Participating in the swearing-in ceremony of the newly elected members of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday urged the people of Darjeeling hills to maintain peace, adding that development can only happen if there is lasting peace
“You will have to promise me something. In times to come, whatever any politician says, you will not allow any disturbance in the hills. If there is peace in the hills, then only the economy will grow,” Ms. Banerjee said addressing a gathering in the hills. Forty five elected members of the GTA were sworn in, in presence of the Chief Minister in Darjeeling. Elections to the GTA, a regional autonomous body, was held on June 26 after a gap of 10 years. The newly formed Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) won 27 of the 45 GTA seats, the Hamro Party won eight seats, Trinamool Congress won five and independents won five. BGPM chief Anit Thapa, who is believed to be close to TMC leadership, is likely to be appointed chairperson of GTA.
“Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik are ideal places for the IT industry. We are coming up with a big Silicon Hub on 200 acres of land in the State. If you can maintain peace, then I can request the IT people to set up their industries in Darjeeling”Mamata BanerjeeChief Minister, West Bengal
The Chief Minister congratulated the people of the hills for the peaceful polls. “Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik are ideal places for the IT industry. We are coming up with a big Silicon Hub on 200 acres of land in the State. If you can maintain peace, then I can request the IT people to set up their industries in Darjeeling,” she added.
She announced a host of developmental projects for the Darjeeling hills and added that in the last 10 years, the State government had given ₹7,000 crore to the GTA but still there was hardly anything to show for it.
Referring to the water crisis in the hills, the Chief Minister said that by the end of 2024, every house will have pipe water.
“We have imparted skill training to 30,000 boys and girls as per the requirements of various industries. Now these 30,000 young people will be absorbed by the industries. We want to do something along those lines here as well,” Ms. Banerjee said. The Chief Minister also assured that the Hill University at Mungpoo will open soon, adding that a campus of the Presidency College is also coming up in Kurseong.
During her address, the Chief Minister also spoke about illegal constructions on the hills and wondered what will happen if there was an earthquake in the region. “Today I don’t know what will happen if an earthquake takes place in Darjeeling... henceforth, a system should be followed when making constructions on the hills,” she said, blaming earlier regimes for the mindless constructions in the region.
Shift from one-party rule
The visit of the Chief Minister to Darjeeling hills is significant as it comes in the backdrop of the peaceful polls to the GTA, which was held after a period of 10 years. The polls also saw the participation of several parties, which is a departure from the one-party rule in the hills. However, the most significant development is the Trinamool Congress winning seats in the hills, where politics have been centered on identity and the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland since the 1980’s.