Darjeeling, Oct. 21: The GTA executive Sabha has decided to issue an order seeking release of full salaries of over 8,000 employees as soon as the hill body empowers the deputy chief executive to function as the chief tomorrow.
State government sources said in Calcutta the GTA did not have the authority to issue an order for the payment of the deducted salaries as such powers were not granted to the body.
Jyoti Kumar Rai, an executive member of the GTA, said: “It has been decided that a GTA Sabha meeting will be convened at the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan at noon tomorrow. Soon after the GTA Sabha empowers the deputy chief executive to function as the chief executive… the deputy chief will issue an order directing the GTA to release the salaries that were deducted from the GTA employees.”
Most GTA employees have received salaries for only eight days for the month of August.
The salaries were slashed following a state government order that those who did not report for work during the statehood agitation strikes would not be paid for the days they were absent.
The first decision taken by the hill body today after months of stalemate is one that goes against a government order.
The decision has also come a day before chief minister Mamata Banerjee sets out on her tour of the Darjeeling hills.
Sources in the Morcha said the chief minister would meet the three hill MLAs at 2pm on October 25.
When Mukul Roy, the all-India general secretary of the Trinamul, was asked about the meeting, he said in Calcutta: “The details of the chief minister’s meeting with the three hill MLAs has not yet been finalised. But, yes, she will be meeting them.”
Morcha leaders argued today that since the GTA is an autonomous body with financial and administrative powers, it can issue an order as the state had not consulted the hill body before issuing the directive.
But a senior official in Calcutta said this evening: “They (the GTA) cannot overrule the finance department in such matters. This is probably some sort of wish-fulfilment exercise on their part, but they simply do not have the authority. The order cannot be implemented. They (the Morcha) did wish to possess such powers, but they were never granted to the body.”
The decision to bestow on Ramesh Allay, the deputy chief executive of the GTA Sabha, the powers of the GTA chief was taken keeping in mind a GTA act section that could allow the state government to place a person of its choice if the Sabha stays headless after October 27.
On September 27, Morcha leader and GTA Sabha member Binay Tamang was made the hill council chief. But Tamang was in jail already and could not take oath, which he has to do within a month of his election.
Tamang is accused in several cases, including one of arson. It is unlikely that he would be released by October 27, when one month lapses after his election.
Sources in the government said if Tamang does not take oath by October 27, the state government can supersede the GTA on the ground of incompetence and appoint any member as the chief executive for six months or until a new chief enters office.
Tamang’s election became necessary as Bimal Gurung, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief, resigned from the post on July 30. Since then the hill council has not functioned.
Trinamul leaders from the hills on Monday assured their supporters that even if the ties between the state government and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration improve, the party would continue to carry on with its political activities and would ensure that no Trinamul supporter is victimised by the Morcha.
Binny Sharma, the spokesman of the hill Trinamul said: “Some people are spreading false propaganda among the hill people that those who are against a certain party will be victimised through the GTA. The ties between the state government and the GTA can improve and the Morcha leaders might meet the chief minister but our party leader, Mamata Banerjee has given us word that there will be administration and political activities will be kept separately.”