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29 Jun 2017

GTA office gutted hours before audit

The GTA office destroyed in the fire. Picture by Passang Yolmo
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, June 28: An office of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration was gutted in Darjeeling last night, hours before a Bengal government team was to visit the building to conduct an audit.
Senior administrative officials said the two-storied concrete structure of the Darjeeling engineering department had been set on fire deliberately and at least one official said the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was being suspected to be behind the act.
Police declined to comment on any possible conspiracy theory, merely saying they are conducting an investigation.
A senior GTA official who visited the office at Sailabash complex, near St Paul's School in Darjeeling, said: "The office was set on fire last night and most of the files were destroyed. Today, the special audit team was to conduct an inspection of the office."
Another official said the alleged arson was being suspected to be the handiwork of Morcha supporters. The government has alleged irregularities in the running of the GTA by the Morcha since 2011.
Morcha members, including party chief Bimal Gurung, have resigned from the GTA Sabha.
Since the June 8 unrest in the hills, suspected Morcha supporters have vandalised and torched several government properties in the region.
The engineering department used to undertake the repair and maintenance of GTA properties and the construction of roads and community halls in the hills.
"It is an important wing of the GTA," an official said.
The first floor of the building, which housed the office of the executive engineer, was completed gutted.
Following allegations of irregularities, the state finance department has deputed a six-member special audit team to vet the spending of funds by the hill administrative set-up, which has been run by the Morcha since 2011.
Told that there were suspicion of Morcha supporters being involved in yesterday's incident, party assistant general secretary Binay Tamang said: "One should not make false claims and instead come up with concrete proof. Let them station police personnel in GTA offices where they want to conduct audit. We are not bothered about the audit."

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