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Saturday, July 9, 2011

GJM, West Bengal agree on draft pact..... Gorkhaland Territorial Administration’ it is..... GJM, state finalize draft on Darjeeling... Hills get Rs 30 crore from railways - Factory at Tindharia, ropeway & more

GJM, West Bengal agree on draft pact
Marcus Dam, TH, Kolkata, July 9: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership and the West Bengal government agreed on Friday on the draft for a “memorandum of agreement” to pave the way for the setting up of a new administrative body for the Darjeeling region, a month after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said that the “matter [was] settled” and the “problem solved.”
It has been proposed that the new set-up will be called the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration.
A nine-member committee comprising representatives of the GJM, the State government, and the Centre will look into the contentious issue of the inclusion of Gorkha-dominated areas in the Terai and Dooars regions of north Bengal.
There will be provision of transfer of new territory to the proposed set-up on the basis of its recommendations.
The State government has requested the Centre for holding tripartite talks to put a seal on the final memorandum of agreement at the earliest, preferably on July 12 or 13. Ms. Banerjee would like it to be held in Darjeeling.
A Bill will be moved in the State Assembly after the signing of the memorandum of agreement. The Board of administrators set up for the Darjeeling hills will run the administration till elections to the new body are held.
“The outstanding areas of dispute have been settled,” Roshan Giri, GJM general secretary, said after a meeting with Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh and Home Secretary G. D. Gautama.
He was accompanied by a senior member of the Studies Forum from Darjeeling, L. B. Pariyar, and later called on Ms. Banerjee.
“Both sides have agreed on the draft agreement which has been sent to the Union Home Secretary,” Mr. Ghosh later told journalists.
The new body will be formed on the basis of the present set-up of areas (three hill subdivisions in Darjeeling district), he said.
It has also been decided that a separate College Service Commission and a School Service Commission be set up for the region under the new body. The proposed administration will also have the authority to create new posts at the Group B, C and D levels with the approval of the State government, he added.
Expressing satisfaction with the day's talks, Mr. Giri said the draft of the memorandum of agreement “has been given a final shape.” “The tripartite meeting to finalise the memorandum will be held within seven to 10 days,” he added.
On the GJM's demand for inclusion of the Gorkha-dominated areas in the Terai and the Dooars within the purview of the proposed set-up, he said that “an additional paper” on the subject had been submitted to the Chief Secretary.
'Gorkhaland Territorial Administration’ it is
SNS. KOLKATA/SILIGURI, 8 JULY: Harping on their territorial demands in Dooars and Terai, the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha today proposed that the new administrative body for the Darjeeling Hills be called Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and the state government agreed to the nomenclature as anything “short of the state of Gorkhaland was acceptable”.
This was decided at a meeting between the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) leaders and senior officials of the state administration which was called to iron out “minor differences” that had cropped up over the draft memorandum of agreement to be signed at the tripartite level, particularly on the issue of giving the new body powers to recruit people.
Chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee too did not attach any importance to the nomenclature, saying: “What’s in a name?” State chief secretary, Mr Samar Ghosh, said that the state government found “no serious objections to the name.”
However, he clarified that the GJMM did not submit any “additional document on their territorial demands in Dooars and Terai.” at the meeting though the other side had claimed this. The draft agreement does not outright concede territorial expansion beyond the areas of the present Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council (DGAHC) but the state government has agreed to a survey of the Gorkha-dominated areas in the Dooars and Terai regions by a nine-member panel that includes four members of GJMM.
The legislation which will be placed in the next session of the state Legislative Assembly for setting up the new body through direct election would have provisions for further territorial inclusion. However, the election would be held on the basis of the present territorial limits of the DGAHC.
But the major concession from the state government came when it agreed to give the new body the authority to appoint people in Grade B, C and D although only with prior approval from the Governor. Differences had cropped up over this demand of the GJMM since the state government was not keen to give the new body the power to recruit people, as the financial burden would be on the state government. The GJMM has also demanded a financial package from the Centre. The GTA will have separate School Service Commission and College Service Commission for recruiting teachers for educational institutions and also an office for pension, provident fund and group insurance.
The GJMM had been earlier considering Gorkha Autonomous Council or Authority as the name for the new administrative body, but laying emphasis on its territorial demands, they settled for Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. Unlike in the meeting on 7 June, today both parties signed a document acknowledging the acceptance of the draft agreement at the end of the discussion. “Today we gave final shape to the draft for signing the tripartite agreement and we are hopeful that the Centre will call a meeting within a week or ten days,” said Mr Roshan Giri.
Former state urban development minister Mr Asok Bhattacharya, speaking in Siliguri today, said the proposed administrative body should be given legislative powers to resolve the Hills imbroglio as soon as possible. He added that before finalisation of the agreement on the new body, the opinion of other political parties would have to be sought, and the bipartite and tripartite agreements among the Centre, state and the GJMM should be made public.
GJM, state finalize draft on Darjeeling
TNN, KOLKATA: The Telangana fire has led to a thaw in the Hills.
A marathon three-hour meeting between Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) representatives and government officials, followed by an hour's discussion with chief minister Mamata Banerjee, broke the stalemate on many issues on Friday and led to the finalization of the agreement on the autonomous council for Darjeeling.
The council now has a name — Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. If eyebrows were raised on the use of the term 'Gorkhaland,' Mamata came out in defence of Gorkhas. "How is it that we will neither give them a name, nor territory, nor love?" she asked.
Looking pleased after the meeting, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said the draft would be sent to Delhi by the state government for central approval.
"We hope the tripartite memorandum will be signed within a week to 10 days' time," he said. The chief minister wants the agreement to be signed in Darjeeling, chief secretary Samar Ghosh said.
Observers say neither the Morcha nor the state government nor the Centre wants to delay the signing of the agreement. No one wants another Telangana on their hands. The issues that had remained unresolved after the signing of the bipartite agreement between GJM and the state government last May were ironed out on Friday.
The chief secretary said the new council would be set up under a state Act. It will not have the power to frame legislation or impose taxes because only an autonomous council constituted under a constitutional provision, like the Sixth Schedule, enjoys such powers.
But Gorkhaland Territorial Administration will have the power to raise resources through fees, say, for renewal of tea garden land lease. It will also get grants-in-aid from the government and will run the 'touji' department dealing with land.
GTA will also have the Regional Transport Authority, except for some statutory functions that will remain with the district magistrate.
Hill deal to be signed in 7 days
TT, Calcutta/Kalimpong, July 8: The state government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today finalised the draft agreement for a new administrative set-up for the Darjeeling hills, which will have the authority to frame rules and renew lease of tea gardens but no taxation or legislative powers.
The draft that has been sent to the Union home ministry will be signed at a tripartite meeting in the next seven days.
“The deal is sealed. The matter stands settled. All major differences have been put to rest. All that remains now is the formality of signing the memorandum in the next week or so,” said Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri after a three-hour meeting with chief secretary Samar Ghosh and home secretary G.D. Gautama at Writers’ Buildings this afternoon.
The Morcha delegation, which also included senior leader L.B. Pariyar, met chief minister Mamata Banerjee for nearly an hour after the official meeting. The new authority will be called the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and will replace the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. The name was decided in today’s meeting.
Mamata said the agreement reached between the Morcha and the state government last month remains. “Whatever was settled earlier stands. The name was decided today. What’s in a name?” she asked.
The draft was sent to the Union home secretary today.
“We have requested that the tripartite meeting be held as soon as possible, preferably on July 12 or 13. We have also intimated the Centre that the chief minister would like the tripartite meeting to take place in Darjeeling,” said Ghosh.
On the key issue of territory and other subjects, the consensus reached at the previous meeting on June 7 stood. The demand to bring parts of the Dooars, the Terai and Siliguri under the jurisdiction of the hill set-up will be examined by a nine-member committee. The panel will have one representative of the Centre, four of the state government and four of the Morcha.
The committee will examine the “geopolitical situation” and “regional issues” before submitting a set of recommendations in the next six months. Based on these recommendations, the territorial reach of the GTA will be decided.
Till then, chief secretary Ghosh said the territorial jurisdiction of the GTA would be same as that of the DGHC.
“The committee will be constituted immediately after signing the tripartite agreement,” said Ghosh.
He said the GTA would have no legislative or financial powers. “The GTA will not have any legislation and taxation power, but it will be able to frame rules and renew the land lease of the tea gardens,” said Ghosh. This means that the tauzi department that deals with tea garden land will be handed over to the new authority, a long-standing demand of the Morcha.
“The Morcha had wanted the GTA to have the authority to recruit staff. It will be able to recruit staff in groups B, C and D, but not Group A. For the recruitment process, a board will need to be set up. The recruitments have to be sanctioned by the governor,” he added.
Ghosh also said the Morcha demand for separate hill offices for government agencies like the college service commission, school service commission, group insurance, provident fund and pension would be also met in the agreement.
Morcha president Bimal Gurung, who was at an interactive session in Kalimpong with representatives of political parties and citizens at the Town Hall, said the inking of the agreement would not signal an end to the movement for Gorkhaland.
“If Telangana comes up, I will immediately raise our (statehood) issue. Others can run the new arrangement, I will run the agitation,” he said.
During the meeting, Gurung received a call from Mamata. After attending to it, the Morcha president said: “It was the chief minister. She referred to my birthday on July 17 and said that she would be sending me sweets. I told her that she need not do that, I will send her sweets instead. She told me that the draft had been sent to the Centre.”
Hills get Rs 30 crore from railways - Factory at Tindharia, ropeway & more

VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Darjeeling, July 8: The railways has sanctioned Rs 30 crore for the hills and has promised an equal sum in the next one-and-a-half years in tune with Mamata Banerjee's assurance when she was in charge of the ministry last year that the region would be on her priority list.
Keshav Chandra, the general manager of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), today said Rs 17 crore had been sanctioned for setting up a composite manufacturing unit at Tindharia along with Rs 9 crore to upgrade the railway hospital in the same place.
“A multi-functional complex will also come up at the Darjeeling railway station and the project cost is estimated to touch the Rs 1 crore mark,” said Chandra, who had inspected the railbus line from Siliguri Junction to Bagdogra yesterday.
The factory at Tindharia, 60km from Darjeeling town, will manufacture “filter for diesel locomotives” and “composite brake blocks” for coaches.
“We are trying to bring in international technology for the brake block unit while modern machinery for the filter unit has already been ordered,” said Chandra.
The RITES (Rail India Technical and Economic Services) has also been given the directive to set up the multi-functional complex at the Darjeeling railway station where around 15-20 shops will be leased out. “We were initially looking at setting up a budget hotel at the multifunctional complex. But later we thought it would be better to set up the budget hotel in another place and have already identified two sites, one of which is around 1000 square metres and the other 200 square metres,” said Chandra.
The railways have also set up a camp office of the Railway Recruitment Board in Darjeeling. “It has been made functional and an officer has been stationed in Darjeeling for the RRB. Application forms and other related information on the railways will now be available in this office,” said Chandra.
The official said the department had already issued advertisements to enrol aspirants for the railways’ skill training institutes in the hills.
“We have a printing press in Kurseong, a 100-year old (toy train) workshop in Tindharia and a maintenance department here. We plan to start training the youths in the next two months especially in skills related to the railway units,” said Chandra.
The Kurseong printing press will also be overhauled too. “We are in the process of getting latest machineries for the Kurseong,” said the official.
The press prints all kinds of stationery for the entire Northeast Frontier Railway, including manually generated tickets for toy trains that are in great demand among lovers of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways.
The railways have also started the ground work to start a nursing institute in Kurseong.
“Apart from the women, the institute will also train male nurses,” he said.
The department is looking at completing “small projects” like expansion of the Darjeeling railway station and upgrade of the Kurseong printing press in the next “six months”.
“As far as the bigger projects are concerned we are confident that it will be completed within the next one-and-a-half years,” said Chandra.
One of the long-term projects of the railways is the revival of the ropeway from Judge Bazar to Bijanbari.
“The ropeway has been defunct for the past 20-25 years. Earlier it used to carry goods but we are looking at opening it for tourist by converting into a passenger ropeway,” he said.
Asked if encroachment at Judge Bazar in the heart of Darjeeling would come in the way of the ropeway, Chandra said: “Encroachment is there but I do not think it is a major problem. If people understand that we are giving them something good they will make way for us. In fact, we have already started getting such feelers as people want the ropeway to be made functional.”
The ropeway had been built by the London-based British Ropeway Engineering Company Limited early in the last century.

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