Asok Bhattacharya in Siliguri on Thursday. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Siliguri, June 12: The state government’s announcement of 22 new civic bodies has left residents of Atharokhai near Siliguri upset as the area, despite sustained demand for the urban stamp, has not figured on the list.
Atharokhai, which is an extension of Siliguri town is the location of the North bengal University, the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital and several other important offices and institutions.
Yesterday, when municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim mentioned the names in Calcutta — five of them are in north Bengal — Atharokhai and Jaigaon did not feature among them.
The places in north Bengal that are supposed to get civic bodies are Baxirhat (Cooch Behar), Mainaguri and Falakata ((Jalpaiguri), Gazole and Chanchol (Malda) and Buniadpur (South Dinajpur).
Residents of Buniadpur were euphoric today.
About Atharohai and Jaigaon in Jalpaiguri, CPM leader and former municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya said: “The state government is trying to take credit for the decision to form 22 new municipalities. We welcome the decision but would like to point out that during our tenure, it was decided to upgrade 16 places across the state into municipalities. Out of these 22 proposed municipalities, 14 were proposed by us.
“Interestingly, the state has deleted the names of Atharokhai (which is also known as Shivmandir) and Jaigaon from the list.”
About the area outside Siliguri, Bhattacharya said: “In past decade, there has been urbanisation at a rapid rate in these two areas. While Atharokhai is an extension of Siliguri that has the North Bengal University and the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital, Jaigaon is the entry point to Bhutan from India and is a burgeoning commercial hub.”
He said he found “no reason for the state’s decision of not including these two places in the list of proposed civic bodies”.
Bhattacharya highlighted parameters that an area has to qualify to be tagged a civic area.
“It seems that the municipal affairs minister is oblivious of the parameters. According to the municipal law of the state, an assent is required from the governor. Also, there should be at least 30,000 people residing in these areas with a population density of 750 per sqkm, the source of local revenue of the civic bodies should be assessed and also the occupational pattern of people should be looked into,” he said.
“Advertisements should be put in newspapers, seeking claims and objections from people on the proposal to form a civic body with a timeline of three months,” he said.
“Also, a number of notifications are required in the process. We suggest that the state municipal affairs minister follows the proper process,” Bhattacharya said.
Timir Dutta, a resident of Shivmandir, said: “Several important buildings catering Siliguri and north Bengal are located in this area. The NBU, NBMCH, City Centre, Uttarayon township, hotels, apartment blocks, North Bengal Science Centre, central and state government offices are there in this area.”
He said: “We have been raising the demand to form a civic body for years. A process was initiated by the erstwhile Left government, but it could not materialise as the 2011 Assembly polls were announced. We had huge hopes that the Trinamul government would take up the issue and declare the area a municipality.”
Dibyendu Das, a school teacher in Matigara, said: “We are disappointed by the state’s decision. Why should we stay in rural area when we are ready to pay municipal tax and other costs?”