The locked chamber of the SDO of Darjeeling. (Suman Tamang)
Darjeeling, April 7: The offices of the SDO and the BDO in the hills shut down once again today following a diktat issued by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
The closure of the offices comes two days before Morcha president Bimal Gurung meets Union home minister P. Chidambaram in Delhi. According to party sources, the shutdown is meant to step up pressure on the central government to grant more concessions on territorial jurisdiction of the interim setup that is sought to be put in place.
The closure of these offices will affect the census being conducted by the central government where the infrastructure support is being provided by the state.
Officially, Amar Lama, a central committee member of the Morcha, said the party had called for a closure of the offices because “a lot of taxes are being levied on our people”.
Also, Lama said: “The allocation of 100 days’ work also has not progressed smoothly.”
However, sources said the shutdown was part of the tactics to build up pressure on both the state and central governments to yield ground on the territorial jurisdiction of the interim set-up for which tripartite talks have been taking place.
The Morcha has been insisting the inclusion of Siliguri and the Gorkha dominated areas of the Dooars in the interim set-up, while both the Centre and the state are against it.
Shut down of government offices is a ploy the Morcha had repeatedly employed in the past two years to press for their demands.
Starting from November 7, 2008, the hill outfit has called for closure of government offices at least four times in the past two years.
Every closure has stretched for months with the party providing a relaxation at the end of every month for the disbursement of salaries for the government employees, most of them hill residents.
The closures had definitely hampered official work which had never come to a total halt largely because of the district administration’s determination to make its presence felt despite the state government’s non-confrontation policy.
In 2007, the Morcha stopped the movement of government vehicles in the hills, but the administration outsmarted the party by using private cars to ferry its officials. It was much later that the hill outfit realised that government officers were moving in hired vehicles but by that time the Morcha had already changed its agitation tack.