Within 24 hours of the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the Union, State and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on July 18 paving way for the formation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA,) differences have already cropped up over the execution of certain clauses of the draft.
The draft talks of a high powered committee being constituted, consisting of representatives of the GJM, State and Centre to look into the "question of identification of additional areas of Siliguri, Terai and Dooars that may be transferred to the new body."
The committee is expected to give its recommendations within six months. The draft also states "The work of this High-Powered Committee will run parallel to the electoral process which will be based on the existing area delimitation. However, the empowering statute will have a provision for transfer of the additional areas of Siliguri, Terai and Dooars that may be agreed upon, based on the recommendation of the Committee."
"Only after the committee hands over the recommendations and only after delimitation can the GTA be constituted and elections take place" stated Bimal Gurung, President GJM on Tuesday.
"Now that the deal is inked it is time for the translation of words to action. All the three sides will have to show political will and sincerity towards this" added GJM Spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chettri
After the formation of the GTA the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) will cease to exist. "The Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad will be repealed to incorporate a three tier Panchayat system. Thereby a Zilla Parishad will also be constituted" stated Chettri talking to HT.
Incidentally with the formation of the DGHC in 1988, constituting of the Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong sub divisions, the Zilla Parishad had been revoked and the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad formed for the Siliguri sub division which was not within the jurisdiction of the DGHC.
The Constitution of India was amended to incorporate a two tier Panchayat system in the DGHC area (throughout the country a three tier Panchayat system exists.) The GTA will be having a three tier Panchayat system. The GTA will supervise over the three-tier Panchayat system.
The near 7000 adhoc, casual and daily wage workers of the DGHC is fast emerging as a major weight on GJM’s shoulders. The MOA states that the employees who have put in 10 years of continuous service would be considered for regularization (on existing State employment guidelines.)
The remaining will receive a wage enhancement, which would be equivalent to 75% of the remuneration, subject to a minimum of Rs. 5000/- per month. On completion of 10 years they will be eligible for full benefits.
"Regularization of all ad-hoc, casual and daily wage workers of the DGHC will only take place after the formation of the GTA. The matter has already been addressed in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) of the GTA" added Chettri.
Another grey area that has not been addressed is the payment of pending electricity bills, telephone bills and State Government taxes. Under the non cooperation movement the GJM had ordered the Hill public to abstain from paying the electricity, telephone bills along with State Government taxed since April 2008. Incidenatlly the GJM has been agitating for a separate state since October 2007.
The pending electricity bills alone have crossed the Rs. 70 crore mark. The draft does not mention the fate of these dues. The GJM had assured the public that negotiations are on with the government for a waver of the outstanding.
A provision in the agreement however states "The GTA, once established, will separately take up the issues relating to grant of incentives, subsidies, waiver of taxes and tariff and other benefits as appropriate to the regions backwardness, with the Central and State Government."
The herculean task for the GJM to shoulder at present is to sensitize the masses that "Gorkhaland" demand has in now way been compromised. However the memorandum of agreement inked on Monday would emerge as the most important tool for this, feel political observers.
While the DGHC Accord signed by Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) President in 1988 stated that the GNLF had dropped the demand of Gorkhaland agreeing to the formation of the DGHC; this time the MOA states "the GJM while not dropping the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland has agreed to the setting up of an autonomous body- GTA."
To add more muscle to this, Gurung addressing GJM supporters in the plains on Tuesday, made it clear "I have not signed the MOA. I will only sign on the Gorkhaland accord as and when it happens."
The MOA for the GTA had been signed by KK Pathak, Additional Home Secretary, Government of India; GD Gautama, Home Secretary, Government of West Bengal and Roshan Giri- GJM General Secretary.