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19 Jul 2018

Soon, Siliguri to become international trade hub

Soon, Siliguri to become international trade hubMP | Siliguri: The most important trading hub of the North East — Siliguri is soon going to be an international trade hub. 
Back in 2015, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement was signed on June 15 in Thimpu, Bhutan. 
With funding from the US, Consumer Utility and Trust Society, a non-profit organization, studied 'Creating an Enabling and Inclusive policy and Political Economy Discourse for trade, transport and transit facilitation in and among the four nations,' under which it identified 8 corridors.
The corridors are not only for export or import facilities but also for allowing passenger vehicles. 
Currently, 50 odd workshops are being held in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan as part of the study. In these series of workshops, the one in Siliguri, is being held with the support of the Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of North Bengal. 
Bhutan had previously denied to implement the agreement on the basis of its biodiversity and internal security, fearing negative impact on the nature.
The implementation of BBIN is to flourish the North Eastern economy. The transportation is to be made hassle free with the construction of separate corridors for cargo movement. 
Warehouses, cargo handling facilities and other requirements will be soon introduced in Siliguri to make the town an important junction. 
India had previously approved $1.08 billion for construction and upgradation of 558 km long roads joining Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. The project has received 50 percent funding from the Asian Development Bank and is scheduled to be completed by 2018.

Joint Forum of tea workers keeps agitation in abeyance... To wait for outcome of July 30 meeting

EOI, DARJEELING, 18 Jul 2018: Expressing satisfaction with the decision of the West Bengal Government to intervene to finalize the implementation of the Minimum Wage Act in the tea gardens of the hills of Darjeeling, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM)-backed tea trade union and those of other political parties have decided to hold gate meetings on July 20 to make workers aware of the development.
The Joint Forum, a conglomeration of over 23 trade unions of tea gardens of North Bengal including those in the hills and which also includes the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union (DTDPLU), affiliated to GJM, have been demanding implementation of the Minimum Wages Act among others.
A series of meetings have been held between the tea garden management and trade unions with participation of the State Government. A minimum wage advisory committee has also been formed which has representation of the unions, the management and the State Government.
There was a meeting of the advisory committee in Kolkata which failed to yield desired results. There was also another on July 12 at Uttarkanya in Siliguri attended by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. “We have got positive response from the State Government. It was with our effort that we forced the State Government to become proactive on the demand. We are of the belief that after the July 17 meeting of the advisory committee, the next meeting on July 30 will be the final, on the issue of implementation of minimum wage act in tea gardens of the Hills,” said Bharat Thakuri, the DTDPLU, general secretary.
Interestingly, the GJM being one of the member trade unions has refused to back the Joint Forum’s agitation programmes like call for general strike in tea gardens in the plains, gate meetings, stopping dispatch of made-tea leafs and dharna in gardens in the hills. “We are
part of the Forum but refuse to support agitations like strikes. We have already suffered during the 104-day bandh. And after all, every issue has to be settled on the table come what may,” Thakuri said.
The JF members of the hill gardens on Wednesday also asserted that they would hold gate meetings to make people aware of the development.“Everyone knows who has done what to achieve the demand. We have put in all our effort and worked on a common platform for the same cause. We feel our effort will pay dividend very soon. We have to tell workers what has transpired. And that an announcement could possibility made on July 30 for implementation of the Minimum Wages Act,” said convener of the Hill Sub-Committee of the Joint Forum JB Tamang and general secretary of the Himalayan Plantation Workers Union (HPWU), affiliated to the Gorkha National LiberationFront.
With the State Government giving out positive vibes, Tamang who had earlier threatened an intensified agitation for the Minimum Wages Act demand, on Wednesday said the decision had been kept in abeyance. “We did announce our agitation programmes. The State Government has taken a step forward and so we too must back-down. This is how things are negotiated. However having said that, we will go ahead with our pre-announced agitation if the July 30 meeting does not yield the desired result,” Tamang said.
On the question of the amount to be fixed as the minimum wage, the trade unions said it should be implemented as per the Plantation Labour Act of 1948. The unions said they had not fixed an amount and that help of experts were being sought.

NRC office counters portal petition

Sumir Karmakar, TT, Jul 19, 2018, Guwahati: The office of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), rebutting a campaign run by online portal Avaaz that compares the foreigners detection exercise in Assam with the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, said here on Wednesday that it would be held responsible for any possible violence.
"The contents of this petition (on Avaaz) are absolutely incorrect and seek to spread misinformation about a very serious and sensitive issue. As such, Avaaz will be held responsible for committing grave illegality by propagating rumour and insinuating absolutely false allegation against NRC update in Assam," NRC state co-ordinator Prateek Hajela said in his rebuttal to the online petition signed by more than 5.21 lakh Internet users from different parts of the world.
Stating that India will delete names of seven million Muslims in Assam from its citizens' list, the petition on Avaaz said, "This is how genocides begin - how the nightmare of the Rohingya began. But its unfolding quietly. If we raise a massive alarm calling for the UN Secretary General and key governments to intervene, we can stop this horror before it starts. Husbands, wives and children could be torn apart and left to rot in prison camps."
Hajela told The Telegraph, "Where did they get the figure of seven million Muslims? Nobody knows the number of foreigners to be detected through NRC till we release it. Also, who told them about prisons for foreigners? All those whose names will not appear in the June 30 final draft will be given the opportunity to submit claims and objectives and later they can move foreigners tribunals. Again, how is genocides associated with NRC? They don't know about NRC and are intentionally trying to slander India and Assam by comparing it with Rohingya (issue) as it draws the attention of the international community."
The NRC is being updated only in Assam under the supervision of the Supreme Court with March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date to detect foreigners. A draft of 1.9 crore, of the total 3.29 crore applicants, was released on the midnight of December 31, 2017 and the final draft is slated for release on July 30. Many organisations representing minorities, however, continue to allege that they are being "harassed" in the name of NRC, an allegation already rejected by NRC office and the BJP-led state government.
Hours after the Avaaz campaign was observed on Monday, the NRC office launched a counter-campaign on the same platform, Stop Fake Propaganda against NRC, Assam.
Hajela also objected to sharing of the Avaaz petition on Sabrang India, a portal run by human rights activist Teesta Sitalvaad and Zaved Anand. "I have posted a rebuttal on Sabrang India about the international propaganda but they have not published it yet. They had come here to talk about NRC recently. So why are they sharing the fake propaganda despite knowing that NRC is being updated under legal mandate and is supervised by the Supreme Court? NRC does not differentiate on the basis of religion or language," said Hajela.
Over 1,800 people have criticised Avaaz and signed the pro-NRC petition.

Drones to keep tabs on Gazoldoba visitors

Cottages which have come up at Gazoldoba. Picture by Passang Yolmo
BIRESWAR BANERJEE, TT, Jul 19, 2018 Siliguri: Tourists visiting "Bhorer Alo", the mega tourism hub coming up at Gazoldoba next to the Teesta Barrage - around 25 km from here - will be under aerial surveillance.

The Baikunthapur forest division of the state forest department - the hub is under the jurisdiction of this division - will engage a drone to keep a tab on the entire project area and adjoining localities.

This is probably the first time in Bengal that regular aerial monitoring would be conducted at a tourist destination.

"We will shortly procure three drones. One of these will be used only for the surveillance of the tourism project at Gazoldoba. The rest would be used to keep a tab on movement of wild animals and people in forest areas and also to check whether any illegal practice is going on in forests," said Anjan Guha, the divisional forest officer of Baikunthapur.

Sources said the department has spoken with officials Siliguri Metropolitan Police so that it can use the aerial surveillance device.

"They have got the consent from police so that the drones can be used. At the tourism hub, it would also contribute in ensuring safety of visitors and can also help the department to check whether any visitor is violating the norms while staying at the site," the source said.

At Gazoldoba, the state has planned to develop an array of facilities for tourists over an area of 208 acres.

The state tourism department is working with PWD, forest and NB development department in an integrated manner and has plans to introduce facilities like cottages for accommodation, jungle trail in bicycles, boating on the Teesta and elephant safari for tourists before the upcoming Durga Puja season.

A youth hostel and some private resorts are also coming up at the site.

"This means, the hub would be ready for visitors ahead of the upcoming tourist season. It is good that the forest department has decided to start aerial surveillance of the site," said an official from the tourism department.

The DFO also said that they are building a 12-kilometre-long road that will connect the Bengal Safari Park and Bhorer Alo through the forest. It will also be used for jungle safari and elephant safari.

"About 50 per cent of construction has been done. We want to finish the work ahead of the next tourist season," he said.

Rangpo rail: Forest dwellers seek land rights

Representatives of the forest dwellers speak at a news conference in Siliguri on Wednesday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
TT., Siliguri: Forest dwellers along the proposed Sevoke-Rangpo rail route have demanded an early implementation of the Forest Right Act, 2006 that would provide them with rights to the land they live.

Also, once they have the land rights, they would be eligible to apply for compensation in case they have to part with the land for the rail project.

On Wednesday, representatives of the Himalayan Forest Village Organisation (HFVO) that has been working on the issue said here that around one lakh people, residing in 168 villages which are in forest areas, would be affected for the railway project.

"We have been living in these villages for generations but so far, land rights have not been granted to us. We are not against the rail project and are always ready to cooperate with the government and its agencies. But the state has to take necessary initiatives to grant us land rights. People of around 100 such forest villages of Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri districts have got their land rights a couple of years back," said Nilkumar Mangar, the convener of the HFVO.

According to him, residents of these villages earn living by farming or by working as drivers and daily-wage earners.

Administrative sources said work has started to provide land rights to forest dwellers.

"We have been hearing individual claims and some of these have been accepted on principle. The concerned persons have been asked to come with some documents like land maps, which they can get from blocks, so that the issue can be resolved. There is no question of displacing any person or family," said an official posted in Darjeeling.

The railway project that was initiated on 2009 by then then railway minister Mamata Banerjee has suffered a setback due to a number of reasons, one of which is the land issue of forest dwellers.

For the project, railways need 98.94 hectares land. Only 2.77 hectares of this land is privately owned, while 18.4 hectares is with the government and around 8.49 hectares with the forest department for which the railways have got approval from necessary quarters.

"The remaining 77.77 hectares is where the forest villagers live. It is clear that they do not want to leave their land without compensation. There were some other issues which have been delaying the project but most have been sorted. It is not the task of the state and the administration to resolve this issue," said an observer.

200 crude bombs seized & defused

KOUSIK SEN, TT, Jul 19, 2018, Raiganj: Malda district police and the CID have seized over 200 crude bombs during raids in Sailapur under Kaliachak police station since Tuesday afternoon. They have also arrested three persons for allegedly making the bombs and are in search of some others.
On Tuesday, six youths, who were known to be involved in anti-social activities, were making bombs in a bamboo plantation in Sailapur, which is also close to Mahadipur on the India-Bangladesh border. Suddenly, some of the bombs went off and left two of them dead. Four others were injured and are still under treatment at Malda Medical College and Hospital (MMCH).
After the incident, the police and the CID rushed to the spot and started an investigation. They also conducted raids on some places and could recover around 200 bombs.
Police sources said the crude bombs were made by stashing gunpowder, splinters and some other items into small plastic balls.
"Locally, these are known as cocktail bombs. There are reports that such crude bombs were used in Bangladesh to cause minor explosions. Now that so many bombs have been recovered, we are not ruling out the possibility that the group involved in making the bombs have cross-border links and potential clients on the other side of the fence," said a source.
The investigators have said there are private parking spaces near the border at Mahadipur, one of the main transits of goods traffic into Bangladesh from India.
"On a regular basis, trucks are parked on such parking spaces and a section of anti-socials is involved in collecting money in the name of parking fee. For the past few weeks, differences have cropped up between two groups of anti-socials over the possession of such spaces. There in information that one of the groups was making the bombs to organise attack on the other lobby," said a police official.
In course of investigation, the police came to know about Kartick Ghosh, Kamal Ghosh and Biplab Ghosh, all Kaliachak residents and their involvement in making the bombs.
"All the three have been arrested. Our officers will interrogate them to obtain information about the group and why so many bombs were made and stored. They would also try to know the sources from where the groups had obtained the raw material," the official added.
Meanwhile, members of the bomb squad of the CID defused the bombs. The explosives were taken to a deserted location in Kaliachak where experts of the intelligence agency took proper precaution and defused the balls containing explosives.

Cry for Panitanki infrastructure

The Mechi bridge on the India-Nepal border. File picture
TT, Siliguri: Ordinary people, traders and tourism stakeholders have demanded improvement in infrastructure at Panitanki, the principal transit point to Nepal from north Bengal and the Northeast.
The demand comes after the recent visit of chief minister Mamata Banerjee to Changrabandha, a land port located on the India-Bangladesh border in Cooch Behar district and around 75km from here. During her visit, Mamata had said the state and the Centre should work together for the development of infrastructure on the site, through which several people cross the international border.
"Panitanki is the main transit point for residents of Nepal and those in north Bengal and the Northeast. Thousands of people from both the countries move across the border every day along the Mechi river bridge. Also, many foreign tourists take the route to enter India from Nepal and vice-versa. That is why it is important to have proper infrastructure in place on the border, with basic amenities for travellers," said Raj Basu, a veteran in travel trade in the region.
Basu, who had been striving to integrate tourist destinations of eastern Nepal, north Bengal and Sikkim and promote a bigger tourism circuit, said the number of visitors moving through Panitanki was on the rise.
At Panitanki, there is no proper place for travellers to sit or refresh themselves. The road leading to Mechi bridge is in bad shape and is congested with traffic most of the times. Also, no space is available to park a vehicle.
Every day, hundreds of trucks from India and Bangladesh enter Nepal through the route, which leaves the road further congested.
Sunil Das, a trader based in Panitanki, around 40km from Siliguri, pointed out that an integrated immigration building (like the one in Fulbari, on the India-Bangladesh border, located around 5km from Siliguri) and a separate pathway along the bridge are immediately required.
This is because, he said, the BBIN (Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal) agreement on movement of vehicles is in place now and traffic will increase along the border.
"Bangladesh has already made trial runs of buses between Dhaka and Kathmandu and regular service would be introduced soon. Also, the Asian Highway 2 is entering India from Nepal through Panitanki and a new bridge would be constructed over the Mechi river. If the road connectivity improves, there should be adequate infrastructure on the frontier to meet travellers' needs," said Das.
Some local people also said it looked odd to have inadequate infrastructure at Panitanki, where central government departments like Customs and immigration operate from a small building.
"There is a sharp contrast as the infrastructure is excellent at Kakarvitta (on the other side the border). It looks a bit awkward as people step into our side, particularly tourists from abroad who move through the route. We feel there should be similar infrastructure, like huge offices, gardens, parking spaces and places for people to sit and relax," said Dipen Lama, a Panitanki resident who frequents Nepal for business purposes.
Kakarvitta is under Mechinagar municipality of Jhapa district in Nepal.
"Panitanki still carries the village tag, which is why civic amenities are unavailable," said a resident.
Asked about the matter, officials of the Darjeeling district administration said both the state and the Centre need to come together on the issue.
"The infrastructure could be set up in Fulbari as the state and the Centre worked together. Land was provided to the Centre that allotted funds to set up the integrated building to accommodate necessary offices. A similar plan needs to be taken up for Panitanki," said an official.
The official has, however, said once the construction of the Asian Highway 2 ends, there is a chance that work on the improvement of infrastructure on the border might be taken up.
"After the BBIN agreement, the Centre is aware that areas like Panitanki and Changrabandha need development. The state also wants it, as was indicated by the chief minister. Altogether, we hope the ball would eventually start rolling," he added.

18 Jul 2018

लिला कुमार गुरुङको स्थान्तरण पश्चिम बङ्गालको उच्च शिक्षा विभागले गरेको हो – विनय तामाङ

डी.के.वाइबा, कालिमन्युज, कालेबुङ 17 जुलाई। कुमाई हाई स्कुलका शिक्षक लिला कुमार गुरुङलाई स्थान्तरण गरिएको घट्ना सम्बन्धि चलिरहेको विवादबारे जीटीए, बीओए अध्यक्ष विनय तामाङले आफ्नो स्पष्टिकरण दिएका छन्। कालेबुङ न्यायालयमा चलिरहेको मुद्दाको सुनवाईको क्रममा आफ्नो उपस्थिति दिन आइपुगेका तामाङले उक्त स्थान्तरण सेन्ट्रल स्कुल सर्भिस कमिशन कोलकोताबाट गरिएको स्पष्टिकरण दिएका छन्।

‘लिला गुरुङको स्थान्तरण जीटीएको शिक्षा विभागले गरेको होइन। उनको स्थान्तरण सेन्ट्रल स्कुल कमिशनले गरेको हो। यसकारण यसबारे कमिशनलाई नै सोध्नुपर्नेछ’ विनय तामाङले भने। यसक्रममा उनले गुरुङको स्थान्तरणलाई लिएर आफुलाई प्रश्न उठाइरहेको भन्दै यसबरे कमिशनले नै जवाब दिनेछ भनि अझ बताएका छन्। उनले लिला गुरुङको स्थान्तरण भएर विवाद बढेपछि आफुले पनि यसबारे छानबिन गरेको भन्दै छानबिन पछि उक्त स्थान्तरण पश्चिम बङ्गाल सरकारको उच्च शिक्षा विभागले गरेको थाह लागेको बताएका छन्।

अर्कोतर्फ केही दिन अघि गोरामुमो नेता सी.के प्रधान हत्याकाण्डको मुद्दा सीबीआई समक्ष उठाउने घोषणा गरेपछि के कस्ता प्रगति भइरहेको छ भनि प्रश्न गर्दा तामङले पीडित परिवार पक्षले न्याय पाउनुपर्छ भनेर आफुहरूले न्यायको निम्ति पहल गरिरहेको जानकारी दिएका छन्। सीके प्रधानको दिउँसै हत्या भएपनि आजसम्म पीडित परिवार पक्षले न्याय नपाउनु दुखद रहेको भन्दै यसबारे कानुनी प्रक्रिया हेरेर उचित पहल गरिने जानकारी दिएका छन्। जसको निम्ति परिवार पक्षसम्म पनि सम्पर्क गरिने उनले बताएका छन्। यसैक्रममा तामाङलाई यता निरज जिम्बाले लगाएका आरोपबारे प्रश्न गर्दा ‘सम्पूर्ण आरोपहरू निराधार हुन्’ भन्दै यसबारे केही टिप्पणी गर्न चाहन्न भनि बताएका छन्।

विनय तामाङलाई न्यायलयले गर्‍यो आरोपमुक्त;... भने – ‘न्यायालयको सम्मान गर्दछु’

डी.के वाइबा, कालिमन्युज, कालेबुङ, 17 जुलाई। दुईवटा भिन्न-भिन्नै मुद्दाहरूमा आज जीटीए बीओए अध्यक्ष विनय तामाङले कालेबुङ न्यायालयमा आफ्नो उपस्थिति दिएका छन्। उक्त दुईवटा मुद्दाहरू मध्ये एउटा मुद्दाबाट तामाङलाई न्यायालयले आरोप मुक्त गरेको छ भने अर्को मुद्दाको सुनवाई जारी रहेको छ।

छुट्टै राज्य गोर्खाल्याण्ड आन्दोलनको समय राष्ट्रिय राजमार्ग 10 अन्तर्गत किर्ने नजिक एउटा वाहनमा आगो लगाइएको घट्नाको आरोपबाट जीटीए, बीओए अध्यक्ष विनय तामाङ मुक्त भएका छन्। सन् 2013 मा चलेको गोर्खाल्याण्ड आन्दोलनको समय राष्ट्रिय राजमार्गमा एउटा वाहनमा आगो लगाइएको थियो। जसमा विनय तामाङलाई पुलिसले मुख्य आरोपित् बनाइएको थियो। उक्त घट्नाको आज कालेबुङ जुडिसियल म्याजिस्ट्रेट (प्रथम श्रेणी) असिमानन्द मण्डलको खण्डपिठमा सुनवाई भएको थियो। न्याधिशले तामाङलाई दोषी प्रमाणित नभएको कारण स-सम्मान छुटकारा दिँदै उनलाई आरोपमुक्त गरिएको छ। उक्त घट्नाको आरोपमा तामाङ विरुद्ध भारतीय दण्ड संहिताको धारा 147, 435 अनि आर डब्ल्यु सेक्सन 8(बी) सँगै राष्ट्रिय राजमार्ग बाधित बनाइएको विरुद्धमा मुद्दा दर्ता गरिएको थियो। अघिबाटै सुनवाई चलिरहेको उक्त मुद्दाको आज अन्तिम सुनवाई भएको हो। जहाँ तामाङ घट्नामा संलग्न नभएको कारण न्यायालयले स-सम्मान आरोप मुक्त गरेको छ।

अर्कोतर्फ कालेबुङ न्यायालयकै चिफ ज्युडिसियल म्याजिस्ट्रेट अघि पनि आज तामाङले अर्को मुद्दामा आफ्नो उपस्थिति दिएका छन्। तामाङ सँगै पूर्व सभासद सतिस पोख्रेल लगायत अन्य आरोपीहरू उक्त मुद्दाको सुनवाईमा उपस्थित बनेका थिए। सन् 2013 मा नै वर्तमान पर्याटन मन्त्री गौतम देवको कालेबुङ आगमनको समय गोर्खाल्याण्ड आन्दोलनकारीहरूले उनलाई कालो झण्डा देखाएर विरोध गरेको आरोपमा तामाङसँगै अन्य आरोपित् हरूले न्यायालयमा आफ्नो उपस्थिति दिएका हुन्। मन्त्री गौतम देवलाई कालो झण्डा देखाएको आरोपमा पुलिसले उनीहरू विरुद्ध भारतीय दण्ड संहिताको धारा 143, 341, 353, 427, 511, 506 मुद्दा दर्ता गरेको छ। उक्त मुद्दाको आज चिफ ज्युडिसियल म्याजिस्ट्रेट अघि सुनवाई भएको थियो। सुनवाईको क्रममा न्यायालयमा गवाहीको उपस्थिति नभएपछि आगमी 21 अगस्तका दिन अर्को सुनवाई हुने न्यायलयले तय गरेको छ।

यता न्यायालयमा उपस्थिति दिन कालेबुङ आइपुगेका जीटीए बीओए अध्यक्ष विनय तामाङले दुईवटा मुद्दाहरूमा उपस्थिति दिएपछि एउटा मुद्दामा आफु आरोपमुक्त भएको बताएका छन्। ‘सन् 2007 देखि 2017 सम्म चलेको गोर्खाल्याण्डको आन्दोलनको क्रममा विभिन्न न्यायालयहरूमा मविरूद्ध 219 वटा मुद्दाहरू चलेको हो। जसमध्ये अघिबाटै 5 वटा मुद्दा सकिएको छ भने आज एउटा मुद्दा समाप्त भएको छ’ विनय तामाङले अझ भने –‘म कानुनको सम्मान गर्छु।’ यसक्रममा तामाङले आफ्नो मात्र मुद्दा सक्ने कार्य नगरेको भन्दै सबैको मुद्दा न्यायालय मार्फत् समान रूपले समापन होस् भन्ने चाहेर आफु प्रत्येक न्यायालयमा सुनवाईको क्रममा उपस्थिति हुने गरेको पनि स्पष्ट पारेका छन्।

अर्कोतर्फ यता तामाङका मुद्दा लडीरहेका अधिवक्ता राजीव पराजुलीले पनि पत्रकारहरूसँग बोल्दै राष्ट्रिय राजमार्ग 10 अधिनस्थ किर्ने क्षेत्रमा वाहन जलाएको घट्ना सम्बन्धि चलेको मुद्दामा जीटीए बीओए अध्यक्ष आरोपमुक्त भएको जानकारी दिएका छन्। यसक्रममा उनले अब कालेबुङ न्यायालयमा तामाङ विरुद्ध केवल एउटा मुद्दा मात्र छिनाफाना हुन बाँकी रहेको अनि अन्य मुद्दाहरू अघिबाटै समापन भइसकेको पनि जानकारी दिएका छन्।

Ghatak to announce revised minimum wage on July 30, tea unions defer agitation

Ghatak to announce revised minimum wage on July 30, tea unions defer agitationAmitava Banerjee | MP | 17 July 2018 | Darjeeling: The minimum wage amount calculated by the state government will be announced from Uttar Kanya by Labour minister Malay Ghatak on July 30. 
This assurance led to the deferring of agitation programmes, including tea estate shutdowns and a general strike by the Joint Forum of tea unions earlier slated for July 23, 24 and 25. 
Tripartite talks were held between the state government, Joint Forum and associations representing the management at Uttar Kanya, the mini secretariat in Jalpaiguri on Tuesday.
"We communicated the progress in implementation of minimum wages and the details on how it is being calculated. On July 30, Labour minister Malay Ghatak will make an official announcement on the amount that has been fixed as minimum wage. As we have made much progress, we would request the Joint Forum to lift their agitation programmes, thereby maintaining peace and tranquility in the gardens," stated Jawaid Akhtar, labour commissioner.
The Joint Forum (a conglomeration of 26 operating tea unions), demanding the implementation of minimum wages in tea gardens, had called for a closure of all tea gardens in North Bengal on July 23, 24 and 25, along with a general strike in the tea belt on July 24. 
Though the unions operational in the Hills had decided not to enforce the bandh, they had called for stopping tea dispatch from the Hill gardens.
Following the tripartite talks, the Joint Forum went into a huddle to decide on the fate of the agitation programme. "As the state government initiative is positive, we have decided to defer the 3-day strike. This will be announced in all the tea gardens on July 20, before the workers go to work. We will attend the meeting on July 30 at Uttar Kanya. However, if the announcement on that day is anti-worker, we will draw up our future course of action which will include a more severe agitation after July 30," stated Zia Ur Alam, convenor of the forum. 
Alam stated that though the government was positive, the attitude of the management is clearly anti-worker. 
Towing the Chief Minister's line, Dola Sen, president, INTTUC, stated: "Bandh will not resolve anything. It is the workers who suffer in a bandh. Our government is pro-worker. After coming to power, the daily wage of workers that stood at Rs 66 in 2011, has been incremented to Rs 159 at present." 
The minimum wage is being calculated taking into consideration various components including cost of food, clothing, housing and the 1:3 composition (3 dependents per worker). Disbursement of PF, gratuity and filling up of vacancies in the gardens were also discussed in the tripartite meeting.

Forum agrees to puts off tea strike

BIRESWAR BANERJEE, TT, Jul 18, 2018, Siliguri: Representatives of Joint Forum, the apex body of tea trade unions excepting Trinamul, announced on Tuesday evening that they have postponed the three-day tea industry strike and the 12-hour general strike, much to the relief of tea planters.

The decision was made after senior officials of state labour department and members of the tea planters' fraternity mentioned to them at a meeting that was held here in Uttarkanya, that discussion is in progress for fixation and implementation of minimum wages for tea workers serving in the state.

Since July 2, the Forum has launched a series of agitations on the issue of minimum wage and had also called a three-day strike in the industry from July 23 to July 25. Also, on July 24, they had announced a 12-hour general strike in tea producing areas of north Bengal.

The announcement had left tea planters perturbed, as production is in the peak across the industry in the current month.

"The state labour commissioner assured us that state labour minister Moloy Ghatak will announce a proposed rate of minimum wage for tea workers at meeting to be held in Uttarkanya on July 30. We considered it as a positive move from the state's side and thus decided to postpone the strike till that date," said Ziaur Alam, convener of the Forum.

On July 20, constituent unions of the Forum will hold meetings in each of the tea estates to apprise workers and their families about the development.

"However, if the state's proposed rate is not accepted by workers, we will resume our movement," the trade union leader added.

The planters expressed a sense of relief at the decision.

"We appreciate the decision of Joint Forum to keep on hold the strike. It would help the industry to maintain its production that is in the peak during this season," said R. A. Sharma, secretary of the Dooars branch of Tea Association of India.

Revamp clock ticks on bypass in Siliguri

A stretch of Eastern Bypass in Siliguri. File picture
AVIJIT SINHA, TT, Jul 18, 2018 , Siliguri: The state PWD has decided to widen and improve Eastern Bypass, an 11km road that skirts Siliguri and connects the north-eastern end with southern end of the city.

The decision has come as a major relief for Siliguri residents and also those living in the surroundings as once this road is four-laned, it can largely help in movement of traffic while bypassing the arterial roads of Siliguri, which get clogged with vehicles every day.

Built by the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA) couple of decades back, the road connects NH-31 near Bhaktinagar police station on the north with Gora More, a tri-junction near New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station.

Around nine months back, the road was handed over to state PWD. "After the handover, it was decided that the entire 11 kilometre-long stretch would be widened and would have made a four-lane road to ease the movement of traffic. Recently, tender process for the work has been initiated," said Chandan Jha, the executive engineer of North Bengal Construction Division of the state PWD.

According to him, a sum of over Rs 15 crores would be spent for the project. "The road would be two-lane on each side, with dividers in the middle. We would also build drains all along the stretch. Work is likely to commence in another three-four months," added the official.

Sources in the Jalpaiguri district administration - it is under Jalpaiguri district - said no land has to be acquired for the project.

"There is adequate government land on both sides of the road. We will not have to acquire any land for widening of the road," said a source.

As of now, most stretches of the bypass are in bad shape, particularly after the recent monsoon rainfall. The bitumen cover has wiped, there are innumerable potholes and even craters in some places.

"Some repair works would be carried out in the damaged stretches but the main construction would be done as a part of the four-laning project," said a source in the state PWD department.

The move has been welcomed by residents of the city.

"Several vehicles which enter the city from Sikkim, Kalimpong and parts of Dooars and vice-versa, go to NJP station through Hill Cart Road or Burdwan Road every day. Only a few uses Eastern Bypass. Once the road is four-laned, this traffic can be diverted along the bypass. This would ease the load of traffic in Siliguri," said Jayanta Majumdar, a transporter based in Siliguri.

The four-lane road would also help in movement of vehicles to Jalpaiguri and beyond, pointed the residents.

This is because from Gora More, the southern end of the bypass, NB development department has developed an alternative road that heads for Jalpaiguri, cutting across the canal road that heads to Gazoldoba, site of the mega tourism hub.

HC asks unions to justify DA parity plea

TT, Calcutta: A division bench of the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday observed that it could be presumed that dearness allowance (DA) was the "fundamental right" of the state government employees, asking unions to furnish legal provisions that substantiate their claim to DA on a par with central employees.

The bench, comprising Justices Debasish Kargupta and S.B. Saraf, observed that since DA of state employees was announced on the basis of a constitutional rule, the court could preliminarily observe that DA is also a "component of emolument of the pay, like basic".

Appearing for Left-dominated employees' union, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya argued before the court during the hearing on Tuesday. he state government is giving DA on the basis of Article 309 of the Constitution. Since the DA is announced on the basis constitutional provisions, it has become a right of the employees," Bhattacharayya said.

In January last year, the state administrative tribunal (SAT) had issued a verdict that to give DA to its employees was the discretion of the state and the employees could not claim DA as their right. The employees' unions, backed by the Left Front and the Congress, had appealed before the division bench.

In the high court, appearing for the state, advocate-general Kishore Dutta had supported the view taken by the SAT.

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