Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is set to arrive in in Siliguri on Wednesday for a two-day visit to North Bengal, where she is expected to announce Kalimpong as a new district. In Siliguri, Mamata will distribute bicycles to school students under the government’s ‘Sabooj Sathi’ scheme. She will leave for Kalimpong later in the evening, where she is expected to announce the new district, said officials. In case the announcement is made, Kalimpong will become the 21st district of Bengal.
“The call for a new district, to improve administration and also to ensure that the hills can get the care it needs, has been a long standing demand of the people,” said a senior Trinamool Congress leader.
Mamata’s visit to North Bengal comes at a time when the GJM is trying to revive the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland. The GJM has been tottering in the hills, with a number of its senior leaders, including Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Chairman Pradeep Pradhan, joining Trinamool in the recent past. Moreover, in the Assembly elections held earlier this year, Trinamool’s performance in the hills was below expectation.
Previously, the Supreme Court had agreed to examine a plea of the GTA, challenging the West Bengal government’s refusal to transfer administrative power and various subjects to it, in spite of a tripartite agreement between the state and the Union governments in 2011.
Officials hope Mamata’s announcement of a separate district and her scheduled meeting with the Tamang Development and Cultural Board (TDCB) on Wednesday is likely to counter these issues. “She is very upset, particularly, with the fact that the Gorkhaland issue has been revived again. Many in the party feel that this is a concerted attempted by the GJM and some Opposition parties to disturb peace in the area,” said a party leader.
TDCB has been constituted to protect, promote and safeguard the language, tradition and culture of the Tamang community in West Bengal. It started functioning on September 9, 2014, with its headquarters in Kalimpong.
The chief minister may also visit North Bengal Wild Animal (Bengal Safari) Park. The forest department has specially arranged for two elephants from Jaldapara for her visit.
Darjeeling District Magistrate Anurag Srivastav said while Mamata will distribute bicycles to 1,000 Class X students on Wednesday in Siliguri, nearly 10,000 students from Phansidewa and Naxalbari areas will receive the same before Durga Puja. The state government will distribute a total of 18,546 bicycles to school students in Siliguri sub-division, said sources.