West Bengal ready to discuss all issues save Gorkhaland with GJM

June 27th, 2008 - 12:46 am ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, June 26 (IANS) A day ahead of bi-partite talks with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, the West Bengal government Thursday said it was willing to discuss all issues with the GJM except the creation of a separate Gorkhaland state. “The government will hold talks with an open mind. We’re willing to talk on any issue short of Gorkhaland,” state Chief Secretary Amit Kiran Deb told reporters here.

Deb said the government was exploring options within the framework of the hill governing body Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).

“We are in favour of making some administrative arrangement within the existing framework of the DGHC which can give greater power to the people of Darjeeling,” he said.

“We will have to see how development in the hills is ensured, and how we can take forward the concept of regional autonomy,” the top bureaucrat said.

A four-member delegation of the GJM, which is agitating for Gorkhaland, is in the city for talks with the state government at 5 p.m. Friday.

The GJM had called an indefinite shutdown in the hills earlier this month but has now kept it in abeyance till July 5.

With the Gorkhaland demand triggering turmoil in the Darjeeling hills, Siliguri and the Dooars in the past few days, tea and tourism - the bread and butter of the region - has been severely hit.

The GJM has been leading the movement in the hills for a separate state, besides opposing the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling district that ensures greater autonomy to the DGHC.

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