July 2: Promise of development on their lips, two Left Front ministers today reached the Darjeeling hills at a time the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is making conciliatory gestures as part of a damage-control exercise to redeem its image.
Municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya today announced in Darjeeling town a slew of development projects for the region. In Kalimpong, the minister of state for public works, Dasarath Tirkey, said the government was committed to the welfare of the hills.
Bhattacharya, the CPM MLA from Siliguri, was on his first official visit to Darjeeling since 2007, when the Morcha was formed.
Governance has to be established in the hills, Bhattacharya said, giving the green light to a host of projects for which the hills have been agitating for almost a decade.
Recruitment of schoolteachers has not taken place for a long time. The School Service Commission has been lying defunct here. We will form an ad hoc recruitment committee and the process will start within two months, Bhattacharya said.
The minister said the DGHC has been asked to renovate the Mirik lake. He said Rs 3 crore has been sanctioned for the project. (See chart)
Bhattacharya has directed the district administration to simplify the process of issuing certificates to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The flood of promises has raised a few eyebrows in the hills. With the Morcha on the backfoot, the government thinks it can make its presence felt in the hills. It is surprising that the minister announced so many projects together though the same were stonewalled by the state when the demands had been made earlier, said a Darjeeling resident.
The Morcha had faced a public backlash after the daylight murder of Gorkha leader Madan Tamang, for which the hill outfit has been blamed. Bimal Gurungs party has been avoiding confrontation with the administration since the May murder. Bhattacharya denied the allegation that the CPM was trying to take advantage of the Morchas soft stance. My party has hardly any presence here. I have come here for development, he said.
Tirkey today laid the foundation of the bypass that will connect tourist hotspots Seventh Mile and Deolo in Kalimpong.