Showing posts with label GTA Sabha. Show all posts
Showing posts with label GTA Sabha. Show all posts

Roshan Giri's peal to state education minister Partha Chatterjee

1:25 PM
DARJEELING 5 July 2016 Gorkhaland Territorial Administration sabhasad Roshan Giri today said the state government has given a positive response to the demand for regularising teachers serving on voluntary basis in various high schools and higher secondary schools in the hills.

Today, Giri and the three MLAs from the hills called on state education minister Partha Chatterjee in Kolkata and served a memorandum of demand following which they got the assurance. Speaking from Kolkata, Giri said, “We met the state education minister today and submitted a memorandum of our demands regarding regularising the voluntary teachers. The minister gave us a patient hearing and positive assurance.”

At present, 519 teachers are serving voluntarily in 129 junior, high and higher secondary schools in the hills. However, these teachers now want to be regularised and have started various forms of agitation under the aegis of the Janmukti Insecure Secondary Teachers’ Organisation (JISTO) to pressurise the state government.
Roshan Giri accompanied by hill MLAs Amar Singh Rai, Sarita Rai and Rohit Sharma met state education minister Partha Chatterjee
Roshan Giri accompanied by hill MLAs Amar Singh Rai, Sarita Rai and Rohit Sharma
met state education minister Partha Chatterjee
Besides regularisation, the GTA also wants the state government to form an ad-hoc selection board, giving permanent status to the headmasters of various schools currently holding temporary posts and a raise in salary of the voluntary teachers.

“There are schools in the hills that have headmasters who have been given temporary charge. We want permanent status for them for the smooth functioning of the schools. We also raised the issue of enhancement of salary of the voluntary teachers as assured by the state government in 2014,” Giri said.

According to the GTA sabhasad, the education minister assured the delegation that the process to regularise the voluntary teachers would start on receiving the green signal from the state chief secretary. “We have been assured that the minister would start the process to absorb the voluntary teachers, form an ad-hoc selection board and enhance salary once the state chief secretary gives the directions,” said Giri.

When asked for his comment on the development, JISTO coordinator Amit Gurung said, “We have not received any information yet about the meeting between the GTA and the state education minister. We will first wait for the details of the proposed ad-hoc selection board to see if it benefits us and comment only then.”

A discrepancy to be noted here is that on May 20 last month, the joint secretary of the state school education department had written to the home and hill affairs department stating that regularisation, absorption and appointment of voluntary teachers in the GTA could not be entertained until they secure their candidature through the West Bengal School Service Commission, which ironically, has remained defunct in the hills since 2003.

Telegraph - The GTA Sabha member in charge of education, Roshan Giri, met state education minister Partha Chatterjee today and demanded that an ad hoc selection board be formed to make the 500-odd voluntary teachers in the hills permanent.

Giri, who was accompanied by hill MLAs Amar Singh Rai, Sarita Rai and Rohit Sharma, said: "We have demanded that an ad hoc selection board be formed to absorb the 519 voluntary teachers in the hills. Since 2003, the SSC (School Service Commission) has been lying defunct and that is why the managing committees of the schools have had to recruit voluntary teachers. After having served for so long, it is justified that their (the teachers') services are regularised."

Chatterjee, however, said there would be no separate system for recruiting hill teachers. "The system followed in the plains will have to be followed in the hills as well," he said after meeting Giri at Bikash Bhavan in Calcutta.

Via   EOI and Telegraph

Darjeeling - another heritage gone, GTA pulls down Sailabash

12:42 PM
Darjeeling, May 31: Darjeeling's rare connection with present-day Bangladesh and a part of the hill town's rich history has been reduced to rubble.

The GTA has pulled down Sailabash, the over-a-century-old summer retreat of the raja of Digapatia, to set up a modern hotel management institute and guesthouse in one of the last few available green spaces in Darjeeling.

Digapatia is now in Rajshahi, Bangladesh.

The palace under the tourism department of the GTA near Jalapahar and was brought down about two weeks ago. "The building was in a dilapidated state and recent earthquakes too had caused some damage," said Kishore Ghimire, an executive engineer of the GTA.

In his book, A Concise History of The Darjeeling District Since 1835, which was published in 1922, E.C. Dozey, a writer and historian, said the building had been set up on land that was once owned by Capt J. Masson, the superintendent of Tukvar tea estate, by the "Digapatia Rajah". The retreat was earlier called Girivilash and the name was changed to Sailabash after Independence.
An undated photo of Sailabash: Courtesy Das Studio in Darjeeling
The Late Nayan Subba's soon-to-be-published book, Heritage buildings of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, says Raja Pramatha Nath Rai Bahadur had founded Girivilash whose garden was laid out by a German floriculturist and horticulturist, Morgenstern, and was looked after by 12 gardeners.

Nobody could say exactly in which year the building had been constructed. But its believed it was built in the last decade of the 19th century.

"Girivilash was a favourite place for the British governors of Bengal....The British army took over the palace in 1942. Later on, it was acquired by the government. It also served as a Tibetan school for a while. The palace has lost the historical grandeur of Girivilash," writes Subba.

According to Subba, the colonial building had an attic with miniature gables and a small dome, and an all-weather glazed rotunda with small square windows in classical style. There was a tennis court as well.

"Raja Pramadanath Roy occupied the front suite on the ground floor, which included the library, with its precious screens of velvet and ornate wooden pelmets," writes Subba.

The front suite of the upper storey with the snow view rooms was "for the rani",

Subba writes. It was "beautifully furnished with a curtained brass cot and a chandelier. There was a huge grandfather clock, which indicated the days of the month and the full moon day (Ekadashi). On the ground floor were the drawing room, dinning room, tash khana (card room) and the billiards room," Subba adds.

Despite being in a dilapidated state, Sailabash was still a landmark in Darjeeling and used to house a guesthouse after Independence. Once the building was taken over by the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, the office of the hill body's vice-chairman was housed there. For the past 20 years, the building had been lying vacant.

Bharat Prakash Rai, convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Darjeeling chapter), said: "How foolish can we be to dismantle such structures in the name of development. Could it not have been repaired? We have lost a piece of history and that is very sad."

Dawa Lepcha, the GTA Sabha member in charge of tourism, said: "A big-scale hotel management institution will be coming up and the requirements were such that the building had to come down."

GTA executive engineer Ghimire said the project cost had been pegged at Rs 55 crore. "Apart from the institution, there will also be a guesthouse with 24 rooms for in-house training. The infrastructure is being set up as per the parameters laid down by AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education)"

The five-acre plot in which the Sailabash was located has Annapurna and Kafal guesthouses, along with a pond built by the DGHC. "The Annapurna guesthouse will be used as an administrative building for the institution, while a part of Kafal will have to be dismantled. The pond will be smaller in size and we will have facilities for rainwater harvesting," said Ghimire.

The engineer said restoration of the building would have cost much more.

Via Telegraph

GJM Bimal Gurung upset with leaders, might reshuffle organisation

10:58 AM
Darjeeling, April 29: Bimal Gurung has expressed dissatisfaction with the functioning of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's municipal councillors and GTA Sabha members and said the organisation might be reshuffled from the grassroots level, said sources in the party.

The Morcha president held a closed-door meeting with members of the party's central committee and subdivisional committees at Malidhura in Darjeeling yesterday.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said it was "an internal meeting called to assess the recent election". Those who attended the session said off record that at the meeting, Gurung had not hidden his displeasure with the Morcha leaders' functioning.

"My party representatives are committing a lot of mistakes and I have to bear the brunt of your mistakes. It is time for self-correction by party leaders," Gurung was quoted to have said at the meeting by a source.
GJM Bimal Gurung
GJM chief Bimal Gurung
Gurung reminded the Morcha's municipal councillors and GTA Sabha members that their duty was to serve the people. "Don't take your chair for granted. The chair is not for earning money but to serve the people. Those who are in power are expected to do good work," Gurung reportedly said at the meeting.

The source said Gurung had specifically pointed to the collapse of a staircase connecting HD Lama Road with Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling on Tuesday. "Gurung said such incidents were bringing a bad name to the party's image and there should be no dereliction of duty by authorities concerned. He also expressed anguish at the growing congestion in town," said the source.

"Change is needed for the good of the party and also for the hill people," the source quoted Gurung as saying.

The GTA chief executive also warned that if need be, the Morcha would be reorganised from the bottom. "Gurung went to the extent of saying if needed, the party must be prepared to rebuild its organisation from the grassroots," said the source.

Gurung has also directed party workers not to wait till the election results to start a campaign to highlight the importance of the demand of granting tribal status to 10 hill communities.

Via Telegraph

Regularize over 5,000 casual employees within a month - GTA to State govt.

8:58 AM
Darjeeling, Feb. 2: The GTA decided to "bulldoze" its way through to regularize the services of over 5,000 casual employees at the hill body by setting a time-frame of one month for the state government to do so, failing which the autonomous institution itself will appoint them.  “A resolution was passed today in the Sabha that we will give the state government one month’s time to grant permanent status to the casual workers. If the state government fails to meet our demand, the GTA will appoint these casual workers permanently as per the 2011 agreement. We (GTA) will also give them salaries,” said BhupendraPradhan, the GTA Sabha chairman, after the meeting.

The GTA today also formed a committee to look at the possibility of constituting the Subordinate Selection Board on its own, though doubts persist if the hill body has powers to make the casual staff permanent and put in place the recruitment board.

The decisions come in the backdrop of the state's cancellation of a proposed meeting with the GTA on January 29 to discuss the regularisation of the casual staff. The Centre, too, had called tripartite talks with the state and the GTA in Delhi today but the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha alleged that the meeting had been cancelled because of the state's unwillingness to attend the session.
Regularize over 5,000 casual employees within a month - GTA to State gov.
JAKS demanding their right to permanent employment
Today, the GTA Sabha held a meeting at Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan in Darjeeling and passed a number of resolutions aimed at creating pressure on the state government.

Bhupendra Pradhan, the chairman of the GTA Sabha, said: "The Sabha today passed a resolution to write to the state to make the GTA workers permanent in one month. If they fail to regularise the jobs in a month, the GTA will start issuing appointment letters and we will pay their salaries from the GTA funds."

At the moment there are 5,321 casual employees in the GTA and the hill body has 4,011 sanctioned posts which are vacant now.

Many administrative officials said it was not clear whether the GTA could issue appointment letters. "There can be no clear answer on the issue as it depends on the interpretations of the GTA Act and various government notifications," said an officer.

Another officer, however, was of the opinion that the GTA had the power to issue appointment letters. "This is because there are 4,011 sanctioned posts. That the posts are sanctioned means that the government has given financial approval for the same. If the GTA makes appointment against the sanctioned posts, my opinion is that it cannot be termed illegal," he said.

Some other officials, however, said since the salaries had to come ultimately from the state, it is a must to get a concurrence from the state on the regularisation.

The GTA Act has empowered the hill body to fill up vacancies in Groups B, C and D through the Subordinate Selection Board. The board is to be formed by the state government in consultation with the GTA. However, the board has not yet been constituted.

At today's meeting, the GTA Sabha also formed a seven-member committee, which includes Ravi Inder Singh, principal secretary, GTA, Don Bosco Lepcha, secretary, GTA and Durga Kharel, nominated GTA Sabha member, to explore the possibility of forming the selection board.

"The committee will look into the provisions of forming the board as the state has failed to do so. We will bulldoze our way through as our people need jobs," said Pradhan.

In another resolution, the Sabha said the GTA would regularize the jobs of 515 voluntary teachers if the government didn't take an initiative in that direction.

"We will convene the Winter Session of the GTA on February 11 and 12 and come up with the budget. Our elected representatives will go to Calcutta along with GTA officials to place our budget before the state," said Pradhan.

A resolution was also taken to distribute Rs 60 lakh each to 45 elected GTA Sabha members as part of the constituency development fund which had been due for the past two financial years.

Source Telegraph

Bengal Invites GTA for Talks on Regularizing Over 5000 Casual Staff

8:01 AM

Writes: Vivek Chhetri

The Bengal government has invited the GTA for talks at Nabanna on January 29 to discuss the long-pending demand of the regularisation of jobs of over 5,000 causal employees at the hill body.

"We received a communication yesterday saying the state government had called a meeting on January 29. The home secretary, Moloy De, will chair the meeting as he is also in charge of the hill affairs department," Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha as well as an executive GTA Sabha member, said today.

"I will be attending the meeting at Nabanna (Howrah). The regularisation of casual staff is an important issue for the GTA. That is the only agenda of the meeting," he added.

The state's invitation to the GTA for the bipartite meeting has come a few days after the Morcha rejected chief minister Mamata Banerjee's call for talks on any issue.

Mamata had said in Siliguri on Thursday that if anyone had problems, they should meet her for talks and there should not be agitation in the Darjeeling hills.

The next day, Morcha president Bimal Gurung said he would meet the chief minister only if she declared that she would put an end to the state government's alleged "divide and rule" policy in the hills and agreed to talk on Gorkhaland.

At the moment, there are 5,321 casual employees at the GTA and since 2007, they have been demanding that they be made permanent. According to the Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan, which is an affiliate of the Morcha, the hill body has now 4,011 vacancies.

On May 14 last year, the high court had asked the state government to convene a meeting with the GTA in four months to decide how it would set in motion the process of absorbing the casual employees of the GTA.

In the order, Justice Sanjib Banerjee also told the state to allow two representatives of the JAKS, the sole association of casual employees at the GTA, to attend the meeting on the regularisation.

But soon after, the state filed an appeal with the division bench and the directive was stayed.

On September 17, 2009, following a hunger strike, the state government had given a written assurance to the JAKS.

A fax sent by the then home secretary Ardhendu Sen had stated: "The government has authorised the DGHC to start regularisation process against the sanctioned vacancies in all categories which it is authorised to do as per the existing act and the recruitment rules there under."

The fast was lifted following the assurance. The state government, however, went back on its assurance.

In 2011, the government decided to do away with the six-month contract system for the casual staff.

Source: Telegraph

GTA to conduct 4 sessions like Assemblies and the Parliament

12:51 PM
Writes Vivek Chhetri

Darjeeling, Nov. 27: The GTA Sabha today decided to hold four sessions similar to those in Assemblies and the Parliament from next year and invite the governor and the chief minister to address any of the meetings.

Bhupendra Pradhan, the chairman of the GTA Sabha, said the decision had been taken at a meeting of the Sabha held at the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan today.

"During the meeting today it was decided that the GTA Sabha, too, would have sessions as the Assembly and the Parliament. The first of the annual four sessions will start from the first week of February and it will be called the winter session. The last meeting will be called budget session which will be held in November."

The second session, to be held from the first week of May, will be called the monsoon session. "The third session will be called the autumn session and it will commence from the first week of August," Pradhan said.

Explaining the rationale for holding the budget session in November and not in February or March as is the practice in the Assembly and Parliament, Pradhan said: "We need our budget to be passed by the Assembly. If we conduct the budget session in November, our budget can be sent to the state and it can be incorporated in their budget."

As of now, the GTA Sabha which came into being in 2012, doesn't hold sessions regularly and the meetings are generally for a day.
GTA to conduct 4 sessions like Assemblies and the Parliament
GTA Sabha a file photo
"We used to convene the Sabha meetings as and when they were needed, sometimes once in three months and sometimes in five months. But we realised that the Sabha is the only forum where all the members can air their views and there should be a fixed session," said Lopshang Yolmo, the deputy chairman of the GTA Sabha.

Pradhan said the governor or the chief minister "might not address the first session as we need to get a hang of organising the Sabha. The governor and the chief minister would be invited to address subsequent sessions."

The duration of each session has not been fixed. "It will probably depend on the issues that need to be discussed during a particular session," Yolmo said.

During today's meeting, it was also decided that the GTA would provide a one-time remuneration to voluntary teachers of 16 junior high schools. As of now, the teachers are not getting any pay. The remuneration amount is yet to be fixed.

Regarding another demand by a separate set of voluntary teachers, "a resolution was also passed to seek their regularisation of jobs. The teachers are currently agitating. The meeting requested the state government to withdraw its appeal in the high court so that the process to regularise the jobs of casual workers of the GTA can begin. The Sabha asked the state government to allow the GTA to appoint teachers in various schools to teach the Lepcha language as education is a transferred subject," said Pradhan.

Source Telegraph

Threats, Temptations, Patronage, and Gorkhaland

12:22 PM
Writes: NN Ojha

Politics like human mind remains in a state of perpetual unrest. While human mind remains turbulent because of endless desires constantly beyond the capacity of human endeavors to fulfill, the turbulence of politics and politicians is primarily attributable to ever changing goals sought to be achieved and the means to be employed for achieving those goals through political processes.

In so far as human mind is concerned ancient seers had suggested a number of stilling techniques ranging from meditation to solitude that could rid the mind of unrest and instill peace. No sage or seer could however ever devise any technique to alter the basic nature of politics from turbulent to tranquil. Those in politics therefore have to learn to live with turbulence and those wary of its horrors have no option but to keep out and away.

This is a universal truth but mercifully politics in our hills has been - relatively speaking - an exception. It has been steady in defining its goal and in its choice of the means. For over a century the goal has been creation of a state of our own separate from West Bengal and the choice of means peaceful within the limits permissible under the constitution. We haven’t deviated from the Gandhian path even in the face of worst provocations and at times the use of brute force by the state machinery resulting in loss of lives of hundreds of our innocent youth.
Threats, Temptations, Patronage, and Gorkhaland
Threats, Temptations, Patronage, and Gorkhaland
The steady flame of one single goal and the unwavering attention focused thereon irrespective of partisan, ideological considerations explain how our people enmasse stood by the late Suvash Ghising when he gave a call for agitation. It also explains why in December 2005 When Ghising dropped the demand for Gorkhaland ‘in larger national interest and out of deference to the call given by the (then) Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’ and accepted the Sixth Schedule as ‘full and final settlement’ he was pushed out of the political arena without any second thoughts.

If Ghising’s one time protégé Bimal Gurung was placed at the helm almost unanimously it was for no reason other than his pledge to carry on the struggle for Gorkhaland in repudiation of his mentor’s stand. The enviable record of successive victories of Bimal Gurung led GJMM in the elections for the state legislature, GTA Sabha and the last Parliamentary election may also be attributable almost exclusively to the wide spread popular perception that as of now GJMM was perhaps the sole vehicle for realizing the long cherished dream of Gorkhaland.

Quite understandably successive state governments of west Bengal have tried to erode this singularity of purpose and unity of political forces across party lines. The efforts visibly intensified after the TMC’s ascendance to power. The classical methods usually adopted by authorities to break people’s unity and destroy popular movements have been threats, temptations and patronage and the TMC supremo Mamta Banerjee has been trying each of these.

Soon after she assumed power in west Bengal she tried to lure the people away from the demand for Gorkhaland by promising that she would turn Darjeeling into Switzerland. When these pretensions were seen to be ineffective rants of ‘aami rough & tough’ came next coupled with threats of cutting the lez (tail) of the hill leaders that according to her had grown too large. As an astute politician however she has been prompt to realize that the Gorkhas who are themselves rough & tough more than just in a manner of saying can never be intimidated.

The tactics therefore seems to have entered into a Machiavellian phase of divide and rule through temptations in the form of separate development boards for different hill communities such as the Lepchas, Sherpas, Tamangs, Mangars and so on with rather liberal funding and largely unknown parameters for monitoring or audit of their usage.

The boards are unrepresentative in character and for all we know their office bearers are picked up in an arbitrary manner. The sole aim of the boards seems to be to create a constituency and a support base for the CM and her party. It is therefore not surprising that the at the very first meeting the President of the Lepcha Board declares that Ms Mamta Banerjee is not an ordinary human being. She is ‘Kimchung Darmit’ the Lepcha goddess of fortune. Similarly the President of the Tamang board declares that the CM is their most revered "Narsing Dolma - the "Goddess of light."

The boards are a clear case of give and take. I give you a position of authority in the board and place at your disposal sizeable resources including funds with relatively lax control on spending and in return you give me support of your community. A fringe benefit expected from the boards is inculcation of the perception that development and welfare of the respective communities is better ensured by the boards than by Gorkhaland for which the people have been suffering in a never-ending struggle with hardly any tangible gains.

Not much is known about the legal position of these boards whether these are created through a duly enacted statute passed by the state legislature or simply through some executive fiat. The specific provision under the general financial regulations governing allocation, application and audit of the funds is also not in public domain. Let us hope the C&AG some day examines these issues. That may be left to the discretion of the C&AG and his team of auditors. What is incumbent on the political forces in favor of Gorkhaland is to create awareness at the local as well as national level about the crude manner in which public money is being used for plain political gains by the government of a state.

We have seen the trail of threats and temptations being deployed to blunt the century old demand of statehood. Till now it seems neither has worked. My interaction with the common man belonging to the communities for whom boards have been already set up leaves me with the impression that a few self styled leaders of their communities might have sold themselves out but the masses can see through the game and are still unwavering in their commitment for Gorkhaland.

The perception about the common man being deeply committed to the idea of Gorkhaland is so widespread that even the community leaders who have obviously sold themselves out to Mamta Banerjee’s game plan are shy of owning up their sell out publicly. Those interested in politics or public life in any manner are well aware that any one reneging on the commitment to statehood or seen aligning with forces opposed to the same may find it difficult to preserve his standing in public life.

In the aftermath of the recent political developments involving the call by GJMM leadership to its MLAs to resign and their response, especially the response of the MLA from Kalimpong seem to be an exception to this age old trend of the hill politics. His proximity to Ms Mamta Banerjee has been too conspicuous for quite some time. His resignation from GJMM with whose support he contested and won the last assembly election and at the same time refusal to resign his seat in the assembly has led to rumors that he is shortly going to be rewarded with some position of authority by the state government. Some reports, unconfirmed though, suggest that he is to be put as head of an apex body to be created shortly, tasked to oversee the functioning of all the community based boards that Ms Banerjee has created or may create in near future.

If these reports turn out to be true then it may well nigh be the start of the third phase of the divide and rule policy, namely the phase of luring away the established political leadership in the hills from the avowed goal of Gorkhaland by offering them patronage. The masses will have to remain alert and give an appropriate response equally to those wanting to buy out and those willing to be sold out.

[Shri. N N Ojha writes exclusively for Darjeeling Times, you can read his articles in his column "The Expositor" at:]

GTA to form development boards for all hill communities - Bimal Gurung

1:46 PM
Writes Vivek Chhetri

Darjeeling, Sept. 20: Bimal Gurung today tried to outdo Mamata Banerjee in her game by announcing development boards for all hill communities, but his speech betrayed his worry about the apparent public acceptance the chief minister has garnered in some parts of the hills.

"Enough is enough," said the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief, while addressing a seminar on the issue of tribal status to 10 hill communities at the Gorkha Rangamancha Bhavan. "The GTA will now form development boards for all the hill communities. I promise you, 101 per cent, that the GTA Sabha will soon adopt a resolution to this effect and we will give responsibilities to you (development boards)."

Since 2012, Mamata has formed development boards for the Lepcha, Tamang, Sherpa, Bhutia and Mangar communities in the Darjeeling hills. During her last visit a week back, she said development board demands of the Rai and Limbu communities would be looked into.
Bimal Gurung at Gorkha Rangamancha Bhavan on Sunday
Bimal Gurung at Gorkha Rangamancha Bhavan on Sunday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Gurung has called this a divide-and-rule policy of the state government.

He today reminded the hill people about the importance of their collective identity, on which the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state largely rests.

"Our community is becoming weak every day. We are getting sold for a toilet. Our community is now worth Rs 3 crore, Rs 5 crore," said Gurung, referring to the amounts Mamata has sanctioned for some of the development boards.

Present at the seminar were Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling, Sikkim MP P.D. Rai, Tezpur MP R.P. Sharma and a host of ministers from Sikkim as representatives of the Gorkha community from across the country.

Gurung asked: "Is the worth of our community only Rs 3 crore. Just for Rs 3 crore, our people lined up along the streets from morning to evening, braving torrential rain. However, when a chief minister from Sikkim, who is from our community, has come, I have felt that a certain thing was amiss. I will talk about it later. We must learn to respect the personalities from our community."

The Morcha chief was referring to the welcome accorded to Mamata during her visit to Kalimpong recently. People from different hill communities had lined up the streets to Kalimpong, braving rain during her visit. Also when Mamata had said she would never let go of the hills, people in the audience in Kalimpong had applauded.

Today, Trinamul organised three meetings in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong to highlight "good governance" of the Trinamul-led dispensation, a rarity in the hills where the Morcha is the most powerful party. (See Page 8)

If the GTA does go ahead with the formation of the boards, at least 14 such bodies would be formed in the hills. At least five hill communities would have parallel boards - one formed by the state, another now proposed by the GTA.

The boards under the Bengal government have been registered as societies and are under the state backward classes welfare department.

"People ask me why I frequent Delhi," Gurung said, then explained that he goes to the national capital to meet MPs, ministers and central leaders for Gorkhaland.

"I am ready to touch their feet for Gorkhaland but I will not lose my self-respect on this issue. I go to Delhi because the issue is with the Centre, and not with Bengal. That is why my fight is not with Bengal," he said.

During the seminar, it has also been decided in principle that a national committee would be formed to look into various issues of the Gorkha communities.

Gurung has asked Chamling to lead the national committee. "I appeal to all political parties and all the people of the hills to rise beyond petty politics on the issue of granting tribal status and Gorkhaland," Chamling said.

Source Telegraph

The First Nail in Central University Coffin?

Writes: Upendra for The Darjeeling Chronicle

As Mamata lays the foundation stone for the extension of Presidency University campus offering a handful of courses, we are worried that this may actually be the 1st nail in the coffin of Darjeeling Central University.

Hitler had once said, “The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.”

What is happening in Darjeeling in these past few years is exactly that, gradually through the formation of Development Boards, appointment of Para teachers, non-transfer for departments actually signed out in the GTA Agreement, Bengal is taking away our autonomy, and the hill people need to speak out against these incursions.
The First Nail in Central University Coffin?
GTA agreement Section 5 clearly mentions that all Government
Schools have been transferred to GTA

The same set of "intellectuals" who say GTA is a stumbling block to the formation of Gorkhaland state, do not see any issues with this sly act of subverting our demand for a Central University. It is sad to see that the "intellectuals" have two set of rules, a double standard of sorts, while they decry GTA as being stumbling block (perhaps rightfully so), they are applauding this move by Bengal, which has every chance of diluting the demand for a Central University in our hills.

As such,
GTA agreement Section 5 clearly mentions that all Government Schools have been transferred to GTA, so how is the state government usurping school lands?

How long will we allow Bengal to dictate terms to us?

Source The Darjeeling Chronicle

Bimal Gurung directed Darjeeling Municipality to stop demolition drive

9:25 AM
Gurung stops demolish drive

Vivek Chhetri

Darjeeling, Aug. 16: Bimal Gurung today directed Darjeeling municipality not to dismantle buildings above the stipulated height of 11.5m and said the height limit will be increased to 14.5m.
Bimal Gurung directed Darjeeling Municipality to stop demolish drive
Bimal Gurung directed Darjeeling Municipality to stop demolish drive
The directive to stop pulling down illegal structures comes less than a month after Gurung instructed the municipality to start dismantling such buildings.

Today, Gurung held a meeting with civic body officials and building owners, who had been served notices for violating the 11.5m regulation, at the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan.

"After hearing all sides, we have decided that no building in town would be dismantled. We have also decided to raise the height restriction from 11.5m to 14.5m as done by the previous board. We will strictly monitor all new constructions and no buildings beyond 14.5m height will be allowed to come up (from now)," Gurung said after the meeting. "Well, there is also political controversy," he added without elaborating.

On July 27, Gurung had directed the civic body to pull down illegal structures and two floors of an under-construction market building were dismantled the next day. Gurung mentioned nothing about the building today.

Gurung's volte-face, however, comes as no surprise as his party is set to face three elections in the next two years. While the municipality and Assembly polls are scheduled next year, GTA will complete its five-year term in 2017.

The GTA chief executive's decision to raise the height ceiling came as a surprise.

In 1997, the GNLF controlled Darjeeling municipality had written to the state to increase the height restriction from 11.5m to 14.5m. D.K. Pradhan, a central committee member of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, was the chairman of the civic body when the resolution was adopted.

In Darjeeling, an 11.5m building is usually four storied. A five-floor building is around 14.5m high.

Although a resolution had been forwarded to the state, there has been no amendment with regard to the 11.5m restriction.

A recent survey conducted by the Darjeeling civic body found 337 buildings, including the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan where Bimal Gurung sits as the GTA chief, had violated the 11.5m limit. Rangamanch Bhavan has seven floors and is more than 18m tall.

"The survey gave a clear indication that it would be impossible for the civic body to go ahead with such an extensive drive. It was also revealed that many flats, five, six or seven storied, had been bought by local people and builders had nothing to do with the structures any more. There would have been a lot of problems if the municipality had gone ahead with the drive," said a source.

The Darjeeling civic body has also been directed to form a board to take legal opinion on what stand would be taken on the illegal buildings (over 14.5m). The earlier board had regularised such structures (by imposing fines on them) but the present board had recently said it would not consider the buildings as legal. "A legal board will be formed. D.K. Pradhan and P.T. Ola (GTA Sabha members) who are lawyers, will be part of the board," said Darjeeling civic body chairman Amar Singh Rai.

According to Darjeeling municipality records, there are 9,996 registered holdings (houses) under the civic body.

Today, Gurung said GTA was exploring the possibility of constructing a circular ropeway between Ghoom and Darjeeling and setting up satellite townships at Rangit and Happy Valley tea garden areas. "During construction of the circular ropeway, few floors of some buildings might have to be dismantled as we might have to set up six towers. We will adequately compensate the building owners," he said.


Bhupendra / Pradeep Pradhan apology to GJM chief Bimal Gurung

7:51 PM
Bhupendra or Pradeep Pradhan, the chairman of GTA (Gorkhaland Territorial Administration) Sabha who was recently arrested for his alleged involvement in a fake antique coin case, today apologised to the GJM (Gorkha Janmukti Morcha) chief Bimal Gurung and said he was falsely implicated in the case.
Bhupendra / Pradeep Pradhan
Bhupendra / Pradeep Pradhan
Pradhan today came to Darjeeling and met Bimal Gurung. “I briefed him (Gurung) about the details of the case. He scolded me and said that I should not have gone to such a hotel. He told me that our party leaders should always be careful in Siliguri,” he said.

“Regarding the March 4 incident, I want to say that I am embarrassed by the turn of events. I want to apologise to my family members, my supporters and the party. I was framed in the entire case. Even though my name did not figure in the FIR, I was arrested,” said Pradhan.

Bhupendra, who is popularly known as Pradip Pradhan, was released on bail by the additional chief judicial magistrate’s court in Siliguri yesterday.

Pradhan was arrested in Siliguri on March 4, after a Jalpaiguri based businessman, Ravi Kithania lodged an FIR stating that Sanjib Maitra of Baghajatin Colony in Siliguri, and Sachin Biswakarma, from Gorubathan in Kalimpong subdivision had duped him regarding the sale of an antique coin. Bhupendra and eight others were allegedly introduced as “associates.”

Pradhan said that he had gone to Siliguri to arrange railway tickets for 33 GTA Sabha members for the March 9 Delhi dharna.

“I met two Vidyarthi Morcha supporters in Siliguri and we had lunch near Pintail village. The two started talking about opening a local cable channel in Kalimpong and then to discuss the issue further we went to a hotel. Then the police entered the hotel and started searching,” said Pradhan.

He said it was only after his arrest that he came to know about the issue. “After my arrest, the police brought a bowl like thing, which had an imprint of East India Company in a glass case. Later, I was told that some person had brought the item from Nepal. I am totally unaware of the details.”

Police sources had earlier said the two youths with whom Kithania had struck a deal had claimed that the coin was a “rice puller coin” minted by the East India Company in 1818.

Source: Telegraph

GTA push for central university in the Darjeeling hills

8:41 AM
Vivek Chhetri:

The GTA (Gorkhaland Territorial Administration) is pushing for a detailed project report on setting up a central university in the Darjeeling hills which the hill council wants featured in the next Union budget.
GTA central university in the Darjeeling hills
GTA central university in the Darjeeling hills pic- Himalaya Darpan
The Noida-based EdCIL (India) Limited has been entrusted with the task of preparing the report as the GTA believes the university should find a mention in the coming Union budget. The GTA today held a meeting with representatives of EdCIL (India) Limited, which offers consultancy and technical service in different areas of education, to discuss the project report.

Roshan Giri, the executive GTA Sabha member in charge of education, said: “We have entrusted EdCIL to prepare the DPR. We are expecting the report to be completed by the end of this month after which we will submit the same to the ministry of human resource development. We are hopeful that the issue of central university will find a mention in the budget.”

This is the first time that the GTA has made known its expectation from a Union budget, which is scheduled to be presented by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on February 28.

Today’s meeting was also attended by Tanka Bahadur Subba, the vice-chancellor of Sikkim University, a central university, and its faculty members.

The EdCIL team was headed by V.V. Murari, chief general manager (projects), and included R.C. Malhotra, former director, IIT Kanpur, among others.

Malhotra said: “We visited four possible sites for the university in the Mungpoo area on our way from Bagdogra to Darjeeling. We quite liked the third and fourth sites that were shown to us yesterday. They are close to Darjeeling town. We have sought details like acreage (total land available), water availability and other parameters before everything is finalised.”

The location, which the team is zeroing in on, is about 30km from Darjeeling town. Malhotra said the detailed project report should be ready by the end of this month.

Giri today stressed that a central university in the hills had been promised in the tripartite agreement signed by the Centre, state and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in 2011.

“We have also met Smriti Irani (Union human resource development minister) and Arun Jaitley in this regard and their response has been positive,” said Giri.

Even though the estimated cost of the central university is not immediately known, the project is expected to cross Rs 750 crore.

Subba, who is helping the GTA in the project in his personal capacity, said: “Sikkim University still needs roughly around Rs 750-800 crore (to come up with the complete infrastructure) but to set up a varsity in Darjeeling, the figure could be high as it has to start right from recruiting the faculty.”

Source: Telegraph

GTA Sabha disagrees with the choice of principal secretary

9:12 AM
Vivek Chhetri
Darjeeling, Feb. 3: The GTA Sabha has decided to reject the two names sent by the state government for the post of the hill body's principal secretary, saying it needs more names to make a choice and that one of the two officials had been arrested earlier.

Sources in the GTA today told The Telegraph that the state government had yesterday forwarded the names of Ravi Inder Singh and Akhtar Karim.

Barun Roy, the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri, is holding the additional charge of the principal secretary after incumbent Gautam Ghosh retired on December 31.

A source in the GTA said: "We have decided to reject both the names. A list of two officials cannot be considered a panel. Moreover, we have received information that Ravi Inder Singh, while on deputation in the Union home ministry, had been arrested for allegedly leaking sensitive information. We believe that by proposing Singh's name, who has been involved in a controversy, the state government is belittling the autonomous body and is taking the issue lightly."

Singh, an IAS officer who was director (internal security) in the Union home ministry in 2010, was arrested for allegedly leaking corporate secrets to a Bengal-based businessman.

Singh was in charge of security clearances of several thousand companies in the telecom, shipping and mining sectors. The Delhi police special cell arrested him after prolonged surveillance. He was booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act and later repatriated to Bengal.

Singh, a 1994 IAS batch officer, is currently secretary, planning, in Calcutta.

Karim is the managing director of the West Bengal Food Processing and Horticulture Development Corporation.

The source in the GTA said the hill body would immediately write to the state government about the decision to reject the two names.

"Bimal Gurung (the chief executive of the GTA), is not happy with the state's decision. The GTA will write to the government in a day or two," said the source.

This is not the first instance that the GTA Sabha has disagreed with the choice of principal secretary.

The hill body had cried foul at the state's decision to forward the names of only Gautam Ghosh and Barun Roy for the principal secretary's post.

The GTA, however, relented after the government informed that it could not propose more names. The GTA selected Ghosh because he had earlier served in the Darjeeling hills and was conversant in Nepali.

The names of Ghosh and Roy were forwarded on June 29 following the retirement of R.D. Meena on May 30.

Even during Meena's appointment, there had been a standoff between the state government and the hill body.

The GTA approached Calcutta High Court as the state government had forwarded only the name of A.K. Singh, who was then the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri, for the post of principal secretary.

Following a directive from the high court, the state forwarded a list of four IAS officers to the GTA, following which Meena was selected.

Although Section 13 of the GTA agreement states a "panel" has to be submitted by the government to the hill body to select the principal secretary, the GTA Act doesn't have the word "panel".
Picture of first GTA sabha in 2015 (pic from Darpan)
Picture of first GTA sabha in 2015 (pic from Darpan)
Section 51 of the GTA Act states: "There shall be a principal secretary to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (herein referred to as the Principal Secretary), not below the rank of secretary or Commissioner to the State Government, appointed by the State government in consultation with the Chief Executive."

But Section 13 of the GTA agreement says: "There shall be a Principal Secretary of the GTA, who shall be of the rank of the Principal Secretary/Secretary to the State Government and who shall be selected by the Chief Executive from the panel sent by the State Government and shall be paid from the GTA Fund such salaries and allowances as may be fixed by the State Government."

The GTA agreement and the Act are silent on the minimum number of names that the state should forward.

Before Meena, Saumitra Mohan was discharging the duties of the principal secretary. He was then holding the post of the Darjeeling district magistrate.

When relations between the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha that runs the hill body and the government deteriorated in 2013, the GTA got Mohan removed as the principal secretary on the grounds that he was not of the rank of secretary. Mohan was the first officer to discharge the duties of principal secretary after the GTA was formed in 2012.

Source: Telegtraph

GTA Act Leds to Sanjay Thulung Suspension Complications

10:51 AM
Vivek Chhetri
The (Gorkhaland Territorial Administration) GTA Sabha is in a fix over its decision to suspend elected member Sanjay Thulung, who is wanted in cases related to recovery of arms in Assam and Darjeeling, as the GTA Act does not have provisions for suspension of an elected member.
GTA Act Leds to Sanjay Thulung Suspension Complications
GTA Act Leds to Sanjay Thulung Suspension Complications
When the issue was taken up in front of Bhupendra Pradhan, the chairman of the GTA Sabha, by The Telegraph, he agreed that there was a mistake and they would look into the matter.

The GTA Sabha had taken the decision to "suspend" Thulung on January 6.

The next day, The Telegraph had pointed out that the GTA Act does not have such a provision and Pradhan had said: "I will refer to the Act and get back."

Today, he said: "We will go through all the provisions and see what can be done."

Earlier this month, the GTA Sabha had said Thulung had been suspended till his name was cleared in the arms haul cases.

The elected GTA Sabha member had been named in an FIR related to recovery of arms from Assam in November last year and from 27th Mile in Darjeeling district in December.

The "suspension" resolution taken up by the GTA Sabha has come under scanner as according to Section 18 of the GTA Act, which deals with "removal of members", "government, may after giving an opportunity to an elected Member to show cause against the action proposed to be taken against him, by order, remove him from office".

The section clearly states that it is the government that can "remove" a member.

Although the GTA Sabha had "suspended", Thulung, there is no provision in the GTA Act that empowers either the government or the GTA Sabha to "suspend" any elected member.

According to the GTA Act the government could "remove" an elected member on several grounds one of which is: "if after an election a criminal court convicts the member of an offence involving moral turpitude punishable with imprisonment of more than six months".

This provision cannot be applied even in Thulung's case as he has neither been arrested nor convicted by a court.

The GTA Sabha member is currently absconding.

Another provision regarding the removal of a GTA member in the Act is: "if he fails to attend three consecutive GTA Sabha meeting without its permission".

After Thulung went missing, the GTA Sabha has not held three meetings.

Even if the government is to "remove" Thulung, on the behest of the GTA Sabha, the Act clearly states that the government must form an authority to which the removed member can make an appeal against removal.

Although there are other grounds for removal, for example, if an elected member is below 18 years old, or is not a citizen of India, and others, none of the grounds can be applied in Thulung's case.

The other ground for disqualification of a member of the GTA is on grounds of defection but this does not hold for Sanjay Thulung as even for disqualification on this ground, a "prescribed authority" cannot declare any member disqualified without giving the member a reasonable opportunity to represent his case and to be heard in person.

Sources in the GTA Sabha said the decision to suspend Thulung was taken as no one was aware of the provisions of the Act.

"Everyone started talking about the need to suspend him and this is how the resolution was passed," said a GTA Sabha member.

The Sabha members could not say what would be the next course of action now that it was known that the "suspension" of Thulung was not in accordance with the provision of the GTA Act.

Opposition parties in the hills were quick to criticise the GTA Sabha members for not knowing the provisions of the GTA Act.

Binny Sharma, the general secretary of Trinamul hills, who is also the party spokesperson, said: "The GTA members do not even know the act of the body that they are currently administering. What else can be expected of them."

"Anyway, the Sabha took the decision (to "suspend" Thulung) to save its face. The issue is about arresting the mastermind," he added.

Source: Telegraph

Food and Supplies Offices in the Darjeeling Hills Locked down

8:10 AM
 Vivek Chhetri

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) today closed down the offices of the subdivisional controller of food and supplies across the Darjeeling hills for an indefinite period, signalling a strategy of the party to force the state government to transfer different departments to the GTA Sabha.
A Morcha poster outside the closed office of the Darjeeling subdivisional
 controller of food and supplies. (Suman Tamang)
Up to now, the Morcha had been relying on talks with the government for the complete transfer of 40 departments to the GTA.

Around 10-15 Morcha workers each went to the food and supplies subdivisional department's offices in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong and put up posters announcing their closure.

The agitation was led by the Morcha's town committees and the youth front.

Sources in the Morcha said the hill party was adopting a two-pronged strategy to compel the state to hand over the departments to the GTA in a proper way.

Morcha leaders said the government has not issued any missive saying that employees of the food and supplies department should report to the GTA, though the department itself has been transferred to the hill body.

In the absence of such an instruction from the government, the staff has been reporting to the district administration.

"Bimal Gurung has already said he has no fight with the chief minister. He has also said the Morcha will welcome Mamata Banerjee during her visit to Darjeeling on January 20. On the other hand, the party is mounting pressure on the government through lower-rung leaders for the complete transfer of the departments. That is why the Morcha's town committees spearheaded today's agitation," said a Morcha source.

Allan Chhetri, the president of the Darjeeling town committee of the Morcha, said: "Food and supplies is a transferred department but the government is interfering in its functioning. The public has a perception that the GTA is not addressing their concerns whereas the fact is that the government is not allowing the GTA to function."

He added: "We are hearing that ration cards of the hill people are being cancelled. This is nothing but a conspiracy of the government to show that less number of people live in the hills. There is no regular supply of sugar, rice and wheat to ration shops either. We are closing the food and supplies department for an indefinite period. We will not budge unless the state government solves this issue."

The Morcha's claim that the department had cancelled the ration cards could not be verified independently.

Contacted over phone, Pemba Tshering, the subdivisional controller of food and supplies department, Darjeeling, said: "I cannot speak over the phone today as I am currently on my way to see a doctor. I can speak only in my office tomorrow."

Of the 40 departments that need to be transferred, some have. Departments such as information and cultural affairs, fire and emergency services, public works department, college education and excise, Darjeeling Improvement Fund and lotteries have not yet been handed over to the GTA.

Source: Telegraph

GTA resolves to issue Gorkha certificate to Gorkhas Living Across India

9:07 AM
Writes: Vivek Chhetri
The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Sabha today passed a resolution to write to the Centre and the state to empower the chief executive of the GTA to issue Gorkha certificates not only to the residents of the Darjeeling hills but also to Gorkhas residing in the rest of the country.
GTA resolves to issue Gorkha certificate to Gorkhas Living Across India
GTA resolves to issue Gorkha certificate to Gorkhas Living Across India
Gorkha certificate is an important document, especially for those wanting to join the police, paramilitary and the armed forces, as Gorkhas are granted relaxations in terms of physical measurements.

At present these certificates are issued by the subdivisional officers of respective areas.

Pradeep Pradhan, the chairman of GTA Sabha, said today: “The GTA Sabha in its meeting has passed a resolution to write to both the state and Centre to empower the chief executive of the GTA to issue Gorkha certificates. The GTA is a body that represents Gorkhas across the country and such a provision should be given to the chief executive of the GTA. Even for those not residing in the hills, the GTA should be given the power to issue the certificate.”

The GTA Sabha today held the meeting after inaugurating a new GTA Sabhagriha (house). During the meeting, the GTA Sabha also passed a resolution to “suspend” Sanjay Thulung, an elected GTA Sabha member whose name has figured in an Assam arms haul case.

It was also decided that the GTA would form a GTA chief executive relief fund with a corpus of Rs 1 crore. The hill body also passed a resolution to come up with GTA Rules and Regulations.

Pradhan said the hill body would write to the various hydropower companies operating in the hills to provide a share of the revenue to the GTA.

Source: Telegraph

Is GJM Aiming for RSS Route to Statehood?

9:35 AM
Vivek Chhetri

The GTA Sabha along with a New Delhi-based organisation, Nepali Sanskriti Parisad (International), has decided to organise a symposium on Nepali culture in Darjeeling, where Indres Kumar, central executive member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has been invited as the chief guest.
Sidharth Nath Singh, the BJP’s general secretary as well as the party’s minder for Bengal, will also be attending the symposium which will be held at the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan in Darjeeling on January 16.
Is GJM Aiming for RSS Route to Statehood?
Indres Kumar and Siddharth Nath Singh
“The Nepali Sanskriti Parisad (International) is a Delhi-based organisation having its presence across the country. Indres Kumar, central executive member of the RSS, shall grace the occasion as the chief guest,” Binay Tamang, the executive GTA Sabha member in charge of information and cultural affairs department, said over the phone from Delhi.
The symposium is titled “Sanskritik Jhalak cum Swach Bharat Abhiyan – Sankalp Tatha Yogdan Conference”.

“The aim of the symposium is to preserve, protect and promote our culture and tradition in the context of the 21st century threats and perceptions and to promote Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Sidharth Nath Singh, S.S. Ahluwalia (Darjeeling MP), Sudhir Gupta (BJP MP from Madhya Pradesh) and Ashok Chaurasia (the international convenor of the Nepali Sanskriti Parisad) will also attend the event. We are expecting some Union ministers to be present at the programme but since their visit has not been finalised, we cannot comment further,” said Tamang.

He said members of the NSP had called on GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung during his visit to Delhi last month.

“Bimal Gurung has shown keen interest in preserving and promoting our culture and that is why the symposium is being held in Darjeeling,” said Tamang.

This is the first time that the GTA is conducting an event in which a central executive member of the RSS will participate.

Source: Telegraph

Hills to start new year with Darjeeling Winter Festival 2015 and Krishi mela

10:29 AM
January is set to be a month of festivals in the hills with the GTA Sabha lining up a number of events not only in Darjeeling but also in Kalimpong and Kurseong.
Hills to start new year with Darjeeling Winter Festival 2015 and Krishi mela
Binay Tamang speaks to the media in Darjeeling on Wednesday. Picture by Suman Tamang
To start with, the GTA, along with the state government, will organise Darjeeling Winter Festival 2015 from January 4 to 10.

Topden Lama, executive director of GTA and media and publicity in-charge of the festival, said: "A number of stars will perform at the winter festival which will be held at Chowrasta here. Adrian Pradhan, will be performing at the inaugural function."

Adrian, who hails from Darjeeling, is a member of a popular band 1974 AD, which is based in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Bipul Chhetri, a resident of Kalimpong who is presently in Delhi, and one of the most talked-about singers in the hills, will enthral the audience on January 9. Chhetri has become a sensation after he released his debut album Sketches of Darjeeling in July last year.

"We will also have Nima Rumba (a popular Nepali star) performing along with bands like Carnival from Darjeeling. The winner and the first and second runners-up of the Hornbill festival in Nagaland, who are from Darjeeling and Sikkim, will also perform at the festival," said Lama.

Adam's Apple from Darjeeling had won the music competition at Horbill festival with a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh. Nightmares from Sikkim and Muses of Authority from Siliguri had come second and third respectively and had won prizes of Rs 5 lakh and Rs 3 lakh, respectively.

The Hornbill festival is conducted by the Nagaland government every year from December 1 to 10.

The band contest in 2014 was held between December 5 and 7.

"During the winter festival, the GTA will launch the Hamro Ghar scheme in which people below poverty line will be given Rs 1.6 lakh in two installments to build houses. The cheques will be drawn in favour of elderly woman in the family," said Lama.

As soon as the winter festival ends on January 10, the GTA will organise Bagwani Krishi Mela at Jamuni in Darjeeling, Jogihat in Mungpoo (Kurseong) and at Relli in Kalimpong.

"The Krishi mela will be held at Jamuni from January 13 to 21, at Jogighat from January 14 to 16 and at Relli from January 15 to 17. The Hamro Ghar scheme will also be launched for people living in the rural areas during the mela. Apart from seminars and talks on agriculture and horticulture, there will also be informative and entertaining events at the mela," said Binay Tamang, executive GTA Sabha member in-charge of information and cultural affairs department.

Source: Telegraph

Bengal Hints At CAG Audit of GTA Funds

10:30 AM
Mamata Banerjee told Bimal Gurung, the chief executive of GTA Sabha, that the state government would initiate steps to ensure a CAG audit of the funds released to the hill autonomous body, sources at Nabanna said yesterday.
Bimal Gurung and Mamata Banerjee
Gurung, who heads the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the GTA Sabha, yesterday called on Mamata at Nabanna for the first time after the Lok Sabha elections when he supported the BJP that is trying to occupy the space of the leading Opposition in the state.

Gurung’s support to BJP candidate S.S. Ahluwalia was a major factor in the BJP’s victory in the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat.

When asked while leaving Nabanna what had transpired at the meeting, Gurung said it was a “courtesy call”.

He mentioned nothing about the state’s decision on the CAG audit.

A senior government official said: “During a meeting between the chief minister and Gurung, the Morcha chief was informed that the state government would take initiatives to ensure regular flow of funds to the hills. But the expenditure would be audited by the CAG.”

North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb had said in March and April this year that the state government would audit the GTA’s accounts. Gurung had not said anything directly on the possibility of any audit, but had made his disappointment clear in April.

“It is for the chief minister to decide whether she wants the GTA to function. I am not somebody whose target is to run the GTA because it is not my ultimate goal…. Whenever she visited the hills, she has only disappointed us,” Gurung said.

The official in Nabanna yesterday said: “During Left rule in Bengal, the state government never audited the accounts of the Subash Ghisingh controlled DGHC. According to the senior official, the accounts of the last eight years of the DGHC tenure would also be audited. It is clear that the state government would keep Gurung under pressure.”

Officials said since 2012, when the GTA was formed, the autonomous hill body controlled by the Morcha had been allotted Rs 726 crore under plan and nonplan heads, including central funds.

“The funds have to be used properly…. The government wants to ensure development in the hills,” another official said.

According to sources in Nabanna, the chief minister also told Gurung that the decision on withdrawal of cases against Morcha leaders would be taken at a “political level”.

She is also believed to have turned down the request of transfer of more departments from the state to the GTA’s control. “These won’t be transferred by any means…. Already 39 departments have been transferred and they have to be happy with this,” the senior official said.

Gurung yesterday said he had made the “courtesy call” to Mamata as “I am in the city…. We discussed a few things on the side.”

Chief secretary Sanjay Mitra and home secretary Basudeb Banerjee were present during the 30minute meeting.

Many Morcha leaders were arrested on the basis of old cases during the statehood protests last year.

“Though the chief minister told Gurung that the issue would be discussed at a political level, it is clear that the government is not in a hurry to withdraw the cases for two reasons. One, some of the cases are serious in nature, including charges of murder. Second, the government wants to keep the pressure up on Gurung,” said an official.

According to the source, a total of 507 cases are pending against Morcha leaders and workers, of which 130 are not of grave nature.

“These could have been withdrawn easily. But the government is not in a mood to give relief to the GJM at this moment,” said the official, adding that the cases could come handy if the Morcha started agitation again.

Gurung, when asked about this after the meeting, said: “That is a political issue, to be considered politically. We will tackle that politically. It wasn’t part of today’s agenda.”

Gurung said he had told the chief minister to expedite the process of department transfers from the state to the GTA. “She instructed the home secretary to look into it,” Gurung said. But the senior official said the government had decided that departments such as land and information and cultural affairs would not be transferred to the GTA.

The land and land reforms as well as the information and cultural affairs departments were supposed to be transferred to the GTA under the tripartite agreement that made the creation of the hill body possible.

Source: Telegraph

Assam Arms Case: GJM Sets up 5 Men Committee to find the truth

9:04 AM
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) today said the party didn't "believe in violence" and followed Gandhian principles at a time police were looking for GTA Sabha member Sanjay Thulung in connection with the seizure of a cache of arms and ammunition in Assam.
Assam Arms Case: GJM Sets up 5 Men Committee to Conduct Internal Investigation
Pic shows those arrested via: Himalaya Darpan
The party has not commented on Thulung's alleged involvement in the arms recovery or the Assam police sources' claim that Umesh Kami, one of the two arrested men in the case, was a volunteer of Gorkhaland Personnel, a voluntary force of the Morcha.

The party has decided to form a five-member committee to independently "find out the truth".

Following a central committee meeting in Darjeeling today, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: "This incident has happened suddenly. We do not have the details. In order to find out the truth, we have formed a five-member committee."

Giri, however, refused to divulge the names of the members of the committee.

He said the Morcha didn't believe in violence and followed Gandhian principles.

"Since October 7, 2007, when the party was formed, we have believed in a democratic movement on the lines of Gandhian principles. We do not believe in violence."

In an effort to drive home his point, Giri said: "Nowadays, we are even against bandhs. Other districts in north Bengal are observing a strike today. We are not even calling strikes in Darjeeling. The Morcha is concentrating only on Delhi-centric democratic agitation and that is why we have called a peaceful three-day dharna in the capital from December 18."

In the hills, the Morcha-backed Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union backed a tea garden-centric 12-hour strike, not a general strike as in the Dooars.

The Morcha's labour wing cited ongoing school annual examinations in the hills to stay out of the general strike.

In another development, a CID team from Bengal today left for Assam to interrogate Kami and Ganesh Chhetri, the other accused in the arms haul case who is from Assam. Kami hails from Birpara in Alipurduar.

Akhilesh Kumar Chaturvedi, the Darjeeling superintendent of police, said: "We had raided the house of Sanjay Thulung based on inputs from Assam. He is still untraceable."

Intelligence sources in Assam had claimed yesterday that Kami had told his interrogators the arms were meant for GTA member Thulung. The police had raided Thulung's house on Sunday.

Chaturvedi said: "We are getting inputs but we need to know more for further action."

Source: Vivek Chhetri for Telegraph

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