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23 Jan 2018

JAP to hold foundation day event in Siliguri

RAJEEV RAVIDAS, TT, Jan 22, 2018, Kalimpong: The Jana Andolan Party said on Monday that it would hold its second foundation day programme at Bagha Jatin Park in Siliguri on January 27 since the Kalimpong district administration had not given permission to stage the event here.

Nayan Pradhan, the JAP secretary, said since the district administration was yet to respond to its request for the use of a venue here, the party had decided to hold the programme in Siliguri. "We have applied for holding our programme at different venues here, but we have not received any response till now. We will hold our programme in Bagha Jatin Park," he said.

Pradhan said the JAP would be writing to the President and Prime Minister as well as the chief minister in this connection. "No permission is being given despite our party being registered with the Election Commission of India. We will also write to the commission."

The Kalimpong district magistrate couldn't be contacted.

GNLF echoes Binay line

RAJEEV RAVIDAS, TT,  Jan 22, 2018, Kalimpong: The Gorkha National Liberation Front on Monday appeared to lend credence to the claim of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Binay Tamang that he was working towards a new "arrangement" to solve the twin issues of identity and security of the Gorkhas.

Y. Lama, a central committee of the GNLF, told reporters in Darjeeling that talks were on to find a long-term political solution to the problem of the Gorkhas, but didn't reveal much.

"Long-term political solution is a phrase used by the chief minister (Mamata Banerjee) herself. The chief minister doesn't want repeated agitations and strikes. She doesn't want any incident that would disturb the law-and-order to happen here. She wants a long-term political solution," he said.

Addressing a public meeting in Sukna on Sunday, Tamang had spoken about a new arrangement to solve the twin issues of Gorkha identity and security. "We need to solve this issue and we are discussing a new arrangement at the highest level which will solve the issue of (Gorkha) identity and security," Tamang had said without divulging the contours of the arrangement.

Lama said only the future would tell what shape the long-term solution would take, but the GNLF was hopeful that the chief minister would work towards finding one.

"Long-term political solution is being discussed in the ongoing bipartite talks (between the state government and the hill parties)...When talking about permanent political solution, statehood will find a mention," he said.

The GNLF also welcomed Tamang's announcement to name the Rohini Road after its founding president Subash Ghisingh.

"The GNLF president Mann Ghisingh welcomes the GTA decision to name the Rohini Road as Subash Ghisingh Marg. The GNLF also welcomes the earlier announcement of the GTA not collect toll tax from the road. Our president (read Subash Ghisingh) had never thought of collecting toll tax from the public. He made the road for the public and they should not be forced to pay for its use," Lama said.

Tamang silence foxes cadres in plains....Morcha leader keeps mum on party's activities in Dooars and Terai

Tamang addresses the meet in Sukna on Sunday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
AVIJIT SINHA, TT,  Jan 22, 2018,Siliguri: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Binay Tamang's silence on the party's activities in the plains during his address in Sukna on Sunday added the confusion of cadres in the Dooars and the Terai.

Although Tamang was explicit on a number of issues in the speech, he didn't say if the Morcha would continue to lie low or start its revamp in the plains.
"Binay Tamang spoke on a number of issues but his silence on the party's stance in the plains has only added to our confusion. It seems he wants to focus on the hills and lie low in the foothills where we used to have a substantial base, the same thing Trinamul has been doing in the hills for the past six-seven months," said a Morcha leader based in the Terai.
He pointed out that it was due to the confusion that most Morcha leaders and supporters across the Dooars had recently defected to Trinamul. For the past seven-eight months, no political programme has been taken by the hill party in the foothills.
"We are not very sure but it hints at a tacit understanding with Trinamul, like the Left used to have with the GNLF earlier. Trinamul is refraining from holding political activities in the hills while there is no clear directive from our leaders," added the leader.
The public meeting of Tamang in Sukna was a show of strength for Tamang. But significantly, Tamang abstained from passing any directive to his supporters in plains.
"Binay Tamang's speech also hints at the close relationship he has with the state government. He fumed at the Sikkim government and blatantly criticised the BJP but did not utter a word against Trinamul or the state government," said a political observer.
During the agitation, when the chief minister of Sikkim had written to the Centre or SDF, his party, had passed a resolution supporting the demand for Gorkhaland, they had to face criticism from ministers and Trinamul leaders of Bengal.

Tamang says new 'set-up'coming

SNS, 21 January 2018: Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha leader and chairman of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Binoy Tamang today promised a "new set-up," which he claimed will end the "identity crisis" at the Gorkhas even as he lashed out at neighbouring state of Sikkim and the BJP government at the Centre.
Addressing the first major public meeting the party held alter the recent bout of agitation and the restoration of peace in September last, Mr Tamang, however, did not want to say what the set-up would be exactly.
"Walking again on the path that we have unsuccessfully walked several times in the past would be a foolish idea now We have to now go ahead with new thinking, new ideas, and new strategy and look for a solution to our identity crisis problem Mr Tamang told the crowd that overflowed the Sukna School grounds near Siliguri.
"I have talked to the highest forum for a solution, and the set -up that will come here, that is on its way, will ensure that we are safe in India. We will then not have questions on our identity. Until now the Gorkha community had been living in a house that had no foundation. We are building that foundation now, but please don't ask me what it is all about right now. We have failed time and again because past leaders spoke too much, too early, and I don't want to make that mistake again. For the new set-up, I will not ask you to go for an agitation, will not kill people, will not jail people, but will get the set-up by keeping the Hills,Tarai and the Dooars peaceful" he added. He also slammed the Sikkim government for -meddling" in the affairs of the Darjeeling and Kalimpong.
"We don't have anything against our brothers and sisters in Sikkim, as we have been living in harmony like the nail and the flesh beneath it...but I want to tell the Sikkim government that we don't want to interfere in the state's politics, and we want Sikkim also to not meddle in our affairs. The ball is now in Sikkim CM Pawan Chamling's court, and it is for him to decide on what kind of relationship he wants with us" he said, stressing that he was only against the government there, and absolutely not against the people.
It may be mentioned here that Sikkim had been vocal during the recent Gorkhaland agitation, with Mr Chamling fully supporting the statehood demand.
Mr Tamang further came down heavily on the BJP that the GJM has supported for the past eight years and helped the party win the Darjeeling MP seat twice.
"We gave you two MPs (Jaswant Singh and sitting MP SS Ahluwalia), what did you give us?" he asked the BJP-led Central government.
From the demand for a central university in the Hills to tribal status for 11 Hill communities, the Centre did nothing, even after I went to Delhi with 53 kg of documents related to the latter demand," he said, adding, "How will a party that failed to grant a mere tribal status
to the 11 communities give us Gorkhaland?"
He added that the BJP and even the Gorkhas, should now think if the BJP deserves the votes for the "2019 general elections here.
Explaining to the public the circumstances under which he had to leave the agitation and became the GTA chief, Mr Tamang also announced several development projects that the GTA has already taken up and is in the process of undertaking. Among the major ones, he said he has directed the Sidrabong Hydel Project in the Hills to provide electricity to all nearby villages by 28 February, and that the GTA has decided to rename the Rohini Road to Subhas Ghisingh Road after the former GNLF leader, under whose initiation the important road was built.
"Had Mr Ghising not built the road, Darjeeling people would have had to suffer whenever National Highway-55 or the Mungpoo or Mirik road suffered damages during natural calamities,' he said.
He further announced that there will be no shutdowns during his tenure of "zero enmity" at the GTA.
Addressing the gathering, vice-chairman of the GTA Anit Thapa appealed to the people to give them a chance to serve them, and called for a Gorkha to stop going against another Gorkha. "Let us all believe in Binoy Tamang once. He will surely lead us to our destination. We will work with utmost sincerity and honesty,' he said.

GTA decisions, major plans in the offing

  • Technical, vocational institutes to be set up
  • More casual teachers to be made permanent
  • Scholarships for top 10 Class XI/ XII Graduation meritorious students from this year
  • Quotas for Hill students in engineering, MBBS, other courses

  • .Darjeeling,Kurseong, Kalimpong govt hospitals to be made Super Specialty Hospitals, with specialists
  • Training for technicians to operate MRI/Scan machines
  • Rambi Block Pry Helath Centre to be upgraded and made Trauma Centre, especially to treat road accident victims on NH-10
  • Mobile ambulance vans for Hill areas

  • .Sports academy/ Stadium
  • Development of sports like Body building and badminton

  • Thrust on Eco,village, adventure, pilgrimage tourism, and exploration of virgin areas
  • Helipad/ helicoptor services
  • All roadside buildings/houses in all municipalities must be painted, so that they look good and attractive

  • .Conferences/ seminars on tourism, education, infrastructure etc
  • Darjeeling to be made industrial hub
  • Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik towns to be made Free-WiFi zones
  • Shutdown-free Hills
  • All roads to be cleaned and made accident-free
  • Rohini Road to be named Subhas Ghisingh Road

  • .Hills must be declared tax-free zone, like Sikkim, for business to grow
  • Electricity subsidy that used to be given to Hills till 1965, must be given again from April 20

22 Jan 2018

Gorkhaland crisis: Tamang accuses Gurung of misleading people

PTI, January 21, 2018, Siliguri/ Darjeeling (WB): The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) president Binay Tamang on Sunday leveled serious allegations on Bimal Gurung and said that the latter had misled common people in the name of Gorkhaland movement.
Bimal Gurung Tamag made the allegation while addressing a public meeting in Sukna in Darjeeling district.
Tamang alleged that funds intended for public benefits were misused by Gurung and his associates. He said his main objective is development of the Darjeeling hills.
The emphasis will be on water, health and road development, he said. Sikkim being a separate state should not interfere in the politics of the Darjeeling hills, he said.
"We do not want them to interfere in our affairs. We want to maintain a friendly relationship," he said.
He also lashed out at the central government saying that the Centre has not given a single penny apart from giving Rs 600 crore during the formation of the GTA. Before concluding his speech, Tamang said that peace has returned in the Hills and tourists have started visiting.

Alternative administrative arrangement underway in Hills: Tamang

Alternative administrative arrangement underway in Hills: TamangMP, 21 January 2018, Darjeeling: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Binay Tamang on Sunday declared that an alternative administrative arrangement is being worked for the Hills of North Bengal.
Addressing a mammoth rally on the grounds of Sukna High School, around 8 km from Siliguri town, Tamang stated "An alternative arrangement is being worked out for the Hills that will also address the identity issue of the Gorkhas."
With the question of identity cropping up, Tamang on Sunday demanded that the Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty of 1950 should be reviewed and necessary changes made. "Though I am not an expert, I feel that the treaty should be reviewed by experts. The situation was different at the time of the inking of the treaty. At present, the treaty is causing confusion," claimed Tamang.
In the past, there have been demands from different quarters for revoking the treaty.
Tamang, taking a dig at neighbouring state Sikkim, asked them to steer clear from interfering in internal matters of the Hills of West Bengal. "Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling is playing with fire. They should abstain from interfering in internal matters of the Darjeeling Hills. If they continue doing so, we too will be compelled to interfere in their matters," warned Tamang.
Political observers opine that Sikkim and Chamling have been displaying a soft corner for Bimal Gurung and his men. There have been allegations of Sikkim harboring Gurung, who is wanted in a number of cases and even stoking the Gorkhaland fire.
"Let cordial relations that we have been enjoying with Sikkim since ages, prevail. For this, they have to abstain from interfering with Darjeeling Hill politics," stated Tamang.
The GJM leader did not fail to take potshots at the BJP-run Union government. "If the Union government feels that we do not have the mandate in the Hills, let elections be held. We are ready to face elections. Gurung and his men are non-entities in the Hills," added Tamang.
Tamang stated that the BJP government has let the Hills down. "Let alone Gorkhaland, they have retracted from their assurance of including 11 hill communities in the schedule tribe list and also a central university in the Hills. We have to carefully reconsider our support to the BJP in the 2019 elections. We supported BJP MP candidates from Darjeeling twice and ensured their victory, but to what benefit?" questioned Tamang.
The GJM leader assured that there would be no more bandhs in the Hills henceforth. "We have to abstain from the politics of emotion. I have appealed to all political parties to abstain from calling bandhs. Strike is not a solution. All issues can be resolved through dialogue. With the newfound peace, we are expecting a tourist rush from March," stated Tamang.
Tamang stated that they will be putting forward a proposal to the government to declare the Hills as a tax-free zone, medical and engineering quotas for hill students and also super-speciality hospitals in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.
"We do not want politics of differences. Hence, we are renaming Rohini Road after Gorkha leader Subash Ghising. The foundation stones in the name of Ghising that have been removed by Bimal Gurung in the Gorkha bhawans of Delhi and Kolkata, will be reinstated," declared Tamang, playing the reconciliation card.


A last hurrah for the relics?

A last hurrah for the relics?Amitava Banerjee, MP, 21 January, 2018, Darjeeling: It is a catch 22 situation for the 42 vintage Land Rovers that ferry passengers and goods to Sandakphu at an altitude of 12,000 feet - the highest point of the state. The state government ...", | "description" : "
Darjeeling: It is a catch 22 situation for the 42 vintage Land Rovers that ferry passengers and goods to Sandakphu at an altitude of 12,000 feet - the highest point of the state. The state government is mulling with the idea of phasing out these more than 50 year old fighting-fit war horses.
Maneybhanjyang, a hamlet at the Indo-Nepal border, 28 km from Darjeeling could be the only place on this planet where the residents are dependent on a fleet of vintage vehicles both as a daily necessity as well as livelihood. The hamlet boasts of 42 fighting fit Land Rovers, more than 50 years old.
These are the only vehicles that are used to ferry both passengers as well as goods to the famous trekking spot of Sandakphu and also the numerous villages enroute. The residents of these villages are dependent on these Land Rovers for the transportation of nearly everything, from construction material to essential commodities including LPG cylinders and food supply.
The Land Rovers of Maneybhanjyang have been manufactured before 1957. As spare parts are not available, the vehicles have undergone heavy modifications.
"The vehicles do not have permits to ply at present. Though they are very hardy vehicles, they are very old. Finally, we will ultimately have to phase them out as they do not meet any Government specifications and norms to ply as taxis. The owners can obtain subsidized loans under the State Government's Gatidhara scheme and procure four wheelers, which can ply on this route," stated Joyoshi Das Gupta, District Magistrate, Darjeeling. An alternative plan is being worked out for the land Rovers. "A heritage tourism circuit with a 1940 imagery can be created on a flat terrain or road like Mirik or Darjeeling where these Land Rovers can offer heritage rides instead of plying on difficult and steep gradient, which is very risky for these age old vehicles," suggested the DM.
When contacted, Anil Tamang, Coordinator of the Singhalila Land Rover Association stated: "Nothing official regarding this decision has come to us from the Government. However, as and when it happens we will definitely meet the State Government representatives and explain our problems. We are sure that something can be worked out amicably so that our livelihood is not hampered."
He stated that tourists do not hire services throughout the year. "Business is not good always. Under such conditions, it is already difficult for us to make both ends meet. How will we pay the high taxes and insurances stipulated for taxi vehicles even if we manage to buy new vehicles with the Government loans?" questioned Tamang.

North flavour at tourism meet Peace back in hills, delegates told

Ministers Rabindranath Ghosh and Gautam Deb (centre) and others at the programme at Gajoldoba on Sunday. Picture by Passang Yolmo 
BIRESWAR BANERJEE, TT,  Jan 21, 2018, Siliguri: A tourism conclave organised by the Bengal government and trade body CII on Sunday sent the message of peace and tranquillity in the hills and north Bengal.

At Destination East, which draws a number of foreign delegates and was held in Calcutta earlier, was organised near Siliguri for the first time only to showcase the tourism potentiality and attractions of the region.

Fifty-six international delegates, mostly tour operators or those involved in the hospitality industry, from 36 countries participated in the event at Gazoldoba, located 30km from here on the banks of the Teesta.

"We have already invested over Rs 300 crore in infrastructure at the mega tourism hub at Gazoldoba. The area is well connected by air and road and there are many more attractions like golf course, budget hotel, spa, boating, rafting, food craft institute...We wanted to highlight it before the foreign delegates," Gautam Deb, the state tourism minister, said at the event.

The foreign delegates vowed to promote the region, especially the hills, once they returned to their countries.

"Our interest is mainly the natural beauty of this part of West Bengal and keen to work on the unexplored areas of Himalayan region. Though this is my first visit in the region, but so far my experience is concern, I have found there is good potentiality in the field of tourism. As apart from location, Darjeeling Tea is one of major attractions that can attract many tourists," Paul James, a tour operator from London, said.

Noelia Espinosa, a veteran tour operator from Madrid in Spain, is in the business for the past 10 years and mainly working with the tourists in Mexico, Columbia, Peru and African countries. She had visited Calcutta couple of times, but came to know about Darjeeling only when she had visited Bhutan last year.

"We came to this place (Gazoldoba) and heard that government is working for its development. We are equally interested to visit Darjeeling as I heard about the place when I was in Bhutan. After visiting to Calcutta, I found it is safer than Delhi. Now I think Calcutta-Darjeeling-Bhutan and Andaman can be a good tourism circuit that I will promote once I will return to my country," the tour operator from Madrid said.

Raj Basu, the panel head of tourism, CII, said: "We wanted to send a message to the world through the foreign delegates that there is no uncertainty in the hills and in the region now and tourists can visit here without any hesitation. Earlier the focus got diluted with Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha through this event. But this is the first time we have organised the event here only to focus on Darjeeling hills and Dooars to showcase its potentiality."

Tamang points 'meddle' finger at Sikkim

Binay Tamang. (Passang Yolmo)
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Jan 21, 2018, Darjeeling: Binay Tamang on Sunday asked the Sikkim government to refrain from "interfering" in the Darjeeling hills, the warning coming amid claims that the state had "sheltered" his Gorkha Janmukti Morcha rival Bimal Gurung until recently.

Tamang indicated the ball was in the court of the Pawan Chamling-led government on the kind of relations it wanted with Darjeeling. "We have nothing against the people of Sikkim. We share very close ties but we have a problem with the government there. A government should act like a government but they are interfering in the politics of Darjeeling, Terai and the Dooars," Tamang, who heads the Gorkhakland Territorial Administration (GTA), told a rally at Sukna, near Siliguri.

Gurung surfaced in Delhi recently but many believe he was mostly in Sikkim till then. Gurung had called a Morcha central committee meeting in Sikkim's Namchi last September amid the statehood agitation.

"Please take my words seriously. If the Sikkim government continues to interfere in our politics, we will also interfere in their politics," said Tamang, addressing his first major meeting in almost seven months during which time he was picked to head the GTA.

Landlocked Sikkim has access to the rest India through Darjeeling district. Even though Tamang has maintained that he would not call a general strike in the hills, such strained relations could pose a number of problems for Sikkim.

During general strikes called in the Darjeeling hills, Sikkim has suffered a lot. A resident of Sikkim had moved the Supreme Court to ensure NH-10, which connects the state with the rest of the country, is kept open.

At the rally, Tamang spoke of a new "arrangement" to help settle the key questions of Gorkha "identity" and "security". "The issue of identity has existed since the British days. We need to solve this issue and we are discussing a new bawayasta (arrangement) at the highest level which will solve the issue of (Gorkhas') identity and security."

Ghisingh road

The GTA has decided to rename Rohini Road, a key link to Darjeeling, after GNLF founder Subash Ghisingh.

21 Jan 2018

Tamang warms up for first rally

Vivek Chhetri,TT, Jan 20, 2018 Darjeeling: Binay Tamang will address a rally at Sukna on Sunday, his first public meeting in seven months during which time he was appointed the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) chief.

The meet at Sukna, near Siliguri, is being seen as a show of strength by Tamang and his supporters are confident it will be one of the biggest gatherings in recent months.

"Tomorrow (Sunday), I will be speaking at a public meeting for the first time in seven months. Today, I am speaking as an administrator but tomorrow it will be a political address," Tamang said in Darjeeling on Saturday as he distributed approval letters to 429 teachers.

The 429 teachers had been given appointment in various hill schools in 2010 by the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council but with approval coming only through the DGHC education secretary and not the district inspector of schools, the teacher's post retirement benefits were in doubt.

"One has to have a positive approach to solve many issues," Tamang said, probably alluding to the lack of such an approach by his Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) rival Bimal Gurung who had strained relations with the Bengal government through the previous GTA's tenure.

Party insiders believe Tamang, who took charge of the GTA on September 25, 2017, is likely to spell out his vision on Sunday.

The Tamang group has held public meetings in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong since September but apart from addressing a crowd for a few minutes in Darjeeling on October 7, Tamang himself has not addressed any major gathering.

The main speaker in all previous meetings - which had had an impressive turnout - has always been Tamang confidant Anit Thapa. Thapa, too, will speak at the Sukna meet on Sunday.

Hill panchayat poll plan on govt table File sent to chief minister, Mamata to take a call: Subrata

Subrata Mukherjee at the inauguration of a fair at Kanchenjungha
Stadium Mela Ground in Siliguri on Saturday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
BIRESWAR BANERJEE, TT, Jan 21, 2018 , Siliguri: The Bengal government is considering holding rural polls in the hills - a demand raised time and again by various political parties - minister Subrata Mukherjee said here on Saturday.

"We have sent the file to the chief minister's (Mamata Banerjee's) office. The final nod has to come from CMO and then, we can make further moves to ensure rural elections are held in the hills, like they were held in the Siliguri sub-division (in 2015)," Mukherjee, the minister for panchayat and rural development who is here to attend a government fair, said.

Since 2005, there have been no elected panchayats in the hills as no rural elections were held after 2000. Block development officers (BDOs) who have been carrying our development works at the local level.

"The situation has been complicated as there is no elected member at the GTA since June last year. The entire work is being carried out by officials in blocks," said a leader in Kurseong.

The CPM had raised the demand last week. State party secretary Surjyakanta Mishra, speaking at an event in Siliguri, demanded that the hill panchayat elections be held immediately.

"It is significant that a senior minister like Subrata Mukherjee has spoken on the issue now and has made it clear that the final decision would be taken by the chief minister," said an observer.

But a probable deterrent to conducting the rural polls, he said, is the absence of an elected board in the GTA. "The term of the previous GTA board has ended and if it continues to run under the board of administrators (as it does now), there might be protests if the state only plans rural polls. Moreover, it depends whether the Binay Tamang camp (in control of the GTA) wants these (panchatyat) elections now or needs some more time to consolidate its support," the observer said.

Kalimpong trucks stop ferrying stones Clampdown on illegal mining triggers strike by drivers

RAJEEV RAVIDAS, TT, Jan 20, 2018, Kalimpong: About 300 truckers engaged in ferrying stones from the quarries situated on Teesta, Relli and other rivers stopped work since Friday following the Kalimpong district administration's clampdown on illegal mining.

The Kalimpong Truck Workers' Welfare Association Mainline and Kalimpong Hill Truck Owners' and Drivers' Welfare Association, the two major organisations of the truckers, said they had been left with no choice but to heed the district administration's directive.

"On January 16, the district administration impounded a truck carrying stones and imposed a hefty fine of Rs 40,000, following which we have decided to completely stop ferrying stones from rivers," said Milap Chhetri, the secretary of the Mainline truckers.

Kalimpong district magistrate Dr Viswanath, he said, has made it very clear to them that no illegal stone mining would be allowed. "Yes, it is true that we do not have any licence to mine and ferry stones. Earlier, the irrigation department and the forest department used to issue trade permits for the job, but they stopped doing that some time back. Since then, we have been carrying out our activities without any official permission," he added.

While Milap said his association would prefer to adopt a wait-and-watch policy for now, the other truckers' body said given that so many families were being run from the stone trade, it would appeal to the district administration and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) to work out an amicable solution whereby the livelihood of the truckers are sustained and the entire system legalised.

Kusang Ghisingh, the secretary of the owners and drivers association, said the ban on stone mining would also affect the people of Kalimpong in general because the cost of stones would more than double if they are brought from the plains. "Say, if a truckload of stones from the hills costs Rs 4,000 or Rs 4,500, the one brought from the plains would cost about Rs 11,000. So it is not the matter of us truckers alone. We would be meeting the DM on Monday and request him to work out a solution to the benefit of all concerned. We will also request the intervention of the board of administration of the GTA to help solve the problem," he said.

The Kalimpong district magistrate asserted that no illegal mining would be allowed. "The concept of quarry permit has become obsolete. There has to be an auction. Till an auction happens after due clearance from the environmental committee, lifting even a bolder is illegal," he said.

Dr. Viswanath said the GTA was the authority to carry out auction and award contract to the highest bidder through e-bidding as is being done in other parts of the state. "We have written two letters to the GTA about three months back (to conduct an auction). This is a subject of the GTA...Our subject is to see if environmental clearance and auction is taking place," he said.

CJI to head Loya bench

TT, New Delhi: Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra will head the bench that will from Monday hear two petitions seeking a probe into the 2014 death of special CBI judge B.H. Loya, who was trying a case in which BJP leader Amit Shah was an accused.

Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud will be the other two judges on the bench, whose possible composition had evoked curiosity after a dispute over allegedly preferential allocation of cases prompted the judge previously assigned the case to pull out.

Loya's death at a wedding in Nagpur had turned controversial after Shah was cleared within days in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case the CBI judge was hearing.

The subject fuelled more controversy on January 12 this year when the CJI was accused by the four other senior-most judges of assigning key cases to relatively junior judges, the insinuation being he was trying to influence outcomes.

The Loya case, handed to Justice Arun Mishra, 10th in seniority among 25 apex court judges, was cited as one of them.

On January 16, Justice Arun Mishra recused himself from the case, a day after breaking down at a meeting of judges and accusing the four dissidents of tarnishing his image.

Chief Justice Misra, as the master of the roster, has decided to hear the case himself. Justices Khanwilkar and Chandrachud are 17th and 18th, respectively, in seniority.

The two public interest petitions have been moved by Congress activist Tehseen Poonawala and Mumbai-based journalist Banduraj Sambhaji Lone.

The judges who revolted are Justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph.

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