Hill TMC prepares to take on Morcha through padyatra, public meetings

3 Nov 2016

Upping its ante against the ruling Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the hill Trinamool Congress has announced plans to hold a ‘padyatra’ and public meetings to make the public aware of the mass corruption in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration.

When chief minister Mamata Banerjee last visited Darjeeling, she had claimed her government has pumped Rs4,000 crore in the hills for development works even as she accused the GJM-led GTA of failing to deliver to the people. Ever since, the GJM and TMC have engaged in a war of words. The TMC is trying to capitalise on the issue raised by Banerjee ahead of the municipality and GTA elections, slated for later this year.

The hill TMC has decided to invite the chief minister on the final leg of its proposed two-day padyatra. “The decision to organise the padyatra was taken in our district committee meeting. The foot-march is relevant given the corruption in the GTA. The padyatra will start from different places in the hills on November 9 and culminate in Darjeeling town on November 11 where we will hold a public meeting. We have invited our party president (Mamata Banerjee) on the final day,” said Rajen Mukhia, the hill TMC president.

At the same time, Mukhia said Banerjee's presence was subject to her schedule in Kolkata, but asserted state tourism minister Gautam Deb and Arup Biswas, the TMC observer for the hills region, would definitely attend the November 11 programme.

On Tuesday, the GJM received a fresh jolt following the arrest of Bijoy Rai (Thulung), the brother of absconding GTA sabhasad Sanjay Thulung who is wanted in the November 8, 2014 arms haul case in Assam. The GJM has so far refused to be drawn into making public rants, but the chief minister's presence could add vitriolic fuel to the issue if she decides to take it up that day.

Talking about the public meeting and the padyatra, Mukhia said it was necessary to make people aware of the wrongdoings in the GTA. “We want a vigilance inquiry into the functioning of the GTA and on various development schemes including the NREGS. Besides, we will also take up the issue of security of minority communities in the hills, land rights for those residing in tea garden, cinchona plantation and forest areas,” he said.

Issues such as implementation of minimum wage in tea gardens, grant of tribal status to 10 hill communities and holding of panchayat elections will also be taken up. “Our party has plans to organize dharnas with our MPs in Delhi to pursue the tribal status demand for the 10 hill communities. A final decision will be taken by our high command soon,” maintained Mukhia.

With the municipality and council elections coming up, the TMC wants the people to take a decision to bring about a change in the hills. “The whole exercise (padyatra and public meeting) is to make people aware of the corruption taking place in the GTA and deprivation of their right for development. We also want the people to vote for us to restore Darjeeling’s lost glory,” added the hill TMC president.

The two-day padyatra will start from Kaffer, Pedong and Gorubathan in Kalimpong; from Singla, Rimbick, Dhajey and Lebong in Darjeeling; and from Ghayabari, Sukna and Mungpoo in Kurseong. (EOIC)