The Government of West Bengal is optimistic that the President of India will give her consent to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Bill within January 31, 2012 which will be followed by delimitation of the areas under the GTA and elections to this autonomous administrative body.
Since October 2007, the Darjeeling Hills have been witnessing a separate state agitation led by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM.) Several rounds of tripartite talks between the Centre, State and the GJM coupled with Mamata Banerjee coming to power, finally paved way for the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on July 18, 2011, between the three for the formation of an autonomous body named the GTA.
The MOA then led to the passing of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Bill 2011 in the West Bengal Assembly on September 2, 2011. On Saturday a meeting was held between the West Bengal Government and GJM representatives in Kolkata. The GJM representatives also met chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Harka Bahadur Chettri, GJM spokesperson and Member of Legislative Assembly, Kalimpong, talking to HT stated “The chief secretary informed us that the formation of the GTA is a time consuming affair as mandatory formalities need to be adhered to. No Objection Certificate (NOC) have been obtained from the Home Department for the transfer of different departments from the State to the GTA. However NOCs have to be obtained from respective departments also. This is time consuming.”
Incidentally GJM President Bimal Gurung had recently expressed dissatisfaction at the alleged “delay” in the formation of the GTA. He had also gone a step further to allege that chief minister Mamata Banerjee had given empty assurances of converting Darjeeling into yet another Switzerland. Gurung had also threatened of a renewed agitation.
Chettri stated that the finalizing of the territory to be incorporated in the GTA would take some time. The GJM has demanded additional Mouzas of Gorkha dominated plain areas of the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts be incorporated in the GTA along with the Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong sub divisions. A high powered committee comprising of representatives from the Centre, State and the GJM has been constituted to look into the territory issue.
“Definite community wise demography census of these mouzas need to be obtained and studied before the territory issue is finalized. This will take some time” explained Chettri.
The two member GJM delegation comprising of Chettri and GJM general secretary Roshan Giri also met chief minister Mamata Banerjee. “We demanded that Darjeeling be included in the Backward Area list. She was quite shocked that Darjeeling is yet to be included in the list. She has assured us that she would ensure that Darjeeling along with Cooch Behar and 24 Parganas are included in the Backward List” added the GJM Spokesperson.
Samar Ghosh, chief secretary West Bengal also assured that the State would immediately act upon the long standing demand of the GJM of reviewing court cases of the GJM supporters accrued during the Gorkhaland agitation. “Regarding the penalties for non payment of Sales tax and Vat during the agitation period; it has been agreed upon that the penalties will be waved off” added Chettri.