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Kalimpong District formed, Mirik to subdivision

Morcha supporters celebrate the announcement of Kalimpong district
Mamata Banerjee today announced that Kalimpong would be made a new district, handing a victory to local MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri who had launched a campaign on the demand ever since he resigned from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in September.
The chief minister also said the Mirik block would be upgraded to a subdivision.
The Kalimpong District Demand Committee, headed by Chhetri, said it would continue with its indefinite dharna in Kalimpong to fulfil other demands which were in the domain of the GTA administered by the Morcha.
"We have decided that Kalimpong will be a new district. Harka Bahadur Chhetri and some organisations in the area were demanding that Kalimpong be made a district. We have accepted that," chief minister said at Nabanna after a cabinet meeting today. She added: "Mirik block will be made a subdivision."
Sources said initially, it had been decided that a proposal to set up Kalimpong district would be placed in the cabinet today, but the formalities could not be completed. "So the chief minister announced it. The matter will be tabled in the cabinet later," a source said.
Mamata said it would take some time to set up new districts. According to officials, a year or so would be required to complete the process as all new district proposals had to be vetted by the Calcutta High Court.
Earlier, the chief minister had said Sunderbans and Basirhat districts would be set up by dividing North 24 Parganas. She had also said Burdwan (Industrial) district would be carved out of Burdwan district. It was also announced that West Midnapore would be divided to create new Jhargram district.
Speaking over the phone from Calcutta, Harka Bahadur Chhetri said: "This is an achievement for the people of Kalimpong. I am happy and grateful to chief minister Mamata Banerjee for the announcement. It will take from six months to a year for Kalimpong to formally function as a district."
After the district announcement, the Kalimpong MLA has the edge over the Morcha which was also espousing the cause of late. Although the Morcha had formally raised the demand much earlier, it was Harka who pursued the matter vigorously. Mamata's statement that the new hill district was being announced following Harka's demand is an indication that she didn't want anyone else to take credit.
However, the Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: "We welcome the government's decision to create the Kalimpong district and Mirik subdivision. These were our demands."
The district committee, said the upgrade of Kalimpong subdivision to a district was only a small achievement and it would continue with the ongoing indefinite dharna till the GTA addressed other demands like jobs, roads, water supply and electricity.
Yusuf Simmick, the co-ordinator of the committee, told reporters at the end of public celebrations following the district announcement that the dharna would continue as other demands were to be fulfilled by the GTA. "We are grateful to the state government for acceding to the demand for Kalimpong district. However, we are yet to get any assurance from the GTA on our other demands. Till that happens, the dharna will continue."
The other demands include inclusion of 396 mouzas from the Dooars and Terai in the GTA, more job opportunities for youths and land rights for workers of cinchona and tea plantations and forest dwellers.
Earlier, supporters of both the committee and the Morcha celebrated the chief minister's announcement.
The jubilant activists of the committee burst crackers and took out a procession through Damber Chowk, 10 Mile, RC Mintri Road and Ongden Road. The rally culminated in a public meeting attended by about 400 people at Thanadara. The rallyists cried slogans like "Kalimpong district zindabad" and "Dr Harka Bahadur Chhetri zindabad" as shopkeepers along the main business areas of Main Road and DS Gurung half-shut their shutters as a mark of support to the district creation.
Not much later, about 200 Morcha supporters assembled at Damber Chowk, less than 150m from Thanadara, and burst crackers, hailing the formation of the district.(TT)

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