Darjeeling, March 17: Bimal Gurung, the GTA Sabha chief executive, has been staying away from his Lal Khoti office for the past two months in a purported show of protest against the state government’s perceived interference in the functioning of the hill autonomous body.
Gurung’s absence is also a reflection of the present state of affairs in the GTA where there is lack of proper co-ordination between the elected members and Saumitra Mohan, its principal secretary.
Binay Tamang, an executive Sabha member and the assistant general secretary of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, admitted that Gurung had not been attending office since mid-January.
“It is true that the chief executive has not come to office since mid-January. We think it is his show of dissent against the state government’s interference in the working of the GTA. We are not sure when he will start attending office.”
Lal Khoti also has the offices of GTA deputy chief executive Lt. Col. (retd) Ramesh Allay and three executive members — Roshan Giri, Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa. Allay and the three executive members regularly come to the office.
In February, Gurung had threatened to resign as the chief executive and carry on with the statehood agitation but Morcha sources say there had been not been discussion on the issue of late. “We cannot comment on the resignation issue as it is his call. However, most of the Morcha leaders do not want Gurung to resign and the issue has not come up for much discussion of late,” a Morcha source said.
A Morcha leader had earlier said that Gurung had not been drawing his monthly remuneration of Rs 50,000 right from the inception of the GTA in August 2012 . The claim, however, could not be independently verified.
“The GTA chief executive decided not to attend office when he started getting a feeling that the state government was not properly transferring departments to the GTA and was interfering in the GTA’s working,” a Morcha source said.
According to the GTA Act, the government has to transfer 57 subjects, which are clubbed into 40 departments, to the hill body.
The relationship between Gurung and the state government nose-dived after January 29 when chief minister Mamata Banerjee reprimanded Morcha supporters for raising “we want Gorkhaland” slogans at an official event at Chowrastha.
Administrative sources said although Gurung was not coming to his office, he was signing files that were being sent to him.
“If files are to be signed by the GTA chief executive, officers go and meet him wherever he is in Darjeeling. Even though development work has not come to a standstill, there will definitely be problems in the day-to-day functioning as various issues cannot be immediately discussed and decisions taken in the absence of the chief executive,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
“Work is going on at the GTA and the appointment of 570-odd primary teachers by the GTA in February is a testimony to it,” he added.
Gurung has attended GTA Sabha meetings, which are held at the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan. “The only time he missed a GTA meet was last Friday as he was in Kumani,” said another official.
The GTA chief executive is now camping at Kumani, about 110km from here, and is expected to return to Darjeeling tomorrow. Gurung’s another grouse is about the continuation of Saumitra Mohan as the principal secretary to the GTA. Gurung says Mohan doesn’t take GTA members into confidence and is not senior enough to hold the post.
Mohan is also the Darjeeling magistrate and is discharging his duties as the principal secretary from the collectorate after the Morcha affiliated Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan prevented him from entering the Lal Khoti office from February 7 to March 1.
“I am doing all the work that needs to be done from this (district magistrate’s) office,” Mohan said and added that he would start attending the Lal Khoti office soon.