Bimal Gurung pays homage to “martyrs” at Chowrasta in Darjeeling on Wednesday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, July 27: Bimal Gurung today asked the people of the hills to start paying their taxes, and electricity and phone bills from August 1, marking an end to the three-year-old non-cooperation movement of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha against the state government. He also promised to “bulldoze his way through with development projects”.
But the Morcha chief made it clear the hills should not pay the outstanding electricity or any other tax dues incurred during the agitation phase.
Gurung also revealed his plans for the development of the Darjeeling hills under the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, indicating that funds for the projects would not be a problem.
The Morcha leader, while addressing the “martyr’s day” programme at the Darjeeling Gymkhana Club today, said: “I appeal to people to start paying all forms of taxes like electricity and telephone bills and land and motor vehicle taxes from August 1. Do not pay taxes that you have incurred during the agitation period as we will work out a solution with the government.”
The hills had stopped paying their taxes since April 1, 2008, after the Morcha’s call for non-co-operation against the state government for Gorkhaland. Sources said the outstanding electricity dues from the three hill sub-divisions had touched the Rs 72 crore mark.
Other taxes, sources said, is also likely to touch the Rs 10 crore mark.
Gurung said “he could not even wait for six months” to start development work in the hills. “I do not have time. Until the GTA is formed, I have asked the state government to provide funds to the present DGHC so that we can start development projects. We have already started conducting surveys and work will start soon,” said Gurung.
The hill leader said his immediate priority would be to ease traffic congestion in town and focus on higher education. “We will have a centralised meat market on the first floor of the motor stand while the ground floor will be used for parking. The new motor stand will be made three-storied. We will make parking facilities at Kakjhora, Red Cross area and near the Darjeeling Government College. We are looking at making indoor stadiums and sports academies in areas near Mount Hermon and the Darjeeling Government High School ground. The food supplies offices, police offices and quarters will also be dismantled to create more parking spaces and business establishments,” said Gurung.
The Morcha leader said “he would bulldoze” through with his projects and would ensure that contractors worked properly. “I will have to bulldoze through with the projects. In some places we have to dismantle properties too and people must agree to it. We will relocate them,” said Gurung.
The Morcha chief said experts from outside the town would be brought in for constructions. “Locals contractors who do not work properly will be immediately blacklisted,” said Gurung.
The Morcha leader said he had asked for Rs 50 lakh each from the Darjeeling MPLAD (MP’s local area development) fund for Indra Bahadur Rai College in Gorubathan and for an yet-to-be named college in Pedong.
“I laid the foundation of the Gorubathan college yesterday and I have already donated Rs 20 lakh from contributions received from my party workers. The rest of the money will come from the MPLAD funds,” said Gurung.
The Morcha president also said the DGHC should immediately release Rs 3 crore each for Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong subdivisions. “Beautifying Mirik lake is also a priority. We need Rs 3 crore for each of the three hill subdivisions to start at least one major projects in all these places,” said Gurung.