Casual employees go on hunger strike in Darjeeling

June 29th, 2008 - 11:00 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Shivraj Patil

Siliguri, June 29 (IANS) Casual employees of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) Sunday started a hunger strike for indefinite period, demanding separate Gorkhaland and permanent posts, while the women’s wing of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) urged the people not to pay their electric bills. The DGHC Casual Employees’ Union (DGHCCEU), which spearheaded the hunger strike in the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling district, also demanded the central government convene a tri-partite meeting with the state government to decide on the Gorkhaland demand.

“We had earlier given the authorities an ultimatum to accept our just demands by June 27. They didn’t. So we have started out protests,” said union president Motindra Subba.

The hill governing body DGHC has altogether 8,000 casual employees, who owe allegiance to the DGHCCEU.

Hundreds of school children earlier participated in a relay hunger strike in Darjeeling district to press their demand for a separate Gorkhaland state.

The GJM Nari Morcha - the women’s wing of the GJM - appealed to the people to stop paying their electricity bills.

The Nari Morcha’s exhortations came at a meeting in Sukna, about 15 km from here, while hundreds of activists of the Gorkha Janavidyarthi Morcha - the students’ wing of the GJM - continued the relay hunger strike in the hills for the third day on the statehood demand.

Earlier, the GJM issued a diktat that all vehicles in the region should bear nameplates beginning with GL (signifying Gorkhaland) instead of WB (West Bengal).

GJM chief Bimal Gurung has also asked teachers to campaign for Gorkhaland.

GJM general secretary Roshan Giri hoped the tri-partite meeting would be held soon.

Giri, who led a GJM delegation to Delhi this week and met union home minister Shivraj Patil and other political leaders, said the date of the meeting would have to be decided by the central and the state governments.

“But they have not given any particular date for the meeting”, Giri told IANS.

Another four-member GJM delegation, led by the party’s central committee member Amar Lama, met Chief Minister Buddahdeb Bhattacharjee in Kolkata Friday, but the talks did not yield any tangible result.

The state government had proposed giving more powers to the DGHC for ensuring development of the hills, but the GJM leaders rejected the suggestion, saying they were in favour of tri-partite talks on their Gorkhaland demand.

Bhattacharjee accepted the need for tri-partite talks, but said such discussions should be preceded by several rounds of parleys between the GJM and the state government.

Lama said the delegation would inform Gurung about the outcome of the meeting with the chief minister.

The GJM had paralysed normal life the hills for days by calling an indefinite shutdown earlier this month that hit hard tea and tourism - the main pillars of the region’s economy.

The GJM is also opposing the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling district that ensures greater autonomy to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).

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