Task force formed to oversee Darjeeling situation

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Siliguri, Jun 24 (UNI) A task force comprising Army, CRPF and police was today constituted to monitor the ''volatile'' situation in Darjeeling and ensure smooth traffic on National Highway linking Sikkim.

West Bengal Chief Secretary Amit Kiran Deb, who attended a high level meeting with Union Home secretary Madhukar Gupta, Defence secretary Bijoy Singh, GOC 33 Corps Lt Gen Dipak Raj, said, ''We are all very much worried over the present situation in Darjeeling and its impact on neighbouring Sikkim.'' ''The situation in Darjeeling is very fluid and both Centre and State Government are very much worried,'' Mr Deb said after the high powered meeting at the circuit house here.

He said the task force would monitor the situation on minute to minute basis and ensure that the NH 31A, linking Gangtok and Siliguri, remain open.

Mr Deb added that if the situation demanded, the Army would assist the civil administration to maintain peace in the region.

Though the deployment of troops should be the last resort, but keeping in view the dynamic situation in Darjeeling and the strategic location of Sikkim, Army's help could be sought any time, Mr Deb clarified.

To a question, Mr Deb, however, said either the Development Commissioner or the District Magistrate would head the task force.

Mr Deb had underlined the need for continuous dialouge to end the current impasse.

He said a meeting between the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and the Chief Minister would be held in Kolkata on June 27.

Initially, it was slated for June 25, but the date was rescheduled on June 27 at Writers' Buildings.

Meanwhile, a report here said the GJM's four-member team, headed by its general secretary Roshan Giri, today called on Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil in New Delhi.

However, details of the meeting were not yet known.

The GJM today extended the bandh relaxation period to July five.

UNI XC-PC SJC GL RAI1839

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