Disputing Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s claim that her government had given the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) funds worth Rs 4,000 crore, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which runs the GTA, has alleged that it had received only Rs 2,927 crore. Meanwhile, the state government said the figure Mamata quoted was not accurate, and that the amount they had released was even higher: Rs 4,095 crore.
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Mamata’s recent remark about the funds had sparked a controversy, with GJM chief Bimal Gurung threatening to a call a strike on September 28 if she does not furnish details regarding the same.
According to a state finance department official, the government had released Rs 4,095 crore under 10 different sub-sections, with the largest being Rs 1,019 crore and Rs 2,006 crore for unplanned and planned expenditure for hill affairs. Apart from this, Rs 674 crore had been released for the 100 Days’ Work scheme and Rs 119 crore as the frozen fund for the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) — an autonomous body that looks after the administration of Darjeeling hills. “The state government also maintains that it has released
Rs 92 crore for rural electrification, Rs 43 crore for National Health Mission, Rs 80 crore as part of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, Rs 29 crore for Nirmal Bangla, Rs 28 crore for public health engineering and Rs 5 crore for Indira Awas Yojana,” said the official.
The GTA, however, has claimed that the amount it has received is Rs 2,927 crore, which is Rs 1,167.9 crore short, the approximate break-up being: Rs 238 crore for the state plan for development projects, Rs 1,886 crore for state plan for non-planned expenditures such as salaries, Rs 206.6 crore for Rural Integrated Development Fund (RIDF), while the Centre gives Rs 465 crore as a special package and another Rs 131.54 crore as special central assistance. In addition, GJM claimed that RIDF comes from the Centre for schemes like Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, which are routed through Kolkata.
“The state government is forcing us to call a strike,” Gurung said in Darjeeling on Sunday. “An atmosphere of agitation is building up in the hills. Tourists should check before making their travel plans,” he added. “There will be no strike,” Mamata countered.
Despite the CM’s assurances, the issue has made a number of people, particularly those in the tourism industry, quite worried. Samrat Sanyal, executive president of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association, said, “There have been many calls from worried clients. There have been no cancellations, but thousands come to the hills during festival season. This is bad for business.”
Meanwhile, at least 2,000 GJM activists joined the TMC under the watchful eye of Aroop Biswas, TMC observer for Darjeeling district.
Among those who jumped ship on Sunday were Jiten Tamang, a central committee member of GJM and president of the party unit in Bijanbari area. “We will take all efforts to ensure that there is no bandh.”