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President gives her assent to the GTA Bill

The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Bill for setting up a new hill council in the Darjeeling hills, today received presidential assent. Amitava Banerjee reports.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2012 20:16 IST
Amitava Banerjee
Amitava Banerjee
Hindustan Times

All three sides (Union, State and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-GJM) heaved a sigh of relief with the President’s assent to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Bill on Wednesday. However the GJM has declared that they will not agree to elections to this autonomous administrative body without the incorporation of additional areas from Terai and Dooars.

The Union Home Ministry on Wednesday called up the West Bengal chief minister informing her of the President’s assent.

Incidentally the GJM were on an agitation path for a separate state since 2007. Finally after numerous rounds of tripartite talks between the Centre, State and the GJM, all three sides had agreed to the formation of the GTA- an autonomous administrative body.

A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the formation of the GTA (which would replace the existing Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council) had been signed between the Centre, State and GJM on July 18, 2011 at Pintail Village near Siliguri in the Darjeeling District. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, union home minister P Chadambaram and GJM President Bimal Gurung were present for the inking ceremony.

This MOA paved way for the passing of a GTA Bill by the West Bengal Assembly on September 2, 2011. After inter-ministerial consultation, it finally managed to get a green signal from President Pratibha Patil.

“We welcome the assent by the President of India. Credit goes to the initiative taken by chief minister Mamata Banerjee. However the Government has to evolve ways and means for the implementation of the GTA. Without added territory of Terai and Dooars, GTA cannot go to elections” stated GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri.

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 Jalapiguri district, a committee had been constituted with representatives of the Union, State and the GJM to look into the matter.

This 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 joint committee on GTA territory is doing its job but it is not clear as to when it will hand in its recommendations. The tenure of the committee had expired on January 27, 2011 but it has been given an extension by the Government. Without territory issue being finalized we cannot go to elections” added Giri. Incidentally the delay in the formation of the GTA had evoked flak from the GJM camp. GJM President had even issued a March 27 2012 deadline, threatening a renewed Gorkhaland agitation if the Government failed to implement the GTA within his deadline.

Even Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had held a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi on February 22 setting the GTA ball rolling in Delhi. The PM had then assured her of an early GTA. Following this a GJM delegation had met Chidambaram in Delhi pressing for the same. During her visit to the Darjeeling Hills on February 29, Banerjee had assured of the completion of the GTA process within a fortnight.

“The Central Committee of the GJM will sit in a meeting soon to decide on the fate of the March 27 deadline” added Binay Tamang, Assistant Secretary, GJM. Not much enthusiasm was witnessed in the Hills on Wednesday over the President’s assent to the GTA Bill. While the masses had not received the news most of the key GJM leaders including Gurung and Giri were out of station.

“We will not leave an inch of Dooars and Terai as per our resolution. 75% of the population of Terai and Dooars is constituted of Adivasis. Not even a single percent of the Adivasi population is interested in joining the GTA. We have made this clear before the joint committee on GTA Territory, supporting our arguments with documents. Adivasis and Gorkhas are different in every aspect. We demand Tribal safeguard in Terai and Dooars in the form of a 6th Schedule status” remarked Birsa Tirkey, State President, Akhil Bharatita Adivasi Vikash Parishad, a pan-Indian body of the Adivasis.

Constitution of the GTA

GTA Sabha with 45 elected and 5 nominated members . Reservation for SC, ST, women, minority communities. MPs and MLAs along with Chairpersons of the Municipalities under the GTA as ex officio members.

Executive Body- Chief Executive would nominate 14 members out of elected or nominated members as executive members. One would be nominated as Deputy Chief nominated by executive chief. Principal Secretary to GTA to the rank of Principal Secretary or Secretary to State Government and would be selected by Chief Executive from a panel sent by State Government.

Number of Departments- 59 subjects and departments.

Funds- Government of India would provide Rs. 200 Crore assistance per annum for 3 years for projects to develop the socio-economic infrastructure over and above the normal plan assistance to the State of West Bengal.

Powers- GTA- Executive powers. Powers to make rules/regulation under State Acts to control, regulate and administer departments/offices and subjects. Power of creating Group B,C and D posts with the approval of Governor.

No constitutional guarantee

First Published: Mar 07, 2012 19:28 IST