Showing posts with label Development Boards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Development Boards. Show all posts

Bimal Gurung pins hopes on Gorkhaland, BJP on Gurung

8:52 AM
Writes: Esha Roy

Bimal Gurung has been carrying the aspirations for Gorkhaland statehood on his shoulders. Now the 52-year-old carries the aspirations of the BJP in Bengal, too.

Across Darjeeling district, banners of Gorkhaland adorn shops. Despite the formation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Authority (GTA) in 2012, the demand for a separate state is still alive, and is the main campaign platform in this election. It is also the reason why Gurung’s Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) is unabashedly a BJP ally and has decided to field candidates on BJP tickets.

“The BJP will open its scorecard in North Bengal with our candidates. The GJM has five candidates. Five other GJM candidates were fielded on BJP tickets. We are confident of winning these seats,’’ a Gurung aide said.

Seated surrounded by supporters, Gurung said, “We are loyal to the BJP because it is the most sympathetic to our cause for a separate state for Gorkhas. This alliance will continue in future elections,” said Gurung. “When I met (PM Narendra) Modiji during his rally in Madarihat, we discussed many issues. We will work things out.” The understanding is implicit: the BJP will make inroads into Bengal while Gurung will have a shot at Gorkhaland.
Gurung pins hopes on Gorkhaland, BJP on Gurung
Bimal Gurung in Kalimpong GJM pre-poll Rally
Over the past year and a half, relations have soured between Gurung and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. “She interfered in GTA matters. There is a lot of resentment against her,’’ a GJM source said.

In a run-up to the elections, Mamata announced development boards for communities in Darjeeling district such as the Lepcha Development Board and Tamang Development Board. These are separate from the GTA, which is responsible for governing Darjeeling district. While the Gorkhas are the dominant community here, Lepchas, Limpus, Tamangs, Bhutias, Rais, Dukpas, Sherpas and Tibetans also form a sizeable population.

“Mamata is trying to divide the people of Gorkhaland on communal lines. I think we got the GTA by mistake — they didn’t really understand the gravity of it. Ever since, she has been trying to break the identity of Gorkhaland. I am asking for my rights, and Gorkhaland is my right. She can form as many development boards as she wants, but these boards are also supporting us,’’ Gurung said. However, seeing the advantages of having their own boards, and thus a source of funding, some feel that these communities may consider moving away from the GJM. The shutting of tea estates will also cost Mamata, Gurung added.

Party insiders said Mamata’s move to derecognise Nepali as an official language had angered people. “Besides, the schemes she talks about in her campaign have not entered the hills,” said a GJM member.

Via: Indian Express

Development boards inject identity politics into Hills political cauldron

1:42 PM
Darjeeling/Kalimpong: The creation of Hill boards for the uplift of ethnic communities—Lepchas, Tamangs, Sherpas, Bhutias, Mangars and Rais—has added a new dimension to the effervescent politics in the Hills.

Though the GJM, which runs the GTA, views the boards as an attempt to fracture its support base in the Hills, fuelling identity politics, the move seems to have won Mamata Banerjee many admirers for championing the cause of the marginalized. “What is wrong if the Hills people who have been deprived of benefit for years get something? The indigenous communities saw refugees receive facilities but they never got anything. Though it led to some disquiet, it did not trigger a clash. Now, the state is finally giving what was long overdue. It will definitely have political implications, both in short and long term,” said writer Nanda Hakim.

The announcement of the Lepcha board in August 2011 opened the floodgates with similar development boards being set up for the Tamangs, Sherpas, Bhutias, Mangars and Rais, who account for nearly 10 lakh people in the Hills and elsewhere. Two more boards are in the line, for Limbus and Newars. All these boards receive funds from the state for the development of facilities for the communities.

Lyang Song Tamsang, chairman of West Bengal Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board that has received Rs 86 crore in 2013-2015, says they received a bigger boost in the past three years than in the earlier 60. “The funds have helped build 3,000 homes for poor Lepcha families, and 40 Lepcha night-schools are now housed in pucca buildings. We will convert the remaining 20 into pucca structures and add another 20 night schools by next year,” said Tamsang.

Lepchas learn their language as well as math and English from British and Amercian teachers at these schools. The money has also initiated a stream beautification project. As most Lepcha families live in remote hamlets, adjacent to streams and dependent on agriculture, the project is aimed at providing them with a source of clean water to drink and irrigate their crops.

“The state tried to fulfil a long-standing demand for introducing Lepcha language in primary schools and appointed para-teachers but the GTA went to court, saying it was an interference. Those para-teachers now teach the language at the night schools,” said Tamsang, hinting at the underlying friction caused by the boards.

The West Bengal Bhutia Development Board is yet to run into any hurdle. But board chairman Palden D Bhutia, a former Darjeeling Municipality chief (1999-2004), remains wary. They have spent Rs 10 crore on 500 homes for needy Bhutia families. But the money has also created envy. “The amount that the boards are getting isn’t magic. Even earlier, development funds came but no one knows where it disappeared. Now that it is coming directly to the community, the opportunity to siphon off has ceased,” he said.

Political observers say Bhutias, Lepchas, Tamangs and Sherpas will be favourably disposed towards Mamata. While the communities may not vote directly for Trinamool, a good section could vote for Harka Bahadur Chhetri’s Jan Andolan Party (JAP), which has Mamata’s backing.
“It will be good to receive the support of various communities,” said the JAP candidate from Kalimpong, which houses several board offices.

But Nepali Sahitya Sammelan member S K Giri questioned the future: “Owing to Mamata’s interest, the boards have been set up like para clubs. If the government changes, what will happen to the board that have no constitutional legality?”

Tamsang said board officials have requested the state to make the boards statutory and incorporate them in Government Act instead of Societies Act.


GJM to complaint against development boards to Election Commission

11:28 AM
Morcha mulls moving EC against development boards

It’s election time and things have started heating up in the hills. For one, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has decided to lodge a complaint with the Election Commission against the community development boards formed by the state government for allegedly violating the model code of conduct.

GJM general secretary Roshan Giri yesterday said the chairmen of the Sherpa, Bhutia, Tamang, Mangar, Khambu Rai and Limbu community development boards held an indoor meeting on Friday in Darjeeling where they decided to support the Trinamool despite holding offices of profit.

On Friday, representatives and members of the six associations under the radar held a meeting to decide ways to pursue measures for safeguarding and promoting their tradition, culture and language. The contentious issue of which party to support in the election was also discussed in the meeting and the associations unanimously decided to extend support to that political party (read TMC) that had helped the communities.

However, all the six chairmen had clarified the meeting was not convened by the development boards but by the associations and that they had not forced any member to vote for the TMC or any other political party.

“We will approach the ECI and lodge complaints against the six development boards for violating the model code of conduct. How can officials of development boards that function under the state government speak for a party? These officials receive salary and vehicles and other perks from the state government,” Giri said following the public meeting held by the GJM this afternoon in support of the party’s candidate from Darjeeling.

Nonetheless, the GJM general secretary was quick to add that the development boards would not affect his party’s prospects on April 17, the day of voting. “We are more concerned about polling being fair and clean even though we are confident of winning handsomely even if the development boards support the TMC,” he said.

GJM president Bimal Gurung also echoed Giri saying the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC would taste defeat, in spite of the state government showering money worth crores to the boards ahead of the election. “She has spent crores on the development boards just to garner votes. But one must remember that when it comes to issues pertaining to identity, statehood and aspirations, the hills will always remain united even if more doles are offered,” he said.

“The state government may try to tear us apart by creating divisions. But we will keep on mending the damage until we achieve statehood,” thundered Gurung to loud applause from the crowd gathered at the Motor Stand area of town.

According to the GJM chief, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise during his April 7 speech in Siliguri that the 11 communities of the hills would be granted tribal status was a stepping stone towards achieving statehood. “Modi-ji himself told me that day that the 11 communities would be granted tribal status. I would like to remind you that he once said the dreams of the Gorkha people were his dreams too. We must remember that things are achieved one at a time,” said Gurung, adding he has invited the prime minister to Darjeeling.

Darjeeling GJM candidate Amar Singh Rai trained his guns on the TMC-JAP-GNLF ‘jote’ (alliance) saying it was temporary and that its intentions were ill. “JAP says development is its priority, the GNLF wants Sixth Schedule status and the TMC is anti-Gorkhaland. The alliance is an unholy nexus against our statehood aspiration and will be scattered when they taste defeat,” he said.

Meanwhile, the other GJM leaders who spoke at the campaign meeting appeared more interested in denouncing JAP president Harka Bahadur Chhetri than rallying for the party candidate.

Via: EOIC,

Hill development boards to support the Trinamul Congress in Assembly polls

8:27 AM
Darjeeling, April 8: The chairmen of six development boards of different communities in the hills today said they wanted members of their communities to support the Trinamul Congress in Assembly polls as a token of gratitude for the formation of the bodies.

The heads of six development boards formed by the Mamata Banerjee government were present at the first-of-its-kind meeting at the Gorkha Dukha Niwarak Sammelan Hall today. The meeting was addressed by the chairmen of Tamang, Sherpa, Bhutia, Mangar, Limbu and Rai development boards.

The chairman of the Lepcha development board, however, was absent from the meeting "as the representatives of the community were busy with preparations for their own meeting".

Sanjay Moktan, the chairman of the Tamang Development and Cultural Board, said: "The state government has helped us in our development and we have, therefore, decided to help that political party."

Asked if that political party was the Trinamul Congress, Moktan said: "Obviously. If the leadership of that party is supporting us, we, too, need to back them. However, we cannot tell all our community members to vote for a particular party. We believe that it is our responsibility to support that party which is helping us."
The chairmen of the 7 hill development boards at the meeting.Picture by Suman Tamang
The chairmen of the 7 hill development boards at the meeting.Picture by Suman Tamang
The seven communities, including the Sherpas, for which the boards have been formed, make up more than 35 percent of the hill population.

Observers, however, believe every member of a particular community is not expected to follow the chairman's line of thought. "Moreover, there are also rival organisations within the communities which are not too enthused about the development boards," said an observer.

Moktan said the meeting had also been called to end the "oppression" being perpetuated by a political party. "The meeting has also been called to seek freedom from the oppression that is being perpetuated by a political party. We believe the party is not allowing us to develop our language and culture."

Although Moktan did not take the name of the political party, it was clear that he was referring to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

Asked about the oppression, Moktan said: "When a member of the Tamang community was killed in broad daylight here, we could not even protest."

The killing was in reference to the murder of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League leader, Madan Tamang, in May, 2010.

Palden Bhutia, the chairman of the Bhutia Development Board, said: "All we want to say is that we need to feed the cow that provides milk to us."

Bhutia said the meeting had been organised not by the development boards but by organisations representing the six communities.

Nima Wangdi Sherpa, the chairman of the West Bengal Sherpa Development Board, said: "Apart from the chairmen of the six development boards, representatives of the Darjeeling Indigenous Schedule Caste Welfare Association and the Bhujel community were also present. The two communities are demanding development boards and we would extend support to them."

With regard to the absence of the chairman of the Lepcha development board, Sherpa said: "As the representatives of the community were busy with preparations for their own meeting, they could not attend today's meeting."


Hill Development boards meeting on Assembly election in Darjeeling

7:57 PM
Writes Vivek Chhetri

Darjeeling, April 6: The heads of seven development boards formed for different communities in the Darjeeling hills have decided to hold a meeting here on Friday to discuss the stand they will take on the coming Assembly election.

Although the chairman of West Bengal Sherpa Cultural Board said the meeting would discuss "issues related to the upcoming election", sources said the purpose of the talks was to decide whether the heads of the boards should support any party in the polls and if so, how they should send the message to the members of the communities.

The development boards' formation by the Mamata Banerjee government has given a toehold to the Trinamul Congress in the hills, where the writ of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha largely runs.

The meeting is considered significant as this is the first time that the chairmen of the boards are formally sitting together to discuss an election strategy.
Hill Development boards meeting on Assembly election in Darjeeling
Lyangsong Tamsang, the chairman of the Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board,
after receiving a cheque for Rs 10 crore from Mamata Banerjee at
Ronaldshay Park in Kalimpong
Nima Wangdi Sherpa, the chairman of the Sherpa cultural board today told The Telegraph: "It is true that a meeting of the chairpersons of seven boards will be held at the Gorkha Dukha Niwarak Sammelan Hall in Darjeeling on April 8. The agenda is basically to discuss issues related to the upcoming election."

He, however, refused to get into the details of the meeting's agenda.

Sources said the chairmen of the development boards would be discussing the stand they would take in the polls. "If they decide to support any party, then, they will have to find a way to present it before the members of their respective communities. Those things will also be decided at the meeting," said an aide to the chairman of one of the boards.

The state government has so far formed boards for Lepcha, Tamang, Sherpa, Bhutia, Mangar, Rai and Limbu communities which make up 35 per cent of the hill population.

"Apart from the chairpersons, leaders of other communities like Scheduled Caste, Bhujel and probably Newars, which are also demanding development boards, are likely to attend the meeting," said Sherpa.

Asked about the likely outcome of the talks, Sherpa said: "We cannot say anything at the moment."

Observers believe the board chairmen will most probably decide on supporting the Trinamul candidates in the hills. "It is obvious that they will decide to support the Trinamul candidates because they were given positions by the state government. Most of the board chairmen were present at Mamata Banerjee's election rally in Kurseong on March 15," said an observer.

"However, the most interesting thing would be how they appeal to community members to support Trinamul. Will it be a direct appeal or will they send across a subtle message to voters," said the observer.

The observers believe the chairmen of the boards are under pressure. "Mamata Banerjee has nominated them to the posts with a belief that they wield a lot of clout among their respective communities. So, these leaders are obviously under pressure to deliver," said an observer.

Morcha president and GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung has always said the boards were created to divide the hill population. Realising the importance of the development boards in the upcoming election, he had met leaders of different communities over the past few weeks.

"Gurung has held meetings with leaders of Sherpa, Limbu, Rai and Christian communities throughout March at Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan in Darjeeling. Gurung is confident that development board leaders cannot influence a lot of voters ," said a close aide to Gurung.

The GTA had announced in February that development boards for 19 hill communities would be established with an allocation of Rs 5 crore each.


Mamata Banerjee to campaign in Kurseong on March 15 for Assembly polls

10:04 AM
Writes Vivek Chhetri

Darjeeling, March 6: The hill unit of the Trinamul Congress today said Mamata Banerjee would hold a public meeting in Kurseong on March 15 betraying the party's hope that it could pose a major challenge to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the Assembly polls on the back of the launch of development boards for different communities.

Binny Sharma, general secretary, Darjeeling (hill) Trinamul, said: "Our leader, Miss Mamata Banerjee, will be addressing a public meeting in Kurseong on March 15. Although the venue has not been fixed, it will most probably be held at Monteviot ground."

Trinamul sources in Calcutta couldn't confirm if Mamata would speak in Kurseong, but said she was likely to kick off her election campaign from the hills.
Mamata Banerjee to campaign in Kurseong on March 15 for Assembly polls
Mamata Banerjee in Kalimpong - a file photo
Shanta Chhetri, who had been elected to the Assembly three times on GNLF ticket, was fielded by Trinamul in the Kurseong seat. Sarda Rai Subba and Harka Bahadur Chhetri have been fielded by the party in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, respectively, though confusion prevails over the latter's candidature. Elections will be held to the three hill Assembly segments on April 17.

Sharma said Mamata was also expected to campaign for a day in Siliguri on March 14.

Sources in Trinamul said Mamata was confident that Trinamul would put up a strong fight in the three seats. "The confidence stems from the fact that she has formed separate development boards for many hill communities and she expects their support for Trinamul candidates," a Trinamul leader said on condition of anonymity.

So far, development boards have been formed for Lepchas, Tamangs, Sherpas, Bhutias and Mangars. The chief minister has announced development boards for the Limbus and Rais as well, but they have not been formed yet. These communities together make up over 50 per cent of the hill population.

The elections, observers believe, will show if political benefits will accrue to Trinamul from the boards. "This is the elections where it will be clear whether Mamata's development boards have managed to win the hearts of the hill people," said an observer.

The Morcha, on the other hand, has been alleging that the boards were formed with an intention to divide and rule the hill population.

Shanta Chhetri who had joined Mamata's party on February 22, 2014, said she would not speak against anyone in the campaign. "A week after my house had been burnt down by Morcha activists on February 18, 2010, my husband died and people were not allowed to attend the funeral. I have gone through the worst. Yet, I will not speak against anyone in the election campaign," she said.


Rai Development Board has started its operation

11:05 PM

Writes: Rajeev Ravidas

The West Bengal Rai Development Board has started its operation with  30 general body members owing allegiance to the Kirati Khambu Rai Sanskritik Sansthan, although the objection raised by the Khambu Rights Movement was yet to be addressed.
M.S. Rai, the chairman of the Rai board, said the first governing body meeting of the board had been held in Darjeeling on Saturday. "The board belongs to all Khambus living in Bengal. It will work for their development. Today, we distributed Rs 1 lakh each to 20 poor Rai families from the hills. This is the first instalment of Rs 2 lakh we intend to give to each of these families for constructing houses," he said in Darjeeling.
The KRM has expressed unhappiness at the board's functioning without taking it into confidence. "We were told by both the Darjeeling district magistrate and S.K. Thade (principal secretary, backward classes welfare department) that even though the notification constituting the general body had been issued on February 12, it would not be acted upon till the differences between us and KKRSS were resolved. This is totally unexpected. We will decide on our next course of action later," said A.K. Rai, the KRM president.
The KRM had staged a hunger strike from February 17 to 24, demanding that its supporters be made the board members.
The 31-member general body has just one supporter of the KRM.
Observers say that the notification could be potentially backdated to skirt around the PIL and upcoming elections code of conduct.

via TheDC

Kolkata HC accepted PIL against Hill Development Boards

Darjeeling, Feb. 25: Calcutta High Court has accepted an apolitical organisation's PIL seeking the dissolution of development boards for different communities in the hills, saying they discriminated against citizens based on caste and creed and no yardstick was followed in the formation of the bodies.

Mamata Banerjee had announced boards for five communities, but the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had alleged that the chief minister was adopting a "divide and rule policy" in the hills by doing this.

The PIL was filed by Pravin Gurung, the general secretary of the Darjeeling Tarai Dooars Gorkhali Adhiwashi Welfare Society.

Speaking over phone from Calcutta, Anand Bhandari, the lawyer for the petitioner, said: "The divisional bench consisting of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Arijit Banerjee is hearing the PIL and has directed the state government to file an affidavit-in-opposition in three weeks. The next hearing will take place after four weeks."

The order to the government to file the affidavit was passed by the division bench on February 19.

The court refused to pass an interim order stopping the distribution of funds to the development boards as demanded by the petitioner.

State law minister Chandima Bhattacharya declined comment on the PIL. She said: "The matter is sub-judice. I cannot make any comment on the issue. But I can say what the chief minister is trying to do is for the welfare of Limbu and Rai communities."

Pravin Gurung today said: "We believe the state government has discriminated against many communities. While some communities are getting benefits, others are being deprived of them. Moreover, the yardstick to grant a development board and funds too is not clear."

Citing some examples, he said: "For instance, as per the 2011 census, literacy rate of the Bhutia and Limbu communities is 81.1 per cent and 87.8 per cent, respectively. However, the literacy rate of Lodha and Savar tribes is 45.5 per cent and 40.6 per cent, respectively. Although boards have been formed for Bhutias and Limbus, there is no such body for communities which are educationally backward."

When the first board was formed for the Lepchas by Mamata, it was said that the boards would be apolitical cultural entities. But Morcha president Bimal Gurung had said development boards should be formed for all communities in the hills rather for a few of them. Gurung, as the GTA chief executive, also announced development boards for 19 communities in the hills. So far, development boards have been formed for Lepchas, Tamangs, Sherpas, Bhutia and Mangars. The chief minister has announced development boards for the Limbus and Rais as well, but they have not been formed. While Mangars and Rais are among Other Backward Classes (OBC), the rest of the communities that have been granted or promised boards are Schedule Tribes.

Pravin Gurung said it was strange that communities whose population was dwindling were not granted development boards. "As per the 2011 census, the Tamangs population was 1,46,203, and a board was formed for them. But the population of Mru and Khond communities is only 196 and 660, respectively and still, no development body was offered to them," he said.

"The Indian Constitution does not have provisions to provide preferential treatment to certain sections even among the STs. In Bengal, there are more than 40 communities which have been classified as STs but development boards have not been formed for all of them. Boards haven't been announced for other OBC sections and it is against the provisions of equality that is enshrined in the Constitution. There should be no discrimination based on caste and creed," said Gurung.

The petitioner has demanded that a single development board covering all tribal communities in the state be formed. "For this, all development boards must be dissolved. Or else, development boards must be formed for all communities in the state," he said.


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