GTA, state govt signal joint effort for hill development

Darjeeling hills
Darjeeling: Darjeeling district officials attended a meeting convened by the GTA on Friday, the first time in decades that parallel administrative wings in the hills sat across a table to discuss development.
Earlier, with the formation of the autonomous Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in 1988 on the one hand and the state government administering through the district magistrate on the other hand, there were innumerable instance of clashes in governance and policies, leading to allegations of interference and administrative overreach between the two set-ups.
Friday was different, with officials directly under the control of the district administration, including the sub-divisional officers and block development officials, attending the GTA's review meeting.
Binay Tamang, the chairperson of the GTA's board, said: "We held an administrative review meeting at Lal Khoti which was attended by the DM, SDO and the BDO, apart from officials of the GTA. We discussed on various issues like 100-day work (NREGA), housing plans, old-age pensions and other issues like bringing about financial discipline to check corruption."
Asked about the coming together of the two wings, Tamang said: "This is a very good signal for all of us." Subrata Biswas, principal secretary of the GTA, echoed the view. "This (meeting) was to send the message that the district magistrate's office and the GTA are coming together, they are co-operating with each other and participating in the development process."

Earlier, even when the GTA ran the affairs, there were frequent allegations by those administrating the hill body of non-cooperation from the district administration.
"For example, officials of the land and land reforms department would report to the district magistrate and not the GTA and the hill body would find it difficult to work at times. Also, the BDOs would report to the DM and not the GTA and this led to many administrative problems," said a retired bureaucrat.
On Thursday, the GTA issued an order to the eight BDOs in the hills apprising them about the formation of a block-level development committee. "The BDOs will be the convener of the committee and the chairman and vice-chairman of these committees will be nominated by the GTA's board of administrators," said Tamang.
The committees will have 11 members, including the block medical officer, disaster management officer. They will have to hold fortnightly meetings. They will oversee implementation of projects.
"So far the BDOs were not under the GTA but through this order, the GTA can now take up a proactive role. Many administrative lacunae can be easily sorted out," said an observer.

The Telegraph

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