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Meet on GTA on August 26

Aug. 22: The Bengal chief secretary has convened a meeting with senior state government officials at Nabanna on Tuesday to discuss the transfer of departments to the GTA Sabha and re-introduction of three-tier panchayat system in the Darjeeling hills among other things.

The state government has to transfer 57 subjects that are converted into 40 departments to the GTA. Gorkha Janmukti Morcha that runs the GTA says some departments are yet to be handed over to the hill body, while some other subjects haven’t been transferred completely.

The process of shifting the departments to the GTA has been stuck for nearly a year because of a face-off between the Morcha and the Mamata Banerjee government over the hill party’s renewed demand for the creation of Gorkhaland. However, the relations improved after a meeting with the chief minister and GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung in Darjeeling recently.

“Apart from the transfer of the departments to the GTA, chief secretary Sanjay Mitra will discuss with government officials the re-introduction of three-tier panchayat system in the GTA area, establishment of a medical college in Kurseong and a central university in the hills, reintroduction of three-tier panchayat system in the hills, compensatory allowance for GTA employees,” said a source at Nabanna today.

The memorandum of agreement signed by the Morcha and the state and central governments to set up the GTA had promised a central varsity and a medical college for the hills.

“There will also be discussions on setting up a separate college and school service commissions for the GTA. The meeting will take stock of road projects in the hills as well,” said the source.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri has welcomed the decision to address issues related to the GTA. “I cannot say off hand how many departments are yet to be transferred. However, departments like the Darjeeling Improvement Fund, information and culture, lotteries, excise and fire services are yet to be transferred,” Giri said.

Giri also said some of the departments had been transferred to the GTA incompletely. “For example, all schools under the government were transferred to the GTA education department. But, two state-run ICSE/ISC schools in Kurseong — Victoria Boys’ School and Dow Hill — are yet to be transferred because of anomalies in the notification,” he said.

A minister said: “The decision to revive the process of helping the GTA run smoothly proves that our government is not vindictive at all… We put development above politics.”