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22 Feb 2017

ACMA wants separate development board

EOI, DARJEELING, 21 Feb 2017: A section of the Christian community of Darjeeling, under the aegis of the All Christian Minority Central Committee (ACMCC), today passed a resolution to stand by its demand for a separate development board. This comes even as the state government recently announced the formation of the Pahari Minority Development Board (PMDB).
Last month, chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced the formation of a development board for the minority communities of the hills. Accordingly, the Governor issued a notification on February 13, 2017 establishing the West Bengal Pahadia Minority Development Board with its headquarters in Darjeeling district. The administrative control is under the Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education Department of West Bengal within the ambit of the WB societies registration act of 1961.
The United Christian Minority organisation (UCMO), another frontrunner of the Christian community of the hills, has consented and accepted the development board. But the ACMCC was of the opinion that being a bigger organisation in comparison to the other minority communities in the hills, it was not feasible and unfair to club them together.
“We feel the board will create differences among the minority communities clubbed together, which may result in ill feelings and power struggle,” said Bishop Stephen Lepcha, the ACMCC patron.
The bishop however, made it clear that he was not against the state government forming the board. Even so, the ACMCC, which is the biggest Christian organisation serving the people of the hills, had not been taken into confidence while announcing the minority development board, he argued. “We had submitted several memorandums to the state government requesting for the formation of a separate Christian development board because of our significant numbers, but we did not get any response. We cannot go against the state government, which is why we have no objections, but will continue to stand by our demand for a separate board for the Christian community,” Lepcha said.
There are no official figures, but the ACMCC claimed its members in the hills total around 3 lakh, which was the reason for demanding a separate board.
The ACMCC claimed that representatives of Christian organisations and interdenominational churches from Kalimpong, Kurseong, Sukhiapokhari, Mirik, Siliguri and Darjeeling were present in today's meeting. Roshan D Lama, general secretary of the Terai belt of the ACMCC, was more forthcoming in his view of the formation of development boards by the state government. “The word ‘Pahari’ refers to the hills which we feel we (in the terai) have been left out. The development board should be equal for all. In fact, we feel this kind of board is a destructive idea rather than constructive,” he alleged.
The state government has so far formed 15 boards, which the ruling Gorkha Janmukti Morcha says are a ploy to dilute the statehood demand by creating division among the different communities of the hills.

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