Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) along with delimitation formed the main focal point of discussion between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and a GJM delegation led by President Bimal Gurung in a meeting in Kolkata on Wednesday. The meeting also decided that Municipal and Panchayat elections would be held in the Darjeeling Hills soon.
After an all party meeting at the State Secretariat to discuss the proposed name change of the State and reorganization of certain districts of West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met the GJM delegation.
“Only population cannot be the criteria for reorganization. Topography, backwardness of the area, available infrastructure has to be taken into consideration also” added Roshan Giri, GJM General Secretary.
“We proposed that Darjeeling district be bifurcated into two districts – one comprising of Darjeeling, Kurseong and the mouzas that will be added from the Terai region (Siliguri sub division) and the other comprising of Kalimpong and the new mouzas to be incorporated from Dooars region (Jalpaiguri district.) We even requested that delimitation wherever necessary including the Panchayat and Municipality levels should be initiated immediately” stated Harka Bahadur Chettri, GJM Spokesperson.
Chettri stated that the CM’s response was positive and she in turn enquired about Hill Municipal and Panchayat elections. “We told her that we were ready for Municipal and Panchayat elections but it would have to be the State Government that needs to initiate the process” remarked Chettri.
With elections long overdue in the Darjeeling Hill Municipalities and the Panchayats, administrative boards are running both.
As the GJM has demanded that Gorkha dominated mouzas of Terai be included in the GTA, the proposal of bifurcation of the existing Darjeeling district is a clear indicator that the GJM has no objection to the formation of a new district comprising of non-Gorkha areas of Siliguri sub division presently under the Darjeeling district.
Gurung made it clear that the Chief Minister had assured that all electricity arrears along with various State Government taxes (land, motor vehicle, sales, VAT) would be waved off for the Darjeeling Hills. “We will pay only from August 2011 onwards” added Chettri.
In the meeting the Chief Minister stressed on development. “The CM told us that the people of Darjeeling have been starved of development and that it is time that full fledged developmental activities take place despite the financial crunch that the State is facing. We however informed her that freedom is required for us to ensure full fledged development. At times we are throttled by economical and executive constraints. She assured us that she would look into this” stated Chettri.
The GJM has also apprised the Chief Minister that unnecessary police cases have allegedly been initiated against GJM leaders and supporters during the agitation. “She has taken note of this and instructed a thorough probe. Except for murder charges and other grave offences, other charges would be dropped” stated Chettri.
The GJM raised the issues of a new University for the GTA; drinking water, modern parking facilities for the Hill towns. “The CM stated that all these issues already feature in the project proposal under the GTA and will definitely be implemented” stated Chettri.
The GJM delegation enquired about the administrative fate of Reserve Forests under the GTA. “We cannot have dual administrations controlling areas (read Reserve Forests) under the GTA. It will cause unnecessary confusion. The CM stated that she has already taken up the matter with the Union Government and is awaiting a response” remarked the GJM Spokesperson.
“I have invited Mamata didi to visit the Hills. She has decided to visit sometimes around Durga puja” stated Gurung. The GJM Chief declared Wednesday’s meeting as “fruitful.”