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October 25, 2013

The Lepcha Development Board – another step for development of the Hills

The Lepcha Development Board – another step for development of the Hills
On September 3, 2013, West Bengal Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee wrote on her Facebook page -“Today, I am in Kalimpong at the invitation of Lepcha brothers and sisters, who decided to confer on me the title of ` Kingtsoom Daarmit`. I express my sincere gratitude and thanks to them.“
The Lepcha Community, one of the indigenous communities of Darjeeling, greeted the Bengal Chief Minister for her initiative in forming the `Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board`. Lepchas, who are regarded as the original inhabitants of the hills, make up about 20 per cent of the population there. For the first time, proper development initiatives were being taken up for the Lepcha community since independence, thanks to the Trinamool Government.
The Formation
The State Government under Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee was keen on forming a separate Board for the development of the Lepcha community. Likewise, a draft was prepared by the state and was sent to the Home Ministry for approval. The final draft for the formation of Lepcha Development Council, sent to the Cabinet Council, was passed by the Home Ministry in November 2012.
On February 5, 2013, the state cabinet cleared the proposal to set up a Lepcha Development Board under the Backward Classes Welfare Department.
The board officially came into existence on February 12, 2013, when a resolution to this effect was passed.
On August 1, 2013, the state government sent a team of senior officials to the Hills to set up the Lepcha Development Board. The focus of the Board was the overall development of the community, preservation of their language and culture, education, to provide support for improving their lifestyle through agriculture, horticulture, pisciculture, tourism and cottage industry. Setting up of mobile health units, rural health centres and development of indigenous treatment procedures of the Lepchas would also be under the jurisdiction of the Board.
On September 3, 2013, the newly constituted Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board conferred the honorary title “ Kingtsoom 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.
Activities of the Board
Formed under the aegis of His Eexcellency, Honourable Governor of West Bengal, the `Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board` has its Head Office in Kalimpong, District Darjeeling, West Bengal. The Board comes under the administrative control of the Backward Classes Welfare Department, Government of West Bengal. This `Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board` is registered under the West Bengal Societies Registration Act, 1961.
Aims and Objectives
The aims and objectives of the Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board:
(a) To undertake all necessary activities for the protection, promotion and safeguarding of the Lepcha language, tradition and culture;
(b) To undertake activities to protect historical and culturally significant landmarks of the community;
(c)  To provide support to museum, community radio, publishing unit and mass media units;
(d) To undertake activities to popularize, promote and enhance products of artisans, farmers  and other tradition based items and help the artistes and artisans engaged in traditional  activities;
(e) To protect and promote customary rights of the community;
(f)  To establish a centre for the protection of the Lepcha heritage;
(g) To take up social welfare activities catering to the requirements of the community;
(h) To promote education among the Lepcha community;
(i)  To publish or cause to be published useful literature, papers, books, research works,  magazines of the Lepcha community etc;
(j)  To work in association with all Government agencies for awareness generation regarding  various programme of development and social welfare, education, literacy etc;
(k) To undertake necessary activities for natural resource management, alternative energy,  ecology and environment;
(l)  To construct, maintain, improve, develop, any building, houses or other infrastructure and  purchase land and other moveable and immovable assets for the benefit of the  community;
(m) To set up mobile health unit, village health centers and to promote Lepcha medicinal practices;
(n) To take up livelihood development of the community;
(o) To undertake and provide legal assistance to protect assets of the community members;
(p) To raise loan and credit to fulfill the objectives from national and international financial institution, subject to observation of statutory rules and executive instructions;
(q) To obtain fund from different Government departments for fulfillment of the aforesaid objectives;
(r) To undertake activities for the overall development of the Lepcha community throughout West Bengal;
(s) To do all such acts, deeds, matters and things connected thereto and therewith as may be necessary or deemed.
Present Scenario
West Bengal Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee on October 23, 2013 held a meeting with the Lepchas at Kurseong. She distributed cheques to Lepchas build houses and announced a slew of projects. The Chief Minister also reiterated the development projects taken up by the government in the region.
 She said that the state government lays great special emphasis on education in the Hills and has set up 35 new primary schools in the region and upgraded many primary schools to higher secondary schools. There are new polytechnic colleges, general degree colleges in the pipeline and in the future they will provide technical knowledge to the youth in this region, so that they can get jobs.
She announced that Rs. 103 crore has been allotted for improving power supply in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong. Rs. 2000 crore is being spent on a 300 MW hydel power project and Rs. 79 crore has been allotted for road infrastructure development; Rs. 29 crore has been given to development of the highways.
She said that the Government is also building infrastructure in Takdah for an Engineering college, an IT in Gorubathan, promoting village tourism, ropeways and many other such developmental projects.
The Government has already opened a fair price medical shop in Darjeeling and is also planning to open more such fair price medical stores at different places in the Hills. Besides these, it is also planning fair price diagnosis centers in the Hills for the common people.
Padma Shri S Lepcha, who is a folk music artist, was felicitated during the programme.
Post Script
`You can show your anger against me but let Darjeeling Hills live in peace. Once this kind of support is shown to her, she will fast tract the development of Darjeeling` – said the firebrand Chief of the Trinamool Congress and West Bengal Chief Minister at her meeting with the Lepcha Board. Yes, it was a message to those who had been causing disruptions and destroying the peace as well as industry and livelihood of the locals in the Hills.