BENGAL GOVT, CENTRE AND GJMM TO DISCUSS GTA FUNCTIONING
By bappaditya paul
With the situation in Darjeeling gradually returning to normal, the state government has finally agreed to hold a tripartite meeting involving the Centre and the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) to discuss the functioning of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). The tripartite meet will be held in Kolkata on 22 November.
The state government had earlier turned down a Central government proposal for a tripartite meet on 23 October. The GTA Act gives exclusive power to the state government to convene a tripartite meeting.
A meeting of the GTA Sabha to elect a new chief executive is unlikely before the tripartite meet, a state government source said. Going by the GTA Election Rules, a minimum 10-day notice is to be served to GTA members for holding such a meet.
According to sources in the state Home department, Mr K Skandan, an additional secretary in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, will represent the Centre in the tripartite meet on 22 November; the GJMM is yet to finalise the composition of its delegation.
A day before this, a bipartite meet will take place between the state government and the GJMM in Kolkata on 21 November. This is to arrive at a consensus about the specific agenda for the tripartite discussion. Although the exact venue for both the bipartite and tripartite meetings is yet to be finalised, in all likelihood, these would take place at Nabanna in Howrah.
While the state government is consistent on its stand that there shall be no dearth of funds if the GJMM runs the GTA properly, the Hills party in its turn may raise the demand for some additional powers. However, unlike before, the GJMM has moved away from the hostile attitude towards the state and is now toeing a reconciliatory line.
In an indication of the continuing bonhomie, the GJMM Kalimpong MLA, Mr Harka Bahadur Cheetri, today called on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Nabanna. He later told reporters that following a request from their end for the release of jailed 10 GTA members and 1,400-odd GJMM activists, the CM has assured that “their release will be facilitated on the basis of priority” and not en masse.
“We have reassured the CM that for us (the GJMM), the development of the Hills is now number one on the agenda and the agitation is second. We want to collaborate with the state government to realise the goal. The CM, on her part, has said that there shall be no dearth of development projects for the Hills,” the GJMM MLA said.
On being asked about the possibility of the GJMM and the Trinamul Congress tying up for the next Lok Sabha polls, Mr Chhetri did not rule out such a proposition. “I am not authorised by my party to make a comment on this. But my personal opinion is that if we can work together for
development, we can also work together on every other front.”
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 8 November 2013.)