Machendra Subba addresses a rally of ad-hoc employees in Kalimpong on Friday. (Chinlop Fudong Lepcha)
Siliguri/Kalimpong, June 6: Bengal home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti today reiterated that the government would not support the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland but instead work for increased autonomy of the hill council in Darjeeling.
The home secretary arrived in Siliguri this morning on his way to Kalimpong to attend a couple of review meetings. “The chief minister had specifically stated the state government’s stand in this regard. There is nothing new to add,” he said.
At a recent meeting with leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha who are spearheading the revival of the Gorkhaland demand in the hills, the chief minister had asked them to focus on greater autonomy for the DGHC instead.
Chakrabarti said issues like regularisation of DGHC contractual employees and better utilisation of council funds would be discussed at the review meetings. He added that he was not scheduled to meet the Morcha leaders during his trip.
DGHC contractual workers later gheraoed Chakrabarti at Kalimpong.
About the Morcha’s demand for permission to hold a public meeting in Naxalbari in the Terai, the home secretary said: “Officials here had proposed that the party organise the meeting at Nepania Bustee close to Naxalbari, but they refused.”
Currently, 48 Morcha supporters are on an indefinite fast in four locations over the demand. Chakrabarti said the government was “keeping a close watch on them”.
After the review meeting in Kalimpong, the DGHC administration said it would take action against hill contractors who have received full payments, but not completed their work. This has been one of the main demands of the Morcha.
DGHC administrator B.L. Meena said the council has also decided to take up development work in the hills on a priority basis. “We have asked the secretaries and engineers to complete the ongoing works and the money will be released (to them).”
Meena said the 100 days’ work scheme would continue in the hills despite the recent mass resignation of gram panchayat pradhans at the behest of the Morcha. “The Darjeeling district magistrate has been asked to appoint executive officers, who will do the work of the pradhans,” he added.