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Monday, August 29, 2011

This week, hill bill in House

TT, Darjeeling, Aug. 28: The bill to set up the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration for the hills is ready and is expected to be tabled in the Assembly before the monsoon session ends on September 2.
Government chief whip Sobhondeb Chattopadhaya said the GTA bill might be tabled in the Assembly on September 2. “We have a plan to table the GTA bill on September 2,” he told The Telegraph in Calcutta. The chief whip, who sets the timetable for the MLAs in the House, is the first to know about any bill that is to be placed in the Assembly.
Asked if the bill would be sent to a standing committee for review, Chattopadhaya said: “After the bill is discussed in the House (and passed), it may be sent to the standing committee.” Sources said any bill introduced in the Assembly for the first time has to be referred to the standing committee of the department concerned for a review. The committee will review the bill and will recommend amendments if necessary.
Administrative sources said the GTA bill was ready to be tabled anytime. “From the bureaucratic point of view, the GTA bill is ready and it can be tabled even tomorrow. However, the decision to place it in the Assembly is a political one and they (politicians) have to take a final call as to when it should be placed,” said a source in the administration.
Earlier the speculation doing the round was that since the government was not ready with the draft yet and the bill was not listed in the business advisory of the House, the proposed legislation to set up the new administrative arrangement for the hills might not be tabled this session. In that case, the bill would have to wait for the winter session.
According to a government official, the call has to be taken by the Assembly advisory committee. “The GTA bill is not mentioned on the list of business for this session but I think the committee can make a weekly list and also consider any issue, depending on its importance. That is why the placing of the bill is now a political call as all paperwork is complete,” the source added.
In all likelihood, the bill will be moved by the chief minister Mamata Banerjee who has kept the hill affairs portfolio with her. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leadership maintained that they had got a feedback which said the bill could be placed as early as tomorrow. “We had told the chief secretary that the bill should first be circulated to all three signatories to the GTA agreement. The chief secretary said circulating the bill before it was placed in the House would be unconstitutional,” said a senior Morcha leader.
The Morcha leader added that the chief secretary had also mentioned that making minor changes to the bill should not be an issue.
“The chief secretary said if there was anything that needed to be added or deleted from the bill, it could be done once it was tabled in the Assembly. They would also be given time to make alterations if needed.” The state and central governments and the Morcha are signatories to the bill.
Many believe that ideally the bill should be tabled on Tuesday as the House could be informed about the government’s decision to place the bill on Monday.
On August 21, Morcha chief Bimal Gurung had urged the state government to start the process of forming the GTA immediately, saying that his party might forget about the new arrangement — a hint that they might revert to statehood cry — if the delay continued. The threat had come at a time the tabling of the GTA bill in the monsoon session of the Assembly looked bleak.
Even though Gurung had not set any deadline for the bill to be placed in the Assembly, many believe that the threat probably spurred the state government to act at the earliest.
A Morcha source had earlier said the government was minutely examining the GTA agreement and many details were yet to be thrashed out before the bill was tabled.

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