Mamata being welcomed at the Bagdogra airport on Monday. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Siliguri, Sept. 2: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today said the doors for talks to resolve the hill crisis must be opened for the sake of development in Darjeeling.
“The doors (for talks) have been closed for political reasons (by the hill leadership). These doors must be opened for the sake of the common people. It is the common people who are the sufferers and so the attitude and the politics (of the hill leadership) must change,” Mamata said on arrival at Bagdogra airport en route to Kalimpong this afternoon.
The chief minister, who was welcomed by representatives of the Lepcha community which is felicitating her for forming the Lepcha development board, said the unending strike in the hills was affecting development.
“Due to the ongoing strike which has been going on for over a month, development work in the hills has come to a standstill. There is still a corpus of Rs 300 crore which is lying unutilised. This was meant for development in the hills,” Mamata said.
The chief minister then stressed that politics must be separated from development.
“Earlier, there was Ghisingh (leading an agitation) and now, it (an agitation) has started again. If there is a problem in the hills after every six months, how can we carry out development work?” Mamata said.
She said she was in favour of democratic movements as long as they did not come in the way of progress. “We love democratic movements and respect democracy. There can be politics and even political movements. But the movement should not come in the way of development in the region. I want peace in the hills and want people across north Bengal to stay well,” she said.
The chief minister also expressed disappointment over the inconvenience faced by hill people because of the ongoing indefinite strike in the Darjeeling hills.
“I am shocked to learn that children are not being able to go to school. Poor people are not getting rations, they cannot go to hospitals and cars carrying them to hospitals are being torched,” she said. “It is wrong to let the common people suffer, while some people have enough food stocked in their homes and are sending their children to study abroad.”
According to the chief minister, the state would take up the task of electing the chief executive of the GTA Sabha if the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha did not elect any of its members for the post lying vacant since Bimal Gurung’s resignation in July.
“The GTA was formed by the state, the Centre and the local party (Morcha). The GTA was formed and elections were held. They (Morcha) had provided us with the name of a nominated member for the post (of chief executive). But we want that an elected representative should hold the post. The meeting (of the GTA) has been called (on September 4). If they do not elect anybody, the state will sit and decide on the issue,” Mamata said.
She also elaborated on the development work taken up in hills during her tenure.
“We have taken up elaborate development work in places such as Lamahata and Takdah. Projects are also in progress at Sandakphu, Kalimpong and Gajoldoba,” Mamata said. “We have built polytechnics, set up colleges, hospitals, university and other social infrastructure in the hills.”
“I would appeal to all my brothers and sisters of Darjeeling to uphold peace. Don’t let others persuade you to set the hills on fire,” she said.