Darjeeling, 14 Mar 2014: Pledging to bring the Sixth Schedule to the Darjeeling Hills, the CPM today revealed the party’s poll manifesto while claiming the state committee has endorsed this objective.
CPM veteran Ashok Bhattacharya was in Darjeeling together with Lok Sabha candidate Saman Pathak and other senior party leaders where he said, “We are releasing our party’s 21-point election manifesto. Our primary focus is to bring the Darjeeling hills under the Sixth Schedule to secure more power and jurisdiction. This conforms to our party’s demand for regional autonomy being advocated since the 1980s. The proposed setup will be like a state within a state.”
When reminded the Sixth Schedule demand was first raised by the Gorkha National Liberation Front and if the CPM wanted a similar setup, the former minister said, “Our demand is the Sixth Schedule we are talking about should be derived by amending Article 244 of the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, Pathak was more specific and said the CPM’s proposed Sixth Schedule would safeguard the rights of non-tribal people including their land rights.
He said, “We want the interests of the non-tribal and minority communities to be protected by amending Article 244. Issues such as protection of land rights of non-tribal and the Scheduled Caste communities and provision for a three-tier panchayat system are some of the key provisions in our proposition.”
At the same time, Bhattacharya ruled out any division of Bengal.
“We respect the sentiments of the hill people and also their aspirations,” he said. “We believe Darjeeling should be the granted the greatest degree of autonomy and only the Sixth Schedule will fulfill this without the need to divide Bengal,” the former state urban development minister said.
Commenting on the issues plaguing the hills, the CPM leader said, “The TMC is claiming the main problem here is that of law and order, but the truth is far from this. Darjeeling has a unique problem in the sense that it is different linguistically, culturally and topographically from the plains. All these can be solved with regional autonomy as such a setup will come along with constitutional guarantee.”
Some of the issues listed in the CPM manifesto include separate school and college commissions for the hills, linguistic minority status, representation in the national integration council and central planning commission and permanent settlement of the land rights of tea and cinchona plantation workers.
“We are seeking the people’s support on the basis of our agenda unlike the BJP, TMC and even the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha,” said Bhattacharya. “The three parties are playing with the sentiments of the people and misleading them and we condemn this. We don’t believe in politics based on opportunity and betrayal.”
On the GJM-TMC-BJP factor in the election, Bhattacharya said, “The GJM has been betrayed both by the BJP and the TMC in 2009 and 2011. People have lost faith in the Morcha and this will show in the election results. Unlike on previous occasions, this time votes will be divided because votes will not be cast on sentiments alone but on concrete policies.”
The CPM candidate will file his nomination paper on March 21 and then organise meetings. Politburo member Sitaram Yechury is expected to come to the hills as the star campaigner and a meeting has been scheduled on March 23 in Kurseong.
CAPTION: CPM leaders with the poll manifesto on Friday.
Text and Photo by: EOI PIKS
CPM Sixth Schedule plan
Darjeeling, March 14: The CPM has decided to campaign for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat by promising to give more teeth to the Sixth Schedule, the first draft of which was made when the party was at the helm of affairs in the state.
The CPM’s move to make the draft more powerful is being seen as a way to gain support of the GNLF to win the Darjeeling seat. The party’s hill manifesto says it will demand a powerful Sixth Schedule than what was proposed in 2005.
“We have always respected emotions of hill communities but our stand on statehood is different. We have always supported greater autonomy and we want the Sixth Schedule status to be conferred on the GTA area through an amendment to Article 244,” CPM leader Asok Bhattacharya said here today.
The party claimed its Sixth Schedule was more powerful than the draft supported by GNLF chief Subash Ghisingh.
Saman Pathak, the CPM candidate from Darjeeling, said: “Apart from home and judiciary, we want all the subjects to be transferred to the body under the Sixth Schedule. We also want the new body to have a separate governor.”
Ghisingh’s Sixth Schedule plan, perceived as a replication of the tribal administration in the Northeast, did not have any such features.
“We want the panchayat system to be revived, a separate planning commission for Sixth Schedule area with a nomination from the Sixth Schedule body to the national planning commission and the national integration commission,” said Pathak.
These provisions were not reflected in the first draft.
“We want a body with no interference from the state,” said Bhattacharya.
The Sixth Schedule Bill agreed to by the GNLF, Centre and state in 2005 could not be passed in the Lok Sabha. The bill lapsed when the Lok Sabha term ended in 2009.
Observers said the CPM’s move was aimed at gaining GNLF support. Asked about GNLF support, Bhattacharya said: “We want all political and social bodies to support us. We don’t believe in divide and rule policies.”
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