West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee attempted to reconcile the Hill impasse by agreeing to certain demands and keeping the issue of development to the fore.
After holding a round of bipartite talks with Hill political outfits in the plains of the Darjeeling district on Tuesday, Banerjee plans to hold the next round of bipartite talks in the Hills.
Mamata Banerjee who had had to leave the Hills on June 9 faced with protests and an agitation has been invited to the Hills to inaugurate car parking facilities and a tourist festival in December.
Agreeing to earlier demands by the agitators the State Government has decided to pay compensation to the families of the persons who died in the recent Gorkhaland agitation. "We will pay Rs. 1 lakh to the next of kin of the persons who died in the agitation but are not implicated in any criminal case. Gorkhaland Territorial Administration will also give a job in the Group D category to a next of kin of the deceased after getting a go-ahead from the State Government. The persons critically injured during the agitation will be given Rs. 50,000/- each" declared Banerjee.
Regarding arrears to the Government employees who failed to attend office during the 104-day-long bandh, the CM stated "The Government employees will receive two months of salary under the provision of medical leave. As for the teachers, they will be given salary for three months provided they work on holidays and complete syllabus. The students should not suffer" stated the Chief Minister.
She stated that even the tea garden workers had received an annual bonus."The government will take necessary action against gardens that fail to hand out bonus" claimed Banerjee.
Giving stress to tourism and employment generation, the Chief Minister stated "There will be a tourism festival held in the last week of December. We will also hold an Industries meet at the same time so that industries come into the Hills and there is employment generation" added the CM.
The CM has asked the GTA to draw up an action plan. "We will implement the action plan jointly with the GTA" stated Banerjee. Mamata Banerjee then announced forthcoming development activities in the Hills. Political commentators opine that with Mirik having given the Trinamool Congress their maiden taste of victory in the Hills during the civic elections, Banerjee too did not fail to reward Mirik.
"We will renovate and upgrade the existing Mirik Tourism Centre. Along with this a 100 bedded hospital and a bus stand will come up in Mirik soon" stated the CM.
The Pintail Village located in the foothills near Siliguri is all set to get a facelift. "We will build facilities for tourist accommodations. There is a demand for two more colleges, one at Tukdah and the other at Tindharia. "We will approach private enterprises if they are interested in setting up and running the colleges" stated Mamata Banerjee.
Banerjee thanked all hill political parties for the restoration of peace and normalcy in the Hills. "We will not compromise with development. Our Government will work taking the Hill and Plains together" added the Chief Minister.
Binay Tamang, Chairman, Board of Administrators, GTA, reciprocated by saying " We want to revive the international brand "Darjeeling." We sincerely hope that Darjeeling develops; Tourism thrives and there is employment generation. We will hold an International Tourism Festival in December. We have already invited the CM to inaugurate. At the same time, we will have an Industries' meet which will help generate employment along with bringing about an economic boost to this region."
Regarding tripartite talks (which has been a long-standing demand in the Hills,) Tamang stated "We have heard that the Union Government has asked the State Government to call tripartite talks. The ball is now in the State Government's court. They will have to decide."
Tuesday's bipartite talk was attended by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Gorkha National Liberation Front; All India Gorkha League, Trinamool Congress. The Jan Andolan party, however, was not present.