The GJM was reacting to JAP president Harka Bahadur Chhetri’s call to all political parties in the hills, including the GJM, to take forward the demand. On April 21, the JAP called an all-party meeting in Kalimpong to discuss the demand for a three-tier panchayat system, but the meet failed to yield the desired results. Another meeting is scheduled on April 29.
GJM general secretary Roshan Giri today said he was aware of the all-party meeting called by the JAP but refused to participate. “We know the JAP has called an all-party meeting later this month and we are also invited. However, we will not attend the meeting because the JAP, which was formed recently, does not have the people’s mandate to initiate such programmes,” he claimed.
|GJM general secretary Roshan Giri and Harka in the past|
According to the GJM general secretary, the Centre is in favour of implementing a three-tier panchayat system in the hills, but the state government is trying to skirt discussions on the matter. “We have not had a panchayat election since 2005 and the rural populace of the hills is suffering due to this. Delhi is in favour of such a system though, and we believe a constitutional amendment is required to have the system implemented in the hills. Sadly though, the state government is not serious about the issue and has not sent representatives to the tripartite meetings and this has kept the matter on hold,” Giri alleged.
During the tenure of the now defunct Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, a two-tier panchayat system was put in place in the hills as a Mahakuma Parishad was established in Siliguri sub-division of Darjeeling district. However, Subash Ghisingh and his Gorkha National Liberation Front opposed the two-tier system and allowed only the gram panchayats to function. But here too, no election has been held.
Reacting to the GJM’s refusal to attend the all-party meeting, JAP general secretary Nayan Pradhan said, “We have invited all political parties including the GJM, but it is not our problem if someone doesn’t want to attend. Our objective is to try and solve the problems being faced by the rural population because of the absence of a panchayat system in the hills.”
The April 21 meeting was attended by the Trinamool Congress, the CPM, the Congress and the Gorkha Rashtriya Congress.