June 8, 2011
Chief Minister on the track to solve Darjeeling problem with Morcha deal
Kolkata,June 8: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee signed a “historic” bipartite agreement with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on Tuesday, announcing she had solved the Darjeeling problem with a formula that would “keep the plains and Hills together”. The war of nerves seen in earlier tripartite meetings on the statehood demand in New Delhi didn’t mar negotiations this time. Instead, both sides softened their stands to pave the way for peace in Darjeeling.
Ms. Banerjee took the lead by agreeing to an autonomous hill council with more financial and executive powers than the existing Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. She also agreed to set up an expert panel to examine the inclusion of the Gorkha-dominated 398 mouzas — 199 in Dooars and 199 in Terai — under the council. GJM leaders, on the other hand, consented to holding elections for the new council and work for overall development of the Hills along with the state government, setting aside the tactics of confrontation.
Flaunting a copy of the agreement, the Chief Minister said: “This agreement will form the basis for a final solution of the problems of the Hills, keeping the Hills and the plains together.”
The pact was signed after a marathon meeting between a GJM delegation, led by their general secretary Roshan Giri, and a team of state government officials led by the Chief Secretary. The signatory on behalf of GJM was Giri while the Home Secretary signed on the State`s behalf. After the “breakthrough”, the Chief Minister spoke to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram. “Soon, maybe within a week`s time, we will all go to Darjeeling and sign a tripartite agreement there,” Ms. Banerjee said. “They have agreed to stay with us, we will take the people of the Hills into confidence.”
The Chief Minister described the agreement as a “historic move by both sides” and said it would bring about development in the Hills.