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22 Jun 2017

Hill parties push GTA into coma, West Bengal bid to provide life support

Saugata Roy | TNN : Jun 22, 2017, KOLKATA: On paper, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration is alive, but in practice it has almost become defunct. So it seems from the decision of the Hills parties to boycott the upcoming GTA polls . The state government, on the other hand, is examining the provisions of the GTA Act to give it a shot of life.
The standoff is quite apparent from the fact that there was no employee to attend the new GTA secretary C Murugan when he reached office at Bhanu Bhakta Bhavan at10.30am on Wednesday .

"We have no interest in the GTA. We are not participating in the GTA polls," Gorkha Janmukti Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said. He got irritated when pointed out that the GTA Act was promulgated to "establish the ethnic identity of the Gorkhas", among other things. "We want the Act repealed. Our one-point agenda is Gorkhaland, nothing more and nothing less," Giri said, with an eye on the tripartite meeting. The Mamata Banerjee government isn't interested in the tripartite meeting. "A tripartite meeting can be held among bodies -Centre, state, GTA -not between gov ernments and a party ," a state official said.

So what could be the state's strategy to break the stalemate?

Senior Trinamool minister Partha Chatterjee isn't in a mood to jump the gun."The CM is committed to restoring peace in the Hills and undertaking development works there. We are thus holding a peace meeting tomorrow. Let us see how Hills representatives respond. The government will carve out its course accordingly," Chatterjee said following the decision of the Hills parties to boycott the peace meeting. The minister is banking on the representative of the 15 development boards who pledged to take the peace initiative in the Hills in a recent meeting with the CM held at Nabanna.

Taking the cue, state officials at Nabanna cited clause 17 of the GTA Act, 2011 that provides the government to appoint an "administrator" or "consti tute a board of administrators" to function as caretaker of the GTA for a maximum six months till the elections are held. The problem to this strategy is that the development board representatives are yet to go up to the Hills.
Even if the development board representatives can make it to the Hills at the moment, the government may form the caretaker board and run the GTA till the elections are announced. In that case, if anyone from the Hills files the nomination -a proposition that seems farfetched except for those among the ruling Trinamool -he stands the chance of being elected unopposed. "But this will aggravate the problem adding fuel to the protracted battle in the Hills," said lawyer Arunava Ghosh.

Lawyers like Bikash Bhattacharya didn't rule out chances of a section of Hills people moving high court against the state's removing the GTA secretary without consulting the GTA CEO as provided in the Act."The situation has become uncertain," said Bhattacharya.

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