Writes: Vivek Chhetri
Bimal Gurung yesterday alleged the state government's "rampant interference" in the affairs of the GTA and held out as an example the district administration's notice to a handful of building owners who had supposedly flouted construction and security rules.
|Bimal Gurung Pic: Suman Tamang|
The district administration's notice was sent to the five owners to discuss the problem. Some of the buildings had flouted the rule for the maximum height of buildings, which is 11.5 metres in the hills. Two owners were called because their buildings were seen as security threats. The notice was not for demolition.
The five building owners were told to stop construction. Also, the state's decision to send a team to verify all illegal structures in Darjeeling has peeved Gurung.
The Morcha chief also does not want the state government to set up a hill campus of the Presidency University in the hills. The Morcha wants a separate central university, not a branch campus, to be made in the hills, as mentioned in the GTA memorandum of understanding.
The party has also been upset with the state government as Mamata Banerjee had recently launched a development body for the Bhutia community. The Morcha has said several times that the chief minister was trying to divide the hill people for political gain.
Gurung today said: "The last time the chief minister was in Darjeeling, I skipped my prior engagement to be present at her meeting. We have tried our best to have good relations with the state government but every time she has visited Darjeeling, she gave us only pain. Slowly, we have to fight for our ultimate goal."
On September 7, a fortnight after Gurung had welcomed Mamata with a bouquet in Chowrasta, the hill party said it was unhappy with Mamata's style of functioning vis-à-vis the hills.
Gurung today said: "A conspiracy is being hatched by the state government through the district magistrate and the police to dismantle buildings. The Darjeeling municipality had already decided they would not allow new construction to have highrises but we would not touch buildings which have already been built."
He added that if buildings were demolished and there was "an agitation, our party will support the agitation. A general strike too can be called on the issue."
Gurung said that "earlier, when the CPM was in power in Bengal and the GNLF was there in the hills, there was no policy to divide and rule the hills".
Mamata has also formed development boards for Lepchas, Tamangs and Sherpas.
"There is rampant interference. The Centre, state and our party agreed on the GTA. The state government does not honour the act. How many departments have been transferred till date?" Gurung asked, bringing to the fore an old grudge he has against the government over the control of the hill body.
Asked if Gurung would leave the GTA, the hill leader said: "The GTA will keep functioning."
In 2013, Gurung had resigned as the chief executive of the GTA to start an agitation for Gorkhaland but ultimately took oath as the chief executive again in December 2013.
Gurung also seemed peeved over the district administration's recent directive to a school to demolish a floor of its under-construction building. "The school (Ram Krishna Siksha Parishad) has been there since Independence. The school is being funded by the Centre. The state is probably jealous of the development work in the hills," he said.