Calcutta/Kalimpong, July 8: The state government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today finalised the draft agreement for a new administrative set-up for the Darjeeling hills, which will have the authority to frame rules and renew lease of tea gardens but no taxation or legislative powers.
The draft that has been sent to the Union home ministry will be signed at a tripartite meeting in the next seven days.
The deal is sealed. The matter stands settled. All major differences have been put to rest. All that remains now is the formality of signing the memorandum in the next week or so, said Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri after a three-hour meeting with chief secretary Samar Ghosh and home secretary G.D. Gautama at Writers Buildings this afternoon.
The Morcha delegation, which also included senior leader L.B. Pariyar, met chief minister Mamata Banerjee for nearly an hour after the official meeting. The new authority will be called the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and will replace the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. The name was decided in todays meeting.
Mamata said the agreement reached between the Morcha and the state government last month remains. Whatever was settled earlier stands. The name was decided today. Whats in a name? she asked.
The draft was sent to the Union home secretary today.
We have requested that the tripartite meeting be held as soon as possible, preferably on July 12 or 13. We have also intimated the Centre that the chief minister would like the tripartite meeting to take place in Darjeeling, said Ghosh.
On the key issue of territory and other subjects, the consensus reached at the previous meeting on June 7 stood. The demand to bring parts of the Dooars, the Terai and Siliguri under the jurisdiction of the hill set-up will be examined by a nine-member committee. The panel will have one representative of the Centre, four of the state government and four of the Morcha.
The committee will examine the geopolitical situation and regional issues before submitting a set of recommendations in the next six months. Based on these recommendations, the territorial reach of the GTA will be decided.
Till then, chief secretary Ghosh said the territorial jurisdiction of the GTA would be same as that of the DGHC.
The committee will be constituted immediately after signing the tripartite agreement, said Ghosh.
He said the GTA would have no legislative or financial powers. The GTA will not have any legislation and taxation power, but it will be able to frame rules and renew the land lease of the tea gardens, said Ghosh. This means that the tauzi department that deals with tea garden land will be handed over to the new authority, a long-standing demand of the Morcha.
The Morcha had wanted the GTA to have the authority to recruit staff. It will be able to recruit staff in groups B, C and D, but not Group A. For the recruitment process, a board will need to be set up. The recruitments have to be sanctioned by the governor, he added.
Ghosh also said the Morcha demand for separate hill offices for government agencies like the college service commission, school service commission, group insurance, provident fund and pension would be also met in the agreement.
Morcha president Bimal Gurung, who was at an interactive session in Kalimpong with representatives of political parties and citizens at the Town Hall, said the inking of the agreement would not signal an end to the movement for Gorkhaland.
If Telangana comes up, I will immediately raise our (statehood) issue. Others can run the new arrangement, I will run the agitation, he said.
During the meeting, Gurung received a call from Mamata. After attending to it, the Morcha president said: It was the chief minister. She referred to my birthday on July 17 and said that she would be sending me sweets. I told her that she need not do that, I will send her sweets instead. She told me that the draft had been sent to the Centre.