Posted on August 27, 2008 by jytmkh
Aug. 26: Members of a transporters’ organisation in Darjeeling today went about the town blackening the number plates of vehicles that had not yet conformed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s instruction and changed to “GL” from “WB”.
The overzealous drive was undertaken by the All Hill Transport Joint Action Committee despite Bimal Gurung’s assurance that no coercion would be used for number plate conversion. “The people will support us spontaneously,” the Morcha president had said earlier. Today, too, Gurung’s party denied any role in the blackening drive.
“The central committee has not asked anyone to blacken the number plates. Since they (transport committee) have been asked to oversee the drive, they may have done it on their own,” said Binay Tamang, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha.
In the plains, car owners are having to shell out Rs 30 to register their new number plates. Nita Mallik is one of them. A doctor posted at the primary health centre in Gayabari, 35km from Siliguri, she had to take the “GL” number plate from Yuva Morcha’s office in Sukna after supporters approached her when she was on way to her workplace in her car (WB-74M-0707). “She told me that she took the new number plate to avoid trouble,” said Abhijit Choudhury, the block medical officer of health of Sukna. Mallik could not be contacted.
The Yuva Morcha said 158 private vehicles have been “registered” in the past two days. However, the threat to deflate tyres of cars registered with “WB” number plates was not carried out today.
“We have decided not to take action against ‘WB’ licence plate holders till August 28 as several car owners said they need more time for the conversion,” said Raj Singh, the vice-president of the Sukna branch of the Yuva Morcha. However, pickets had been set up at several places on NH55 that connects the plains to Darjeeling.
Singh also said no government vehicles had been registered.
In Calcutta, Bengal home secretary Asoke Mohan Chakrabarti said the “GL” conversion was not happening in the Siliguri area. “They are converting number plates only in the hills, but we are keeping a watch on the situation,” he said.
Although no number plate conversion took place in Siliguri, the heat was felt there this afternoon when Nimai Das who owns two Tata Indicas (WB-74K-6336 and WB-74K-5885) reached the taxi stand on Burdwan Road from Kurseong with the number plates smeared in black.
When Das narrated how he was harassed despite showing “tokens” in Kalimpong given to him by Morcha leaders in Sukna, the drivers at the stand decided to block Burdwan Road in protest. The “tokens” are given to car owners who need time to change into “GL”. “Until they get it, tokens are supposed to help them pass through,” said a driver.
Jayanta Moulik, the CPM councillor of the area, however, pacified the drivers and promised to take up the issue with the administration.
In Darjeeling, Narbu Lama, the president of the joint action transport committee, claimed that his outfit has been able to “blacken” about 60 number plates in the hill town.
Asked if this form of agitation was in keeping with the Morcha’s claim of a democratic and Gandhian form of movement, Sanjeev Tamang, the vice-president of the committee, said: “Everyone had been given time (August 25 was the deadline for private vehicles) to change their number plates. We are neither attacking vehicles nor forcibly seizing papers. After all, this is an agitation. While the conversion has been complete in Kalimpong, it was sad that a few people in Darjeeling had not complied.”
Madan Tamang, the president of the ABGL, came down heavily on the “blackening” drive. “If this is how the government is being kept under pressure, then why have the district magistrate and the subdivisional officers been spared. Let us stop following all state government rules,” said Tamang.