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Bimal Gurung writes for free GTA or fulfil gorkhas statehood demand

Bimal Gurung
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung today wrote to the chief minister saying the state government should either let the GTA function with independence or the government should "fulfil the century old demand of the Gorkhas".
By mentioning the "century old" demand, Gurung indicated that the Morcha, which is the most influential party in the Darjeeling hills, could restart its statehood movement.
Gurung, however, has not spelt out specifics of such a movement, which could affect the hills' tourism business in the Puja season.
"... I would appeal to the Government to give full autonomy to Gorkhaland Territorial Administration without any intervention from the Government with all the departments transferred or fulfil the century old demand of the Gorkhas," Gurung wrote at the end of a letter which gave a list of alleged shortcomings of the government in transferring authority to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
The GTA is vested with autonomous powers under a tripartite agreement signed by the Morcha, the state government and the Centre.
The letter, copies of which have been sent to the Union government and the governor, was released at a news conference that was held by Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri and assistant secretary Binay Tamang at the party office in Kalimpong today.
Asked if the Morcha was ready to quit the GTA and start a renewed agitation for Gorkhaland, Giri evaded a direct response. "Time will tell," he said.
In the letter, Gurung said: "Ever since the GTA was set up, hurdles have been posed consistently in its effective functioning. Many departments that were promised under the Tripartite Agreement are yet to be transferred...."
He proceed to give a list of what the state had not done. "... the District Magistrate's office continues to act as a parallel administration in the region leading to interference, duality and deliberate encroachment of duties and responsibilities," Gurung said.
The GTA chief executive said boards for several communities in the hills "like the Lepcha Development Board, Tamang Development Board, Bhutia Development Board, and Mangar Board has not only added to the confusion but is dividing the hill communities in GTA region."
He said the land and land reforms department was yet to be transferred to the GTA and the panchayat, PWD, social welfare, fire and emergency services and cooperatives departments were still under the district administration.
He also mentioned that block development offices were still under the district magistrate's office. "This has resulted in key developmental functions including disbursement of various grassroot level schemes not being under control of GTA," the letter said.
According to the letter, regular appointments of Group B, C and D staff has "still not fructified" because of delay in setting up a subordinate Service Selection Board and the state had "delayed" the formation of school and college service commissions.
The letter says, despite the GTA submitting amendements more than a year ago, the process "has been hanging in a limbo".
Gurung wrote the "GTA experiment has been an exercise in futility... " and its functioning has been undermined at every step.
"In fact, whatever development work that has happened in GTA areas in the last three years is only because of Central funds to the tune of Rs 600 crores outlined in the Tripartite Agreement. I am pained that the state government has been least cooperative, denying rightful dues even to the four municipalities in GTA areas, while showering crores and crores to various development boards".
Gurung in his letter, pointed out to a "duality" where district heads having additional jurisdictions in Siliguri report to the DM and not the GTA.
"Madam, it is our considered opinion that there cannot be parallel administrations in a model like an autonomous council or body and the District Magistrate's office should be confined to statutory functions.... He should not be involved in development work, which is the mandate of the GTA," the letter said.
The letter was released soon after Gurung arrived here this afternoon to take part in the Yuva Mahajansabha organised by the party's youth wing, the Yuva Morcha, tomorrow.
The public meeting is being seen as a show of strength by following the resignation of MLAs Harka Bahadur Chhetri and Trilok Dewan.
Asked about the announcements that Gurung was likely to make tomorrow, Giri said: "Let everything not be said today."(TT)

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