Gangtok, Sikkim

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Second meeting inconclusive on Hills bandh conundrum

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee
Wed, Sep 13, 2017

CM wants bandh to be withdrawn, parties raise demand for tripartite talks,

SILIGUR: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday stressed on finding a permanent solution to ongoing political impasse in Darjeeling hills and announced sops for various sections of the people during a meeting with parties from the region here.
Describing the 90-minute meeting held at Uttarkanya near Siliguri as 'positive', Mamata called for lifting the indefinite hill shutdown, which has completed 90 days.
The next round of meetings would be held on October 16, she informed.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and other hill-based parties, which took part in the deliberations, sought a tripartite meeting - involving them and the Centre and State government - on their demand for a separate State of Gorkhaland.
However, the State government argued that it was not in a position to commit on the issue now.
"They have raised the issue of a tripartite meeting. I have said we can't commit now. Because the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) which had the provision of tripartite talks, is now not an elected body, but one run administratively. So we have to look into the legal issues," Mamata said.
"We want the shutdown to be lifted completely. In democracy, dialogue process, negotiation - these are very important.
"Hills are in our heart. We want a permanent solution. The people in the hills also have their sentiments," she said.
Responding to a 17-point memorandum submitted by Binay Tamang, who led one GJM faction, the Chief Minister urged government employees to join duty in the hills within 15 days.
"Whoever joins by September 25 will get one month Durga Puja advance," she announced.
She also promised to restore the public distribution system completely as early as possible once normalcy returned in the hills.
With classes disrupted in the schools in the hills due to the turmoil, the Chief Minister announced that a special allowance would be given to the teachers for a year for taking classes during winter.
Mamata said a Group of Ministers have been formed on the issue of paying minimum wages to the tea garden workers and the chief secretary would hold talks with owners for reopening closed tea gardens.
Binay Tamang demanded restoration peace and normalcy at the earliest, and urged the State government to take initiative immediately for tripartite talks on Gorkhaland.
He also asked for a high level probe into the deaths caused due to police action recently and compensation to the families of those killed and also to those who have sustained injuries.
The other demands placed by the GJM included withdrawal of old and new cases against all leaders, workers and sympathisers and release of all those arrested for participating in the Gorkhaland agitation.
Besides, Tamang sought high level inquiry into the recent bomb blasts and withdrawal of the ban on some local television channels and digital media so that they can function freely.
However, the crucial meeting attended by five hill parties including GJM ( Binay Tamang faction), Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), Jan Andolan Party (JAP), All India Gorkha League (AIGL) and Trinamool Congress and two GJM MLAs could not take any decision on withdrawing the indefinite bandh which has completed 90 days.  
The official group of the Morcha deputed by party president Bimal Gurung was not invited for the meeting. The GJM MLAs – Amar Rai from Darjeeling and Sarita Rai from Kalimpong – said they attended the meeting as public representatives.
The Darjeeling MLA said: “Tripartite meeting is must, our main goal is Gorkhaland. The administration should take necessary steps to bring back peace in hills as people are suffering for a long time.”
JAP president Harka Bahadur Chettri said: “We demand tripartite talk for the separate State of Gorkhaland to fulfil the aspiration of people of hills. GTA is already rejected to the chapter should be closed.  We are indebted to Chief Minister for listening to us. The process has started and we hope to reach to some concrete solution after the meeting at Kolkata.”
The AIGL team was led by president Bharati Tamang.
The GNLF delegation consisted of party president Maan Ghisingh, spokesperson Niraj Zimba and others.


Area: 7096 Sq Km
Capital:Gangtok
Altitude: 5,840 ft
Population: 6.10 Lakhs
Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 ft. to over 28,509 ft above sea level
Climate:
Summer: Max- 21°C ; Min – 13°C
Winter: Max -13°C ; Min – 0.48°C
Rainfall: 325 cm per annum
Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi