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Sen solution: five out of 398

 The Justice Shyamal Sen committee has recommended that five out of 398 mouzas demanded by the Gorkha Janmutki Morcha be brought within the ambit of a proposed authority that will run the Darjeeling hills and some fringe areas of the plains.

The Morcha has described the recommendation as “humiliating” and warned of the possibility of “a drastic change” in the situation, fuelling fears of a fresh agitation after over a year of normality in the hills although the plains have been restive.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has appealed for calm (excerpts below), laying stress on the independent nature of the 10-member committee and reminding all stakeholders of a promise to accept such a panel’s suggestions.

The Morcha, which was expecting the inclusion of at least 150 mouzas (cluster of villages) and is now facing intense pressure to address disappointment on the ground, has called an emergency meeting tomorrow to take the final decision on its course of action. A decision is also expected on whether the Morcha would take part in the GTA elections scheduled next month.

On the Morcha’s public pronouncement will hinge the fate of the year-long peace. Darjeeling was quiet today and no celebrations were staged in the plains where the Adivasis have been opposing the inclusion of any of their villages in the proposed GTA.

The Darjeeling district administration posted armed police in riot gear at Chowk Bazar, the political hub of the hill town. Jalpaiguri police also stationed armed personnel in the Dooars. Both districts remained free of any untoward incident.

“The tourists will be affected only if the Morcha calls for a shutdown or a strike tomorrow,” a Darjeeling official said.

The five Gorkha-dominated mouzas the Sen committee has recommended for inclusion are Samsing and Chalauni in Jalpaiguri district and MM Terai, Purba Karaibari and Gulmakhari in Darjeeling district. (See map)

The recommendation was made public at Writers’ Buildings by chief secretary Samar Ghosh who underscored that he was merely announcing what the committee had recommended.

Later, the chief minister made more or less clear that the state government would stick to its word and accept the “genuine report”, although she added that “I am yet to go through the report in its entirety”.

Chief secretary Ghosh listed the four key parameters used by the committee to arrive at its conclusion — contiguity, homogeneity, compactness and ground realities (see chart on left). Contiguity was an intractable problem the committee grappled with as many mouzas were scattered from one another as the map illustrates.

Ghosh said of the 199 mouzas demanded from Jalpaiguri district, two had been recommended for inclusion. From Darjeeling district, three had been recommended from the 199 sought by the Morcha.

Within an hour of Ghosh’s announcement, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri told a news conference in Darjeeling: “The report is a humiliation for us and we will not accept it. Till now, there is peace in the hills but the situation could drastically change soon. The time has also come to rethink the formation of the GTA.”

The committee has drawn criticism in the hills on two counts.

The principal criticism is that the panel did not go for “field visits” to the Dooars and the Terai, the two regions where the 398 mouzas are located. Instead, the committee relied on reports from the district magistrates of Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, both members of the committee.

The 10-member committee comprised of four representatives each from the state government and the Morcha, one from the Centre and Justice Sen who chaired it.

Another factor that has upset the hills is the reliance of the committee on the 2001 census to establish the demographic pattern of the areas demanded by the Morcha. Sources said the related 2011 census data were still being enumerated.

Besides, L.P. Pariyar, one of the four Morcha representatives in the committee, complained that the “all-important” census report on the linguistic pattern in the Dooars was not shown to the rest of the committee members.

A state government official said the Union home ministry had specified that only Justice Sen should have access to what the administration felt was “sensitive” data.

The Congress and the CPM have complained that none of their representatives from the plains was included in the committee that had four Morcha nominees. The committee had met delegations from political parties.

Chief secretary Ghosh said “each member participated in the discussions and offered their inputs, but the decision-making power lay solely with the chairman, Justice Sen, as agreed upon by all”.

Ghosh stressed that the Morcha had signed a bipartite agreement with the state government on March 24 this year, which makes it binding on both parties to abide by the committee’s recommendations in letter and spirit, irrespective of what they are.

But Morcha’s Giri said: “We had agreed in the hope that the recommendations would be fair. We cannot accept such a humiliating recommendation. We are being forced to wonder whether the committee was merely an eyewash.”

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Posted by on Jun 10 2012. Filed under Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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