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1 Jun 2018

Mamata on hill fast track

Vivek Chhetri and Bireswar Banerjee, TT, Jun 01, 2018, Kalimpong: Mamata Banerjee has put the BJP, which has won the Darjeeling parliamentary seat for two consecutive terms, in a tight spot with by her promptness in addressing key hill issues during her four-day tour to the hills.

While Mamata has been tackling almost all issues with alacrity, the BJP-led Centre has been blamed for dragging its feet on them.

On the directive of the Bengal chief minister at an administrative meeting in Kalimpong on Wednesday, land rights were distributed to 311 families of Kalimpong district at Lohapool, along NH-10, on Thursday.

Aroop Biswas, state PWD minister and GTA chief Binay Tamang, were present at the function.

Biswas slammed the BJP and the party-supported Darjeeling MP S.S. Ahluwalia for their failure to keep promises to the residents of the hills.

"Hill residents have hardly seen their MP as he seldom visits the area. Our chief minister Mamata Banerjee has always come to the hills and provided necessary assistance for the development of the people. The distribution of land rights for residents of Kalimpong is another such initiative from her," said Biswas.

Ahluwalia has not showed up in Darjeeling for almost a year now, though he did visit Siliguri a few months ago. During the statehood agitation last year, the GNLF had filed a "missing diary" with police on Ahluwalia - a taunt for the MP's absence from his constituency when the hills were sucked into the movement.

With land right being a major issue in the hills, the state government and GTA has started implementing the Nijo Grihar, Nijo Bhumi Praklopo and has also cleared the decks for providing land rights to forest villagers which had never been implemented in the hills.

Under the scheme, landless people are given given land rights even if they are occupying government plots.

Apart from the land rights issue, the chief minister also declared that the state government had identified land at Mungpoo, situated about 30 kilometres from Darjeeling, to set up a state university.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has been seeking a central university since 2014 but the demand is yet to be fulfilled.

The demand for granting tribal status to 11 communities from the region has also not made much headway at the Centre but Mamata has already given her approval to the proposal.

"The Centre's lack of initiative, right from the statehood agitation days, to fulfilling demands like the central university and tribal status has put the BJP on the backfoot in the hills," said a political observer.

The Bengal government on the other hand has gone on an overdrive in the hills. Teacher recruitments have taken place, funds are being provided to the GTA and the 15 cultural boards and development works are being overseen in different parts of the hills.

"During the administrative meeting in Kalimpong, the chief minister made it clear to officials, whether from the district administration or the GTA that she wants to see results. From road connectivity to power supply to rural areas and beautification of Mirik lake, the chief minister intervened to ensure that things start moving," said an observer.

Tamang, the GTA chairman, welcomed the chief minister's initiatives. "Earlier everything was politicised and development of hills was ignored for some personal interest but this will not happen again in the hills. This is a beginning of a new era in the hills. The chief minister today gave the hill resident their (land) rights and those who have not received their land rights will receive within a year," said the GTA chairman.

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