Three civic bodies to get babus as 'rulers'

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  • Published 5.06.09

Siliguri, June 5: Bengal chief secretary Ashoke Mohan Chakrabarti said today the state government would soon appoint administrators to run the three municipalities in the hills where elections would not be held as no candidate had filed the nomination.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has been demanding that like in other parts of the state, there should be three-tier panchayat system in the hills. The Morcha had threatened that unless the demand was met, it would not let municipal elections to be held in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. The polls were to be held on June 28 and no candidate has filed the nomination.

“There is no question of holding elections in the three municipalities as not a single nomination has been filed,” said Chakrabarti. “It would have been better had these civic bodies been ruled by the elected representatives. But given the present state of affairs in the hills, the state government, as per law, will appoint administrators like those we have in the DGHC.”

On the demand of the Morcha to hold three–tier elections in the hills, the chief secretary said: “We cannot discuss something which is outside the purview of the Constitution of India. Unless it (Constitution) is amended, there cannot be a zilla parishad in Darjeeling. There could be polls only to the existing two tiers — panchayats and DGHC.”

He was talking to journalists after meeting delegations of the Citu-affiliated Darjeeling District Chia Kaman Mazdoor Union and the DYFI at the Circuit House here.

Chakrabarti was approached by the CPM’s labour and youth wings, demanding that tea garden workers be granted land rights. He assured them that the government would look into the matter.

“The government is earnestly considering the demand of the garden workers that they be granted right to the land where they have been living for generations. All relevant information is being collected and a note on the matter will be submitted to the chief minister upon my return to Calcutta.”

“The DYFI and the union have mooted a proposal to form a committee to look into the issue and make recommendations. There are many legal issues which have to be sorted out before any decision is taken to grant the labourers the right to the land,” he added.

Tea workers who live in the estate quarters are not entitled to land rights as the garden is leased out to the management by the state government. It is not possible for the government to provide homestead pattas or title deeds for the plots of land where the workers have their residences.

“We want government intervention and necessary changes in legislation. Despite living in tea gardens for decades, they do not own the land legally,” said Ajit Sarkar, the Darjeeling district secretary of the Citu.