GTA functioning well: home secy Gurung disputes official’s claim

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Darjeeling, Aug. 7: Home secretary Basudeb Banerjee today said the GTA Sabha was functioning well and the state government had extended all support to the autonomous hill body since its formation in August 2012.
The comment by Banerjee, the highest-ranking state official to visit the hills in the middle of the renewed Gorkhaland agitation, has come in the face of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s repeated accusation that the state

 government interfered in the functioning of the GTA. Later in the day, Morcha chief Bimal Gurung rubbished Banerjee’s assertion that the hill body was working well.

Banerjee, who held a meeting with administrative officials at Lal Khoti, the GTA headquarters in Darjeeling, said: “I do not agree that the GTA is not functioning well. Never before has the state government given so much financial power to the hills. Two tripartite meetings (involving the central and state governments and the GTA) were held in Delhi to review the functioning of the hill body. The state had held a number of meetings to discuss the GTA’s functioning this year.”

The home secretary also said the Morcha leadership was fully aware of the issues involved regarding the transfer of the departments from the state to the GTA. “We had published a compendium on the transfer of departments detailing everything,” Banerjee said.

According to the GTA Act, the state government has to transfer 37 departments to the hill body. The Morcha has often complained that the departments were not handed over to the GTA completely.

Banerjee today also held a meeting with R.D. Meena, the principal secretary of the GTA, and discussed development work being carried out in the hills.

The home secretary who visited the Darjeeling superintendent of police’s office near Raj Bhavan decided to take a five-minute walk downhill to the district magistrate’s office, the entrance to which had been crowded by thousands of Morcha supporters since early morning.

Police cleared a corridor to allow an easy passage for Banerjee who briefly visited the DM’s office before walking back to the SP’s office to take a vehicle down to Siliguri. As Banerjee entered and left the DM’s office, people shouted “we want Gorkhaland”.

In the afternoon, Gurung said: “The state government did not even have a budget for the GTA to present in the Assembly. We did take up a few projects with funds from the Centre. This (funds), too, was not released totally.”

Morcha leaders had also complained earlier that the GTA was not being allowed to function autonomously and it had to seek permission from the state government on every matter.

Gurung said: “The Lal Khoti has now been transformed into a bhoot bungalow (haunted house) and the home secretary should not have gone there. He might be possessed of evil spirits but then the weather of Darjeeling is good and it does good to any person.”

In Siliguri, north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb today held a meeting with senior officials of civil and police administration and representatives of business associations, tour operators and transporters to discuss the indefinite strike. The home secretary was also present at the meeting. After the meeting, Deb said: “We would not let the tension in the hills to spill over to Siliguri, Terai and Dooars. Those who are advocating a separate state will not get any chance to create tension in the plains and foothills.”


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