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Gurung to skip Mamata meeting
- GTA chief points to ineffectiveness of talks

Siliguri, Aug. 27: Bimal Gurung today said he would not attend the bipartite meeting between the state and the GTA to be chaired by Mamata Banerjee on September 2, citing a visit to Delhi but added that nothing much had come of five such meetings earlier.

“I am going to Delhi to lay the foundation stone of a community building and will attend programmes to be organised by Baba Ramdev. I will not be able to attend the bipartite talks called by the state government,” the GTA chief executive said at Bagdogra before boarding his Delhi flight this afternoon.

“We have received a letter from the state regarding the bipartite talks but certain issues mentioned in it are not clear to us. Our officials and members are discussing the contents of the letter and some of them might attend the bipartite talks.”

Seeking the state government’s co-operation for the functioning of the GTA, Gurung said: “We haven’t seen the outcome of any decisions taken at the five bipartite meetings held so far (between the state and the GTA). That is why we have asked for files and other relevant documents to know whether there has been any progress. We hope the state government will co-operate with us and help us in running the GTA.”

Gurung is supposed to open a Gorkha Bhavan in Delhi.

The chief of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had said yesterday that the GTA had sought an action-taken report from the state government on the outcome of the five previous bipartite talks.

Darjeeling BJP MP S.S. Ahluwalia today echoed Gurung’s disappointment and hinted that the GTA could approach the Centre for tripartite talks if the dialogue with the state government was not yielding results.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had earlier objected to the GTA leaders’ trips to Delhi to discuss GTA matters without keeping the state administration in the loop.

Gurung’s absence from the upcoming GTA-state talks has triggered speculation of the Morcha top brass’s dissatisfaction with the Mamata Banerjee-led government. The GTA leader may be trying to send a message to the chief minister on the ineffectiveness of the talks, a source said.

“The GTA chief had attended almost all bipartite meetings convened before to review the functioning of the GTA. His decision to abstain from the next round of talks, which is supposed to be attended by the chief minister, suggests that the Morcha leadership is disappointed with the state government,” the source said.

“The non-transfer of a number of departments to the GTA from the state government and lack of consistent assistance by the administration to the hill body in implementing welfare schemes and projects are some of the reasons for the disgruntlement. It is evident that the Morcha chief wants to send a message to the chief minister that he is unhappy with the state government,” the source added.

Mamata is supposed to reach the Darjeeling hills on September 1 and attend the bipartite talks the next day.

The release issued by Trinamul on its official website yesterday gave details of Mamata’s plans but did not say anything about the venue for the talks.

“West Bengal Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee will visit North Bengal on September 1. On September 2, the State Government will hold a bipartite meeting with the GTA. The meeting will be chaired by the Bengal Chief Minister and senior officials including the Chief Secretary of the State will be present,” the release mentioned.

The venue of the September 2 bipartite meeting, sources in the administration said, could be Kalimpong.

On September 3, the chief minister will attend a programme organised by the Lepcha Development Council, the release said.

S.S. Ahluwalia, the Darjeeling BJP MP who landed in Siliguri today, listed the projects that the state was yet to fulfil for the GTA.

“Among these promises are the establishment of a Sainik school, a super-speciality hospital, a medical college and a central university in the hills. NH55, which is maintained by the state public works department, is in a bad condition,” the MP said.

Some of these demands are mentioned in the GTA agreement. “As far as bipartite talks are concerned, it is entirely up to the GTA authorities and the state. However, we would like to say if the bipartite talks fail to yield results, tripartite talks can be held as the Centre is also a signatory to the GTA agreement. The GTA representatives can approach the Union home minister with a plea to convene such talks,” Ahluwalia added.