Darjeeling, Aug. 4: The time has come to put “quarrels” behind and work together for the development of Darjeeling. This was the message Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and chief minister Mamata Banerjee gave to the people of the hills at the swearing-in of the members of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) today.
Mamata and Shinde assured the people of the region that funds would not be a problem when it came to development. At the oath-taking ceremony at Chowrasta this morning, the Centre and the state promised “every assistance” to the GTA.
“Whatever you want to ask from us, ask. Don’t quarrel, there mustn’t be any quarrels,” Mamata told the gathering. “It’s a historic day. But it is just the beginning. We have to see it through till the end.”
Promising “monetary assistance” to the GTA, Mamata said: “The state government has already released Rs 84 crore and Rs 23 crore (in two tranches) for the hills. The Centre and the state will offer monetary assistance for electricity, roads, water supply, hospitals, education and other things. Funds will never be a problem as along as you work for the people and work well.”
She suggested that the Bimal Gurung-led GTA set up small-scale industries so that more jobs can be created.
Shinde spoke on the same lines. “We have given you the GTA. We, the Centre and the state, will stand by you for your needs. But it’s your responsibility now. You must work within its framework and bring development, in the form of water, roads, poverty alleviation, uplift of the backward, tribals and the marginalised.”
The home minister lauded Morcha chief Gurung for his “vision” of development.
Gurung, who was sworn in as the chief executive of the GTA, looked ready to shed his party’s image of “agitators”.
“Till yesterday, we were agitators. But from today, we will work according to the policies and principles of the Centre and the state. We will take care of the interests and aspirations of the hill people. For development, we will need the blessings and support of both the Centre and the state,” he said.
Shinde said Gurung had requested him to expedite the process of induction of hill youths in the police and paramilitary. The minister said he would try to relax the height and chest-size requirements for these jobs for people of the region.
He requested Gurung and other GTA members to generate employment for residents. “You must bring them facilities and opportunities.”
Shinde said he would tell UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh how “happy” the people of the hills were after the formation of the GTA and what a “great job” the chief minister had done after assuming charge last year.
Mamata promised Darjeeling a university, three industrial training institutes, two polytechnic colleges and a Sainik School. She said the proposed Nepali academy at Mongpu would come up soon.
Mamata also promised that “special attention” would be given to road infrastructure, especially the NH55, which links Siliguri with Darjeeling.