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GTA funds plea at Delhi meet

Darjeeling, Dec. 17: The Union home ministry has called a meeting with the state government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in New Delhi on December 26 to review the functioning of the GTA.

The Morcha is expected to seek more funds from the Centre for the GTA, as well as absorption of “Gorkha youths” into the police and paramilitary, and tribal status for Gorkhas, among others things.

The state government will be represented by the home secretary, while a joint secretary in the Union home ministry will attend the meeting on behalf of the Centre. The Morcha has delegated general secretary Roshan Giri and Darjeeling MLA Trilok Dewan to represent the party at the meeting.

A committee had been formed last year to review the implementation of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signed by the Centre, state and the Morcha for the creation of the GTA. This will be the first meeting of the review committee after the formation of the GTA.

Asked about the agenda of the meeting, Giri told The Telegraph: “All aspects of the GTA will be reviewed in the meeting.”

Sources said the Morcha was likely to demand more funds to the GTA, apart from Rs 200 crore that the Centre had promised to provide to the hill body annually for three consecutive years.

A GTA source said: “The GTA is of the opinion that the Centre needs to allot more funds as the hill body has already drawn up various projects which entail an expenditure of Rs 200 crore. The Centre is likely to be asked to explore various avenues like centrally assistance schemes through which more funds can be provided to the GTA.”

The Morcha might also raise issues which have been agreed upon in the MoA, but not addressed yet.

According to a Morcha leader, the issue of giving preferences to “Gorkha youths” in appointments in police, army and paramilitary forces will definitely be raised in the meeting. “We have heard that the Centre is looking at recruiting a large number of youths into the paramilitary forces. We are keeping a close eye on this development,” he said.

A clause in the MoA reads: “The GTA youth would be considered for recruitment in the police, army and paramilitary forces subject to their suitability for such appointment.”

Observers believe the term “GTA youth” is a euphemism for the Gorkhaland Personnel.

The December 26 review meeting is being considered significant in other ways also as the GTA Sabha has passed a resolution demanding tribal status to all Gorkhas, except those belonging to Scheduled Castes. “This, too, could be discussed in the meeting as the agreement has said the state and the Centre would forward the applications of the communities to the authorities concerned for granting the status. Till now, no concrete steps have been taken in this direction,” said a source.

The delay in the transfer of different departments from the state government to the GTA might also be taken up at the meeting even though the party had said it was willing to wait till December 30 for the process to be completed.

Bengal home secretary Basudeb Banerjee had recently said the 57 subjects mentioned in Section 26 of the GTA Act had been clubbed into 40 departments. “Out of the 40 departments, notifications for the transfer of 27 departments to the GTA have already been issued. We have asked the GTA to set up offices of three other departments while the transfer of the remaining 10 departments will take place soon.”

The three departments whose offices have to be set up by the GTA are sports, statistic programme implementation and town and country planning.