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West Bengal Forest Minister inaugurates herbal park near Siliguri

 Siliguri (West Bengal) [India], September 25 (ANI): West Bengal Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee has inaugurated a herbal park at Salugara near Siliguri.
The park was inaugurated on September 23 and it is the state's sixth and North Bengal region's third park. It is developed in association with the National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB).
The department has started planting herbal trees with one hector of land under the forest area of the Baikunthupur forest division with the target of five hectares.
Around hundred of species of medicinal plants especially found in the North Bengal region are being planted in the park. The species are neem, Triphala, amla, Amalaki, haritaki, Arjun, beth Lahori, elachi and others.
Speaking to ANI, Debasish Chakraborty, a forest official of the Salugara range said, "There is a huge demand for medicinal plants in this region, so our department has taken this initiative. We are planning to involve research students of the university and local villagers in this project so that it can work better in the future."
On the other hand, the villagers are happy with the initiative taken by the forest department. They believe that this will not only provide them a job opportunity but also a green nature shed. (ANI)


Lal Kothi, the GTA headquarters in Darjeeling

A job agitation led by Trinamul in the hills was suspended on Friday, while another led by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (Binay camp) was extended till October 2.

The TMC and Binay faction of the Morcha are both in power but their agitations have not yet helped reach their goals.

The TMC affiliated Darjeeling Nagarpalika Karmachari Sangtan on Friday decided to suspend their 11-day relay hunger strike following the return of their union leaders from Calcutta after meeting state officials.

The civic workers are demanding post-facto approval of the jobs of 116 employees, filling up of 70-odd vacant posts, inclusion of more than 100-odd casual and contractual workers in pay-band category and appointments of next-of-kin in died-in-harness cases.

“The union leaders are of the opinion that things are moving in the right direction. This is why they decided to suspend the elections for some time. If the need arises our district president, L.B. Rai, will take up the matter at a higher level,” said N.B. Khawash, spokesperson of the TMC (hills).

Trinamul union leaders said that they would wait for a couple of months, and if nothing moved, they might resume their agitation.

The United Employees Union of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, on a pen-down strike from September 1, on Friday announced they would carry on with their agitation till October 2.

The union, affiliated to Binay Tamang camp of the Morcha wants regularisation of more than 4,000 pay-band employees.

Shekar Thapa, spokesman of the union said that they had decided to extend their pen down strike in GTA offices till October 2.

“GTA chairman Anit Thapa has written about our demands to the state government, party president Binay Tamang raised our demand during his visit to Calcutta recently. We are receiving some positive feedbacks though nothing is concrete. However, we decided to extend our agitation till October 2,” said Thapa.

The union leader said that they are “hopeful” of a positive outcome during chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s visit to north Bengal from September 28.

“We are hearing from certain quarters that our proposal has been sent to the finance department by the hill affairs department and hence are hopeful,” said Thapa.

Health and PHE departments are exempt from the agitation.

National People’s Party opens unit in north Bengal, backs Gorkhaland

The National People’s Party (NPP) led by Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma is trying to gain ground in the hills of north Bengal, where Gorkhas are in majority, by raising the Gorkhaland issue.

The NPP on Thursday opened its first unit in Kalimpong. The party’s local functionaries said Sangma will visit the region soon.

The development came 20 days after Sangma wrote a letter to Union home minister Amit Shah expressing his support for creation of a separate state for Gorkhas.

“The Gorkhas too are rightful Indian citizens who deserve to have their own identity and Bas Bhoomi (homeland),” he wrote, highlighting the contributions of the community during freedom struggle.

Kenza Foning, the north Bengal coordinator of NPP, said, “The long term goal of our party is separation of Darjeeling and Kalimpong from West Bengal.”

The NPP’s plan has not gone well with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (Binoy Tamang faction).

Keshav Raj Pokhrel, GJM (Tamang) spokesperson, said, “When P A Sangma was chief minister of Meghalaya in the 1980s many Gorkhas were driven out of the state. It is ironic that Sangma’s son is now talking about Gorkhaland while Gorkhas in Meghalaya are still treated as second-class citizens.” 

The Gorkha National Liberation Front and All India Gorkha League have, however, welcomed the NPP.

Sangma is the second chief minister to support the Gorkhaland issue. In March 2011, when Pawan Chamling was the chief minister, the Sikkim state assembly adopted a resolution in favour of creation of Gorkhaland.


Mirik subdivision in Darjeeling worst affected by torrential rains

Darjeeling: Mirik subdivision has been worst affected due to the torrential rainfall. Multiple landslides have occurred affecting a number of villages. GTA Chairman Anit Thapa visited the affected areas to take stock of the situation. Spate in the mountain streams (jhoras) have washed away the bridges thereby affecting connectivity and cutting off villages. More than 27 families of Ramiteydanra have been relocated to a relief camp. Thapa on Thursday visited the affected areas accompanied by LB Rai, Chiarman, Mirik Municipality and Arun Singji, Liaison Officer GTA. "We have opened up a relief camp where 27 families have been shifted. I will be sending a team of engineers to conduct a survey of the affected areas. We have to see if the damaged bridges can be repaired or alternate arrangement can be made thereby reconnecting the villages," stated Thapa.

The stretch from Panigolai near Soureni to Marma is the worst affected. Owing to the heavy rains the Kasijhora is in spate thereby causing extensive damage. "The Kasijhora is in spate. 5 small bridges have been washed away. 81 families in four villages namely Bamrang Gaon, Dhar Gaon, Upper Soureni and Deorali are the worst affected. 21 families on Bamrang Gaon are stranded in the village as the bridge has been washed away cutting the village off. 30 years ago these area had witnessed such devastation," stated Kamal Rai of Upper Soureni. The landslide in Ramiteydanra occurred on 23rd September evening. "We heard a rumbling sound and the landslide occurred. We send a team to review the situation and informed the SDO immediately. The SDO too rushed to the affected spot at night. He ordered the shifting of the 27 families to a temporary relief camp" stated Kumar Pradhan of the Relief Committee.

Thapa lauded the efforts of the Disaster Management committee. "They did a commendable job in shifting the 27 families to safety. All the disaster management committees under the GTA have to remain alert. We are also in constant touch with the district administration of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. In no way can we allow the loss of life" stated Thapa. Meanwhile the National Highway 10 connecting Sikkim and Kalimpong to the plains of Siliguri that had been blocked by multiple landslides on Wednesday, reopened to traffic at around 1pm on Thursday. A single lane is open but the entire stretch remains highly vulnerable and risky.

Gorkhas fighting for separate state find new friend in Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma

GUWAHATI: The Gorkhas in India fighting for a separate “Gorkhaland” state have got a new friend in Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma.

He has written to Union Home Minister Amit Shah citing the pressing issues being faced by the community in North Bengal and seeking a permanent solution to the problem.

The Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh (BGP), which is the highest body of the Gorkhas in India, lauded Sangma.

“The BGP welcomes the support extended to the Gorkhaland demand by Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma. In his letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, he has batted for a homeland of the Gorkhas and highlighted the contributions made by the Gorkhas in the nation-building process,” BGP leader Nanda Kirati Dewan said.

He said the Gorkhas, whose population is estimated to be around 10.5 million in India, would now have huge expectations from Sangma and his National People Party vis-à-vis the separate homeland demand.

In his recent letter to Shah, Sangma wrote: “Sir, you are aware of the long-pending constitutional demand of the Gorkhas for a separate Gorkhaland state. The Gorkhas have made India their home for a very long period. The contributions of the Gorkhas towards India, their motherland, have been immeasurable and they have made supreme sacrifices in protecting this beloved country”.

The Meghalaya CM made mention of Gorkha freedom fighters Major Durga Malla and Captain Ram Singh Thakuria and India’s Constituent Assembly members Damber Singh Gurung and Ari Bahadur Gurung to underscore the contributions made by Gorkhas to Indian society.

Stating that the Gorkhas too are rightful Indian citizens, who deserve their own identity and “Bas Bhoomi”, and that the NDA under Prime Minister Narendra Modi passed several landmark decisions in the interests of the people, Sangma urged Shah to consider the “just and legitimate demand” of the Gorkhas and work out a political solution that is both honourable and lasting.


Tourism and travel trade industry stakeholders of N Bengal urge to meet CM during her visit to Siliguri

Darjeeling: In an assessment of tourism-related issues prevalent on ground zero in North Bengal, it was decided that an umbrella organisation comprising all stakeholder groups will be constituted soon. The committee urges to meet and submit a memorandum to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during her visit to Siliguri, suggesting measures to promote tourism under the present pandemic situation. A meeting of various stakeholder groups was held at the Gymkhana club in Darjeeling on Wednesday. "It has been decided that an umbrella organization consisting of representatives of the different stakeholder groups including hotels, homestays, transport, travel agencies, adventure tourism, rafting, paragliding and others will be constituted at the earliest. The new committee will meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during her visit to North Bengal" stated Prasant Raj Pradhaan, Secretary, Darjeeling Homestay Owners Association.

The Chief Minister will be in Siliguri from September 21 to September 23. "We have approached the tourism minister Gautam Deb and have requested him to get us an appointment with the Chief Minister. We would like to meet her and update her about the hardships faced by the industry at present. We are thankful to the Chief Minister as she has chosen North Bengal as her first destination while starting her district tours. We strongly believe that her visit will help the industry too. We welcome her to North Bengal" stated Samrat Sanyal of the Himalayan Hospital and Tourism Development Network. The meeting chalked out steps to put the tourism and travel trade back on track. The steps include waiver of electricity bills, GST, municipal taxes, trade license fees during the lockdown period; Expediting homestay registration process; Receiving Rs. 1,50,000 as working capital by homestay owners on registering under West Bengal Homestay Policy Act 2017; Increase in moratorium period for loan repayment; Covid-19 insurance for all employees, owners and drivers; Waiver of taxes and penalty on commercial vehicles till December 31, 2020.

These issues will be placed before the Chief Minister for consideration. There are around 3,300 hotels in Sikkim and North Bengal. The number of homestays in North Bengal is around 2500. Every year 8 lakh domestic and 40,000 foreign tourists visit the Darjeeling Hills. "We are taking consolidated steps to revive the tourism industry in this region. We will also be approaching the GTA for help," stated Sangay Bhutia, President of the Hotel Owners Association, Darjeeling. With enquiries have started coming in for the Puja holidays Sanyal stated that more trains have to run to NJP and the road to the Darjeeling Hills also needs to be repaired before the tourist season.

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