On the eve of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's visit to Darjeeling, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership said on Sunday that the devastation in the Darjeeling Hills caused by last month's earthquake near the Sikkim-Nepal border had been largely ignored by the State and Central governments.
It also demanded a special package of at least Rs.1,000 crore for restoration work and resettlement of the affected.
“The devastation caused by the earthquake in Sikkim has received the attention it deserved. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Minister Chidambaram and AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi visited Sikkim and relief packages have been announced, but no such package has been given to the Darjeeling Hills,” Harka Bahadur Chettri, senior GJM leader and the party's MLA from Kalimpong told The Hindu over telephone.
Dr. Chettri said the GJM leadership would meet Ms. Banerjee on Monday and submit a memorandum. “We expect Ms. Banerjee to impress upon the Centre the urgent need to provide relief to the quake victims in Darjeeling hills,” he said.
Dr. Chettri pointed out that the death toll in Sikkim had been very high, whereas not many died in the Darjeeling Hills, but the damage to property on this side of the State border “is in no way less than that in Sikkim.”
“There are many remote places here where the government machinery has not yet been able to reach,” Dr. Chettri said, adding that the quake caused damage worth several thousand crores of rupees.
The Prime Minister had announced a special package of Rs.1,000 crore for earthquake relief in Sikkim during his visit there last month. Immediately after the tragedy, Ms. Banerjee had announced compensation to those killed and injured in the earthquake in West Bengal, but the State government had not announced any relief for those who lost their houses, Dr. Chettri said.