Gurung at Jogighat on Wednesday. (Suman Tamang)
Jogighat (Mungpoo), Jan. 15: Bimal Gurung today handed over Rs 70,000 each to five Lepchas to build houses, a goodwill gesture from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha towards a backward community wooed by the Trinamul government last year.
The donation was made from the party funds to five Lepchas from Shelpu village in Latpanchar-Sitong constituency, which is represented by Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri in the GTA Sabha.
The amounts were distributed at the Krishi Mela, organised by the GTA, at Jogighat, about 40km from Darjeeling.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had handed over Rs 1 lakh each to Lepcha women at Kurseong to build model houses during her visit to the hills on October 23. She then promised to build homes for 1,000 Lepcha women under a government scheme.
The Lepchas had sought Mamata’s help to form an apolitical tribal development body, to which Mamata had agreed. The move angered the Morcha and its chief Gurung, who said the chief minister was trying to divide the hills.
The Morcha wanted such bodies to be under the GTA, but the Lepcha development board was formed under the state government.
After the hill statehood agitation subsided, Gurung had said communities could ask the state to form development boards for them.
Apart from the five Lepchas, Gurung today presented Rs 50,000 each to three members of the Schedule Caste for building houses. Sources in both the GTA and the Morcha said the dole had been given by the party and not the hill autonomous body. The distribution of the funds is being seen as a bid by the Morcha to woo back the Lepchas.
The Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association bestowed the title of Kingchoom Daarmit (goddess of good fortune), the highest award of the community, on the chief minister at Kalimpong’s Mela Ground on September 3. Mamata was honoured for forming the board at the height of the latest round of the Gorkhaland movement. The honour for Mamata has brought about a perception among Morcha leaders that the community is now closer to her.
Gurung today didn’t make any reference to the community. “People should never forget the good deeds done to them. Hill people have a tendency to forget good deeds very fast and they only spend their energies on criticising fellow community members,” said Gurung.
The chief executive of the GTA today announced that the hill body would build a college at Mungpoo, 35km from here.
“Construction of roads and bridges to connect Mungpoo with (adjacent) Sitong is underway. I also plan to develop Jogighat to attract tourists. But I want no disturbance in the area,” said Gurung. Morcha sources said Gurung was referring to Trinamul, which has a few supporters at Sitong.