Mamata promises to set up more development boards in Darjeeling hills

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Kalimpong, Sep 22 (IANS) With an eye on the coming Panchayat and municipal polls in Darjeeling district, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday promised to set up more development boards representing specific communities in the northern Bengal hills.

Addressing a programme organised by the Lepcha development board on the occasion of its fifth anniversary, Banerjee said she would announce formation of more such boards after next month’s Durga Puja festival.

“I congratulate the Lepcha board for their developmental activities. This was the first developmental and cultural board in North Bengal. We will also start Sherpa board, Tamang board, Drukpa board for the development of these communities.

“Here the work is done successfully by the boards. There is a caste review going on. After Pujas when I come here I will make more announcements,” she said, referring to demands of separate boards raised by Bhujel, Newar communities as also other minorities in the hills like Muslims and Bengalis.

Refering to the municipal polls, she said her government wanted to do a lot for the hills, but pointed out that her Trinamool Congress did not have local elected representatives in the hills.

“We do not have, MPs, MLAs, councillors. But we work through the boards so that if nothing is happening some development can be done through boards.

“If my party wins, they will have to work. If others win they will also have to deliver. But is anybody gets elected and then does not work for the people, that cannot be allowed,” she said in an oblique reference to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which runs the powerful Gorkha Territorial administration, but has been of late trying to revive the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

On Friday the Morcha supporters, led by Bimal Gurung, started a relay hunger strike in front of Kalimpong Police station.

The GJM is cut up with Banerjee over the formation of the various development boards, which, they believe, was aimed at “truncating the powers of the GTA” and dividing the people of the hills.

With Panchayat and municipality elections in the district drawing near, GJM is trying to up the ante on the Gorkhaland issue, while Banerjee and her party is focusing on developmental programmes.

Banerjee has been making consistent efforts to erode the GJM’s influence in the hills by setting up at least ten development boards for different hill communities.

Speaking at the public meeting, she repeated her promise to set up a new Kalimpong district.

Tourism Minister Goutam Deb, Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Arup Biswas, and Minister of State for Information and Cultural Affairs, Indranil sen were present on the dais with the chief minister.



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