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Latest Posts

15 Oct 2018

Tourism network to boost sector

SNS, Siliguri: Stakeholders of the tourism and allied industries in North Bengal and Sikkim have jointly launched the Himalayan hospitality & Tourism Development Network (HHTDN).
As the group was formed on Saturday, it became the very first network of its kind in eastern India, while the stakeholders based their decision on the country's 'act east' policy and with a view to developing a national-level hospitality and tourism network.
State tourism minister Gautam Deb, who was present at a function organised to launch the group, encouraged all stakeholders to move forward with such a network by focusing on West Bengal and Northeast India. Leaders of the HHTDN, meanwhile, said they plan to extend their working area gradually, while also taking up tourism-related projects with neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh
Summit Milestone Hotel on Sevoke Road in Siliguri played a key role in readying such a network and hosted the meeting on its premises on 6 October. Over 75 members associated with the hospitality, tourism, and allied industries in North Bengal and Sikkim also prepared priority-wise proposals for inclusion in their network.
Addressing the HHTDN's launching ceremony at Summit Milestone on Saturday last, Minister Deb said: "The state government plays an important role as a facilitator. Our government has taken so many steps and formulated policies to create a tourist friendly atmosphere so that travellers can experience a beautiful Bengal."  
"Our chief minister Mamata Banerjee is keen to see Bengal emerge in the tourism sector and try to make good relations with neighboring states in the northeast, especially Sikkim, for the development of the tourism industry," he added.
Members meanwhile plan to achieve their goals by extending the seasons and themes so as to double the tourist flow in the region. They also adopted a resolution to take initiatives to declare tourism as an "Emergency Service' and keep it out of the purview of bandhs and strikes.
The network has also decided to help governments in policy implementation by organizing tourism events and promotion of the region by keeping in mind North Bengal and Sikkim as a collaboration model.
"If the collaboration model succeeds,then the network will be extended to northeastern states and finally the rest of Hindu Kush-Himalayan Landscape," an HHTDN resolution said.
An expert in the tourism industry, Raj Basu, pointed out to the 'dedicated network' on safety, security and 'Rescue in Emergency' for every tourist in case of any eventuality.
Another veteran and pioneer tour operator, KK Gurung, who completed 50 years in the tourism industry and introduced a system of booking seats for Land Rovers to visit Tiger Hills in Darjeeling, appreciated the initiative.
Another Darjeeling-based pioneer in the industry, Suresh Periwal, a recipient of the Hall of Fame, a national award in tourism, also appreciated the decision to form the HHTDN. The HHTDN has framed a 16-point plan of action by involving the government in the network.
Head of several associations and organizations, including NGOs from north Bengal and Sikkim and even from Kolkata attended the assembly.
Some stakeholders and members of NGOs and Home Stays pointed out to the present problems, including sanitation issues, exorbitant car fares" at some important places like the NJP railway station.
Another stakeholder associated with Home Stays in the Hills, said there was confusion on the state government's policy on Home Stays as it has started their registration by distributing specified forms.
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Forest activist 'detained'

SNS, KURSEONG.,14 OCTOBER: Forest rights activists today claimed that police in Kurseong have detained their fellow activist Nima Sherpa for allegedly making a post on Facebook asking forest villagers not to receive 'title deeds' of land being distributed by the state government
"The Inspector-in-charge of the Kurseong Police Station called the Kurseong Division Committee President of the Himalayan Forest Villagers Organisation, Nima Sherpa, to the police station at 11.30 am today and has detained him till now," a forest rights activist said late in the evening.
People, including women from Baghgauda village near Kurseong from where Mr Sherpa, an ex-army man, hails gathered at the police station in the evening and tried to free Mr Sherpa.
Police sources in Kurseong confirmed that Mr Sherpa had been detained and that an 'inquiry' was on.
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Puja gift: Tourism hub open for visitors

BIRESWAR BANERJEE -, TT, 15 Oct 2018, Siliguri: Bhorer Alo, the mega tourist hub at Gazoldoba, will be opened to visitors from Monday.

An official of the Bengal tourism department informed that online booking of the cottages and tents at Bhorer Alo, the newest tourist destination in north Bengal, had started on Saturday.

"Anybody can log into our website (www.wbtdcl.com) and book an accommodation. As of now, there are five cottages, among which booking is available in four. Also, there are two tents on the site. While one-day stay at a cottage will cost Rs 2,500, the rate of stay in a tent will be Rs 1,200 per night. Both the tents and cottages have facilities like attached toilets and 24hour power supply," said the official.

Samrat Sanyal, who is associated with a travel house in Siliguri, said the accommodations at Bhorer Alo was located amid nature. The surroundings help visitors relax and rejuvenate.

The project is surrounded by Baikunthapur forest and the Teesta and has a magnifi- cent view of Mount Kanchenjungha and some other Himalayan peaks.

State tourism minister Gautam Deb said: "We plan to build 12 more cottages and set up at least 20 tents at the camping site in the project area in next couple of months. Also, elephant safari, bird watching trail and some other facilities will start soon." A source said the construction of the 12km road that will connect the Bengal Safari Park with the Bhorer Alo would end soon.

Gazoldoba is around 30km from Siliguri.
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Platform to lift self-esteem

VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, 15 Oct 2018, Darjeeling: Nishit Lama went into a coma for 48-hours to survive a stroke that left his right hand and leg paralytic.

But he didn't run away from realities.

Three years later, Lama, now 46, participated in a 7km run "without stopping for a minute" from Batasia to Chowrasta here on Thursday.

He is part of a platform called Changai (healing) to boost the self-esteem of people who suffer from physical and mental infirmities.

"When I completed the run, I wanted to cry but I felt shy. But I remember that I kept on screaming and screaming and screaming," said Lama who was working with a multinational company in Hyderabad when he took ill.

The run was organised by Marg, a Darjeeling-based NGO, on the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11.

Lama's three years has been hard. "There had been nothing good to take from stroke, except that it made me mentally strong," said Lama who admits that he went into depression "feeling worthless, helpless, sad, anxious …and that life was over for him". Two years back, Lama spoke about his feeling to his 76 year old mother. "She only listened to me but I found support in her listening," said Lama. It was after he spoke his heart out, Lama believes, his recovery process started.

Changai took shape when Namrata Edwards, a resident of Darjeeling, was invited to a jig at a pub here two months back. "I, too, have gone through lot of complexes, low esteem. I feel many young people are going through depression," she said.

The jig was a show by young musicians from Darjeeling for "mental health awareness".

"Everyone had a story, some were depressed because a friend had committed suicide, some had some examples in their family ....(Late) Fr Gerard Van Walleghem (a renowned educationist from Darjeeling) would always say our young students had low self-esteem even though he didn't know why," said Edwards.

It is then that Namrata and his friends got together, along with Lama, to form Changai.

"It is not okay to be not okay," said Edwards who started talking to school children and people feeling depressed, helping them identify their problems. Namrata and friends are not trained professionals -- they refer to themselves as "care-givers". But soon, word spread and Changai now has a psychologist, mental health specialist, psychiatrist and other experts on board.

"Working with other people is now motivating me more. I now do my 45-minute exercises twice everyday," said Lama.

The platform maintains anonymity and slowly many people from Darjeeling are turning up for counselling. "We have come across many instances of this vicious circle of low self esteem and addiction...this is alarming," said Edwards.

Lama said: "I have realised that the most important thing is mental strength." Lama was taking a jog near Chowrasta on Sunday when a few girls commented: "Oh, he runs in such a funny manner." "I did not feel bad as they do not know my history. But I did smile back at them," said Lama.

Lama and Changai are trying to bring smiles to many who are suffering silently.
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14 Oct 2018

Sleeping too much can affect your mental skills: Study

SleepingIANS, Toronto: While lack of proper sleep has been known to affect health, a new study has showed that people who sleep less or more than an average of seven to eight hours per night are more likely to develop impairments in their mental skills. The findings showed that sleep affected all adults equally. The amount of sleep associated with highly functional cognitive behaviour was the same for everyone (seven to eight hours), regardless of age. 
Also, the impairment associated with too little or too much sleep did not depend on the age of the participants, the researchers said. "We found that the optimum amount of sleep to keep your brain performing its best is seven to eight hours every night and that corresponds to what the doctors will tell you to need to keep your body in tip-top shape, as well," said lead author Conor Wild, Research Associate at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. 
"We also found that people that slept more than that amount was equally impaired as those who slept too little," Wild added. For the study, published in the journal SLEEP, the team examined more than 40,000 participants.
Nearly half of all participants reported typically sleeping less than 6.3 hours per night, about an hour less than the study's recommended amount. Most participants who slept four hours or less performed as if they were almost nine years older. Importantly, the participants' reasoning and verbal abilities were two of the actions most strongly affected by sleep while short-term memory performance was relatively unaffected. 
On the other hand, even a single night's sleep can affect a person's ability to think. Participants who slept more than usual the night before participating in the study performed better than those who slept their usual amount or less, the researchers said.

Keep sleeping hours in check for a healthy lifestyle
Representational imageWashington D.C: It's time to keep track of your sleeping hours because according to a recent study, people who sleep for 7 to 8 hours per night performed better cognitively than those who slept less or more than this amount. As a part of the study, more than 40,000 people from around the world participated in the online scientific investigation, which includes an in-depth questionnaire and a series of cognitive performance activities. Adrian Owen, the lead researcher of the study, said, "We really wanted to capture the sleeping habits of people around the entire globe. Obviously, there have been many smaller sleep studies of people in laboratories but we wanted to find out what sleep is like in the real world."
"People who logged in gave us a lot of information about themselves. We had a fairly extensive questionnaire and they told us things like which medications they were on, how old they were, where they were in the world and what kind of education they'd received because these are all factors that might have contributed to some of the results," he explained.
Approximately half of all participants reported typically sleeping less than 6.3 hours per night, about an hour less than the study's recommended amount. One startling revelation was that most participants who slept four hours or less performed as if they were almost nine years older.
Another surprising discovery was that sleep affected all adults equally. The amount of sleep associated with highly functional cognitive behaviour was the same for everyone (7 to 8 hours), regardless of age. Also, the impairment associated with too little, or too much, sleep did not depend on the age of the participants.
"We found that the optimum amount of sleep to keep your brain performing its best is 7 to 8 hours every night and that corresponds to what the doctors will tell you to need to keep your body in tip-top shape, as well. We also found that people that slept more than that amount were equally impaired as those who slept too little," said Conor Wild, lead author of the study.
Participants' reasoning and verbal abilities were two of the actions most strongly affected by sleep while short-term memory performance was relatively unaffected. This is different than findings in most scientific studies of complete sleep deprivation and suggests that not getting enough sleep for an extended period affects your brain differently than staying up all night.
On the positive side, there was some evidence that even a single night's sleep can affect a person's ability to think. Participants who slept more than usual the night before participating in the study performed better than those who slept their usual amount or less. The full findings appeared in the journal- Sleep.
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Driving licences to be uniform across India

DLDipak K Dash, TNN, 14 October 2018, NEW DELHI: From next July, new driving licences (DLs) and vehicle registration certificates (RCs) issued by all states and union territories will be uniform in look, colour, design and will have the same security features.

The 'smart' DLs and RCs embedded with microchips will have QR codes. They will also be enabled with the near-field communication (NFC) feature, just like that of Metro and ATM cards, so that traffic enforcers with hand-held devices can easily access details stored in the cards.

The new DL will have details of a driver's declaration to donate organs and mention if he/she is driving a specially designed vehicle meant for the physically challenged.


"The feature of emission norm for the vehicle will be specified on the RC to help carry out the pollution under control test objectively. Currently, a person carrying out the test asks the owner about the details," a road transport ministry official said.

About 32,000 DLs are either issued or renewed across the country daily and nearly 43,000 vehicles are registered or re-registered.


So, when anyone goes for renewal or re-registration, the transport authorities will issue the new DLs and RCs so the old ones will get replaced gradually.


An official of the road transport ministry, which has already started the process, said the enforcement personnel will have multiple options, from keying in the DL or RC numbers in their hand held device to inserting the smart card in the device or read the QR code to get access to all details of a driver. The NFC feature will help quick detection of the card details as soon as the DL or RC smart card is touched or placed close to the device.


"It will directly give access to the URL having details of the particular vehicle or driver including past records as stored in the central data base of Vahan (for vehicles) and Sarthi (drivers)," said another transport ministry official.


He said adding cost of all the features won't be more than Rs 15-20 per DL or RC and hence the states can easily get this done within the given time frame.
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10 years on, Kandhamal still needs be exorcised of its communal past

House in Bujulimendi in Odisha’s Kandhamal district, damaged during riots
House in Bujulimendi in Odisha’s Kandhamal district, damaged during riots :AFP
Uddalak Mukherjee, TT, 13.10.18: The night was not quite a night of long knives. Ten years ago, the knives — a metaphorical allusion to murder, rape and arson — were unsheathed for months, from August to December, in Odisha’s hilly Kandhamal region. It was one of the worst instances of targeted and sustained violence against Christians and Dalits allegedly by Hindutva’s foot soldiers, apparently to avenge the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati.

This August, the Christian community got together in Bhubaneswar to participate in a mass for the sake of reconciliation. Ajay Singh, a priest and rights activist, is circumspect about the idea of reconciliation. “How does one forgive some of the horrors that were perpetrated,” asked Singh, before going on to elaborate on some of the incidents that haunt him still: a nun, an Adivasi, attacked by a crowd comprising tribal people in a village block; a Dalit Hindu girl gangraped in Tikabali because her Christian relatives refused to re-convert to Hinduism; a father forced to request his son, a priest, to renounce his faith.

When pieced together, these snippets expose the true extent of the damage that was done in this corner of Odisha. In their book, Kandhamal: Introspection of Initiative for Justice, 2007-2015, lawyer Vrinda Grover and researcher Saumya Uma have put the toll thus — 75-100 citizens were murdered, 600 villages and 295 churches were destroyed, 54,000 people were left homeless and about 2,000 were forced to renounce Christianity. Other estimates, such as the one put together by investigative journalist Anto Akkara, an old Kandhamal hand, corroborate those numbers.
House in Baliguda in Odisha’s Kandhamal district, damaged during riots
House in Baliguda in Odisha’s Kandhamal district, damaged during riots
Singh attributes the germ of the violence to the history of polarisation in the state. “If we need to understand Kandhamal, we must look back to the time that witnessed such episodes as the passage of the anti-conversion law in Odisha as well as the ban on cow slaughter. We must also remember that in 2006, two years before the violence, Golwalkar Jayanti had witnessed the presence of ministers of the then ruling dispensation.”

Kandhamal may have been the product of a slow but steady erosion of an inclusive social fabric. But Singh insists that one cannot rule out caste when analysing the cause. “Caste was certainly an instrument for leverage. Most migrants belonged to an affluent mercantile community and the Dalits and Christians who were the victims were dependent on these settlers economically. The capitulation of the business community to sectarianism must also be looked into to understand the mechanics of the riots,” said Singh.

Akkara, unlike Singh, has his eyes fixed on the present. In the course of our conversation, he iterated that his battle for justice for the victims had meant he ruffled rather influential feathers. “Please go through my books on Kandhamal as well as the interviews that I have given. You will know what the truth is,” asserted the journalist.
Ironically, Akkara is speaking about the subversion of truth. One of his books, Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?, exposes numerous infirmities in the investigative process. The first batch of people the police arrested for the swami’s murder included a 13-year-old; the traumatised victims were let off for the want of evidence after 40 days. Soon, a second set of 'killers' was apprehended, writes Akkara. All of them were Christians from Kotagarh, a remote hamlet, and among them was a mentally challenged youth. Akkara also revealed that a fast-track court judge, who had described the investigating officer’s conduct as “deplorable”, was transferred before the verdict was delivered. Seven Christians were convicted, a decree that Akkara continues to contest and fight against.

Akkara is not alone when it comes to suggesting that the narrative in Kandhamal is based on collusion between the State and a divisive ideology. Grover and Uma have identified some of the tactics that are usually adopted to aid the travesty of justice. The constitution of hollow commissions as well as the filing of cases against the victims to discourage depositions are among the preferred strategies.

And perhaps herein lies the importance of Kandhamal. Justice, reconciliation and the rehabilitation of the survivors of the butchery are integral to burying Kandhamal’s nightmare. However, a real exorcism is predicated upon India’s willingness to confront the modus operandi of the spectre of communalism that Kandhamal had exposed a decade ago: an unfortunate murder, incitement, reprisal and cleansing of those perceived to be the Other.

Yet, it is evident that the reconstructions of Kandhamal by courageous rights activists, journalists and others are not quite representative. They all suffer from one common paucity: the absence of the voice of those who are culpable in the killings. While researching for this particular piece, numerous attempts were made to establish contact with perpetrators in Kandhamal. But none was willing to speak.

It is a silence that Manoj Naik, a lawyer who provides legal aid to victims, is aware of. In 2010, Naik was approached by the Evangelical Fellowship of India to provide legal assistance. “I do not know what is on their mind,” confided Naik, who is now based in Bhawanipatna.

By “their”, Naik presumably meant those with blood on their hands. Until we hear their stories, their grievances, real or imagined, until we learn about the method of their indoctrination, the fire in Kandhamal, and in India’s other incinerators — Nellie, Ayodhya, Muzaffarnagar, Godhra, Delhi — would continue to simmer.

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The MeToo reckoning.... Invocation of proof beyond reasonable doubt and due process may end up defending male impunity

Image for representation
Mukul Kesavan, TT: Can you believe abused women on the strength of their testimony without condemning the men they accuse to the kangaroo court of public opinion? Since Raya Sarkar published a list of allegedly abusive academics on Facebook, the response to the  phenomenon has evolved. The main objection then was that these men were being accused of abuse without specifying the nature of their misbehaviour or identifying the victims. This was seen to violate two principles of natural justice: the right of the accused to know the nature of his crime and his right to confront, as it were, his accuser.

Since then, as people have come forward to testify in their own names, as they began to identify themselves and describe the nature of the abuse they endured, a third objection, always implicit in the initial scepticism, surfaced to become the most important objection to the MeToo template of public outing: the absence of evidence that would pass muster in a court of law, that would establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The criticism was that the accusers were asking to be believed on the strength of their testimony, that they were —unreasonably — asking for a level of empathetic agreement that bordered on credulity, that withheld from the accused the benefit of the doubt to which they were entitled. This could have been described as a defensive reflex but it was also pitched as a principled objection that saw the presumption of innocence as something so central to justice being done that it couldn’t be compromised.

After that first critique, three things happened. One, people began to acknowledge that the act of listing had thrown up many names that they recognized from acquaintance, rumour and/or experience as people with a reputation for abuse and harassment. Two, as women began to name themselves in their testimony, their personas and their stories became more plausible, even recognizable to people who knew those worlds. Academics in universities, journalists in newspapers, actors in the film industry and people at large surprised themselves with the number of instances that they, their friends and relatives could cite that seemed to add up to an epidemic of abuse. Finally, it became more and more obvious that given the private context of most sexual abuse, the reflexive invocation of proof beyond reasonable doubt and due process amounted to defending male impunity because the furtiveness of predators virtually guaranteed that any testimony could be trivialized as her word against his. Given the scale of abuse perpetrated by someone like Harvey Weinstein and the difficulty of proving any of it in a court of law, phrases like ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ began to seem like defensive mantras or worse, enabling clichés.

The other realization that sank in was that MeToo, both there and here, hadn’t actually sent anyone to jail. No criminal punishments had been handed out and the standards of proof required to convict people of the crime of sexual assault continued to be defined by penal codes, not the social media. The reasonable concern that innocent men would have their reputations damaged by unsubstantiated accusations, that their livelihoods would suffer by being called out on Twitter or Facebook, increasingly had to be balanced out against the vileness and scale of the abuse that women were now testifying to and the plausibility of their testimony.

The nature of this testimony gave the lie to the notion that these women were a lynch mob, licensed by public opinion to string men up. It’s striking how many of these stories of abuse read like women settling accounts with their younger selves. While they accuse men of assaulting and abusing them, the telling of their stories is often a way of coming to terms with the trauma, the guilt, the sense of inadequacy, the helplessness and the unvented rage that roiled them over all the years that they kept the stories of these assaults to themselves. These were stories told by people who had survived sexual abuse and wanted to both bear witness to those parts of their lives and to ask for a reckoning. People who heard them out, even those who remained uncertain about the nature of that reckoning, were shaken by the power and horror of their testimony. It was revealing that Republican senators and operatives wholly committed to Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination were forced to ritually acknowledge both Christine Blasey Ford’s credibility and the shocking force of her story.

The MeToo stories are about many things: coming to terms with the past, warning other women, and calling time on predators. They are about making sure that predatory men don’t continue to prey under a cloak of invisibility woven in equal parts out of unreasonable doubt and machismo. Will they damage reputations and livelihoods despite not being tested in a court of law? If people believe these stories, yes, they will. Is this a travesty of everything the rule of law has come to mean? No. If proof beyond reasonable doubt for a crime is impossible to produce because it’s committed in private by powerful men whose influence stops victims from speaking out, it becomes reasonable for people to make up their own minds about the balance of probability. If we don’t want to relax the standard of proof for crimes, one way of tackling abuse legally would be to make the judicial system more receptive to civil suits where the balance of probability suffices to determine guilt. In the absence of such a system, we are left with public opinion.

One reason why long suppressed individual stories of harassment and abuse are surfacing now is because of social media; it’s a commonplace that Facebook and Twitter have democratized the spread of news and opinion in unprecedented ways. Whatever their defects, they have made it impossible for institutional gatekeepers to keep things quiet. They also facilitate mobilization and solidarity in a way that would have been impossible before. This doesn’t necessarily make them a force for good. It isn’t just the solidarities of sisterhood that are nourished by social media. These platforms also create and sustain fraternities of fascists. So does the outing of predators on Twitter amount to licensing a mob?

No, it doesn’t. First, it’s worth noticing that the short history of the MeToo campaign has consistently shown that it doesn’t have a political axe to grind. Given that it’s seen as a campaign initiated by liberal or left-leaning women, it is significant (or ought to be) that the men it initially arraigned travelled under liberal colours. Whether it was the liberal elect of Hollywood or the broadly leftish social science establishment of Indian universities, their ideological branding didn’t protect them from the witness of MeToo survivors. Secondly, in the spate of disclosures over the past week, it’s noticeable that posts which try to weaponize MeToo politically by making up stories don’t have legs and tend to die natural deaths. Three, people are quick to sift out of the MeToo narrative stories that don’t rise to the level of harassment and this seems to happen regardless of the political affiliation of the alleged perpetrator. For example, Chetan Bhagat’s online intimacies have led to hilarity but people who aren’t sympathetic to his political opinions have intervened to make it clear that these don’t amount to abuse.

On the other hand, the avalanche of testimony triggered by Priya Ramani’s naming of M.J. Akbar, that very networked political chameleon, has brought metropolitan India to the verge of its own Weinstein moment. To read Ghazala Wahab’s harrowing account of chronic assault, to read Majlie de Puy Kamp recall the way this ‘friend’ of her father repaid him by assaulting her on her last day at work as an intern at his own paper, and then to read Akbar’s calm deflection of her father’s concern, is to know the enormous debt of gratitude that we owe to MeToo. None of this makes up for the damage done by these predators in the past but there is a profound consolation in knowing that there has been, and will be, a reckoning. If we are going to use the vocabulary of law to discuss MeToo, let it be said that this is an online class action that’s been a long time coming.
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Nine climbers killed in Nepal storm

PTI & TT, 14 Oct 2018, Kathmandu: At least nine climbers, including five South Korean nationals, have been killed in a massive avalanche which devastated their camp on Nepal's Mount Gurja, the expedition organiser said on Saturday.

The unexpected violent snowstorm buried the climbers at the base camp at an altitude of 3,500 metres near the south face of Mount Dhaulagiri in western Nepal's Myagdi district on Friday evening, said Wangchu Sherpa, the managing director at Trekking Camp Nepal.

Five South Korean climbers including team leader Kim Chang-ho from "Koreanway Gurja Himal Expedition 2018" were killed along with their four Nepali support staff in the incident, Sherpa said.

Other deceased South Koreans have been identified as Lee Jaehun, Rim Il-jin, Yoo Youngjik, and Jeong Joon-mo, The Himalayan Times reported.

They had gone to scale the mountain from Gurja Village on October 7.

A heavy snowstorm followed by a landslide buried the base camp at an altitude of 3,500 metres when the climbers were awaiting for a fair weather to move towards higher camps, he said. Their bodies were spotted among the wreckage of the camp by a rescue team.

Team leader Kim was the first South Korean national to scale 14 peaks above 8,000 metres without using supplemental oxygen. However, the identities of others killed in the incident were not immediately known.

A rescue helicopter was dispatched towards the incident site Saturday morning.

The 7,193-metre Mount Gurja is in western Nepal. Mountaineering is a major source of income for Nepal.

Falling from cliffs and mountains are among the most common causes of death during expeditions.

In 2015, an avalanche triggered by a powerful earthquake killed 19 climbers and injured 61 others.
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Tourism body floated

TT, Siliguri: Stakeholders of tourism industry in north Bengal and Sikkim floated a new organisation in Siliguri on Saturday that would work for improvement of the sector, promote tourism as a means of livelihood and initiate moves to resolve issues pertaining to the industry.

The Himalayan Hospitality & Tourism Development Network (HHTDN) is a conglomeration of different stakeholders, like tour operators, hoteliers, transporters, homestay owners, travel writers, bloggers, guides and other who are directly or indirectly involved with the industry.

"This part of Bengal has always attracted tourists from across the country and abroad. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been showing her keenness for development of tourism in the region. Such initiative for promotion of tourism activities is always a welcome step that will contribute for betterment of the indus- try," said state tourism minister Gautam Deb.

Raj Basu, convenor of the HHTDN, said: "Along with tourism promotion, we intend to rope in all concern agencies and persons who are working for the industry across the Hi- malayan region. Tourism has been proved to be a major tool for generation of livelihood and for sustainable development in this region. The network will also work for conservation of culture, nature and historical resources."
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Push for hill tea garden land rights

VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, 14 Oct 2018, Darjeeling: A land rights committee formed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has demanded that nearly 35 per cent of the plots under tea plantations in the hills should be reclaimed and distributed among the estate workers, a move that could churn political equations in the region ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

The demand for land rights is an important issue in the hills and though the committee has been working for sometime, a definite assertion of the demand is seen as an attempt to galvanise public support in favour of the Binay Tamang faction of the Morcha at a time the BJP is pressing for inclusion of 11 hill commu- nities to the list of scheduled tribe.

"The land rights issue would definitely outweigh the BJP's tribal card as the majority of hill people reside in tea gardens and though they have been living there for years, they don't have land rights," said an observer of hill politics.

In the hills, tea garden land is leased out to the owners of the gardens, who, in turn, had allowed the workers to live there.

As the demand pertains to the state government -- which has already set a precedent by granting land rights to residents of Mirik municipality after resuming in from Thurbo tea garden -- the chances of it being met ahead of the Lok STIRRED sabha elections are much higher. The issue of inclusion of 11 communities to the ST list, however, is comparatively a longer process as it has to be routed through the Parliament.

Many believe that the single move of granting land rights was instrumental in helping Trinamul win the Mirik municipality in elections last year.

An observer from the hills said: "If the state government yields to this demand, the GJM could sweep all elections in the hills." Jyoti Kumar Rai, chief convener, Praja Patta Co-ordination Committee and a central committee leader of Morcha, said nearly 35 per cent of the land in tea gardens is with the workers. "During our survey we have found out that in the 105 tea gardens within Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) area, 1,03,422.32 acres of land is under the tea management," said Rai.

Of this figure, Rai claimed that 24,1919.19 acres of land were "unused" land, where labourer quarters and community assets' have been set up.

"The workers are also in possession of 11,042 acres of land, which they are cultivating, even though they have no land rights," said Rai.

The committee placed its findings before Binay Tamang, chairperson, GTA, on Friday to pursue the issue with the state. The figures, however, could not be officially verified immediately.

The committee has demanded that the "unused land and that under workers possession", which comes to 35,233.19 acres should be given to the workers.

"We want the government to resume this land and give land rights to the workers," said Rai.

The committee said that tea bushes had been planted in 46,233.33 acres across GTA area.

"The cinchona plantations has also been set up across 25,280.71 acres spread across Mungpoo, Mungsong, Rongo, Latpanchar, Ambootia and Marma areas in GTA," said Rai.

The committee has raised similar demands directorate of for workers in estates of cinchona and other medicinal plants."The ramifications of this demand would also be felt in Dooars and Terai, which are predominantly, tea growing areas and so it will have a huge implications for north Bengal politics," said a source.
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13 Oct 2018

SUV plunges into river Teesta killing one

KalimNews, Kalimpong, 12 October 2018: One person was killed when an SUV returning to Siliguri from Sikkim with four occupants plunged into river Teesta near Kalijhora in the NH 10. In the accident three others were rescued.
The Scorpio SUV bearing registration No. SK 04 P 1296 was returning after reaching Gangtok with four occupants. The accident that took place at about 6.30 am in the morning when the driver failed to control over the vehicle and skidded off the road into the river Teesta. 
Photo Courtesy: Face book
However, three persons helped themselves out of the car before it drowned. Girish Agarwal 51, an BSNL employee from Kolkata remained inside the car and died of drowning. The injured D. Munda, B.K.Dharuwa, and the driver D.S.Rai of Jorethang are admitted at a hospital in Siliguri.

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State to organise investors' meet in Siliguri on Nov 3 State to organise investors' meet in Siliguri on Nov 3

State to organise investors meet in Siliguri on Nov 3Amitava Banerjee | MP | Darjeeling: The state government will be organising an investors' meet in Siliguri on November 3. The meet is primarily aimed at drawing investors for 'Bhorer Alo.'
Located at Gajoldoba in Jalpaiguri district, "Bhorer Alo" is dubbed as India's largest integrated tourism location. It is the dream project of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
"There are three private investors already in the project. We want to woo investors for other components of the of the project," stated Gautam Deb, Tourism Minister.
Investors are being invited to invest in a budget hotel; 2-Star category hotels and a high-end hotel. Apart from this, investors will be invited for a 9-hole golf course spread on a land 60-acre. An old-age home will be coming up on a plot of 3-acre in Bhorer Alo.
On October 3, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had inaugurated 'Bhorer Alo.' Spread across a sprawling area of 210-acre, the project will include a bird sanctuary 'Pakhibitan' Jungle Safari, Sun set point, Orchid Park, Amphitheater, Camping facility, Jungle trek route, Adventure cycling and boating facilities. During the inauguration, the Chief Minister had requested investors accompanying her to spread the word of immense business potential of the project. "We have invested Rs 320 crore in this project," stated the CM.
Banerjee said the project would help develop the surrounding areas by with generating employment and creating livelihoods. "North Bengal is no more neglected as was in the case before. Our Government has given a lot of impetus to North Bengal" the Chief Minister had said. Since 2011, a total investment to the tune of Rs 1,700 crores has already been made in this sector in North Bengal with 2,500 persons being employed. On Friday Tourism Minister Gautam Deb, talking to media persons also announced that 5 help desks for tourists will become operational from October 15.
The help desks will be located at New Jalpaiguri Railway Station, Bagdogra Airport and Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus in Siliguri. In Dooars, there will be two help desks at Malbazar and Chalsa.
Along with this, 18 police assistant booths will come up in tourist destinations in North Bengal.
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