपस्थित रहेका थिए ||

Former GTA vice-chairman Lobsang Lama arrested

Former GTA vice-chairman Lobsang Lama
GJM's supremo Bimal Gurung's close associate and former GTA vice-chairman Lobsang Lama was today arrested on charges of arson from Jaldhaka area under Kalimpong district. Mr Lama, who was evading arrest for his alleged involvement in arson and setting fire at the Kalimpong police station during agitation last year, would be produced before a local court in Kalimpong. Mr Lama is still in the group of Bimal Gurung faction of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which has been vertically spilt after Binoy Tamang revolt against his party president on Gorkhaland issue.UNI

Top industrialists to participate in GTA business meet claimed Binay Tamang

Binay Tamang, Anit Thapa with Mamata at the summit
Darjeeling: Binay Tamang has said top industrialists from within India and abroad showed keen interest in the Darjeeling hills and confirmed their participation in a business meet that the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration is slated to hold here in February.

Tamang, the chairman of the board of administrators (BoA) of the GTA, met investors from around the world at the Bengal Global Business Summit held in Calcutta on Tuesday and Wednesday.

This is the first time that a man helming an autonomous authority in the hills has been invited by the Bengal government to a business session.

Tea and tourism are the mainstay of the hill economy but both the sectors are in tatters at present.

"We have received positive feedback from industrialists both from the country and abroad and they are keen to attend our business meet, which has been scheduled for February," Tamang said over the phone on Wednesday.

Tamang, who was accompanied by Anit Thapa, the vice-chairman of the BoA, said most of the industrialists had told them that they had never visited Darjeeling and were keen to explore the area. "When we invited the investors, most said they had not visited Darjeeling before. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee was with us when we extended the invitation to them," said Tamang.

Tamang didn't say which investor from what sector would attend the GTA business meet.

The exact date of the GTA event will be finalised after consulting all stakeholders and participants.

Apart from attracting investments to bring in high-end tourists to the hills, the GTA believes, there is ample scope to develop other sectors like floriculture, horticulture, food processing and medicinal plants.

In the past, not much effort had been taken by those in power in the hills to invite industrialists, whereas Sikkim has managed to get investments in the hill state over the years.

"We are now trying our best to streamline things in the hills so that we can attract investments, which will go a long way in addressing the unemployment issue," said Tamang, who attended sessions on health, tourism, agriculture and infrastructure during the two-day global business summit.

The Telegraph

Pratibha Rai new chairperson of Darjeeling Municipality

Pratibha Rai new chairperson Darjeeling Municipality
The Darjeeling Municipality today got a new chairperson, over three months after the then chairman, DK Pradhan was arrested and the vice chairman, Ram Jan Golay, tendered his resignation. Pratibha Rai was today elected the civic body chief by 30 of the 32 ward councilors, while she was sworn in by Darjeeling Sub-Divisional Officer Avik Chatterjee.
“I thank the Morcha leadership for this post, while this proves that  they believe in women empowerment as they have given important posts to women, like the primary education board of the GTA being given to Tshering Dahal, and the trade union of the party given to Karuna Gurung. I will treat all the issues as primary, while also focusing on garbage disposal. I have also nominated Sagar Tamang as the new vice chairman, who also took oath of office today,” Ms Rai said.
According to her, Mr Golay’s resignation had been accepted “recently.” It may be mentioned here that on 10 January this year, Mr Pradhan was removed as the chairman in a meeting called by Mr Golay. A total of 28 ward councilors had removed Mr Pradhan then, while the Binoy Tamang camp of the Morcha had then said that Mr Golay’s resignation had not been accepted.
Apart from Mr Pradhan, who is still in custody, councilor of ward-1, Nira Sharma, was not present in today’s meeting, with the latter’s post remaining disputed as she allegedly holds a Nepali citizenship too. Asked what would happen to Ward-10 from where Mr Pradhan had had contested, Ms Rai said,
“He is still in the correctional home and we will look after that ward until he comes out.” According to her, the posts for the different departments in the municipality would be fixed in two to three days’ time. The name of Ms Rai as chairperson and Mr Tamang as vice-chairman had been announced by the Binoy Tamang camp of the Morcha on 3 January.
After the swearing-in ceremony today, a rally escorted the new chiefs around town, while their supporters burst firecrackers and oirganised a a small public meeting at Chowk Baazar here.

Statesman News Service

52 foreign delegates to visit Darjeeling, Terai & Dooars

52 foreign delegates to visit Darjeeling, Terai & Dooars - Destination East
Darjeeling: As a part of "Destination East," 52 foreign delegates from 30 countries will visit Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars, where West Bengal Tourism department plans to promote tourist destinations of North Bengal.
"Destination East tourism summit will be organised in Kolkata on January 18 and 19. 102 delegates from the travel industry from 30 countries along with delegates from India will be attending. Following which they will be taken to different tourist destinations of West Bengal so that they get acquainted with these places and get a first-hand experience," stated Tourism Minister Gautam Deb.
On January 21, all the 52 delegates will first visit Gajoldoba around 30 km from Siliguri. The delegates from Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Kuwait, Malaysia, Netherlands, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Srilanka, Switzerlan, Taiwan, Thailand, US, the UK and Russia, will visit "Bhorer Alo", the eco-tourism destination developed by the West Bengal Government.
The visit is being jointly organised by the State Tourism Department and CII North Bengal Zonal Council with the objective of promoting "Bhorer Alo" among potential investors and tourists abroad.
"A variety of activities and attractions for the tourists are being developed in and around Bhorer Alo. Forest safari, boating, cycling trail, orchid park, angling, elephant rides, amphitheatre, eco park, scenic walkways, tethered hot air balloon facilities will be available at Bhorer Alo," stated the Minister. Besides these facilities, a 10-bed tourist health clinic, mini fire station, tourist police station, helipad for high-end tourists along with resorts and a youth hostel are also planned on the site.
Familiarisation trips have been planned out for the delegates. 11 delegates will be visiting the "Bengal Himalaya" circuit (Kalimpong-Darjeeling), 19 will be visiting "Hills and Forests" circuit ( Darjeeling-Dooars), 8 will be visiting "Darjeeling Heritage circuit" (Darjeeling), 6 will be visiting "Tea Heritage circuit" (Darjeeling- Glenbvurn) and 8 will be visiting "Hills and Lakes circuit comprising of Darjeeling and Mirik.
Similar familiarization trips are being organised for South Bengal, the circuits include Sunderbans, Purulia, beaches of Bengal and Kolkata heritage.
According to Union Tourism minister Alphons Kannanthanam, India earned an income of $27 billion from foreign tourist arrivals in the year 2017. However, these regions witness around 30,000 foreign footfall approximately each year.
"Considering the heritage, Himalayas and human resources of North Bengal are able to attract global tourists here. We have one of the best organised rural tourism contents in the country empowering villagers along with the offering of cross-border tourist circuits with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. Hence, Destination East is in focus," stated Raj Basu, Convenor, Association for Conservation of Tourism.

http://www.millenniumpost.in

Gorkhaland agitation may have calmed down but Darjeeling's economy is not back on track

Darjeeling hill economy, women carrying grass in village
To say that West Bengal's Darjeeling hills had a turbulent 2017 would be an understatement. Political violence over a renewed demand for a separate Gorkhaland left 12 dead and hundreds injured. Eventually, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee managed to bring the situation under control after a 104-day strike. But the economy is yet to pick up the pieces.

Banerjee effectively managed to splice up Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, leaving little political space for its former chief Bimal Gurung. But the damage has been done by the June-September strike – to the extent that a state-backed tourism festival towards the end of 2017 could hardly mitigate.

Tourism, of course, is one of the important pillars of the local economy, the other being its famed tea industry. But both these labour-intensive sectors seem derailed. Since the strike ended,  government offices and local enterprises have limped back to normalcy. But without the support of the two major sectors business is hard to come by.
 
BREW GONE BAD

Being a plantation-based sector, the tea industry is anyway vulnerable to a lot of factors. Darjeeling's gardens have long boasted of producing the best tea in the world, a significant part of which has been lapped up by foreign markets. But their best days are arguably over and their ageing plants need a lot of reinvestment.

“Research has shown that annual precipitation has declined by a fifth over the past two decades in the Darjeeling Hills specifically, that was already resulted in decline of tea production,” Sandeep Mukherjee, a member of the Darjeeling Tea Association, said.

The near-four-month strike dealt a blow to the sector, hampering production crucially. What's more, absenteeism still remains high, which could take a toll on this year's first flush crop.

Tea production in Bengal's Dooars and Terai regions (that includes the hills) dropped by around 9 million kilogramme last year, according to Tea Board India. The Darjeeling Tea Association estimates the loss at more than Rs 400 crore for 2017, with little to no leaves plucked until last September. Production is not expected to recover for at least two years.

“We keep getting reports of tea garden workers going on strike time and again in the region. The political climate in the hills is affecting production significantly,” Indian Tea Association Chairman Azam Monem told Catch.

“September and October contribute 25-30% of annual tea production. Last September, production in Dooars and Terai fell over 25%. Due to the Gorkhaland agitation, tea garden workers did not show up for work. As tea was not plucked when it was supposed to be, the industry faced a major loss,” Bidyananda Barkakoty of North Eastern Tea Association said.

“In the area, production dropped from 14 million kgs a year, to 9 million kg a year. This year due to the agitation, there has barely been any yield in the months of June to September. The Darjeeling tea industry has already been in crisis. The Gorkhaland agitation is the most recent blow to an industry
already hit by declining production and increasing competition.”

While industry captains are worried over the lack of production, the trickle-down effect has been equally worrisome. Tea garden workers on daily wages went without pay for the duration of the strike as they could not report for work.

“Even those willing to work were not allowed to do so,” said trade unionist Babu Kazi Ghimirey.

“The livelihood of so many workers – tea pickers, collectors, factory workers – were affected,” added Ghimirey who organises tea workers at Bagrakote in the Dooars.
 
QUEEN OF HILLS IN DISARRAY

The Darjeeling district has been a traditional favourite with tourists, both from Bengal as well as outside. It also attracts a lot of foreign tourists. Naturally, the tourism sector generates employment for many both directly and indirectly.

The summer months, when the temperature soar in the plains, normally see the most footfall. But the Durga Puja vacation and the time around Christmas and New Year also draw a lot of crowd. Last year hardly any tourist could enter the hills during the strike.

Those depending on the sector expected the situation to improve by the winter holiday season. But that did not happen. Tourists stayed away, fearing a return to violence. Also, provisions and facilities continued to be affected

Local reports pegged the loss at Rs 100 crore for the hospitality industry. There are around 2,000 hotels and home stays across Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Kurseong and Mirik. Darjeeling town itself has 350.

“Hoteliers, restauranteurs, travel agencies and taxi companies have been struggling even after three months since the agitation was over,” said Harka Bahadur Chettri, former legislator from Kalimpong.

“The atmosphere is now peaceful, but tourists evidently stayed away, fearing agitation could break out again. This is precisely why the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration decided to organise the tourism festival,” Chettri, the founder of Jan Andolan Party (JAP), added.

“The tourism industry has suffered the most. November-January is one of our peak seasons. This is when the skies are clear and you can see the Kunchenjunga through the day from all over. But there are hardly any tourists this time,” Siliguri-based travel agency operator Dechen Tamang
said.

“The Gorkhaland is a dear cause to the people in the hills. When the strike was called, people were more than willing to oblige. They suffered a lot: Small business owners, hired workers, restaurant and hotel owners and staff, taxi drivers, labourers – everyone was out of work. There was a lot of hoarding and basic amenities were being sold in the black market,” pointed out Tenzing Dolma, a taxi driver in Kalimpong, who went with hardly any income for more than three months.

“But we are a resilient lot,” he adds. That resilience, perhaps, drives optimism.

“It seems tourists aren't yet aware that the situation in the Hills has returned to normal,” said a manager with one of the better-known hotel in Kalimpong.

“At least the festival will send out a signal to tourists and visitors that things have normalised in the hills and hopefully things will pick up by next year again,” Tamang said.

For now, it's the hope that has kept the hills going.

http://www.catchnews.com/

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