Kolkata, Oct 26: Assuring leaders in the Hills that she would find a ”permanent solution” for the region that witnessed numerous agitations over statehood demand, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday urged them to prepare a roadmap, keeping in mind the interests of locals, and submit it to the government, which will then carry out further work on it.
Banerjee floated the proposal days after the Centre initiated a tripartite talk with the state government and representatives of various political parties in the region, including those of the BJP, to resolve issues related to the Gorkhas.
She also ruled out separation of Darjeeling from Bengal, while promising that her government would do whatever it takes to usher in development in the Hills.
The CM said that panchayat elections in the region and polls to Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) — an autonomous district council that governs Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong and some moujas of Siliguri subdivision — would be held once the voters’ list gets updated.
Panchayat elections in the Hills were last held in 2000.
”You (leaders in north Bengal) have seen so much of politics over the years. Now, let’s come and play the game of development politics. You give me an opportunity; I assure you that I will get a permanent solution for Darjeeling. I do not say anything for the sake of it.
”We have kept all the promises that we made,” Banerjee said here during an administrative meeting of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts, where former Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Anit Thapa, and two other prominent Hill leaders — Roshan Giri and Amar Singh Rai — were also present.
She urged Thapa, who has formed a new party recently, and others to form a committee to draft the roadmap and submit it to her government by the first week of December.
Without naming any party, the TMC supremo alleged that some politicians, who visit the Hills before the elections with promises of statehood, intend to create division among people.
”They flee after elections. Their only motto is to create divisions.
”By keeping Darjeeling in Bengal, I am ready to help you all in every possible way so that your children get good jobs and get to establish themselves. There is much scope in this region. But after every 10 years, one movement washes away every development effort and people (tourists) stop coming here,” she said, in an apparent reference to the Gorkhaland agitations that had brought life to a standstill in the past.
Such incidents do not happen in other tourist destinations like Himachal Pradesh, the CM pointed out, adding that a government alone cannot bring about development in a place.
She further said that pending elections could not be held in the region over the past two years owing to the COVID-19 situation, and her government would do its best to address the needs of locals.
”Everywhere, there is a three-tier panchayat system, here it is a two-tier one. The Constitution needs to be amended. We will take it up… We will see what can be done about it.
”After the COVID-19 situation improves, a new voters’ list will be made and elections to GTA and panchayats will be held subsequently,” she maintained.
Banerjee, during the meeting, further said that drinking water would soon be supplied through piped lines to all households in the Hills. Describing the Hills as a mine of opportunities and investments, the CM advised locals to package water from natural resources in bottles.
”Local youth should be employed for the work being undertaken here. This will address the issue of unemployment and people will get jobs without having to move elsewhere,” she said.