April 1: A section of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha activists who switched to Trinamul in two Dooars mouzas, suggested for inclusion in the GTA, have begun demanding that the areas be kept out of the hill set-up.
Samsing and Chilauney are among the five mouzas (the other three are in Terai) which were recommended by the Justice Shyamal Sen Committee for inclusion in the GTA area. But recently, residents who have joined the ruling Trinamul Congress have expressed reservations over the decision, saying they wanted the two mouzas to remain part of Metelli block in the Dooars.
They want the state government to make an announcement in this regard.
The residents have cited Morcha’s apathy towards Dooars and the state government’s interest in the region — it recently announced a Dooars-Terai development council — as the main reasons to switch to the ruling party.
On Saturday, as leaders of Jalpaiguri district Trinamul held a public meeting at Chilauney, over 200 people, most of them local leaders, workers and supporters of the Morcha, joined Trinamul.
A similar trend was witnessed on Thursday when Trinamul convened another meeting in Samsing, party leaders said.
“So far, we have not witnessed any effective step from the Morcha leaders and GTA representatives to carry out development process in either of these two mouzas. Right now, we need to travel only around 15km to reach the block office in Metelli. But in case we are included in the GTA, we have to travel 75km to reach the subdivisional headquarters in Kalimpong and around 125km for the GTA headquarters in Darjeeling,” said Balbahadur Chhetri, a local Morcha leader and a resident of Chilauney who has joined Trinamul.
Metelli block is in Malbazar subdivision of Jalpaiguri district.
“All we had sought is proper infrastructure development in the Dooars and socio-economic development of the people. The state government has already proved its sincerity by meeting many of the demands and it will soon form the Terai Dooars Development Council, which will work for the region. We find no reason to get included in GTA,” Chhetri added.
While signing the GTA agreement it was decided that a committee would be formed to look into Morcha’s demand of including 396 mouzas of the Terai and Dooars in the hill body. Justice Shyamal Sen Committee was formed and it recommended the inclusion of five mouzas in GTA.
This prompted the Morcha leaders to express disappointment and a fact verification committee was set up last year to look into the issue. But the matter of mouza inclusion has taken a backseat now with no decision so far.
“As Morcha leaders have not refused to accept these mouzas and only demanded more areas, we do not want to live with uncertainty. The state should make an announcement that it would not go by the recommendations of the committee and will not let Samsing and Chilauney be under the GTA,” Ram Prasad Kami, a Samsing resident, said.
“On one hand, we are yet to be included in the GTA and on the other, the panchayat machinery in Jalpaiguri district is not concentrating on our areas thinking that these might go to the GTA any day. We want an end to this situation and have told Trinamul leaders to take up our demand in party levels and approach the state government. As we are still under Metelli block, we want to participate in the panchayat polls to expedite development of our areas,” Kami added.
Trinamul has cashed in on the opportunity and inducted many Dooars residents.
“In the past three days, over 400 people, who were leaders, workers and supporters of the Morcha, have joined our party,” said Chandan Bhowmik, the Jalpaiguri district Trinamul president.
“Many more have contacted us and we will induct them soon. We are focused on the panchayat polls and once it is over, we will surely discuss the demands.”
Wilson Champramari, the Kalchini MLA who joined Trinamul last week, said: “As the state’s decision to form the Terai Dooars Development Council has become public, we are getting unprecedented response from the people, including Morcha supporters. They have realised that through inclusion of some of the mouzas of the Terai and the Dooars in the GTA, only a section of residents would benefit. But by deciding to form the council, the state has taken up a step to affirm that each resident of the Terai and Dooars gets the benefit of development in an equal manner.”
Rajen Lohar, a Samsing resident, said: “We had thought that GATA, a proposal mooted by John Barla and Bimal Gurung, would turn into a reality. But since the GTA has been formed, Morcha leaders have never spoken about it, which has left us disappointed.”
“Now that the Terai Dooars Development Council has been planned, it is much better to remain in Jalpaiguri district outside the GTA territory and enjoy benefits of the council. The state should announce that because of objections raised by people of the two mouzas, the recommendations made to include our areas in the GTA will not be followed.”
Shyam Bahadur Thapa, a resident of Chilauney, said: “We were attracted by the demand to include the Terai and Dooars (in the GTA) as we were deprived of even the basic benefits for over decades. But now, none of us want to live with uncertainty as we feel th-at living in the Dooars, with a dedicated council for the area that would be monitored by the state, is a much better alternative.”
He added that: “The chances of setting up GTA offices in the nearby areas are bleak as only two new areas have been recommended for inclusion. This means, we have to travel to far-flung areas like Kalimpong and Darjeeling.”