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Cabinet status after silent protest

Darjeeling, Nov. 27: The state government has elevated the rank of Bimal Gurung to cabinet minister after a silent protest by the chief executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).

The government had initially proposed the status of minister of state with independent charge but changed its mind after Gurung kept away from office and dissuaded his pilot car and security personnel from trailing him.

Home secretary Basudeb Banerjee yesterday announced in Darjeeling the cabinet minister status for the GTA chief executive. The government has also said it will speed up the transfer of 57 subjects to the autonomous body.

Binay Tamang, an executive member of the GTA, said Gurung had instructed the pilot car and his seven security personnel to stay put at the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s office at Singamari and refrain from following him.

“Gurung had been moving without a pilot car and security personnel for the past one week. He didn’t make an issue out of it but simply asked his security guards not to trail him in the pilot car. This was done as he was disenchanted with the delay in the transfer of departments to the GTA. He also felt that the state government had not provided security to the deputy chairman of the GTA Sabha and executive Sabha members,” he said.

Tamang said Gurung had not been attending his office at Lal Khoti for almost a fortnight. “Files that needed to be signed were sent to the chief executive wherever he was at that moment. He was mostly spending time at the party office at Singamari,” Tamang said.

Today, Gurung used the pilot car and took the seven security personnel with him. The guards accompanied Gurung to Belatar, about 28km from Darjeeling, where he inaugurated a tourism project. The security personnel were not with Gurung yesterday when he had gone to Takdah to lay the foundation of a Rs 40-crore engineering college.

On the security cover for the deputy chairman and the executive members, the home secretary is believed to have assured a meeting yesterday that he would look into the issue.

Sources at Writers’ Buildings said Gurung’s “non-co-operation movement” had prompted the government to act swiftly. “Gurung launched a non-cooperation movement against the state government by avoiding the security. So, the government had to mollify him by elevating his rank and speeding up the transfer of subjects to the GTA,” said a source at Writers’.

Banerjee said yesterday that the 57 subjects mentioned in Section 26 of the GTA Act had been clubbed into 40 departments. “Of the 40 departments, notifications for the transfer of 27 have already been issued. We have asked the GTA to set up offices of three other departments (in the hills), while the transfer of the remaining 10 departments will take place soon,” he added.

The three departments whose offices have to be set up by the GTA are sports, statistics and programme implementation and town and country planning. The three departments have offices only in Calcutta at present.