Trinamul leaders in Darjeeling and Kalimpong seek elected rural faces
Trinamul leaders in Darjeeling and Kalimpong hills have decided to underscore the necessity of having elected panchayat functionaries in the hills before central leaders of the party.
They also seek to inform senior state ministers like Subrata Mukherjee that having elected panchayat boards in the hills would help the Mamata Banerjee government expedite implementation of social welfare schemes in the rural areas.
In the hills, the area under the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) earlier and now under the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), the last panchayat samiti election was held in 2000.
The region comprises Darjeeling district, minus Siliguri subdivision, and the entire Kalimpong district.
After the DGHC was formed in 1988 through a constitutional amendment, the three-tier panchayat system changed to two-tier, without the uppermost tier or the zilla parishad, and with gram panchayat and panchayat samiti remaining.
“However, since then, elections for the panchayat samiti (the second tier), have never been held in hills. The only election was for 70 gram panchayats spread across eight blocks. As elections in the panchayat samiti were not held after 2000, there is no elected representative in the panchayats since 2005. For past 16 years, these rural bodies are being managed by officials and employees,” said a veteran in hill politics.
Also, after the GTA was formed in 2012, its board members were elected. However, the tenure of the elected board of GTA expired in 2017, and since then, there is no elected member. For almost three years now, the GTA is being run by a board of administrators.
L.B. Rai, the president of Darjeeling (hills) Trinamul, said they would soon pass a resolution in the party on the issue.
“We will send the resolution to the chief minister, also our party chief, that it is a must to have elected rural bodies in the hills. A delegation of the party will meet state panchayat and rural development minister Subrata Mukherjee on the issue. The rural polls in hills are important as it would help in faster implementation of social welfare and infrastructure schemes and help the state reach out to the rural populace,” said Rai.
A senior Trinamul leader in the hills said that young voters hardly know about panchayat elections and it was time rural bodies are revived.