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Bengal govt sitting on plan to set up Sainik School in Darjeeling: BJP MP

Raju Bista, who won the Darjeeling seat by a margin of 4.23 lakh votes, was informed by the junior minister of defence on Wednesday that the proposal was conveyed to the state government in January 2015.

india Updated: Jul 18, 2019 19:09 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Siliguri
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from the constituency Raju Bista
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from the constituency Raju Bista (PTI photo)
         

The Mamata Banerjee administration has been sitting on a proposal by the Centre for more than four years to build a Sainik School in the Darjeeling hills, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from the constituency Raju Bista has alleged.

Bista, who won the Darjeeling seat by a margin of 4.23 lakh votes, was informed by the junior minister of defence on Wednesday that the proposal was conveyed to the state government in January 2015.

Sainik Schools act as feeder institutions for National Defence Academy, Indian Military Academy, and Officers Training Academy.

Gorkhas, famous for their fighting prowess, constitute majority of the 18.47 lakh population (2011 census) of Darjeeling district. According said Colonel (retd) Keshav Rai, secretary of Zila Sainik Board (Darjeeling), there are about 13,000 retired defence personnel in addition to 3,000 widows of personnel of armed forces in the district. Since 1947, there have been 159 soldiers from this area who have been killed on duty.

“I am outraged that the Bengal government has denied our hills an institute of national eminence. What I find particularly troublesome is that the Bengal government has denied our brave soldiers and their children, who would have been beneficiary of this Sainik School,” Bista said on Thursday.

Answering Bista’s question in the Parliament on Wednesday, Shripad Naik, the Union Minister of State for defence, had said that the Centre had in principle approved a Sainik School in Darjeeling in May 2012 and the decision was conveyed to the Bengal government in January 2015.

“As per procedure, a MoA (memorandum of agreement) with the state government is required to be signed before setting up of a Sainik School in Darjeeling. The state government was requested to sign the tripartite agreement between the ministry of defence, state government and the Gorkhaland Territoral Administration (GTA). There has been no response from the state government till date,” the ministry of defence said in the answer.

Trinamool Congress ministers and ruling party leaders in north Bengal Gautam Deb and Rabindranath Ghosh refused to comment on the matter.

Though TMC Darjeeling hill committee president L B Rai refused to speak on the matter, he said, “The BJP has been making false promises to the Gorkhas since 2009.”

Former GTA chairman and TMC ally, Binay Tamang, who is also the head of one faction of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, too, did not comment on the proposed project but remarked, “The BJP makes hollow promises such as finding permanent political solution to the hill crisis, granting scheduled tribe status to the 11 Gorkha communities and setting up of a central university in Darjeeling hills but takes U-turns after winning the elections.”

Sukraj Gurung, a class nine student from Mahanadi area near Kurseong, said, “A Sainik School here could help local youths to become officers in the defence forces.”

Of the 28 Sainik Schools in the country, the only one in Bengal is in Purulia, the western most district of the state.

Earlier this week, Bista met Union home minister Amit Shah and later said that the commitment to sort out pending issues of the Gorkhas “is very high in the current government.

First Published: Jul 18, 2019 19:09 IST

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