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11 Jun 2017

Darjeeling: State govt doubles special audit team for scrutiny of GTA accounts

Army personnel kept patrolling the streets of Darjeeling on Saturday. (Bikram Sashanker)
Pramod Giri, HT, 10 June 2017, Kolkata: On a day when the situation in Darjeeling showed signs of returning to normal, the Mamata Banerjee government mounted further pressure on Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration CEO Bimal Gurung by adding six more officers to the existing team of six-member special audit team probing financial misconduct in GTA.
The 12-member team will scrutinise finances of the semi-autonomous body since it was set up in 2012. According to state secretariat sources, the finance department will file police complaint is they could spot irregularities.
The need to double the strength of the auditors was felt as the government is in a hurry to wrap up the exercise as soon as possible. On Saturday, the six-member team that reached Darjeeling on Friday to conduct the special audit met GTA secretary Don Bosco Lepcha, chief controller of finance Nimesh Sundas, financial officer Sangey Bhutia and the audit officer. The team will formally begin its audit from Monday, sources told HT. The team will visit different GTA offices in Darjeeling.
The wrinkles on Bimal Gurung’s forehead can run deeper in the near future with the government stepping up pressure.(HT Photo)
“Earlier he used to indulge in financial irregularities. But now that I come here regularly, it has become diffcult. Therefore, he is angry,” remarked Mamata Banerjee addressing the media on Saturday. Though she did not name anybody, it was obvious that her target was the GTA chief executive.
On the ground, the situation was nearly normal in Darjeeling. As calm prevailed, some tourists were seen going to the hill station from Siliguri.
Speaking at a public meeting on June 5 in Mirik, chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced the decision of the special audit in the finances of GTA, the semi-autonomous body that looks into the affairs of the hills.
The scene of locals distributing food to stranded tourists was not to be seen in Darjeeling on Saturday. (HT Photo)
The term of GTA ends this month and it is clear that if financial irregularities are established, the ruling party of the state will go all out to use it against GJM in the campaign to the run up of the GTA elections next month. Only in May, Trinamool Congress posted its first electoral victory in the hills by winning the Mirik Municipal elections after tying up with Gorkha National Liberation Front.
In the first GTA elections in 2012, GJM won all the 45 seats. Trinamool Congress contested 17 seats but lost all. Trinamool leaders have alleged that GJM has indulged in financial irregularities while running GTA for the past five years.
The government also sent Darjeeling police super Amit P Javalgee on leave from June 10 as a punishment for failure to prevent the violence in the hills on Thursday. Akhilesh Chaturvedi, deputy commissioner, central division, Kolkata Police has replaced Javalgee. The inspector-in charge of Kalimpong and Kurseong police stations were also removed.
GTA was formed following a tripartite agreement on July 18, 2011 in Pintail village near Siliguri in the presence of Union home minister P Chidambaram and Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

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