COVID-19 has had different impact among different groups of population, and among them the hardest hit are the tribal households of tea gardens who have very limited access to resources and low level of financial securities.
The COVID19 pandemic has been claiming lives and livelihood around the Globe at an alarming rate. Global & National Action Plans and initiatives to combat the pandemic have already been underway. Its success ultimately depends upon the effective and prudent actions undertaken at the Regional and Local level to implement it.
As the news of a settlement between the government of India and various factions of Bodo groups started to trickle in, there was much curiosity in Darjeeling hills – home to another demand for the separate state — Gorkhaland. Even though parallels can be drawn between the two, the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland supersedes that of Bodoland by decades, and the unique geographical positioning of Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars, makes it one of the most cosmopolitan and at the same time one of the most vulnerable regions in India.
We, the people of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts, wholeheartedly welcome the initiative to initiate Constitutional Amendment to implement the three-tier Panchayati Raj in these two districts. Panchayati Raj has been the backbone of Indian democracy. It envisaged incorporating all the villages and its population in the nation-building processes. Further, as the majority of the population lived in the villages it was an endeavour to make them equal stakeholders in the decision-making the process and the developmental activities. Panchayati Raj system came into existence when the Community Development Programmes failed due to the lack of governance and monopoly of the few. Panchayati raj was implemented to decentralise democracy.
Darjeeling MP Raju Bista has demanded that Article 243M section 3 of the constitution which prevented the holding of 3-tier Panchayat Election in the hills is scrapped.
As the push for a nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise gets stronger, there are growing concerns among the Indian Gorkha community settled in various pockets across the country. The discussions are gaining more ground after Assam published its final NRC list on August 31, 2019, the process which was monitored by the Supreme Court of India. As reported by different media organisations, of the estimated 25 lakh Gorkhas living in Assam, about 1 lakh were excluded from the final list.
West Bengal Cabinet’sdecision 31st of Oct 2019 permits for 15% of the land in tea gardens to be used for “tourism purposes”. They have further said that the maximum land that can be diverted to tourism should not cross 150 acres. The WB Cabinet has further mandated that the tea garden owners can make construction in 40% of this land.
Darjeeling Everyday is a delicious feeling. Here in Darjeeling, the festive seasons are almost to end and we are now at the best part of the entire season – the Tihar days. Everything about this time of the year is beautiful – bright sunny days, smiling mountains, milky white clouds (if any), delicious food, selrotis, flowers, vailo, dewsi, vai tika, dakshina, drinks and what not? If you get greeted by pleasant weather mixed with the aroma of saipatris added to a clear view of the mountains, you are here.
On August 17, West Bengal tourism minister Gautam Deb addressed a press conference at Mirik in Darjeeling. Exuding his obvious concern for the Gorkhas and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) issue, he said, “If NRC is implemented in the Darjeeling hills, the hills will become empty, out of 15 Lakh people there will be no one to live there. Most Gorkha brothers and sisters and senior citizens they will be driven out from Darjeeling hills, both Darjeeling and Kalimpong, including Kurseong and this Mirik [sic].”
I want to begin my indictment of the TMC-led government by sharing a story about Pandit Oroan — a 35-year-old Adivasi man from Baroghoria Gram, which falls under Alipurduar district. In June 2017, Pandit Oroan and his wife were blessed with a baby boy – they named him Abhiraj. Sadly, Abhiraj was born with a birth defect, which prevented him from passing stool normally. All Abhiraj needed to function as a normal child was having a simple procedural operation, which would have cost around Rs 10,000 in a government hospital in Siliguri.