Attempting to end the deadlock in Darjeeling hills, the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal on Wednesday announced a nine-member “board of administrators” to run the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA), and appointed rebel Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Binay Tamang as its chairman.
She said that the board will undertake development works in the district, and that the state government will soon issue a notification in this regard. But within hours, Banerjee’s decision, which the GJM slammed as a “mockery of people’s aspirations”, came across hurdles “within”.
In a statement issued late evening, Tamang kept up the ambiguity, saying that he has “received no official communication or intimation” about the decision. GNLF, a former TMC ally in Darjeeling Hills whose president Mann Ghising was named as a member of the new board, sought an “unconditional apology’’ from the Chief Minister for announcing a new administrative board and including Ghising’s name without his permission.
Following unrest in the Hills over demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland, all 45 elected members of GTA, including its chief executive Bimal Gurung, had resigned from the administrative body in June. “After resignation of GTA members, we had made Barun Roy (IAS) the administrator of GTA as per GTA Act. Had they not resigned, they could have remained in GTA until election was held,” Banerjee said. “Today, we have taken a decision to form a board of administrators, which will enjoy the same power as that of the administrator of GTA.”
While Tamang was named chairman of the new board, Anit Thapa, another leader expelled by GJM, was declared vice-chairman. The executive members named are West Bengal Chief Secretary Malay De, Darjeeling GJM MLA Amar Singh Rai, GNLF president Mann Ghising, Anu Chhetri, Jyotin Khatun, L B Rai and Sanchabir Subba.
While Amar Rai, the only MLA on the board, remained unavailable for a comment, GJM’s joint assistant general secretary Jyoti Kumar Rai said the MLA was unaware of the development. “He told me he was completely unaware of the Board and did not know why his name had been included. Amar Rai is still with us, and with Bimal Gurung.”
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