Aug. 7: Bimal Gurung today named John Barla and five others from the Dooars and Terai as “invitee members” to the GTA and said the Sabha would pass a resolution to include them.
“The invitee members are from the Dooars, Terai and the hills. We will pass a resolution in the Sabha immediately to this effect,” the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief, who is now the GTA chief executive, said.
The GTA Act has no provision for “invitee” members, nor are the Terai and Dooars a part of the GTA area yet, but both Gurung and Barla want the region to be included.
Changing the GTA Act would require an amendment to be moved in the Bengal Assembly and passed by a simple majority.
The other Dooars and Terai leaders who were named along with Barla, the leader of the breakaway group of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, as “invitees” were Saraswati Pradhan and Ashok Lama, Morcha faces from the Dooars, and Pravin Singh, Dina Chhetri and P. Arjun who are party leaders from Terai.
The hill “invitees” named by Gurung were Tshering Tamang, Latika Sinha and Bandana Yonzone from Kalimpong and Sabitri Chhetri from Kurseong.
Gurung’s move could upset the Trinamul Congress and Mamata Banerjee.
The chief minister recently chose three nominees to the GTA Sabha — it has the provision for five such members — in what was seen as her bid to stop the Morcha from giving Barla and other Dooars and Terai leaders those posts.
A Trinamul leader in Siliguri had earlier said that Mamata’s move to announce the three nominees was a hint to Gurung that he must not seek to legitimise the Gorkhaland movement in areas that are not part of the GTA.
The Justice Shyamal Sen committee has recommended that five mouzas in the Dooars and Terai be brought under the GTA, but they have not been included yet.
In Siliguri, state and district Trinamul leaders today said the idea of a resolution to bring “invitees” was not feasible.
“As we had mentioned earlier, both the party and the state government are against the inclusion of any member from outside the GTA territory,” a senior Trinamul leader in Siliguri said.
“Regarding the proposed resolution, let me clarify that it is not possible to increase the number of members in such a manner (by passing a resolution) as the GTA Sabha is governed by the GTA Act, where the number of members has been specified. If the number has to be increased, the act has to be amended in the Assembly with appropriate consent from administrative quarters,” the Trinamul leader said.
“For example, there are fixed posts or portfolios in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation. The civic board cannot change the composition simply through a resolution as the board is governed by municipal laws,” the leader said.
Gautam Deb, the north Bengal development minister, when asked about the matter, refused comment.
In Calcutta today, Trinamul minister Subrata Mukherjee, when told about Gurung’s announcement, said: “A dialogue with Gurung is necessary to settle the matter.”
In Darjeeling, Gurung also announced that the deputy chief executive of the GTA would be Lt. Colonel (retd) Ramesh Allay, who is the chief of the Gorkhaland Personnel.
The Morcha president also named seven executive members from among the 45 elected GTA Sabha members. “We have decided to name the seven GTA executive Sabha members. The remaining seven executive members will be announced soon,” he said.
According to the GTA Act, the chief executive will have to nominate 14 executive members from among the 50 — 45 elected and five nominated. The deputy chief executive must be from among the 14 executive members.
The six executive members apart from Allay are Roshan Giri, the party’s general secretary, Binay Tamang, the assistant secretary, Anit Thapa and Prava Chhetri from Kurseong, Ram Bhujel from Kalimpong and Phoebe Rai from Mirik.
The executive members are likely to be in charge of various departments.
Fifty-nine subjects have been included in the GTA.
Gurung clarified: “We will give departments even to members who are not nominated as executive members.”
He also named Darjeeling MLA Trilok Dewan and the chairman of Kalimpong municipality L.B. Pariyar as “advisors” to the GTA.
There is no provision for advisors in the GTA Act but the three MLAs from the hills and four chairpersons of the hill municipalities are ex-offico members to the GTA Sabha.
Gurung today held a meeting with the administrative officials of the GTA at the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan, where he signed the first file to clear a Rs 1.03-crore project to set up 10-bed hospital at Takling, about 40km from Darjeeling.
During the meeting, he asked the officials to ensure that GTA is a “corruption-free body”.
“We must not repeat the past mistakes. The DGHC was a failure as only one man used to take all decisions. If any of you face any problem you can directly call me up with your grievances,” he told the officials.
After the announcements, Gurung went to Lal Khoti — the administrative headquarters of the now defunct Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, where a puja was done.
He directed the officials to ensure that his office should not be in the same room as that of his bete noire Subash Ghisingh, the former chairman of the DGHC.
That office will be occupied by Saumitra Mohan, principal secretary of the GTA, while the office of the previous DGHC principal secretary will be the office of Gurung.
Giri said: “The chief executive will start attending office from tomorrow.”
Mohan will leave for Calcutta to attend an administrative meeting to be held at the Writers’ on August 10. The meeting is being held to discuss the transfer of departments to the GTA.
Rohini road landslide
The Rohini Road, which connects Siliguri with Kurseong, suffered a landslide at zero point last night.
Saumitra Mohan said: “Our engineers are already at the site and repair work will start soon.”
The road which has not yet been officially opened for vehicles after repair work was extensively used when a landslide had damaged the Pankabari road recently.