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Two leaders in north Bengal drop out of the list of vaccinated people on Day One

Two prominent political leaders in north Bengal volunteered to drop out of the list of vaccinated people on the Day One of the drive citing they would get the jab when it is available for people at large. 

Anit Thapa, chairman of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) from the Binay Tamang faction of the Morcha, which has been a Trinamul ally since 2017, had recently announced he would be the first to take the vaccine in the hills. Thapa reached Kalimpong district hospital on Saturday but then announced that he would get vaccinated only when it becomes available for the public.

“The doctors and medical experts told me that the vaccine was for health workers and there was no need to cast any doubt on the vaccine,” said Thapa, before explaining that he had earlier planned to be the first to take the shot to build confidence among health workers and dispel vaccine-related fears among the masses. 

On his change of heart, Thapa said: “Instead of me, one more health worker can get vaccinated. The vaccine has been approved by the WHO and by the government of India.”

In Alipurduar, Trinamul MLA Sourav Chakraborty also declined to take the jab though he had been listed as the first person supposed to receive the shot in the district on Saturday.

Alipurduar district health officials claimed that MLA Chakraborty had been included in the list as he was the chairman of Rogi Kalyan Samity. But some others said that his name was put on the list because he uses the prefix Dr. However, Chakraborty is not a physician but a PhD.

Contacted, the MLA said he was in no mood to take the vaccine now. “I refused the vaccine. I will take it along with the common public,” he said.

Iconic Dehradun’s Gorkha School fights for survival

Gorkha Military Inter College (GMIC), a city-based school that has produced many international footballers is fighting for survival after getting notice to evict land on which the institution has been operating for almost a century.

GMIC has produced iconic footbalers like Shyam Thapa and Amar Bahadur Gurung, Olympians like Padam Bahadur Mall ( who won the first-ever Asian Games gold medal for India in boxing) and Army officers like Shaheed Major Durga Mall, the first Gorkha soldier in Indian National Army (INA) to lay down his life for the independence movement.

Started in 1925 by the British Indian Army for children of Gorkha officers and men, the school was given land on a 90-year-long lease by the defence estate department. The lease expired in 2017 and now, the school is being demanded a hefty monthly fee of almost Rs 8 lakh which they say is impossible to pay since it has just 180-odd students and charges a nominal Rs 45 per month from them (the fees is only for boys; girls are taught free). “GMIC is a heritage institution with a glorious past that needs to be cherished and conserved. It has for long been regarded as a cradle of footballers and remains the only school from Uttarakhand to win Subroto Cup twice -- in 1964 and 1965,” said Bom Prasad Thapa, an ex-student and a retired Armyman.

Thapa, who was a member of the school’s football team which participated in the Subroto Cup in 1970s, added, “The 3 Gorkha Training Centres which were earlier in Dehradun and whose personnel’s children formed the maximum number of students of the school were shifted to different parts of the country in 1977 and with that, a large chunk of the school’s students also moved out of Dehradun. This started the gradual decline of the school and it became difficult to maintain the glorious football heritage of the school.”

Currently, the school has a private management body. “The salary of the staff members is paid by the state government but rest of the expenses, including expenditure on students’ food, uniforms, infrastructure and other running expenses has to be managed by the school on its own,” said GMIC principal Jyoti Prakash Jaguri, adding that they are somehow managing through donations from ex-students and well-wishers.

“Despite being a Gorkha school, we admit students from every community and have a very inclusive atmosphere. Currently, most of our students are from poor financial backgrounds,” said Jaguri, who has been with the school since 1983 and serving as principal since 2016.4.

He added that being a not-for-profit school, they can’t afford to pay the monthly fee of Rs 8 lakh that is being asked by the defence estate department. An eviction notice has been issued to the school in May last year. “Currently, the matter is in the courts, therefore, we can stay here only till the court’s final judgement. We have requested that the amount that we are paying — Rs 180 per month — may be doubled as per the Public Property Act and we are allowed to continue in the premises, otherwise, the country will lose a school of historical importance,” said Jaguri.

Paras Gazmer - Musician who beat blindness dies

 Paras Gazmer lost his eyesight and his face was distorted at the age of one-and-a-half-years after a bout of measles but it did not stop him from belting out super hit songs like Sajha ko Gham Dhubi Sakyo (the evening sun has set).

The life journey of Gazmer set, never to rise again, in the early hours of Friday at Darjeeling district hospital but not before leaving an indelible mark in Nepali music. He was 58.

Smita Sunuwar, niece of the musician, said Gazmer had been suffering from diabetes, thyroid and high blood pressure for long. “He complained of uneasiness last evening and we rushed him to the hospital,” said Smita.

Gazmer, a musician, composer, lyricist and singer, all rolled in one, had told The Telegraph in 2002: “It is the anguish of being denied the gift of vision to see the wonders of the world that find expression in my songs.”

The singer who was born at Tindharia was sent to Salvation Army (blind school) in Kalimpong at the age of seven and it was there he found inspiration to take music lessons from his seniors. He never took formal training in music.

A guitar player, Gazmer took the music scene by storm with two successive albums — Sajha Ko Gham (the evening sun) in 1993 and Mero Bhagya (my destiny) — with the latter having been nominated for the best Nepali album in 1999 by the Grihalaxami Association, Darjeeling.

Even though Gazmer would sing on stage, he did not record his songs in his own voice even though he would pen and compose them.

“I’ve done everything in the albums but just could not sing songs which truly reflected my feelings,” he rued. Gazmer, however, found solace in the fact that he could bring in another blind singer, Iswar Kafley, from Kathmandu, to sing the title song of Mero Bhagya. “Only he could have felt the pain and bring out the pathos and passion in the songs,” Gazmer had earlier said.

While on stage, his singing and lyrics would invariably bring tears to the audience and most of his songs spoke of the pains of the differently-abled and society at large.

Paeans and condolences from a cross section of Nepali society scattered across the world flowed through the day.

Darjeeling MP Raju Bista, MLA Neeraj Zimba, Anit Thapa, chairman, board of administrators, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, leaders of both faction of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Binay Tamang and Bimal Gurung, and host of celebrities remembered the singer.

Gazmer’s funeral will be held at Darjeeling on Saturday noon.

Vaccine reaches North Bengal, GTA chairman Anit Thapa to be first to be inoculated in Darjeeling

The first consignment of 69,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine, Covishield, which arrived in Siliguri late last night for five north Bengal districts, was dispatched to the cold chain points today. The vaccines arrived in cold boxes, which were carried in an insulated truck from Kolkata.

The consignment was stored at North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH), the central storage facility for the vaccines in Darjeeling district, last night and transported to 28 other cold chain points in Darjeeling and other districts – Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar in insulated vans from there.

It has been decided today that the vaccination drive will be conducted at five health facilities in Darjeeling district ~ NBMCH, Siliguri District Hospital, Kharibari Rural Hospital in the Plains and Darjeeling District Hospital and Kurseong sub-divisional Hospital in the Hills. Earlier the number of the vaccination centres was fixed as seven in the district. According to the guideline, 100 people will be vaccinated at each site.


Around 140 cold chain points have been readied in all north Bengal for storing the doses. “The vaccines have been received and stored between two degrees Celsius and eight degrees Celsius,” said Darjeeling district chief medical officer Dr Pralay Acharya.

The consignment containing 69,000 doses for the first phase of vaccination arrived at around 12 a.m. The sources at the NBMCH said that Darjeeling received 18,000 doses, Kalimpong district received 3,500 doses, Jalpaiguri district got 16,500 doses, Alipurduar district got 12,500 doses while Cooch Behar district received 18,500 doses.

Darjeeling MP Raju Bista, said: “A total of 1828 vaccinators will be working to ensure that all our frontline workers are vaccinated in this phase of the drive. In this phase 1,28,000 doses of vaccine has been allocated for north Bengal. To ensure proper compliance, the Union Health Ministry will be monitoring the webcast of vaccination drive that is set to start.”

Meanwhile, GTA chairman Anit Thapa has decided to be the first one to take the vaccine, along with some GTA officials, in Darjeeling.

The GTA chairman Anit Thapa in a press release said, “There are a lot of rumours circulating regarding the Covid vaccine with people also being scared to take it so to mitigate their fear, I will be the first one to take the vaccine from Kalimpong district hospital.” The Darjeeling health department has enlisted 16,000 health workers to be given the vaccine on 16 January. Health department officials also said that to facilitate health workers receive the vaccine phase wise, centres will also be set up at BPHC levels.

Success in Darjeeling variety orange, malta cultivation

Abdul Karim in Jashore's Monirampur upazila has achieved success by growing and selling oranges and maltas of Darjeeling variety.

Initially, Karim, 52, brought one bigha of land under orange and malta cultivation. After getting bumper yield and fair prices, he has cultivated the fruits on 15 bighas of land.

Seeing his success in the fruit farming, many people have started cultivating oranges and maltas of the varieties, said locals. 

Karim of Mujgunni village said he cultivated the fruits on one bigha of land on experimental basis and found success in growing the delicious oranges and maltas a few years ago.

"Five and half years ago, I bought 125 saplings of maltas and 25 saplings of orange of the Darjeeling varieties from Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation in Jashore. Over a year after plantation, it was found that it had been good yield," he said.


Karim added that in the first phase, total income and costs were equal. The following year, he earned around Tk 2.50 lakh while the next two years, Tk 4 lakh was earned from selling the fruits of the foreign varieties.

"This time, I have earned Tk six lakh from selling the oranges and maltas," he said, adding that the taste of the varieties is much better than any other oranges and maltas in the markets. The fruits are quite large in size.

Every day people from different places are flocking to see his garden and take saplings from there.

Zakir Hossain from Patkelghata in Satkhira said "I mainly cultivate kulboroi. I heard about Karim, who found success in cultivating oranges and maltas of Darjeeling varieties. I have recently come to see his garden and taken 400 saplings of oranges and maltas from there."

Karim said educated youths in the country are now looking for jobs. By cultivating these fruits, they can be self-sufficient.

He is now cultivating the fruits on 15 bighas of land.

Karim said he regularly sprays pesticides in the fruit land. Large size oranges and maltas have been sold at TK 130 per kg.

Karim added that "I invested Tk 25 lakh in the venture in the last few years. I hope I will be able to sell fruits worth TK 50 to Tk 60 lakh in the coming year."

Apart from fruits, Karim sold saplings of oranges and maltas. Around 20,000 saplings are sold from his land every year.

Monirampur upazila agriculture officer Hirak Kumar Sarkar said, after seeing the success of Abdul Karim, about 150 bighas of land in the upazila have been brought under the Darjeeling variety fruit cultivation.


Kabya with mushrooms at her stall in Gundri Bazaar, Darjeeling

Cynthya Limbu Subba, 27, had to sail from the United States for one-and-half-months to reach Darjeeling in June amid the Covid-19 pandemic that handed her a furlough.

Mandip Subba, 29, a sailor, was also forced to anchor at Tianjin, China, because of the lockdown and finally reached hometown Darjeeling in July.

“I had to do something back at home,” said Cynthya. Six months back she experimented by selling her branded clothes. “The initiative started doing well,” said Cynthya and she is now running her own start-up Sister’s Wardrobe, Darjeeling.


Mandip is also on his way to fulfil his dream project TIB-SIB (Tibetan-Siberian) food outlet. “I wanted to experiment with American, South African and Cantonese food but Covid played spoilsport,” said Mandip.

The pandemic forced many young professionals to “think different” and the new dreams were given wings by Decibel, an organiser of events, and Vik-Run Foundation, through the Gundri Bazaar.

Gundri Bazaar is the name of Darjeeling’s old market which no longer exists now.

Decibel and Vik-Run Foundation, however, decided to set up a swanky Gundri Bazaar at Chowrasta — a three-day starting Thursday.

“Many livelihoods were affected in bigger cities forcing young people to return home. We thought of providing a platform for them through Gundri Bazaar,” said Manish Lama, founder of Decibel.


Nearly 40 stalls have been put up at Chowrasta and the event was jointly inaugurated by Darjeeling SP Santosh Nimbalkar and Bishop Stephen Lepcha on Thursday.

“Most stalls have been put up by people who returned home to begin their own start-ups. We plan to take this Gundri Bazaar platform to different places in the region,” said Vikram Rai, founder Vik-Run Foundation.

So Kabya Lama, 25, a photo-journalist in Mumbai is now the owner of Kurseong Fresh and is selling mushrooms with much success. “For Gundri Bazaar we have also introduced packed organic products like turmeric from the famous Bungkulung area of Mirik,” said Kabya.

Aaron Edwards, a graphic designer working from home, is helping his wife Manisha Rai, 25, set up The Localists that sells organic aroma discs (room fresheners), body butter and lip balm online.

Siddharth Bhitrikoty, 36, could also muster courage to quit his job as a bank manager in Bangalore and focus on his NGO, Manusatva, which initially started as a virtual community helping people.

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