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27 Apr 2018

Sikkim-GTA talks ball set rolling

Chamling and Tamang at the programme at Rhenock in Sikkim on Thursday
VIVEK CHHETRI AND RAJEEV RAVIDAS, TT, Apr 27, 2018,  Rhenock/Gangtok: Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling said on Thursday that his government would soon hold official-level talks with the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration to discuss issues of common interest for the benefit of the people of both his state and the Darjeeling hills.

Speaking at the birth centenary celebration of author and politician Shiva Kumar Rai at Rhenock, about 60km from here, Chamling said the meetings would help further better relationship between the two neighbours. "I have discussed holding official-level talks on common issues with the GTA chairman, and our officials will be holding one very soon," he said.

Binay Tamang, the chairman of the GTA board of administrators, who was also present at the function, said the meeting would also involve the officials of the Bengal government. "The meeting has already been agreed upon, only the date will have to be finalised," he said.

Sources said GTA officials would only be attending the meeting concerning the hill body like tourism and organic farming, among others, and the Sikkim and Bengal officials would discuss all other matters of mutual interests between the two states.

The chief minister said Sikkim had always borne the impact of the agitations in the Darjeeling hills, particularly at times when NH10, which was the main road link between the state and rest of the country, got affected because of strikes. "About 5,000 vehicles of Sikkim have been damaged in the 33 years of the agitations in Darjeeling, and about 50 drivers have lost their lives," he said.

Tamang, on his part, iterated his assurance that the hills would be kept free from strikes and Sikkim would not face any problem in the future. "We will also set a helpline on NH10 for the benefit of the people from Sikkim," he said.

Tamang invited Chamling to attend the awards ceremony instituted in the name of Shiva Kumar Rai later this year. "The centenary celebrations will be held in different parts of the country and throughout the year. The GTA has decided to institute an award in the name of Shiva Kumar Rai. The first recipient of the award will be Krishna Singh Moktan (former police officer and author). I will invite both chief ministers Mamata Banerjee and Pawan Chamling to the awards ceremony," he said.

Chamling, in turn, accepted the invitation and said he would attend the award ceremony provided his Bengal counterpart was also present.

Shiva Kumar Rai was born in Rhenock in East Sikkim, but lived and worked in the Darjeeling hills. Besides, authoring many books in Nepali, he was also the deputy labour minister of Bengal from 1952 to 1957

This is the second public interaction between Chamling and Tamang in the last one month. Tamang had called on the Sikkim chief minister in Gangtok on March 27. The first meeting had broken the ice between the two after the bad blood created in the aftermath of last year's Gorkhaland agitation in the hills.

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