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6 Jan 2017

SC seeks response on GTA charge

TT, January 5:The Supreme Court today sought responses from the Bengal government, the Centre and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha within four weeks on the alleged non-compliance with the GTA memorandum of agreement and the GTA Act.
On August 19, 2015, Binay Tamang, an executive GTA Sabha member, had filed a special leave petition at the Supreme Court on behalf of the GTA against the Centre, state and the Morcha listing a set of grievances (see chart).
Today, a bench of Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, Justices N.V. Ramana and D.Y. Chandrachud issued a notice to the governments asking them to respond within four weeks after senior counsel P.P. Rao and counsel Shamik Sanjanwala, who appeared for Tamang, placed before the court a notification issued by the Bengal government promising transfer of power in accordance to the MoA.
The directive is being seen as a "major development" for the Morcha as the party believes that the court has set in motion a process that could ultimately clip the wings of the Bengal government. The Morcha believes that state was trying to belittle it and help spread Trinamul's presence in the hills.
Today, Tamang said: "We welcome the Supreme Court's directive. The fate of the development boards and the state government's plan to hold the two tier panchayat election against our demand of a three-tier system might hang in balance."
In its list of grievances, the Morcha has said the development boards should be brought under the GTA as the subject on "welfare of plains tribes and backward classes including welfare of scheduled castes, scheduled tribe and other backward classes" is a transferred subject.
The state has formed development boards for more than 10 hill communities.
The GTA, the elections to which are scheduled in August this year, is controlled by the Morcha.
The hill body has said that many subjects, like land and land reforms, tauzi, Darjeeling PWD, cooperation department, fire and emergency services, have not been fully handed over to it. A total of 59 subjects are to be transferred to the GTA according to the agreement signed by the Morcha, Centre and the state in 2011.
"Rural development is a transferred subject but the BDOs have not been brought under the administrative control of the GTA," said a source.
The GTA has also alleged that the state government has not allocated funds to the hill body as agreed in the MoA and the GTA Act.
"In 2014-15, against the sanctioned allocation of Rs 90 crore, the state government released only Rs 68 crore. Likewise, against the sanctioned funds of Rs 130 crore for 2015-16, the state government released only Rs 42.92 crore," said a GTA source.
Tamang alleged that the state did not want the GTA to function properly.
"The state government just does not want the hill body to function. They have repeatedly interfered in the working of the GTA and we had no option but to seek redressal from the Supreme Court."

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