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Letter to pressure state on GTA

Kalimpong, July 25: The GTA Sabha chief executive, Bimal Gurung, today said a letter would be written to the Centre on ways to improve the functioning of the hill body, a move to exert pressure on the state government ahead of a tripartite meeting to review the autonomous authority’s working.

Mamata Banerjee had said recently in Darjeeling that a tripartite meeting of the state and central governments and the GTA would be held to take stock of the hill body’s functioning although a date is yet to be fixed. Such meetings are held once in a while as stipulated by the GTA deal. Ahead of the tripartite meetings, direct talks are also held between the state and the GTA to iron out differences over the hill body’s functioning.

Gurung chaired a meeting of GTA executive members and bureaucratic heads of different departments to review the powers and functioning of the hill body in detail. “We held detailed discussions on the GTA agreement and GTA Act. All the good and the bad of the GTA were discussed. We will be writing to the Centre tomorrow, giving our views on how to improve the functioning of the GTA,” he told reporters after the meeting in Darjeeling.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had in the past accused the state government of being an impediment to the smooth functioning of the GTA in keeping with the letter and spirit of the GTA Act and agreement. The party also alleges that all departments haven’t been transferred to the GTA completely.

Gurung said he had no faith in bipartite meetings to resolve issues between the GTA and the state government. “I don’t have faith in bipartite meetings. Nothing comes out of it. No follow-up actions are taken,” he said, stopping short of calling for an end to the bipartite talks.

As far as the Centre’s role vis-a-vis the GTA is concerned, the Morcha chief is hopeful. “I have hopes from the Centre. Our MP (S.S. Ahluwalia) is aware of our problems. He has already started working on them,” he said.

Observers said the GTA was writing to the Centre so that the hill body would have an upper hand at the tripartite meeting.

“The tone of the previous tripartite meetings was set by the state government. However, with a friendly government at the Centre, the Morcha wants to take advantage of the situation and score over the state at the tripartite meeting. The GTA is writing to the Centre to put pressure on the state government,” said an observer.

Gurung also threatened to take legal recourse if all cases filed against Morcha supporters during the Gorkhaland agitation prior to the signing of the GTA agreement were not withdrawn. “I had written to Union home minister on June 2 demanding the removal of IRB companies from Pintail Village (near Siliguri), withdrawal of cases registered during the agitation and the pullout of CRPF from the hills. We are hearing that the CRPF is being withdrawn. But if the cases against our party workers are not withdrawn, we may have to move court,” he said.

According to the GTA agreement, the state government has to withdraw all cases registered during the agitation.

Gurung also said the hawkers’ market proposed by the state government at Chowrasta in Darjeeling could be relocated.

“We have identified a place on the top of the beef market where 300 hawkers can be accommodated. There is another site near the Gorkha Rangmanch Bhavan where the complex can be built,” he said.