Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will visit Darjeeling district this week after nearly one-and-a-half years.
It is expected that during this time, the issue of granting land rights to tea garden workers will move a step ahead.
Sources said that the chief minister will reach Kurseong on December 6, Wednesday, and spend a few days in the hill town.
“She has a family event to attend at Kurseong on December 7. The next day, she will attend a public services distribution function at Monteviot playground,” said the source.
Abhishek Banerjee, Trinamul national general secretary and also Mamata’s nephew, will reach Kureong on Monday.
Abhishek would be reaching the hills largely to attend the family event.
“The chief minister will be staying at the famed Makaibari tea garden in Kurseong,” said a source.
Since the garden is located on Pankhabari Road, traffic movement will be restricted on this route.
The last time Mamata visited Darjeeling was in July 2022 at a time when Anit Thapa was sworn in as the chief executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
Mamata was also scheduled to visit Darjeeling in June 2023 but her tour was cancelled at the last moment.
“During her last visit, she was to unveil the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose and C.R. Das near Raj Bhavan. The statues were put up just before
the scheduled visit of the chief minister, but they are still wrapped in plastic,” said a source.
Many in the hills were also of the opinion that instead of unveiling a statue of C.R. Das, the district administration should look after Step Aside, the building where he stayed in Darjeeling.
“The district administration is now looking to renovate the building,” said a source.
On December 9, Mamata is scheduled to come to the plains of north Bengal.
There, she is expected to hold administrative and public outreach programmes in Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri districts on December 10 and 11, respectively.
“During these outreach events, the chief minister is likely to distribute about 4,000 land rights documents to residents of tea gardens,” said a source.
Land rights have been a longstanding demand of the tea garden workers as despite residing on the land for generations, the workers do not have any right over the land.
The state government recently started an initiative to grant land rights to the people residing in the tea gardens.
“This benefit is likely to be a game-changer in the tea belts of north Bengal,” said a source.
Politically, too, the move could impact the tea belt of the Terai and the Dooars before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Until now, the BJP has been winning Lok Sabha seats from these regions. The electoral outcome of at least four Lok Sabha seats is influenced by the tea workers.
“In the hills, there is still some controversy over the ceiling for the distribution of land rights. The Opposition parties want all the land that the workers possess to be distributed to them through documents. The government had suggested a five-decimal cap initially, which did not go down well. One can expect some clarity on the issue when the chief minister visits the hills,” said a source.
Mamata’s visit stirred another controversy as the administration is looking at holding a government event at the Kanchenjunga stadium in Siliguri on December 12.
“The ongoing football league has been postponed for the government event. This does not augur well for sports in the region,” said BJP Siliguri MLA Shankar Ghosh.
Siliguri mayor and Trinamul veteran Gautam Deb said the stadium would be made fit for matches within 24 hours of the government event.
Additional reporting by Bireswar Banerjee in Siliguri