GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Interim set-up still a few meets away – More areas of dissent

Stumbling blocks to the final deal, what DEAL ?!! A democratic 'agreement' - to be very gently weeded out ?!!

GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Interim set-up still a few meets away – More areas of dissent development oriented functions still to remain under an obdurate Bengal, quite unacceptable ?!! So best solution, Referendum from the people of the region ‘if India is truly a democracy’ it claims to be ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI

Darjeeling, Aug. 18: The chances of resolving all issues related to the proposed interim set-up for the hills by September 7 appear remote as more areas of disagreement have emerged.

The Telegraph had reported yesterday that no consensus had been reached on the three contentious issues of territory, tenure and composition of the new body to be known as the Gorkhaland Autonomous Authority (GAA).

Documents reveal that there are also differences between the Centre and the state on one, and with the Morcha on the other, over elections to panchayats and the powers and functions of the district magistrate and the superintendent of police.

“We will need at least another two-three meetings more to sort out the differences,” said Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri.

The Union home ministry, however, has been hoping to clinch the deal on the interim set-up latest by September 7.

The documents prepared by Delhi — after the Bengal government and the Morcha submitted their observations on the draft proposal — reveal that the hill party wants the office of the district magistrate to be stripped of its jurisdiction over all development work. The Morcha wants the responsibility to be handed over to the new body. This is something unacceptable to the state government.

The Bengal government said in its observation that the “office of the district magistrate and the superintendent of police and also those of the subdivisional officers and subdivisional police officers, etc, shall be kept outside control of the GAA”.

The Morcha, however, maintained that “all development oriented functions of the district magistrate along with officers and staff should be brought under the GAA”. It wants the district magistrate to be in charge of only law and order and magisterial responsibilities.

“This is because the GAA should be in a position to carry out development work unhindered,” a Morcha leader said. “Besides, at the moment funds of the MPs and MLAs for local area development, just to cite a few examples, are being directly sent to the DM’s office. This should not happen under the new arrangement.”

The Morcha has also said that police in Darjeeling should be upgraded to the status of a “commissariat”, along the lines of Calcutta police with a commissioner at the helm. However, the Morcha has not mentioned whether or not it wants the police under the purview of the GAA. Both the state and the Centre have clearly mentioned that law and order will not come under the purview of the new body.

The documents reveal that the Morcha also wants a three-tier panchayat system with a zilla parishad heading it. But in 1988, under a new arrangement worked out during the formation of the DGHC, the zilla parishad was scrapped for the hills and a separate Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad created for the plains.

The Bengal government is unlikely to agree to a zilla parishad for the three hill sub-divisions.

Nickole custody – to force out illegal confessions ?!!

Nickole Tamang, the prime accused in the murder of ABGL leader Madan Tamang, was today remanded in police custody by the court of the chief judicial magistrate in Darjeeling.

Manik Saha, the assistant public prosecutor, said: “The CID had prayed for 14 days police remand but the court has granted a remand for 12 days.”

On Monday, Nickole had been sent to judicial custody since the CID had not asked for police remand then. The investigating agency had, however, applied for a production warrant yesterday following which Nickole was once again produced in court today.

Defence lawyer Taranga Pandit said: “We maintained that he was already in custody for the last couple of days and that the police remand should be less than 14 days. We also told the court that Nickole Tamang is a chronic diabetic and should be treated well.”

Meanwhile, a six-member ABGL delegation today left for Delhi to seek an appointment with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. “The delegation wants to discuss the Madan Tamang murder issue and also the interim set-up,” said an ABGL leader.

Delhi model option for Centre – trial balloon with a communal hegemony pin over territory ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY ARCHIS MOHAN

New Delhi, Aug. 18: The Centre, in what could be a trial balloon, is looking at the option of granting Union territory status on the lines of the Delhi model to the Darjeeling hills after the expiry of the proposed interim authority’s tenure.

The term of the interim authority, according to the Union government’s proposal, ends on December 31, 2011.

The Centre is looking beyond that for a more permanent solution to the statehood problem, particularly with the Bimal Gurung-led Gorkha Janmukti Morcha unwilling to extend the life of the proposed authority to December 2012.

The Centre feels there is little possibility of the Bengal government agreeing to Morcha demands for additional territory — the party wants the Dooars and Terai besides the Darjeeling hills — or statehood.

Even the Centre has reservations about the two demands considering the strategic location of the region.

Under the circumstances, granting Union territory (UT) status to the hills is being seen as a face saver for the stakeholders with all sides compromising a little on their stand on additional territory, say officials in New Delhi.

The proposed plan, based largely on the National Capital Territory model of Delhi, will offer an elected Assembly with sizeable legislative powers to the hills. At present, only two of the seven UTs — NCT of Delhi and Puducherry — have elected Legislative Assemblies.

The Darjeeling hills will become a centrally administered UT with the Bengal governor playing the role of the lieutenant governor for the set-up. This is similar to the Punjab governor who also acts as an administrator for the UT of Chandigarh.

And just like Delhi, the new UT’s Legislative Assembly may not be empowered to legislate on crucial subjects under the state list.

The Delhi Assembly cannot legislate on state list’s entries 1, 2 and 18 that relate to maintenance of public order, police and land. These powers rest with the Union government through the lieutenant governor. Thus important agencies like the Delhi Development Authority, Delhi Police, New Delhi Municipal Council and Municipal Corporation of Delhi are out of the Delhi government’s jurisdiction.

On the flip side, an UT status would also mean that the Bengal cadre officials will no longer run the administration. They will be replaced by AGMUT cadre officers who run administrations in the existing seven UTs along with the states of Goa, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.

Officials have asked the Morcha leaders to read the Delhi Administration Act of 1966 that governed Delhi till it was granted partial statehood in 1991 as the interim authority will be based on that act.

However, for the moment, the Centre’s plan needs to cross several hurdles including convincing the new government at Writers’ Building post April-May.

AND FROM THE BENGAL PAGES

Hill Union territory plan – poor Siliguri to be left out of all benefits ?!! Silly idea really, but maybe Bengalis deserve that ?!!  another Satellite Town like Chandigarh in the offing above Siliguri – if Bengal insists, that is ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY ARCHIS MOHAN

New Delhi, Aug. 18: The Centre is considering granting Union territory status to the Darjeeling hills on the lines of the Delhi model after the expiry of the proposed interim authority’s tenure.

The term of the interim authority, according to the Centre’s proposal, ends on December 31, 2011.

The Centre is trying to find a permanent solution to the statehood problem, particularly with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha unwilling to accept an extension in the proposed authority’s term.

The Centre feels there is little possibility of the Bengal government agreeing to the Morcha demand for additional territory — the party wants the Dooars and the Terai besides the Darjeeling hills — or statehood.

Granting Union territory status to the hills is being seen as a face-saver for the stakeholders with all sides compromising on their stand on additional territory, officials in New Delhi said.

The proposed plan, based largely on the National Capital Territory model of Delhi, will offer an elected Assembly with sizeable legislative powers to the hills. At present, only two of the seven Union territories — Delhi and Puducherry — have elected legislative Assemblies.

The Centre wants the Bengal governor to play the role of the lieutenant governor.

However the Centre’s plan needs to cross several hurdles, including convincing the new government at Writers’ Building after the Assembly polls next year.

Parishad keen to join talks – just can’t have their cake & eat it too, ask the Morcha, not the Centre; or face a lost consensus along with CPM ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Siliguri, Aug. 18: The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad today asked the Centre to invite it to the next round of tripartite talks in Delhi to resolve the territory issue — one of the stumbling blocks to the finalisation of the interim set-up in the hills.

“Both the Centre and the state are focussed on the Darjeeling hills only and seem to forget the Terai and the Dooars, even though the governments are yet to arrive at a consensus with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on the territory issue,” said John Barla, the president of the Dooars Terai regional unit of the Parishad.

It is not possible for both the sides to forge an agreement unless we are involved in the process. We, therefore, want the Centre to invite us to the next round of talks. Otherwise, we presume, the deadlock will continue, provided the Morcha does not backtrack from its territory demand,” Barla said.

At yesterday’s official-level talks, the discussion over territory remained inconclusive.

This assumes significance as the Parishad, in its letter on August 9, had expressed its willingness to join hands with the Morcha and stay within the ambit of the interim set-up or separate state covering the entire Terai and the Dooars — if the hill party accepts the seven demands of the tribal outfit.

“We want to ask the Morcha leaders to involve us in the negotiation. Unless we express solidarity with them before the government, it is unlikely that the officials or ministers will buy their story that they enjoy our support as we are in the majority in the Terai and Dooars,” Barla said.

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