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GTA rejects secy list

Darjeeling, July 3: The GTA Sabha has rejected a panel of two IAS officers sent by the state government for the choice of principal secretary of the hill body and demanded more choices.

This is the second time that the government and the GTA are locking horns over the appointment of the principal secretary of the GTA.

Earlier, after the government had proposed only one name for the post, the GTA approached the Calcutta High Court.

On the court’s directive, the government forwarded a list of four IAS officers to the GTA, following which R.D. Meena was selected as the principal secretary.

Meena retired on May 30 and the government directed Manoj Agarwal, secretary of the north Bengal development department, to take charge as the principal secretary of the hill body temporarily.

“On June 19, the government forwarded the names of Barun Roy and Gautam Ghosh to the GTA asking the hill body to choose one of the officers as the principal secretary. The GTA, however, wrote back to the government on June 26, seeking more names,” a source in the GTA told The Telegraph.

Roy is currently officer on special duty in the chief electoral officer’s office in Calcutta, while Ghosh is posted as the director general (Ayush), health department.

Roshan Giri, executive GTA Sabha member, admitted that the GTA wanted more choices.

“We want at least three names. A panel consisting of only two names is not really a panel,” said Giri.

Giri, however, said the GTA was hopeful that a fresh panel would be sent soon and it didn’t have to go in for a confrontation with the government.

Officials in the home department said that they wouldn’t “blink so easily” if the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha rejected the list of officers.

“The Morcha will try to keep trouble alive in the hills to prove before the Centre that the state is not co-operating with the GTA. But despite that if they force, we can add one more name to the list and send it back to them,” the official added.

Senior officials said the government was not in a hurry to appoint a full time principal secretary of the GTA.

“We have given additional charge of GTA to the north Bengal development affairs secretary. This apart, we have done our bit by sending the list. So, we are not in a hurry. Let’s see who blinks first in the battle of nerves,” the official added.

Although Section 13 of the GTA agreement states that a “panel” has to be submitted by the government to the hills body to select the principal secretary, the GTA Act doesn’t have the word “panel”.

Chapter IV, Section 51 of the GTA Act states: “There shall be a principal secretary to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (herein referred to as the Principal Secretary), not below the rank of secretary or Commissioner to the State Government, appointed by the State government in consultation with the Chief Executive.”

The GTA contended that “consultation” meant “panel”. The GTA agreement or the Act is silent on the number of names in the panel.

The high court ordered last year that a panel of three IAS officers be sent to the GTA to choose the principal secretary.

The GTA moved the court after the government asked A.K.Singh to take additional charge as the principal secretary of the GTA on March 29, 2013.

He was also the Jalpaiguri divisional commissioner then. The state government hadn’t forwarded a panel to the GTA.

The government proposed the names of four IAS officers and Meena was one of them.

Before Meena, Saumitra Mohan was discharging the duties of the principal secretary. He was concurrently holding the post of the Darjeeling DM.

When relations between the Morcha and the government deteriorated in 2013, the GTA got Mohan removed as the principal secretary.