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April 13, 2014

1000 days at a glance: Initiatives for Darjeeling

1000 days at a glance: Initiatives for Darjeeling

Restoring peace in the Hills and honouring the demand of an autonomous body for the region had been a priority for the West Bengal Government. Soon after coming to power, Ms. Mamata Banerjee formed the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) in July, 2011. The GTA Bill was passed in September, 2011 and notified in March, 2012.

West Bengal CM Ms. Mamata Banerjee has always maintained that Darjeeling is an integral part of West Bengal and the region needs development.

The Developmental Surge:

In June 2011, the State Higher Education Minister had submitted a proposal to the then Union Education Minister to set up an IIT or an IIM in Darjeeling “for the people of the hills”.

On October 10, 2011, Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee announced a slew of projects for the Hills to boost the tourism sector. She said, “Darjeeling will be Switzerland and everybody`s dreamland. The master plan for tourism development is underway, and once completed and implemented, the region will turn into Switzerland.”

“Under the project, from installing street lamps and signage on the roads, to sanitary development and garbage disposal, all will be done to make the city better. Eco-tourism policy for Darjeeling is ready. The funds have been sanctioned,” she added.

She unveiled six railway projects, including a modern printing press and basic training centre at the neighbouring hill town Kurseong; a filter manufacturing plant and a multi-functional complex building at Siliguri was also on the cards. A tourist information centre (TIC) will be set up in the picturesque Mall, the tourist hub of Darjeeling town, she announced.

An international research centre named after Rabindranath Tagore and a Nepali Academy named after poet Bhanubhakta will also come up at Kalimpong`s Mongpu. Electricity and drinking water would reach all schools in the next two years, she said, adding that two model schools would be set up at Kalimpong and Sokhiapokhri.

“In addition to the beautification of stations, tourist lodges will be renovated and upgraded. A trekking route will be created from Moniganj to Sandakphu. With private participation, four ropeways would also be installed,” she said.

A Tea Tourism festival and an Orange festival were also held at Darjeeling. Besides, a grant of Rs 28 crore for the construction of a parking lot and a fund of Rs 3 crore for building a stadium were also sanctioned. Air-conditioned buses will soon connect Darjeeling to various important centres.

The Chief Minister said that the state government would provide Rs 56 crore for developing drinking water facilities in the region and establish 100 primary and upper-primary schools. The government will also upgrade hospitals and health centres in the area, she informed.

Other Developmental Projects:

  • On May 15, 2013, the West Bengal Chief Minister inaugurated three IT hubs, one each at Kurseong and Kalimpong sub-divisions and one at Mirik. She also inaugurated a fair price medicine shop at the Darjeeling district hospital along with an auditorium at the Gorkha Ranga Manch Bhawan, and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Sabha office.
  • Thanks to the initiative of the Chief Minister, closed tea gardens have been reopened; the region got power plants, polytechnic colleges, new schools and modernized hospitals. A holistic initiative was taken by this government to bring development in Kurseong, Kalimpong and Darjeeling.
  • In July 2013, a high-level meeting was convened at the State Secretariat to discuss the scope of promotion of tea tourism in North Bengal, and especially in Darjeeling. Most of the tea estates in West Bengal are under private ownership. The land, which belongs to the state government, is leased out to private parties for tea cultivation.
  • Several new tourist spots such as Lamahata and Sandakphu have been developed to attract more tourists. The Chief Minister proposed developing 9th Mile as a tourist destination. Three new tourist destinations at Dalgaon, Bijonbari and Rimbik have been identified. Helipads, airports and other world class facilities will be made available to tourists from all over the world to encourage them to visit Darjeeling. The CM also announced that Rs 80 crore had been sanctioned for maintenance of the National Highway 55, connecting the Hills to the plains. She also said that two hydro-power projects will soon come up at Teesta and Rimbhi.
  • On September 3rd, the newly constituted Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board conferred the honorary title “King chum Daarmit” (Goddess of Fortune) on the Chief Minister at the Mela Ground in Kalimpong for playing the pivotal role in the formation of the Board.
  • The Government also handed over the house of Sister Nivedita to Ramakrishna Mission and it will be converted into an institute of culture and education.
  • The Government held the first ever celebration of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose`s birth anniversary outside the State capital at Darjeeling. She also announced the formation of Tamang development board.