Posters at the Lal Khoti gate on Thursday tell the principal secretary in Darjeeling to “go back”. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Feb. 7: Saumitra Mohan, the GTA principal secretary, was today stopped from entering his office by members of a Morcha-affiliated union, a day after the authority passed a resolution not to consult him on any GTA matter.
The ostensible reason for blocking Mohan’s entry to Lal Khoti, the GTA headquarters, was the non-issuance of some allowances to GTA employees, according to the Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan, which looks after the interests of the employees working with the GTA.
Mohan, the seniormost state government official in the GTA, is also the Darjeeling district magistrate.
Gurung had expressed his unhappiness about Mohan earlier. On January 29, hours after Mamata Banerjee sparked a protest at Chowrastha by commenting on the sensitive statehood issue, Gurung blamed Mohan for not keeping GTA members informed about the chief minister’s trip and hinted that the government was meddling in the hill authority’s affairs.
“Since I am the head of the GTA, the principal secretary of the GTA should have informed me. He did not consult us on distribution of pattas (by the chief minister), on holding the (Uttarbanga) Utsav in Darjeeling, even though he is the president of the Utsav committee, and he also went about inviting GTA members by sending text messages as if it is a GTA function without even informing me,” Gurung said.
After returning to Calcutta from her north Bengal tour, Mamata announced the formation of a Lepcha development board under the state government. To protest this decision, the Morcha announced a dawn-to-dusk strike in the hills this Saturday.
The move to block Mohan’s entry to his office is the latest in the series of events after Mamata touched a raw nerve here when she said “Darjeeling is a part of us”.
Till a few days back, the chief minister had been harping on how the “hills are smiling”.
The Morcha leadership did not want to be seen as associated with today’s incident but the blockade is another indicator that the party is now bracing to take on the government.
Machendra Subba, president of the Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan, said today: “On October 9, 2012, the GTA Sabha had passed a number of resolutions keeping in mind the welfare of GTA employees. The Sabha had resolved that the principal secretary would take up the resolutions with the state government. However, apart from getting the winter allowance, no other benefits allowed by the Sabha has been given to us because the principal secretary has not pursued the matter with the state government.”
According to Subba, the GTA employees got Rs 2,500 as winter allowance — an annual benefit — but then there has been no word on the hill compensatory allowance, medical allowance, employees’ provident fund and grant of jobs under the died-in-harness cases.
Mohan today said: “The point is that today I was not allowed to enter the office and I have filed an FIR against those who have obstructed me.” The official, who had gone to Lal Khoti around 10am, left for the district collectorate.
Asked about the reason why he had not followed up on the allowances, Mohan said: “These are routine issues. The file have not yet been put before me by the concerned department.”
The department concerned would mean the personnel department of the GTA. When Don Bosco Lepcha, the executive director of the department, was asked about the files, he said: “I am not in office. I do not know anything about it.” Lepcha is the person Gurung named yesterday as Mohan’s substitute in case consultations are needed on any GTA matter.
The CPRM and the ABGL on Thursday stayed away from the all-party meeting called by the Morcha at the Darjeeling Gymkhana Club.
The BJP, Congress (Hills) and the Gorkha Rashtriya Congress were the only parties to attend the meeting.
Gurung had called the all-party meeting to strengthen the movement and said each party should bring 500 supporters who can be sent to Delhi to agitate for statehood.
Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the Morcha spokesman, said: “All the participating parties have agreed to fight for Gorkhaland.... Each of the parties would send two delegates to Delhi to meet Union home secretary R.K. Singh to espouse the cause of Gorkhaland.”