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GTA to form development boards for all hill communities - Bimal

Bimal Gurung in Gorkha National Seminar at Gorkha Rangamancha Bhavan
Bimal Gurung today tried to outdo Mamata Banerjee in her game by announcing development boards for all hill communities, but his speech betrayed his worry about the apparent public acceptance the chief minister has garnered in some parts of the hills.
"Enough is enough," said the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief, while addressing a seminar on the issue of tribal status to 10 hill communities at the Gorkha Rangamancha Bhavan. "The GTA will now form development boards for all the hill communities. I promise you, 101 per cent, that the GTA Sabha will soon adopt a resolution to this effect and we will give responsibilities to you (development boards)."
Since 2012, Mamata has formed development boards for the Lepcha, Tamang, Sherpa, Bhutia and Mangar communities in the Darjeeling hills. During her last visit a week back, she said development board demands of the Rai and Limbu communities would be looked into.
Gurung has called this a divide-and-rule policy of the state government.
He today reminded the hill people about the importance of their collective identity, on which the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state largely rests.
"Our community is becoming weak every day. We are getting sold for a toilet. Our community is now worth Rs 3 crore, Rs 5 crore," said Gurung, referring to the amounts Mamata has sanctioned for some of the development boards.
Present at the seminar were Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling, Sikkim MP P.D. Rai, Tezpur MP R.P. Sharma and a host of ministers from Sikkim as representatives of the Gorkha community from across the country.
Gurung asked: "Is the worth of our community only Rs 3 crore. Just for Rs 3 crore, our people lined up along the streets from morning to evening, braving torrential rain. However, when a chief minister from Sikkim, who is from our community, has come, I have felt that a certain thing was amiss. I will talk about it later. We must learn to respect the personalities from our community."
The Morcha chief was referring to the welcome accorded to Mamata during her visit to Kalimpong recently. People from different hill communities had lined up the streets to Kalimpong, braving rain during her visit. Also when Mamata had said she would never let go of the hills, people in the audience in Kalimpong had applauded.
Today, Trinamul organised three meetings in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong to highlight "good governance" of the Trinamul-led dispensation, a rarity in the hills where the Morcha is the most powerful party. (See Page 8)
If the GTA does go ahead with the formation of the boards, at least 14 such bodies would be formed in the hills. At least five hill communities would have parallel boards - one formed by the state, another now proposed by the GTA.
The boards under the Bengal government have been registered as societies and are under the state backward classes welfare department.
"People ask me why I frequent Delhi," Gurung said, then explained that he goes to the national capital to meet MPs, ministers and central leaders for Gorkhaland.
"I am ready to touch their feet for Gorkhaland but I will not lose my self-respect on this issue. I go to Delhi because the issue is with the Centre, and not with Bengal. That is why my fight is not with Bengal," he said.
During the seminar, it has also been decided in principle that a national committee would be formed to look into various issues of the Gorkha communities.
Gurung has asked Chamling to lead the national committee. "I appeal to all political parties and all the people of the hills to rise beyond petty politics on the issue of granting tribal status and Gorkhaland," Chamling said.(TT)

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