|Saumitra Mohan and Bimal Gurung
Darjeeling, March 1: A Gorkha Janmukti Morcha employees’ front that had blocked out GTA principal secretary Saumitra Mohan from his office since early this month lifted the gherao today.
Although the Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan (JAKS) cited the examination season as the reason for removing its men and flags from the Lal Khoti gate, sources in the hills, who did not want to be named, said the JAKS had realised the futility of the protest because Mohan, who is also the Darjeeling district magistrate, was signing files sitting in the district collectorate.
“Saumitra Mohan, the principal secretary of the GTA has been functioning from his office at the district collectorate and has been signing all files that are being sent to him. In fact, he signed the workers’ salary cheque yesterday and the Morcha probably does not want to stretch the animosity further,” a source said.
Given the principal secretary’s powers, the GTA officials have been left with little option but to send files to him for approval.
“The elected representatives might not be consulting him on policy decisions, but they have not been able to keep him at bay on routine issues like the signing of cheques,” said the source.
The source added: “It was evident that their (the JAKS) agitation was not yielding much and this must have had a huge bearing over the decision.”
The GTA Sabha had passed a resolution not consult Mohan on any matter relating to the hill council.
Morcha chief Bimal Gurung was miffed that Mohan did not inform GTA Sabha members properly about chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s last visit.
The gherao of Lal Khoti, the GTA headquarters, started a day after on February 7.
But within days of the gherao, Mohan rescinded his order that authorised the GTA executive director (finance) to sign cheques in his absence. This meant that without sending files to him, the GTA Sabha would not be able to move any work forward.
Today, Machendra Subba, president of JAKS, said: “Since the board examinations are going on, we have decided to postpone our agitation. We have not fixed a date for resumption of our agitation.”
The JAKS, a union looking after the interests of the GTA employees, had prevented Mohan from entering his office alleging that he had not taken up various employees’ related issues with the state government.
Mohan today said: “I have not gone to the Lal Khoti office since that day (February 7). I am working from the district collectorate’s office and routine files are being sent to me here.”
Asked if he would be going to his Lal Khoti office on Monday, Mohan said: “I should be informed that there will be no untoward incident at Lal Khoti but I have received no information as yet.”
Subba said the JAKS would submit a deputation to Gurung, the chief executive of the GTA Sabha, and the state government through the district magistrate demanding that a senior IAS officer be posted as the principal secretary.