New Darjeeling hill council given extensive powers

July 19th, 2011 - 12:33 am ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram Sukna, July 18 (IANS) The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), an autonomous hill council the decks for which was cleared Monday with the signing of the Darjeeling tripartite accord, will have extensive functional powers ranging from the development of industry, tourism, education, healthcare to water supply, construction of roads and cultural preservation in the Darjeeling hills.

The tripartite agreement was signed Monday between the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) and the West Bengal and central governments.

At the core of the agreement is the formation of a new autonomous elected Hill Council Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA), which is armed with more powers compared to its predecessor Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) formed in the late 1980s.

“The subject… covers the entire range of development from agriculture, industries, irrigation, food, education, water resources, culture, municipalities, land and land revenue, panchyats, public health, sport, tourism, urban development.

“Everything that concerns the people of this area has been given,” union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said while addressing the tripartite agreement programme here.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it is a complete economic package for the overall development of the hills.

“The new body will work with this economic package. The GTA will work for the construction and development of comprehensive water supply system in their authority area,” she said.

Besides, the GTA would be empowered to establish multi super speciality hospital and medical college, tourism institutes and cultural heritage institute.

It would also undertake research and development of Nepali language, mini and micro hydro projects, setting up of veterinary hospitals, construction of roads, ropeways besides founding colleges.

“They will also establish a Gorkha house in New Delhi. They will also establish research and development institute for tea, horticulture and floriculture, They will also construct polytechnic college,” said Banerjee.

Banerjee said the election for GTA - that would be formed by passing an act in the assembly - would be held within six months.

Offices of the School Service Commission and College Service Commission will also be set up in Darjeeling district as part of the agreement.

The GTA will also get a special financial package from the central government, while a nine-member high-powered committee, comprising four members each from the GJM and the state government and one from the central government, will be formed to study the GJM’s demand on demarcating Gorkha majority areas in the Terai (plains of Darjeeling) and
Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas) for inclusion in the council.

The committee is scheduled to give its report in six months.

The new council would be formed through enactment of a law in the state assembly, and have administrative and financial powers besides being equipped to frame rules related to the hills. But the body would not have legislative powers.

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