The Telegraph
Thursday , December 27 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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CM bounty for Dooars
- Hope and disappointment from Mamata visit

Dec. 26: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is expected to dole out several forms of assistance to tribal outfits, Gorkhas and other communities in the Dooars during her visit to Nagrakata on Friday.

“The chief minister will visit Nagrakata and hand over assistance to students, minorities and others in the Dooars. In the course of her meeting, she would also give away land rights to people under the Nijo Griha Nijo Bhumi scheme of the state government,” said Smaraki Mahapatra, the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri.

“Certificates to the physically challenged, bicycles to girl students and medical assistance to some ailing patients would also be given.”

The chief minister’s visit, observers said, is part of a strategy to pacify the disgruntled tribal outfits and the Gorkhas as well as create a support base for Trinamul in the Dooars ahead of the panchayat polls next year.

“A section of the Gorkhas and tribals, who had participated in the Gorkhaland movement led by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, is discontented as their demand to include the Dooars in the GTA has not been met. The handing over of bounties by the chief minister is likely to provide some soothing,” an observer said.

“Representatives of Adivasi Vikas Parishad and also the dissidents led by John Barla have time and again said that Mamata is more focused on the hills and ignores the Dooars,” he added.

The visit, they said, would largely help in minimising the brewing resentment.

“Even today, it is the Left and the Congress who have substantial control in the tea estates in the Dooars along with PTWU, the trade union front formed by the Adivasi Vikas Parishad. The TPWU, backed by INTTUC, is making forays into the Dooars and have opened units only in some of the gardens,” he added.

“As major percentage of the voters in the Dooars are from the tea estates, it is necessary for Trinamul to develop a support base ahead of the panchayat polls.”

In the Assembly polls last year, Trinamul failed to secure any seat in the Dooars. Trinamul also does not have a major presence in the panchayat or in the municipalities of Malbazar and Alipurduar.

John Barla, the dissident Parishad leader who has taken up the task to assimilate a substantial crowd at the Nagrakata meeting, said: “A good number of tribals lack land rights. These are not resumed lands of tea estates or within plantation areas. If the chief minister hands over land rights to the people who have been raising the demand for years, they would be grateful to her,” he said.

Trinamul leaders who have been working in the Dooars for the past one year to garner support there said they would place two more demands before the chief minister.

“First, tea workers do not have land rights and second, businessmen having shops in towns and villages near the tea estates also do not have rights of their lands. Distribution of secured land tenures to tea workers and handing over of land on lease to the businessmen can solve a longstanding problem. This can also help the party garner support,” said Chandan Bhowmik, the Jalpaiguri district Trinamul president.