It will have 50 members; a Bill will be moved in Assembly

A tripartite agreement paving the way for the setting up of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), an elected body for the Darjeeling hills, was signed at Pintail village here on Monday.

“The task ahead of you is stupendous. You have to rebuild brick by brick, and when you do so, the West Bengal government and the government of India will stand by you,” Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram told the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership, terming the occasion “historic.”

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and GJM president Bimal Gurung, among others, took part in the function.

Joint Secretary in the Union Home Ministry, K. K. Pathak; West Bengal Home Secretary G.D. Gautama; and GJM general secretary Roshan Giri signed the accord. The contents of the agreement were not made public although Mr. Chidambaram and Ms. Banerjee did refer to certain provisions.

The new set-up will have 50 members: 45 of them will be elected and the rest nominated. A Bill for this will be moved in the Assembly and, on adoption, it will be sent to the President for assent.

Elections to the new body would be held within six months, Ms. Banerjee said.

Resentment on plains

As large numbers of Gorkhas sang and danced at the site to celebrate the signing of the accord, there was a complete shutdown in the nearby town of Siliguri and parts of the Dooars and Terai regions on the plains of north Bengal.

A two-day general strike called by the Bangla O Banglabhasha Bachao Committee evoked a spontaneous response in Siliguri and adjoining areas. The organisation claimed that the treaty was “only a step away from the conspiracy to eventually divide West Bengal.”

However, Ms. Banerjee ruled out any division of the State — a comment that was met with a subdued applause. The GJM leadership maintained that the formation of the GTA was not a compromise on its demand for a separate State and was, in fact, a step in that direction.

Mr. Gurung reiterated the demand for the inclusion, under the GTA, of the Terai and Dooars regions. “Now, a committee will be set up for the inclusion of areas in the Dooars and the Terai. The government will also have to pay attention to this and ensure that it works out.”

Promising all help to the GTA, Ms. Banerjee said “a complete economic package” would be given to Darjeeling.