Land rights on Binay lips

Darjeeling: Binay Tamang on Wednesday said the state government was looking into the "technicalities" of providing land rights to tea garden workers and forest dwellers, the move seen as a political game-changer in the hills, Terai and the Dooars.

"This is our first political delegation and we raised the issue of praja patta (land deeds). The state government is looking into the technicalities of the demand and things are moving in a positive direction," the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief said after meeting chief minister Mamata Banerjee with an 11-member party delegation here.

Many residents of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri districts do not have any land rights. "A precedent has already been set as some residents of Mirik, who were living in a tea garden, have been granted land rights. If this policy is extended, it will be difficult for the Opposition parties to counter Mamata Banerjee," said an observer.

Over 60 percent of hill residents live in tea gardens and cinchona plantations. This holds true for the plains, too.

Tamang said the Morcha had also raised the issue of grantingtribal status for 11 hill communities. "The state government has passed a resolution in the Assembly to grant tribal status to hill communities and forwarded it to the Centre. The BJP government has done nothing besides forming committees. We will continuously raise this issue," Tamang, also the chief of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, said on Wednesday.

Observers believe that by raising the issue of tribal rights, Tamang was trying to take on and further corner the BJP. "Tamang's decision to raise the issue tribal issue will only benefit his party," said another observer.

Another positive message went out to the hills on Wednesday when Mamata announced a university for the hills.

"Binay (Tamang) and (his Morcha colleague) Anit (Thapa) were earlier telling me how they literally had to beg to the Centre to set up a university. I have told them you will not have to beg for a university, Didi is here for you, we will set up a university in the hills," Mamata said.

Family members of five persons who died during last year's statehood agitation received a sum of Rs 2 lakh each from the chief minister.


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