A tripartite pact between the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), the West Bengal government and New Delhi will be signed on Monday, resolving the long-standing impasse in the Darjeeling Hills with the formation of a new autonomous elected hill council, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
According to the agreement, to be signed in the presence of chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Union home minister P Chidambaram at Pintail Village, the GTA will be armed with more powers compared to its former avatar, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, formed in 1988.
As many as 59 subjects and departments including public welfare, urban development, social welfare, land and land revenue, public health andfamily welfare, management of any forest and education will be transferred to the GTA."The administrative, executive and financial powers in respect of the subjects transferred will be vested in such a way that the new body may function in an autonomous and effective way," reads one of the governing principles of the agreement, accessed by HT.
Areas of the entire sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and extended areas of Kurseong will be under the GTA’s jurisdiction. The agreement, however, has a provision for transfer of additional Gorkha-majority areas under the council’s jurisdiction.
A committee will study the feasibility of including areas in Siliguri, Terai (plains of Darjeeling) and Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas) in the council, as demanded by the GJM.
The committee has been mandated to submit its recommendations within six months of its constitution. The GJM, however, said it has not gone back on its demand for a separate state. The demand for Gorkhaland covering parts of northern Bengal gained momentum in the 1980s under the Gorkha National Liberation Front. But the reins of the movement were later taken over by the Bimal Gurung-led GJM.
The Left Front has rejected the state government’s invitation.
"The contents of the agreement have not been conveyed to us. We also don’t know the basis on which the treaty is going to be signed," leader of the opposition Suryakanta Mishra said.
People are hoping the treaty will restore peace in the Hills.
"Kalimpong and Darjeeling were out of bounds for tourists because of violence and shutdowns," said Aniket Dutta, a resident of Tollygunge. "I hope this will pave the way for peace."