Citing the failure of development to Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts, Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) president Mann Ghising on Friday submitted his resignation as Chairperson of Hill Area Development Committee (HADC). He also gave up the Minister of State rank that the government had elevated him to.
Ghising’s resignation letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reads: “The HADC was formed for the development of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts but due to various reasons and circumstances it failed to do so. In view of the present political situation and popular sentiment of the hill areas, I hereby resign from the post of Chairman of HADC and give up the rank of Minister of State with immediate effect.”
This is the first setback to the Trinamool Congress government in the Hills after the Gorkhaland agitations last year.
Speaking to The Sunday Express, GNLF spokesperson Neeraj Zimba said that the HADC, set up in 2017, had in effect become an obstacle to the group’s political objective — the implementation of the Sixth Schedule in the hill areas.
“The HADC was set up more as an economic solution for the Hills. Rs 10 crore was set aside for the Hills. These funds are with the DM of Darjeeling. An economic solution, while it helps, was never the ultimate (goal),” said Zimba. “We needed to be working toward a permanent political solution for Darjeeling, which has not taken place. Of course the ultimate aim for the GNLF and other political parties in the Hills is a separate state, but that does not seem feasible at this point of time. We have therefore been demanding the implementation of the Sixth Schedule. We have therefore written to the chief minister and asked her to resume the bipartite talks, which have stopped altogether, and to continue working toward a political solution.”
GNLF insiders point out two main reasons for the resignation.
“As far as we know there has not been any development projects which have been assigned under this Rs 10 crore fund. There seems to be a lot of red tapism and there is an issue with the local administration. The HADC has therefore been simply a cosmetic solution given by the West Bengal government,” said a GNLF insider who added that since the formation of the HADC, the GNLF had lost a lot of its popularity among the people of Darjeeling, popularity that it had gained after years of being relegated to the margins, during the Darjeeling agitations.
“The GNLF wants to point out that we are not opposed to the West Bengal government. On the contrary we believe in keeping diplomatic channels open and continuing amicable dialogue. The peace in the Hills is after all temporary, and we don’t know how or when the situation may flare up again,” said Zimba.