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Operation spot-and-deflate-WB from today

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  • Published 25.08.08

Siliguri, Aug. 25: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today threatened to lay siege to NH55 — that connects the plains to Darjeeling — from tomorrow to track down vehicles with “WB” number plates.

“We will organise pickets and if we spot such vehicles, both private and government, we will deflate the tyres, seize the documents and send them to the central committee,” said Raj Singh, the vice-president of the Sukna branch of the Yuva Morcha, this afternoon.

Earlier, Morcha president Bimal Gurung had said there would be no need of coercion, as the people would respond spontaneously to the appeal for switch-over (of number plates).

The Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of Gurung’s party, claimed that it today provided at least 50 vehicles with “GL” number plates in the Sukna railway station area, 10km from here and located in the foothills. Most of the vehicles are private four-wheelers and two-wheelers from the nearby localities.

“Under instructions from the central committee, we distributed ‘GL’ registrations to private and government vehicles today. We have made it mandatory for vehicles originally registered in Darjeeling to carry ‘GL’ number plates in Gorkhaland,” Singh said.

The Morcha has been spearheading the movement for Gorkhaland. Gurung’s outfit wants the Dooars and parts of the Terai, besides the hills, to be part of the separate state.

Commercial vehicles like taxis, trucks and ambulances will not have to “register” with the “new” number plates, Morcha leaders said.

“Several youths, owning motorcycles, however, came forward on their own to express solidarity with our movement and took the ‘GL’ registrations from us,” said Kiran Rai, the branch secretary of the Yuva Morcha in Sukna.

Md Aslam is one of them. The number plate of his Maruti van now reads GL-02C-7739. That of Sonam Wangdi Lama’s motorcycle is GL-02C-7545. Sonam, too, had come forward for the “new” number plate.

“The serial numbers are different for different locations. Those registering from our camp formed by the Sukna and Tindharia branches will get ‘02C’. The last four numbers would remain unaltered, that is, as it was in the WB plate,” Rai said.

The Morcha also called up the forest department in Sukna and the doctors posted at the local block hospital, asking them to get the new “registrations”. “We had rung them up and told them to get the ‘GL’ plates. They are yet to come,” Singh said.

The forest department today kept its vehicles off the road. “We have six vehicles in Sukna and some others in nearby ranges like Panighata, Bamanpokhri, Sevoke and Tenth Mile,” a forester said. “Considering the circumstances, we have been instructed to keep all the vehicles off the road.”

The guards have been asked to patrol on bicycles. “Regarding field work like warding off elephants, patrolling and rescuing of animals, we are awaiting instructions,” he said

Sumita Ghatak, the divisional forest officer (Wildlife 1), said she realised the problem faced by her staff but could do little.

The rank and file are expecting worse days to come. “People affected by animal depredation will accuse us of indifference and raid our offices straightway,” a forest employee said. “On the other hand, there may be problems if we move around with ‘WB’ number plates.”

The administration at Sukna Block Hospital, which has only one ambulance — the staff avail of public transport or private vehicles — said they have not yet faced any problem.

“Two of our doctors came in their private cars from Siliguri and they did not say anything,” said Abhijit Choudhury, the block medical officer of health. “But given tomorrow’s deadline, we don’t know what will happen after that.”