Siliguri, Sept. 16: Adhir Chowdhury today said the Centre and the Congress wanted immediate tripartite talks with the state and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to resolve the crisis in Darjeeling.
Chowdhury, the minister of state for railways, said: “We firmly believe that talks should be held to resolve the Darjeeling issue. Morcha leaders have met our leaders and ministers and have been told to withdraw the strike and restore normalcy to pave the way for talks.”
He said: “As the Centre is a party to the tripartite agreement, it surely has a role to play. However, as Darjeeling is located within a state and is not a centrally-governed territory, it is the state government which will have to decide on the tripartite talks. The Centre never wants to impose anything on the state but definitely wants dialogue to be held.”
The Congress MP criticised chief minister Mamata Banerjee for the way she handled the hill crisis.
“The Congress wants an early solution and would always insist that the option for talks remains open. We must not act irresponsibly and close all options for dialogue. Under such circumstances outside forces might incite the movement. The entire nation is bothered about the ethnic conflicts and insurgency problems in the Northeast. Darjeeling is equally important in terms of national security. We will never want any such conflict to raise its ugly head in the Darjeeling hills,” he said.
“The chief minister is delivering lengthy speeches in the hills and should consider these factors with equal importance,” the Union minister of state said.
“We should keep in mind that those who are taking part in the movement in the hills are Indian citizens and residents of this country and state.”
Asked about the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) which has earned the Unesco heritage tag, Adhir said the DHR was facing trouble after landslides along NH55.
“We have received letters from Unesco, mentioning that as the DHR has become non-operational in some stretches, they are deeply concerned. It has also been mentioned to us that if we do not resume service on the entire stretch, they would put it in the Unesco Endangered Heritage list,” the minister said.
“The state is completely responsible for this situation. As the DHR track is on the highway that has suffered due to landslides, we had, through talks with C.P. Joshi, (former Union minister of road transport and highways) allocated Rs 83 crore to the state with the request to repair the highway (NH55) so that the toy train service can be restored. The state has not taken up repair work so far,” Adhir said.