With the President’s assent to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Bill on March 7, 2011, a gazette notification will be published on March 14.
Following a meeting with the Administrator, Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) and the Darjeeling District Magistrate in Kolkata on Tuesday, Samar Ghosh, chief secretary, Government of West Bengal stated “The GTA notification will be published in the Kolkata gazette on March 14. We will also be holding a meeting with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) regarding the election draft rule. The West Bengal Government will be conducting elections to the GTA. Elections will be held in the DGHC area.”
“The GJM Central Committee will be meeting on September 18 to decide on all these issues and our future course of action. Our present party stand is that elections should be held only after the GTA area is finalized. Till then the Government should constitute a nominated interim board to run the GTA” stated Harka Bahadur Chettri, GJM Spokesperson talking to HT.
With the Government steadfast on the three hill subdivisions of the district (Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong) to come under the GTA (an autonomous administrative body for Darjeeling) and the GJM demanding the inclusion of 199 Gorkha dominated Mouzas of Terai and another 199 Mouzas of Dooars region of the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri district, a committee had been constituted with representatives of the Union, State and the GJM to look into the matter.
The joint committee headed by Justice (Retired) Shyamal Sen is to hand in recommendations on this issue after studying the ground reality. Political parties as well as organizations, both for and against the inclusion of the mouzas have already deposed before the committee. The committee will be meeting on March 16 in Kolkata. A future roadmap is expected to emerge on that day.
The chief secretary further stated that a 3 Tier Panchayat System (a long standing demand of the GJM) would be implemented in the Hills. “This is as per the GTA agreement” added Ghosh.
There are certain complications regarding the Panchayat system in the Hills. While the rest of the country boasts of a three tier Panchayat system, the Indian Constitution had been amended in 1998 (with the formation of the DGHC) to incorporate a two tier Panchayat system in the DGHC area comprising of the Panchayat and Panchayat Samity. Reverting back to the three tier system would involve a re-amendment of the Constitution.
The GJM were on an agitation path for a separate state since 2007. After numerous rounds of tripartite talks between the Centre, State and the GJM, all three sides had signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the formation of the GTA (which would replace the existing Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council) on July 18, 2011. Subsequently a GTA Bill was passed by the West Bengal Assembly on September 2, 2011.