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School building controversy forcing party to renew statehood agitation - Bimal Gurung

Bimal Gurung at  Gorkha Janmukti Morcha office  Patlabas in Darjeeling
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung on Wednesday said the state government’s continued interference in the affairs of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration was forcing the party to restart the agitation for a separate state. The GJM chief’s frustration stems from the district administration’s decision to stop construction work on the new building that will house the Ramakrishna Siksha Parishad (RKSP) School in Darjeeling. The GTA has already sanctioned Rs6 crore to convert RKSP into a model school, the first in the hills with funds from the central government. Work started in March this year, but the district administration stopped the ongoing construction a month ago arguing that the building was posing security threats to the Governor’s House located on the opposite side along Birch Hill Road. Gurung today called a meeting with members of the Coordination Committee that was formed on Tuesday, officials of the Darjeeling municipality and the party’s legal cell, at his Patleybas office to work out ways to challenge the district administration’s order in court.
Afterwards, the GJM president said, “The state government is leaving us with no alternative but to slowly move forward with our statehood demand. We want to maintain cordial relations with the state government, but each time Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee comes to the hills, she creates controversies.” He added, “If the school building construction work is not permitted, we may even call a strike across the hills as the future of the students is at stake here.” It is learnt that the chief minister, during her latest visit, asked district administration officials to take measures to stop construction of certain under construction buildings in town which she deemed were above the stipulated height.
As per the Bengal Municipality Act, buildings in the hills cannot exceed a height of 11.5 metres. Gurung recently increased the ceiling to 14.5 metres, or a ground floor plus four storeys. A survey being conducted presently by the Darjeeling municipality shows that there are more than 400 structures flouting the norms. Gurung, who is also the GTA chief executive, accused the state government of indulging in vested politics even as he rubbished the district administration’s argument that the upcoming structure was posing security threats. “The school building is being constructed in its original site and will have the same height of three storeys. Moreover, most of the tall buildings in town were constructed years ago and it will be difficult to demolish them now. If the intention of the district administration is sincere, it should first demolish buildings built during the British era and those constructed 10-15 years ago,” he said. It may be worth noting here that while increasing the permissible height of buildings, Gurung had said structures above the 11.5 metre mark would not be demolished, a turnaround from his earlier stand of dismantling them in the wake of the recent earthquake and landslides. (EOIC)

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