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23 Apr 2018

Outbound passenger count crosses 4,000 at Bagdogra Airport

Outbound passenger count crosses 4,000 at Bagdogra AirportMP | 23 April 2018 | Kolkata: The outbound passenger load at Bagdogra Airport has crossed the mark of 4,000 on Sunday.
With a sharp increase in the passenger load at Bagdogra Airport, the outbound passenger count on Sunday was 4,011.
It may be mentioned that recently, the announcement of two additional flights of AirAsia from the airport had come and it had taken the total number of flights to 26. The two additional flights are connecting Bagdogra directly with Delhi and Kolkata.
According to the experts, the passenger load is expected to go up further with the summer vacation approaching, as people will choose to visit Darjeeling and Sikkim with schools and colleges remaining closed.
It may be recalled that the Mamata Banerjee government has waived the tax on aviation turbine fuel (ATF) and it has helped increase the number of flight operations from Bagdogra. Moreover, the development of necessary infrastructure for tourism in North Bengal has also ensured a constant flow of tourists in the region. A large section of tourists now prefer flights to reach their destination, as it saves time.
It was on February 23 that Bagdogra Airport set a new record of crossing the 2 million passenger count in the last fiscal. Moreover, the Chief Minister herself was the 2 millionth passenger, when she took a flight from Bagdogra Airport to return to Kolkata after her North Bengal tour.
Bagdogra Airport had witnessed a record increase of passengers by 53 percent in April-December in 2017, compared to that of the corresponding period in 2016, when around 10.61 lakh passengers had availed flights from the airport from April to December. In 2017, the figure went up to 16.28 lakh, which is an increase of over 50 percent.
With the increase in passenger count, better passenger amenities have also been ensured at the airport.

Govt plans to showcase tribal culture to boost tourism in Hills

Govt plans to showcase tribal culture to boost tourism in HillsSOUMITRA NANDI | MP | 23 April 2018 | Kolkata: The state government has chalked out a unique plan of developing cultural tourism in the Hills by showcasing the customs, food habits and rituals of different tribal groups.
West Bengal Khadi and Village Industries Board (WBKVIB), that comes under the aegis of the state Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) department, has been entrusted with the responsibility to execute the project.
"We have signed an MoU with 15 culture development boards in the Hills. We will set up Folk Art Centres for each of these development boards, where the tribals will be able to showcase their traditional dress, weapons, musical instruments and other specialties. We are optimistic that this will be an added tourist attraction in the Hills," said Mrityunjoy Bandopadhyay, CEO of WBKVIB.
Top officials of the Khadi Board who visited the Hills during the business summit in March, held talks with representatives of the development boards and instructed them to search for land where the government will be able to set up the Folk Art Centres.
It has been learnt that more than eight development boards have already earmarked land for the Folk Art Centres. These will be projected as tourist destinations by the state Tourism department.
The handicrafts of the tribals will also be available for display and sale at these Centres. Each of the Boards will be allocated a sum of Rs 2 to 3 lakh.
People have a notion that Gorkha and Nepalis are the tribals in Darjeeling. However, there are many tribals in the Hills, which include Lepcha, Mayel, Tamang, Sherpa, Bhutia, Khamburai, Mangar, Limbu, Newar, Khas, Kami, Dhimal and Bhujel to name a few.
Each of these tribal groups has different ways of dressing. The weapons they use are unique as well. They have their own way of celebrating their festivals through their traditional songs and dances.
"All this has a tremendous potential to emerge as a major tourist attraction, if showcased properly. The state Finance department has allocated a budget of Rs 15 crore already for the project," a senior official of WBKVIB said.
The state Tourism department, under the instruction of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, has special plans to promote the Hills among domestic and international tourists, particularly after the shutdown by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which had spanned a period of more than 100 days.
"The idea of developing cultural tourism with the tribals is a part of the plan," a senior official of the state Tourism department said.

डीआई फण्ड क्षेत्रका मानिसहरू कर वृद्धिले समस्यामा: जुट्दैछन् आन्दोलनको तयारीमा

डी.के.वाइबा, कालिमन्युजकालेबुङ 22 अप्रेल। डी.आई. फण्ड क्षेत्रमा बसोवास बस्ने मानिसहरू अहिलेघरी समस्या परिरहेका छन्। जिल्ला प्रशासनले एका-एक डी.आई. फण्ड क्षेत्रमा बसोबास गर्ने मानिसहरूको कर अत्याधिक रूपले वृद्धि गरेपछि उनीहरू समस्यामा परेका हुन्। जिल्ला प्रशासनले डी.आई. फण्ड क्षेत्रका करमा लगभग एक हजार प्रतिशत वृद्धि गरेको छ। जसको कारण हजारौँ मानिसहरू समस्यामा परेका छन्। जिल्ला प्रशासनले कर वृद्धि अत्याधिक गर्नका साथै आठवर्षको कर एकैसाथ तिर्न समेत लगाइरहेको छ।
जिल्ला प्रशासनले गरेको अत्याधिक कर वृद्धिको विरोधमा डीआई फण्ड क्षेत्रमा बसोबास गर्ने मानिसहरू एकत्रित बनेर सरकारको नीति विरूद्ध लड्ने भएका छन्। यस सम्बन्धमा आज यहाँको श्यामादेवी भवनमा डीआई फण्ड क्षेत्रमा वसोबास गर्ने मानिसहरूले बैठक गरेर संयुक्त रूपमा आवाज उठाउने निर्णय लिएका छन्। बैठकपछि पत्रकारहरूलाई सम्बोधन गर्दै पीडितहरूका पक्षमा सोनाम डोल्माले आगामी 26 अप्रेलका दिन जिल्लपाललाई भेटेर ज्ञपन-पत्र बुझाउने निर्णय लिएको जानकारी गराएकी छन्।
डीआई फण्ड क्षेत्रका पहिला हामीले एकदमै कम दरका पैसा तिर्ने गर्थ्यौँ।। हामीले पहिला एकसय स्क्वायर फिटको पाँच रूपियाँ गरेरेर तिर्थ्यौँतर अहिले 2011 देखि नै 1 स्क्वायर फिटको 92 रूपियाँ गरेर तिर्नु भनिँदैछ। विभागले एकैचोटी 1 हजार प्रतिशतको दरले कर वृद्धि गरेको छ सोनाम डोल्माले भनिन्। यसक्रममा सरकारले 2011 सालदेखिकै कर तिर्नुपर्ने निर्देश दिएको  पनि जानकारी दिएकी छन्। जुन विषय यतिका वर्षसम्म विभागले सूचना दिइएन। विभागले आफूहरूले लिज रद्द भएको कुरा गरिरहेको छजबकी धेरैले लिज रिन्यू गरिरहेको उनले बताइन्। उनी अनुसारउनीहरूले नगरपालिका अनि डीआई फण्ड दुवैलाई कर तिर्दैछन्। वास्तवमा उनीहरूले नगरपालिकालाई मात्र कर तिर्नुपर्ने अनि डीआई फण्डलाई कर तिर्नु नपर्ने उनीहरूको भनाइ हो। यस विषय उच्च न्यायालयले पनि डीआई फण्डले कर उठाउन नपाउने निर्देश जारी गरेपनि यो कालेबुङमा लागु नभएको बताइन्। 
अर्का पीडित प्रतिनिधि एस सिन्हाले पनि यस सम्बन्धमा आपत्ति जनाउँदै समस्या नसुल्झिएसम्म कर नतिर्ने चेताउनी दिएका छन्। एउटै जमीनको कर दुई-दुईवटा निकायलाई बुझाउन परिरहेको भन्दै उनले एकैचोटी अत्याधिक कर बृद्धि गरेर प्रशासनले आफूहरूलाई मर्कामा पारेको बताए। उनले सम्बन्धित विभागले डीआई फण्डको समस्या सुल्झाउन आह्वान गरेका छन्। विशेष गरेर ब्रिटिसकालीन समयदेखि जमीनलाई विभिन्न भागमा विभाजन गरिएको थियो भने शहरी क्षेत्रका केही भागहरूलाई डीआई फण्डमा अन्तर्भुक्त गरिएको थियो। यो प्रथा बङ्गालका कमभन्दा कम ठाउँहरूमा मात्र लागु छ जसमध्ये कालेबुङ शहरको धेरै ठाउँमा डीआई फण्ड नियम लागु छ। यस सम्बन्धमा कालेबुङ डीआई फण्ड प्रभारी नेहाल अहमदले भने अनुसारविभागले सम्पूर्ण विवरणहरूको जाँच गर्ने क्रममा धेरै कुरा थाहा लागेको छ। जसमध्ये धेरैको 1940 तिरको लिज खारेज भइसकेको भएपनि उनीहरूले पुरानै दरमा कर तिरिरहेका छन्। यसैले उनीहरूलाई सैब कागजपत्र जम्मा गर्न लगाएर हियरिङ गरी उनीहरूका कागजपत्र अपडेट गरेर नयाँ दरको आधारमा कर तिर्ने निर्देश दिएको उनले बताए।

Call for Nepal border control

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Apr 23, 2018, Darjeeling: Lt General (retd) Shakti Gurung, who is heading the National Gorkhaland Committee (NGC), an apolitical think tank looking into issues of the Gorkha community, said on Sunday that they were in favour of some "control" and "regulation" on the Indo-Nepal border.
Gurung's comment comes at a time an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) appointed by the governments of Nepal and India are reviewing the India-Nepal Friendship Treaty 1950 that has provisions for free movement of India and Nepal citizens into each others territory.
Asked about the NGC's stand on the open border, Gurung, said: "There is a general feeling among Indian Gorkhas that we get questioned because the borders are open. There are some reasons why the country (India) has kept the border open, we share similar culture, traditions, Nepal is a friendly neighbour, but we believe that the treaty should be reviewed in light of the identity (of Indian Gorkhas)."
The EPG was formed in 2016 and its mandate runs till June this year. EPG members from Nepal include former foreign minister, Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, former lawmaker Rajan Bhattarai and constitutional and legal experts Nilambar Acharya and Surya Nath Upadhyay.
The demand for the scrapping of Article VII of the treaty was first raised by GNLF leader Subash Ghisingh when he led the statehood agitation in 1986. The GNLF had wanted the clause to be scrapped as it felt the rights given to the citizens of Nepal - a country contiguous to Darjeeling - under this treaty were blurring the distinction between Nepalese citizen and Indian Gorkhas who speak the same language.
Gurung said on Sunday: "There should be some kind of control, regulation (at the border). This is a general feeling, talk to any Gorkha community member in India, whether from here or Uttarkhand, they all feel that an open border raises questions on their (Indian) identity."
The NGC clarified that none of its members would be encouraged to contest elections.
"We will also form regional committees but we will only take those people who are not attached with political parties," said Gurung.

Believe in politics of reality: Tamang

Vivek Chhetri , TT, Apr 23, 2018, Darjeeling: Binay Tamang has appealed to the Gorkhas from across India to believe in politics of "reality" and discard politics guided by emotions at a time a group of intellectuals has released a "vision document" on the way forward for Gorkhaland.
In a written statement, Tamang has said: "Politics guided by emotions have put the Gorkhas living in different states of India in a difficult situation. To bring the Gorkhas to the Indian mainstream, we need to discard politics of emotions but indulge in politics of reality and intellect."
The statement coincides with the National Gorkhaland Committee (NGC) - an 18-member apolitical think tank - releasing a "Vision Document" on Gorkhaland in Darjeeling on Saturday.
The committee is headed by Lt General (retired) Shakti Gurung and includes Trilok Dewan, former chief secretary of Andhra Pradesh, Anil Pradhan, former DGP of Meghalaya, Tamlal Lohar, former secretary of Mizoram, Shravan Acharya, professor at JNU, Munish Tamang, associate professor at Delhi University, and Col (retd) Bhupendra Chhetri from Uttarkhand among others.
Tamang has not commented on the NGC's recent activity but has touched on the issues of "identity and political security" of Gorkhas in India.
The proponents of Gorkhaland movement believe that the two issues of identity and political security can only be solved through creation of a separate state. Interestingly, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had sent a delegation to the NGC event in Darjeeling on Saturday.
The NGC is also trying to bring all political parties demanding Gorkhaland to a common platform.
The Morcha president has said: "The problems that the Gorkhas are facing with regard to identity and political security can only be solved by indulging in politics of reality."
Tamang said people even from outside Darjeeling now understood the need to indulge in politics of reality. "By indulging in politics of emotions, we are having to face repeated defeats (in our struggle). Our main aim is to bring the Gorkhas to the mainstream. Through political, social and economic development we can solve the issue of identity and political security," said Tamang.
The hill leader has cited the support extended to him by many Gorkhas residing in Delhi now.
"I would like to extend a warm welcome to Gorkhas from Delhi who have joined us after understanding us and our decision to indulge in politics of reality. We are confident that we will receive similar support from Gorkhas from the rest of the country," said Tamang.

Jalpaiguri rivals troop in to offer storm relief...Parties pledge assistance

A mango tree that toppled and fell on the roof of a house in Dhupguri. Picture by Main Uddin Chsti
TT, Jalpaiguri: Leaders across party lines are making a beeline to offer relief to people hit by storms in the Dhupguri block of Jalpaiguri district at a time the rural poll model code seems to be limiting government intervention.
A hailstorm swept through Baroghoria, Patkidaho and Jakaikona villages in Dhupguri on Saturday, knocking down trees and flattening huts.
In Magurmari-II GP also people suffered a lot. Local officials reached the affected areas and started making lists to calculate losses.
Local TMC leaders were also on the spot and assured everyone that if assistance does not come through now, the compensation will be given after the rural polls.
Soon after, CPM leaders trooped in, promising the people that they will arrange relief and compensation. Leaders of both parties started working block officials. Both sides claimed that they had brought the block officials to the affected areas.
On Sunday, TMC and CPM leaders continued to stream into Dhupguri.
They assured the poor that they would indeed receive compensation from the administration.
Surprisingly, BJP leaders were conspicuous by their absence. The TMC and CPM campaigned in the affected areas on Sunday. A large number of home appliances and crops were damaged in the squall.
Sahidul Mohammad of Jakaikona village said: "A tree fell on the roof of my bedroom where my son was sleeping. As the shed was damaged, my son was injured in the led. We removed the tree and rescued my son and took him to hospital."
Dipu Roy, a local TMC leader, said the party maintained "close contact with the people" through the year, particularly in distress. "This time also, we will win and we don't need campaign when people are in distress."
Rajkumar Roy, a CPM leader, claimed the party leaders had not come to "campaign".
"We are here not to campaign. People were with us and will be with us. We are here just to help them nothing else. We appeal Block administration to provide relief to the affected people immediately because in case of natural calamity there is no restriction of election commission."
Sumedha Pradhan, the ADM of Jalpaiguri, said: "In case of natural calamities, the block administration can easily distribute relief after making a proper list of affected people and there is no restriction imposed by the election commission."

Bride for son to beat quota... SC daughter-in-law fielded in reserved seat

Minu Das (left) with daughter-in-law Uma Adhikary. Picture by Main Uddin Chisti 
Main Uddin Chisti, TT, Apr 23, 2018, Cooch Behar: A Trinamul gram panchayat member in Cooch Behar's Dinhata got her son married to a Scheduled Caste girl recently and has fielded her daughter-in-law to contest from a seat that has been reserved for SC women this time, family sources and associates of the politician have said.

Minu Das, the outgoing member of the Putimari-1 seat, learnt in January that her general seat would be converted into a reserved one. Realising she would not be able to contest polls this year, the 52-year-old spoke to a neighbour, who suggested she get her elder son married to an SC girl and field the new member of the family as a candidate.

"Minudi became very worried when she came to know that the seat has been reserved for SC women. She was keen someone from her family should contest from the seat instead of an outsider. We suggested to her to get her elder son Raju married to an SC girl and she agreed. Then we started looking for an SC girl," a close associate of Minu said on Sunday.

Minu's family said the marriage decision was taken after the change in the seat's profile and that son Raju tied the knot with Uma Adhikary, a 23-year-old SC girl, in the last week of February to ensure that someone from the family is eligible to contest from the seat this time.

Uma has filed her nomination and many in Putimari expect her to follow in the footsteps of her mother-in-law and become a panchayat member.

"Dada (Raju) has married Uma Adhikary so she can be made a candidate in the seat. Our party has given her (Uma) a ticket. We are sure she will win," said Rana Das, the younger son of Minu who is also a Trinamul leader.

In 2013, Minu had the seat as a candidate of the Forward Bloc but had joined Tinamul a day after her victory.

During her term at the Putimari panchayat, Minu was seen as a competent member and was popular among the residents.

In the past five years, Trinamul has built a strong base in Putimari, and many in the area had expected Uma to win the seat uncontested.

The hopes of a walkover were dashed recently when Dulali Barman, the wife of local Trinamul Youth Congress leader Uttam Barman, filed her nomination as an Independent candidate.

Leaders of Trinamul and the party's youth wing have been locked in a turf war in Dinhata and other parts of Cooch Behar over the past few months, triggering clashes and a former panchayat member's murder in recent weeks and casting a shadow on the party's poll prospects.

22 Apr 2018

Child rights activists oppose death penalty for rape of minors

A woman holds a candle and placard seeking an end to sexual violence against women, which has been on the rise in the country, during a protest in Bangalore.PTI & HT, New Delhi: Even as a number of leaders have advocated death penalty for rape of girls aged below 12, child rights activists across the country have come out against the government’s decision to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for this purpose.

The Union Cabinet on Saturday approved an ordinance to allow courts to award death penalty to those convicted of raping children up to 12 years of age.

The criminal law amendment ordinance seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to introduce a new provision to sentence convicts of such crimes punishment of death.

“In a country where there is no certainty of conviction, this government wants to bring in more stringent laws. In a country where most rapes are perpetrated by family members, invoking death penalty will only increase the chances of acquittal.

“Most of the cases will not be reported. There is a reason why the death penalty for child rape exists in only about 13 countries or so, most of them Islamic,” said Bharti Ali of HAQ centre for child rights.

Read | Besides death penalty for child rapists, ordinance proposes database of sex offenders

According to the data of the National Crime Records Bureau, 95% of the rapes are committed by family members. The conviction rate in cases of rapes of women is around 24%. It is 20% under the POCSO Act.

“I believe that the only deterrent in rape cases is conviction in not more than 90 days. Worldwide we have seen that more than strict punishment, it is speedy justice that works as a deterrent.

“I fear that with the death penalty, most people will not report child rapes, as in most cases the accused are family members. The conviction rate will come down further,” Vinod Tikoo, a former member of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said.

According to a recent study by Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, it would take the courts two decades to clear the backlog of cases related to child sex abuse.

Activists say the government should focus more on strengthening the existing laws, ensuring safety of victims and witnesses, speedy trials, and awareness generation.

“We already have the death penalty for several offences and that has not led to any deterrence. If we are looking to create a deterrent, then we have to create it where it works.

“Creating a supportive and enabling environment for the victim to report the crime on their terms, effective and meaningful victim and witness protection, sensitive criminal justice system - including courts, legal aid and police, rehabilitation and ensuring certainty of conviction of the accused are among the areas which will generate deterrence,” said Ananth Kumar Asthana, advocate and child rights activist.

The government’s move to amend the law to award the death penalty for rape of girls aged below 12 comes amid a nationwide furore over the brutal rape of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district, the alleged rape of a minor in UP’s Unnao by a BJP MLA, and other incidents of sexual violence reported from different parts of the country recently.

Union minister of Women and Children Development Maneka Gandhi had few days ago asked her department to work on a proposal to amend the POCSO Act to bring in the provision of the death penalty for the rape of a minor below the age of 12 years.

Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal has been on a hunger strike at Samta Sthal here demanding death penalty for rapists.

Countries which have the provision of the death penalty for raping minors include China, Qatar, Sudan, UAE, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Kuwait.

(This story has not been modified from its original version.)

Nepal’s locomotive dreams

Nepal, Nepali politicians, Chinese railway project, Chinese interestsAmish Raj Mulmi | After being told for many years that railways were not feasible in Nepal because of the terrain and the high capital costs, we are faced with a future where China and India are both connected to Kathmandu via trains.

Prime Minister KP Oli’s Delhi visit, successful by all accounts, saw agreements being signed on initiating a railway link between Kathmandu and Raxaul, and on utilising the waterways for transport.

India is stepping into an infrastructural game where China has already taken the lead. But given the delay in any infrastructure project in Nepal, it’d be prudent to hold any expectations until the locomotive starts rolling.

Having said that, Nepal’s history with railways goes back before the 1920s, when the Amlekhganj-Raxaul railway was initiated. Much of it revolved around the export of products, especially timber, to India during British times, rather than increasing connectivity within the country.

While under the Ranas there was an obvious hesitation to improve transportation systems inside Nepal unless it was for economic reasons, post 1950, despite a World Bank transport master plan that outlined railway development in Nepal, the development of road networks took priority.

In many ways, the expansion of railways into northern India ‘pushed the country deeper into the vortex of India’s growing economy’, as historian MC Regmi put it: ‘The commercial importance of existing towns on the Nepal-India border, particularly Nepalgunj, increased almost overnight. In the central sector, the Nepali border market town athwart the Indian railroad terminus at Raxaul was rebuilt and renamed as Birgunj, obviously after Prime Minister Bir Shumsher.’

When the first Indian passenger train chugged from Bombay to Thane in April 1853, it would end up being a ‘memorable day’ not just for the British, but for the Ranas in Nepal too. As the British developed an infrastructural network across much of northern India, the demand for timber – to be used as railway sleepers, railroad ties, planks for bridges, or for use in homes – grew exponentially.

As most of north India’s sal forests began to be depleted, “the major sources of supply were, consequently, left on the Nepali side of the Tarai border.” An 1897 report stated, “The great marts of Nepal on the border of Oudh are Golamandi and Banki, alias Nepalgunj… The policy of the Nepal Durbar is to force all hill produce to be brought to these places,” from whereon Nepali timber was sent forth to India.

Regmi notes that the waterways earlier used for trade with India declined in importance after the introduction of railway junctions near the Indo-Nepal border, as railways were safer, more reliable and even ‘small consignments’ could be transported on them.

Although railway lines on the Indian side of Nepalgunj opened in 1885, and another line connected Forbesganj in eastern Bihar, adjoining Rangeli, in 1890, by 1908, ‘the bulk of the [Indo-Nepal] trade pass[ed] through Raxaul, the terminus of the Sugauli-Raxaul branch railway’, which was connected by rail in 1898.

‘Thanks to those railroad connections, it now became possible to transport Nepal’s exports by boat or ox-cart up to the nearest Indian railroad terminus and then by railroad to different destinations in India,’ wrote Regmi in An Economic History of Nepal (1846-1901).

The extraction of timber also provided the impetus for Chandra Shamsher to rope in JV Collier, a British forestry official, in 1923, who had a ‘short stretch of narrow gauge’ pushed into the west Tarai.

Hunter-conservationist Jim Corbett writes of the timber tramway: ‘The [Mahakali/Sharda river] gorge is four miles long and was at one time traversed by a tramway line blasted out of the rock cliff…[it] has long since been swept away by landslides and floods.’ The first passenger railway inside Nepal, between Amlekhganj and Raxaul began in 1927, while the now defunct Janakpur-Jaynagar line began in 1937.

Although intended for timber export, with multiple railheads now across the border, and because of the lack of roads within Nepal, transportation began to witness a distinct change with the railways.

Historian Perceval Landon wrote in 1928, ‘For any long distance, it is now easier and quicker and, it may be added, cheaper for a Nepalese to make his way either to one of the railway stations on the Indian border….and then join the Indian railway system for an excursion east or west even when his destination is in his own country.’

This was a massive disruption to existing transportation networks within Nepal, even the few that existed. New economies started to emerge around the border towns near railheads. One visible impact of railroads was on the trans-Himalayan trade, where Newar traders found it simpler to take the train to Calcutta, from where they would purchase their wares, and then onwards to Lhasa via Kalimpong than using the old passes of Kuti and Kerung. Nepal’s external trade began to be shaped by its proximity to railway connections in India, which continued into the modern era.

‘The principal function of railways in Nepal will be to facilitate and improve the movement of goods into and out of Nepal across the Indian Border. This will be done by, in effect, extending the most important Indian Railways into Nepal,’ concluded a 1965 World Bank report on a national transport system for Nepal.

The report recommended Nepal develop three cross-border railway terminals in Nepalganj, Biratnagar and Birgunj. ‘The general idea is for the Indian Railways to provide all freight cars, use their own locomotives, and maintain all rolling equipment necessary for the operation of these terminal railways.

The Indian Railways would bill each local Nepal railway separately for the actual cost of services provided.’ The masterplan suggested the construction of a new Birgunj railway terminal beyond the 1927 Nepal Government Railway between Amlekhganj and Raxaul, as ‘the present […] narrow gauge line cannot perform the necessary terminal function because of the change of gauge at Raxaul.’

In Biratnagar, the new terminal would include petroleum storage tanks, while at Nepalganj, a feasibility study was recommended first. The study presciently said the line between Amlekhganj and Raxaul should not continue because of high repair costs, and the ‘serious problem’ of changing gauges at Raxaul. The line was finally shut down in 1965 itself.

But the report’s railway recommendations didn’t go through. Post 1950, up to 40 per cent of the total outlay for the first five-year plan, declining to 35 per cent in the third five-year plan, was dedicated to upgrading transport infrastructure in Nepal. However, the development of railways was not as much a priority as roads.

Now, with a future where Kathmandu could see trains both to China and India, a reasonable assumption holds that a China-Nepal-India railway connection that turns Nepal into a transit market will be of greater advantage than discrete and unconnected networks with the two neighbours.

The future development of railways in Nepal, although geopolitically motivated, is dependent on its long-term economic viability. China and India may provide the technical know-how and the capital required, but it’ll be up to Nepal to gauge what the country wants to do with it.

The Kathmandu Post/ANN.

Mirage of privacy in an Internet universe

Internet universe, Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, Mark ZuckerbergRaja Murthy| SNS | April 20, 2018: Never was a world changing technology named more aptly than the ‘World Wide Web’, and the aptness was proved again with Facebook and its privacy-slaughtering shenanigans smattering like slime on the looking glass of news of recent days.
The benefits of unprecedented connectivity come with vulnerability to manipulation and exploitation, as exposed in Facebook’s data misuse scandal involving the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
Global Internet users – numbering over four billion in 2018 – face illegal data harvesters, identity thieves, privacy violators and varieties of cheats prowling the information pathways we travel daily, the broadband journeys intertwining, interconnecting in the increasing online daily life of the mundane world.
What a world! This global village with happy online ‘magic’ that we take for granted, where oceans are bridged with a mouse click, where more information is created and shared than ever before in history and more work done through intercontinental networking of colleagues unseen in flesh and blood; but this magical wonderland coming with the dark world of ghoulish malwares and virulent virus-conjuring sorcerers, the monster spiders of e-commerce luring unwary victims into perilous parlors, and sometimes, in comeuppance times, the spider getting caught in its own mesh – like Facebook and its recent woes.
Addictive so-called ‘social media’ and dependency on Internet 24/7 were not on the horizon among us pioneering Internet-using journalists when the term ‘World Wide Web’ entered daily usage circa 1994.
Those were days when Mumbai had about three Internet-connected computers, and the word ‘email’ was not yet the oxygen of daily communication across the planet.
Ironically now when the World Wide Web dominates our lives, we do not even need to key in ‘www’ to enter 1.7 billion existing websites (2,738 websites in 1994). But as stakes increase in the Internet El Dorado that churns out billionaires like Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg, cheats and their tricks increase.
Facebook’s recent troubles came as no surprise, not if you maintain a sneak-cheat list of personally banned websites like I do. European laws demand publishers ask for permission to install cookies, but the slithery sneak-cheats not only sneak in but hide in computers.
They are exposed when I often clear my browser of cookies and site data (In a chrome browser, click on ‘settings’ > ‘advanced settings’ > ‘privacy’ > ‘content settings’ > ‘Cookies and site data’> ‘Remove All’.)
The cookie box should clear after clicking ‘Remove All’, except for the browser data. But cookies of cheating websites sneakily linger, like a perverted visitor who does not go when bidden but hides under the bed to spy.
These sneaky cheats store their spyware in text files that I have to find and delete from hard drives, using as search word the name of the sneak website.
This hunt in ‘Files and Folders’ takes time, tests patience and I avoid domains of these sneak cheats. Appropriately, some of them, though not all, have dubious reputations, funding sources or business practices.
My list of sneaks includes Facebook, online retailers like ‘Flipkart’ and news sites like ‘NDTV’ that have joined the journalism-ethics murdering hordes of the once credible now shamefully biased New York Times, Washington Post and CNN.
So it came as no surprise when David Baser, the Product Management Director of Facebook, publicly admitted Facebook tracks non-users offline. No surprise either if dirtier tricks than cookies stored as hidden text files await exposure.
Yet freedom from sneak-cheats needs realistic acceptance of how private can be an interconnected world. Is our online life in reality only as ‘private’ as talking, working and relaxing in the high street of the global village?
Is online shopping 100 per cent safe as buying with cash in the neighborhood store? How many of us bother to even use freely available encryption tools, such as ‘Tor’ and ‘Tails’ from Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks? Anyway, are online chambers of secrets and whispers through encrypted emails only mirages of privacy?
Not much can be hidden where satellites can beam to the world images of your house through Google Street View (instantstreetview.com), Earthcams (earthcam.com) bring street views of global cities, and the most complex password can be for the determined hacker the ‘open sesame’ of the Arabian Nights tale – with the 21st century Ali Baba and the celebrated thieves only shifting operations online.
Here they lurk and plunder the unwary.Nothing can be hidden; those who experience subtler truths of nature understand that we are never, ever alone.
I find basic rules of life apply online as they do offline. Having little to hide helps beat sneaky online spies, like those using text files to hide in computers. We exorcise the hidden cheats while also exorcising paranoia over privacy that robs enjoying to the fullest the wonder world of the Internet.
The Internet too has its dark side, like other things of life. It makes sense to make best use of the most beneficial technological revolution of our times, while taking precautions to not fall into webs of thieves.
But a beneficial online life needs also avoiding self-created traps of paranoia. The foundations of the Internet are rooted in freedom, and whatever it takes is worth the effort to be free.
The writer is a senior, Mumbai-based journalist.

Facebook collects data even when you are logged out

SNS Web :  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the US Congress last week, answering “more than 500 questions” and assuring to get back on some more. The company has now tried to clarify on questions how it collects data even when people are actually logged out of the website or the app.

Facebook says it can collect personal data as many websites and apps use the social networking giant’s services to make their content and ads more engaging and relevant.

These services include social plugins, such as Like and Share buttons that help people share content of other sites; Facebook Login, through which one can a Facebook account to log into another website or app; Facebook Analytics that many websites and apps use to better understand how people use their services; and Facebook ads and measurement tools, using which other websites and apps show ads from Facebook advertisers to run their own ads on Facebook or elsewhere.

In a post, David Baser, Product Management Director at Facebook, wrote: “Apps and websites that use our services, such as the Like button or Facebook Analytics, send us information to make their content and ads better.”

Facebook, in return, helps those websites serve up relevant ads or receive analytics to study how people use their services.

“When you visit a site or app that uses our services, we receive information even if you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account. This is because other apps and sites don’t know who is using Facebook,” Baser said in his post as part of Facebook’s Hard Questions series.

There are, however, other companies too that offer these types of services and get information from the apps and sites that use them. These and many other companies offer advertising services too.

“Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn all have similar Like and Share buttons to help people share things on their services. Google has a popular analytics service. And Amazon, Google and Twitter all offer login features,” Facebook said.

When you visit a website, the browser you use sends a request to the site’s server. Your browser (Chrome, Safari or Firefox) shares your IP address so the website knows where to send the site content.

The website also gets information about the browser and the operating system (Android or Windows for example) you are using.

“It also gets cookies, which are identifiers that websites use to know if you’ve visited before. This can help with things like saving items in your shopping cart,” Baser explained.

He added: “So when a website uses one of our services, your browser sends the same kind of information to Facebook as the website receives. We also get information about which website or app you’re using, which is necessary to know when to provide our tools.”

So, what does Facebook do with data it receives from other websites and apps?

There are three main ways in which Facebook apparently uses the information it receives. According to Baser, they are: “Providing our services to these sites or apps; improving safety and security on Facebook; and enhancing our own products and services.”

While stating the above, Baser sought to clarify: “We don’t sell people’s data.”

He also claimed that the information received from websites and apps was also used to help protect the security of Facebook. “For example, receiving data about the sites a particular browser has visited can help us identify bad actors. If someone tries to log into your account using an IP address from a different country, we might ask some questions to verify it’s you. Or if a browser has visited hundreds of sites in the last five minutes, that’s a sign the device might be a bot.”

Baser clarified that the data received from other websites and apps also helped Facebook improve the content and ads shown on the social networking site. “So if you visit a lot of sports sites that use our services, you might see sports-related stories higher up in your News Feed. If you’ve looked at travel sites, we can show you ads for hotels and rental cars,” he said.

Zuckerberg had told the US Congress last week that his own personal data was part of 87 million users’ that was “improperly shared” with British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook has been embroiled in a massive data breach controversy ever since it surfaced that British data firm Cambridge Analytica improperly gathered information on its 87 million users.

(With agency inputs)

Death penalty to child rapists- Cabinet approves ordinance

Minor, Rape, CrimeSNS Web | New Delhi | April 21, 2018 : The Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday approved the ordinance, or emergency order, to introduce death penalty for child rapists.

The approval will clear way to award capital punishment to those convicted of raping children up to 12 years of age. Centre has cleared criminal law amendment ordinance which also includes POCSO Act as part of that amendment.

As per media reports, the Union Cabinet has also approved ordinance that will let the government confiscate property of economic offenders, who flee the country.

After a public outcry and anger over rising incidents of crimes against children in the country, the Centre in a letter submitted to Supreme Court (SC) on Friday, said that the process to amend the POCSO Act, 2012, has been initiated.

The Centre was responding to an PIL (Public Interest Litigation), which had sought maximum sentence of death penalty to those who are involved in rape and murder of children up to 12 years of age.

Parliament had passed the ‘Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011’ regarding child sexual abuse on 22 May 2012. The Act was framed to protect children from offences of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography and to provide a child-friendly system for the trial of these offences.

At present, there is no provision for capital punishment in the POCSO Act, with the maximum sentence being life imprisonment.

Earlier, Union minister Maneka Gandhi had asked her department to prepare a proposal for an amendment to the POCSO Act for the rape of a minor below the age of 12 years, saying tough punishment would act as a strong deterrent.

Tough punishment will act as a strong deterrent for such an offence, Maneka had said, while adding “toughening the law in 2015 for crimes committed by juveniles, including rape, had a desired effect”.

In 2015, Parliament passed a Bill which allows juveniles between 16 and 18 years of age to be tried as adults for serious crimes such as rape or murder.

Darjeeling, Kalimpong to benefit from ASHA scheme

Darjeeling, Kalimpong to benefit from ASHA schemeAmitava Banerjee |MP | 21 April 2018 | Darjeeling: Finally, Darjeeling and Kalimpong will be getting the benefit of the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) scheme under the National Health Mission. ASHA workers will be recruited for the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) which includes the Hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts. Along with the ASHA workers, ICDS workers will also be recruited in the Hills.
Incidentally, though ASHA workers are recruited throughout the country, owing to certain problems earlier the GTA had failed to recruit them and the Hills were devoid of this facility. With the change of guard at the GTA, ASHA workers are to be recruited for all the eight blocks of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, under the GTA.
"ASHA workers will soon be engaged in the Hills. Later, ICDS vacancies of workers and helpers will also be filled up," stated Joyoshi Das Gupta at the foundation day programme of the Edith Wilkins Street Children Trust in Darjeeling.
The DM added that such employment can help in economic empowerment of women. "We have to work to extend such benefits for the inmates of such homes so that they can be independent financially when they leave," stated the DM.
An order from the Health and Family Welfare Department, National Health Mission, the government of West Bengal, stated that 1440 ASHA workers will be engaged for the Darjeeling-Pulbazar, Gorubathan, Jorebungalow-Sukhiapokhari, Kalimpong 1, Kalimpong 2, Kurseong, Mirik and Rangli-Rangliot blocks under the GTA.
"One ASHA worker is to serve a minimum of 300-500 persons," stated the order. The eligibility for ASHA workers states that the candidate should be married/divorced or widowed within the age group of 30-40 years (in case of SC/ST, the lower age limit has been relaxed to 22 years). The candidate has to be Madhyamik appeared or equivalent and a resident of the same village for which she is selected.
Selection of the ASHA workers will be done on a sub-divisional level by ASHA Selection Committee comprising of MIC/other public representatives of the district as the Chairperson; Sub Divisional Officer as Member Secretary; DPHNO, DPO (ICDS) and BMOH of the concerned blocks as members.
ASHA workers are community health workers instituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the government of India under the National Rural Health Mission. They are trained to act as health educators and promoters in their communities.
Their tasks include motivating women to give birth in hospitals; bringing children to immunisation centres; encouraging family planning; treating basic illness and injury with first aid; keeping demographic records and improving village sanitation. They are also meant to serve as a communication mechanism between the healthcare system and the rural populace.

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