Asserting that the West Bengal government will not give in to the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee showered shops on the Darjeeling Hills on Tuesday.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) also feels that co-existence (hills and the plains) is possible if the ways of the previous government is mended and Darjeeling is treated on an equal footing with the remaining parts of the State.
Addressing a large gathering at the Darjeeling Chowrasta, Banerjee stated, "I am willing to sacrifice my last breadth for Darjeeling. I will give you everything, make all sacrifices for you but will never let you separate from us. We have to live together. We love you all."
She stated that the State has to exist like a joint family.
Reacting to this Harka Bahadur Chettri, GJM Spokesperson talking to HT stated, "The earlier Left Front State Government used to preach the unification mantra but did nothing to facilitate it. Owing to lack of development, deplorable living conditions and unequal treatment towards the Hills, the public launched an agitation. If the present government rectifies the mistakes of the earlier government, ensures development and equal opportunities for the Hills, then we can definitely co-exist."
"Mo Pahar lai pura man parako chu ( I love the Hills)," stated the CM in Nepali, adding "Agar Kashmir Bharat ka swarg hain to Darjeeling Bangal ka swarg hain, (Kashmir is India's paradise, Darjeeling is Bengal's paradise)."
"I am corresponding with the Union government for equal subsidy for the Darjeeling Hills like North East states for the Darjeeling Hills as the cost of living is much higher in the Hills than the plains" said Banerjee, adding that a master plan for the promotion of tourism in Darjeeling is underway.
"Destination Darjeeling has to be promoted and prioritized. We have already sanctioned funds for Eco tourism" said Banerjee. Renovation of St. Andrew's Church, Planters Club, Gymkhana Club, Morgan House in Kalimpong and Step Aside in Darjeeling; a tourist information office at the Chowrasta; renovation of Mirik tourist lodge; Ropeways at Rohini, Namring, Deola and Neora Valley under public private partnership; landscaping at Tiger Hill along with a tourist interpretation centre are on the cards.
Apart from upgradation of 55 schools, the CM has sanctioned 17 new primary schools and 30 new upper primary schools. All secondary and higher secondary schools in the Hills would have computers by next year. Moreover, upgradation of Ramkrishna BT College is also on the card.
"We will fill up all school vacancies in the next 5 months," said Banerjee.
The State has allotted Rs 56 crores for the Balasun pumping project aimed at resolving the drinking water scarcity in Darjeeling town. Rs 20 crores has been sanctioned for immediate repairs of Hill roads and an additional Rs 20 crores to rebuild houses damaged in the recent quake. A National Disaster Management team has arrived from Sikkim to study the damages caused by the quake.
"I had earlier written to the Union government seeking grant of Rs 500 crores for relief and rehabilitation of the quake damages. After my visit I will write for an additional Rs 500 crores. Though the loss of live in the quake is less than Sikkim, the damage is equally extensive," said Banerjee.
She handed over two cheques of Rs 50 lakhs each to the district magistrate for repair work at Dr Graham's Homes School and Kalimpong Girls High School. She even announced the recruitment of Darjeeling youth in the West Bengal police force (on the lines of Maoist infested areas).
A Lepcha Development Council for the Lepchas (ethnic tribe of this region) will also be formed under the Backward Classes department with an office at Darjeeling.
The chief minister however remained silent on the fate of the pending electricity bill and other state government taxes, which the Morcha had clamped an embargo on since April 2008. The embargo was lifted in August 2011. Talks were that Banerjee would announce a waiver of the arrears which at present stands well over Rs 100 crores.
"We are very happy that Mamata didi has given us what we had thought of and expected. She has won us over. We also adhere to her sentiment and firm belief in love and not conflict" stated a truly overwhelmed GJM President Bimal Gurung.