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Deadline on GTA subjects

Darjeeling, Nov. 21: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today set a December-end deadline for the state government to transfer various departments to the GTA completely even as the home secretary agreed to convene a meeting of top officials and visit the hills to expedite the process.

The delay in the transfer of departments to the hill autonomous body as stipulated by the GTA Act was one of the issues discussed at a meeting between a six-member Morcha delegation and home secretary Basudeb Banerjee in Calcutta today. The delegation was led by Lt. Col. (retired) R. Allay, the deputy chief executive of the GTA.

Binay Tamang, the assistant secretary of the Morcha who was in the delegation, said: “We raised the issue of delay in the transfer of departments at the meeting. The talks can be termed fruitful as the home secretary has decided to visit Darjeeling on November 26 to hold discussions with the secretaries of the GTA on this issue.”

Going by the GTA Act, 57 subjects are to be transferred to the hill body. Of the 57 subjects, 21 were already with the erstwhile DGHC and were automatically handed over to the GTA when the new body was formed in August this year. Of the 36 remaining subjects, 28 have been entrusted to the GTA so far.

“So, eight departments are yet to be transferred to the GTA. We also have certain reservations about the manner in which certain departments have been transferred to the GTA,” Tamang said over the phone from Calcutta.

A source in the Morcha said there were some flaws in the transfer of certain departments. “For example, the offices of the subdivisional controller of food and supplies have been handed over to the GTA. But the office of the district controller, which is in charge of the entire GTA area, is still based in Siliguri and with the state government. We think an office like that of the district controller who is in charge of the entire GTA area must be created.”

Tamang said he had told the home secretary that the transfer process must be completed by the end of this year. “Banerjee has decided to convene a meeting of the principal secretaries of all departments in Calcutta on November 23 to look into all our grievances. He told us that even after his return from Darjeeling, he would regularly send the principal secretaries to the hills till December 15 to sort out the issue. We have told him that all departments must be transferred by December end.”

The Morcha delegation was informed by Banerjee that the state government had yesterday given its approval for the release of Rs 65 crore which the Centre had sent as part of the Rs 200 crore special annual grant for the GTA. “Apart from the Rs 65 crore grant, the state government has also given its nod for the release of funds to the tune of Rs 28.6 crore which is being given to the GTA by the Centre as a special assistance,” said Tamang, who is also an executive member of the GTA.

The other issue raised by the Morcha at the meeting was regarding the withdrawal of cases registered against Morcha supporters during the course of the statehood agitation. “The home secretary said he would immediately call a meeting of inspector general (north Bengal), and district magistrates and superintendents of police of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri to sort out the matter,” said Tamang.

A senior official in the home department said in Calcutta that the transfer process was 75 per cent complete. “The home secretary will try to ensure that the remaining 25 per cent is wrapped up as soon as possible,” he added.