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regular-article-logo Friday, 23 February 2024

Pay boost for GTA staff, school body back: Mamata Banerjee addresses 2 demands of hills

The low salaries of GTA employees and the absence of a school recruitment body remained prickly issues for decades in the hills

Vivek Chhetri Darjeeling Published 09.12.23, 07:10 AM
Mamata Banerjee addresses the government programme in Kurseong on Friday

Mamata Banerjee addresses the government programme in Kurseong on Friday The Telegraph

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday announced financial remuneration for around 4,000 employees of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and the revival of the School Service Commission for recruitment in the Darjeeling hills.

The GTA employees are not permanent and many of them had served in the erstwhile Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) that was formed in 1988. Their low salaries and the absence of a school recruitment body remained prickly issues for decades in the hills.

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“Anit Thapa (GTA chief executive), Shanta Chhetri (former Trinamul Congress Rajya Sabha member) and Kalimpong MLA (Ruden Sada Lepcha) keep flagging these issues. I have a family in the hills and a blood relation now. I will have to fulfill (the demands),” Mamata said at a public service distribution programme held at Monteviot Ground in Kurseong.

The chief minister announced that every GTA employee would receive Rs 20 lakh on retirement as gratuity. “A 10-month leave encashment will also be allowed. The remuneration of GTA employees will be revised according to the 2019 payroll,” she said.

The jobs of the GTA staff have not been regularised and they are termed as “pay-band” employees. They were only getting Rs 3 lakh on retirement.

The minimum salaries of the employees start from Rs 10,000 (Group D staff) and go up to Rs 22,000 (Group A employees such as engineers). The pay is far below the salary of regular government employees.

Soon after the announcement, GTA workers burst crackers on the streets of Kurseong.

“We are grateful for this announcement as we will get a substantial amount of money on retirement. Once the notification is out, we will hold a massive rally in town,” said Subash Basnet, the general secretary of the GTA Employees' Association.

“Our main demand is the regularisation of jobs and we believe this is the first major step in that direction.”

The Left Front government had promised to regularise the jobs of DGHC employees but later backtracked.

Mamata also announced that the School Service Commission would be revived in the hills. “We will also set up the regional School Service Commission for the hills, where nearly 590 vacancies in 146 upper primary and secondary schools will be filled,” said Mamata.

The SSC has remained defunct in the hills since 2003. Even though the SSC was introduced in 1997, it couldn't function in the hills because of resistance from the GNLF that was running the DGHC.

'Blood relation'

In her public speech, Mamata stressed the “blood relation” she had established in the hills.

“Yesterday (Thursday), I established a blood relation with the hills. I have a family here now,” said Mamata.

“Earlier, when I used to come to Kurseong, I would not find a place to stay here. I once stayed at a government place some four-five years ago,” said Mamata. “I wanted a place and with God’s grace, I have a blood relation here.”

Mamata’s nephew Abhesh married Kurseong girl Diksha Chhetri on Thursday. Mamata is staying in the Makaibari tea garden. The chief minister said one-time soft loans of Rs 5 lakh each would be provided to youths to start businesses.

The chief minister called for peace in the hills and asked industrialists to invest in the region because of the prevailing peace. “Industrialists agreed to invest around Rs 24,000 crore during a business meet held yesterday (in Siliguri),” said Mamata.

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