Gautam Deb at Circuit House in Kalimpong on Sunday. Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha
Kalimpong, Aug. 18: Minister Gautam Deb today said the Lepcha development board would start function from the Kalimpong subdivisional office for now, the announcement timed a day before the a fresh spell of agitation in the hills.
Deb was in Kalimpong today to make the announcement.
This is not the first time the Trinamul government has made announcements on the board just when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was about to begin agitations.
After Morcha supporters in Darjeeling protested chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s assertion of a unified Bengal, she announced the formation of the Lepcha board.
The Morcha was against the formation of a board outside the purview of the GTA, but the state government brought the Lepcha board under the state backward classes department.
A day before the Morcha began its renewed agitation for statehood, a state government team met Lepcha leaders on August 2 to finalise the names of the nominated members and complete formalities to put the board in place.
On August 5, in the middle of the Gorkhaland agitation, the state came out with a notification that named the seven community nominated members to the Lepcha development board.
Deb’s announcement today falls in this pattern of government action.
Without mentioning when the board would start functioning from the temporary office, Deb said a proposal had already been sent to the state government with regard to the programmes the board planned to take up.
“The board has sent a budgetary proposal (required to implement its programmes),” he said.
According to a notification issued on August 5, the government nominated seven members of the Lepcha community to the 11-member executive body of the board, registered under the West Bengal Societies Registration Act, 1961.
The remaining four members, including the member secretary, are government officials. G Namchu, the former managing director of the West Bengal Dairy Development Board, has been appointed the member secretary.
Lyansang Tamsang, president of the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association, has been nominated the chairperson and Yusuf Simmick the vice-chairperson.
The Lepchas make up about 20 per cent of the hill population. Most of them reside in Kalimpong subdivision.
“This is not the first time that Mamata Banerjee has used the Lepcha issue to embarrass the Morcha. The formation of the board in February came within days of the Morcha raising the Gorkhaland ante following her (Mamata’s) remarks in Darjeeling that the hills were an integral part of Bengal,” said a source in the hills.
Lepcha leaders, conscious that the formation of the board has not gone down well with the Morcha, have preferred to keep a low profile.
The members of the community had gone on a fast-unto-death in February following a bandh called by the Morcha against the setting up of the board.
Neither Tamsang nor Simmick were part of a delegation of the Lepcha Youth Organisation which met Deb here to thank the government for the formation of the board.
A Lepcha delegate said: “The members of our youth organisation have come to meet the minister to convey their thanks. Beyond that I know nothing.”
Others refused to talk to the media.