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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Will find permanent solution, GTA polls soon: Mamata’s promise to Hills

Mamata Banerjee floated the proposal days after the Centre initiated a tripartite talk with the state government and representatives of various political parties in the region, including those of the BJP, to resolve issues related to the Gorkhas.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
Updated: October 27, 2021 5:14:17 am
The public spat between the two parties has intensified in recent times when Opposition parties are looking to form an anti-BJP front for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. (File)

Pitching for a “permanent solution” to usher in development in the region ravaged by several agitations over a separate Gorkhaland, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday urged Hills leaders to submit a roadmap to the state government, and promised to soon hold panchayat and Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) elections.

Banerjee floated the proposal days after the Centre initiated a tripartite talk with the state government and representatives of various political parties in the region, including those of the BJP, to resolve issues related to the Gorkhas.

On a north Bengal tour since Monday, she, however, said the Hills would remain part of West Bengal.“You (leaders in north Bengal) have seen so much of politics over the years. Now, let’s come and play the game of development politics. You give me an opportunity; I assure you that I will get a permanent solution for Darjeeling. I do not say anything for the sake of it. We have kept all the promises that we made,” Banerjee said here during an administrative meeting of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts, where former Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Anit Thapa, and two other prominent Hill leaders — Roshan Giri and Amar Singh Rai — were also present.

She said once a permanent solution found, GTA and panchayat elections can be held. GTA is an autonomous district council that governs Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong and some moujas of Siliguri subdivision. Panchayat elections in the Hills were last held in 2000.

The chief minister urged Thapa, who had recently formed a new party, and others to form a committee to draft the roadmap and submit it to her government by the first week of December.

Without naming any party, the TMC supremo alleged that some politicians, who visit the Hills before the elections with promises of statehood, intended to create division among people. “They flee after elections. Their only motto is to create divisions.”

“By keeping Darjeeling in Bengal, I am ready to help you all in every possible way so that your children get good jobs and get to establish themselves. There is much scope in this region. But after every 10 years, one movement washes away every development effort and people (tourists) stop coming here,” she said, in an apparent reference to recurring Gorkhaland agitations.

Such incidents did not ot happen in other tourist destinations such as Himachal Pradesh, the CM pointed out, adding that a government alone could not bring about development in a place.

She further said that pending elections could not be held in the region over the past two years owing to the Covid-19 situation, and her government would do its best to address the needs of locals.

“Everywhere, there is a three-tier panchayat system, here it is a two-tier one. The Constitution needs to be amended. We will take it up… We will see what can be done about it,” she said.

Banerjee, during the meeting, further said that drinking water would soon be supplied through piped lines to all households in the Hills.

Describing the Hills as a mine of opportunities and investments, the CM advised locals to package water from natural resources in bottles.

“Local youth should be employed for the work being undertaken here. This will address the issue of unemployment and people will get jobs without having to move elsewhere,” she said.

‘BSF can’t harass people along border’

Kolkata: Keeping heat on the Central government over its proposed move to increase Border Security Force’s jurisdiction from 15km to 50km inside the international border, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said she respected the central forces, but they “cannot harass our people intentionally”.

She again reminded the Central Government that law and order was a state subject. “I have respect for the central forces but they cannot harass our people intentionally. We have no problems at our border. The Bangladesh border is very peaceful and we do not want to disturb that,” she said during a meeting at Kurseong in the Hills.

Last week, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) moved to extend the BSF’s jurisdiction from 15 km to 50 km inside the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. In its notification, the ministry said it was amending the BSF Act to authorise the paramilitary force to undertake search and seizure operations, and make arrests within the revised jurisdiction.

The TMC chairperson had on Monday reiterated that the MHA step interfered with the federal structure of the country. She also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter on Sunday. ENS

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