Darjeeling, Jan. 7: The season of reaching out to people has set in the hills with leaders of different political affiliations visiting various areas.
While Bimal Gurung started an interaction with people today, two of his principal adversaries, GNLF president Mann Ghisingh and Kalimpong MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri, have been intensively touring the region.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president, who had stopped his 60-odd days of padayatra in December following a purported appeal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, today visited ward 29 of Darjeeling municipality. The visit, however, was not on foot like his previous foray. His interaction was to understand people's problems.
"I had visited areas in Kalimpong during my padayatra. I am now touring places which are near my GTA constituency (Tukvar). From today, I will visit all wards of Darjeeling municipality and other areas in town. I will also go to Kurseong and visit various places," said Gurung.
Ward 29 falls in the Singamari-Tukvar area. People living in the vicinity of Mount Hermon School complained to Gurung about lack of drinking water facilities, community hall and land rights.
Addressing the villagers, the GTA chief executive said: "Mount Hermon is a very important school in the hills. I am thinking of helping the school so that it can become better. I will also look into the issue of community hall. We are already working on a drinking water project for wards, 27, 28 and 29. We will build a road to connect the lower villages." He, however, said his renewed campaign was not for elections. "This visit of municipal wards and other areas has nothing to do with the elections. I am only trying to get a first-hand account of the problems people face."
While Gurung's campaign is expected to stretch for months, Mann Ghisingh is visiting different parts of the hills to campaign for the Sixth Schedule status for the region. He has visited various places in Mirik and Kurseong and is currently touring Sonada. Ghisingh will tour Kalimpong subdivision later.
Told about Ghisingh's campaign, the Morcha president today said: "I would only tell him that it is useless to campaign for the Sixth Schedule status as it has already been rejected. It would do good for the people if he campaigns for statehood."
Apart from Gurung and Ghisingh, Harka Bahadur Chhetri who is set to float a new political party this month is also campaigning across the hills. Chhetri today addressed a gathering at Rambi Bazaar, about 60km from Darjeeling. Tomorrow, he will be visiting Bijanbari where he is scheduled to address a public meeting.
On Sunday, the Kalimpong MLA will be in Mirik where he is likely to announce the date for the launch of his new party.
Haider Aziz Safwi, the Bengal correctional administration minister, on Thursday visited the Darjeeling jail. He said plans were afoot to convert the Darjeeling correctional home and Presidency jail in Calcutta into model prisons.
"A model home would have better living facilities, medical and recreational facilities among other things," said Safwi. The minister will visit the correctional home in Kalimpong tomorrow. The Darjeeling jail currently has a capacity to accommodate 120 male and seven female inmates