The Gorkha people take pride in themselves for being who they are. There are many qualities which may make many people think why is this group of people so different, happy, friendly and cheerful. However, there are many things that needs to be incorporated in their lifestyle to make it a more meaningful life. One thing that has being missing in the life style is preparedness and seriousness. The Gorkhaland agitation is an example of how ill prepared we are in going about anything.
Some people had filed a public interest litigation against the dictates of West Bengal Government for not holding the panchayat election in the region of Darjeeling. The Honourable High Court of West Bengal delivered a verdict in favour of petitioners. But the petitioners in their glory forgot that the verdict and order of the High Court was devoid of any direction to the kind of panchayati raj system that would be in place. The district of Darjeeling was outside the purview of the 3-tier panchayati raj system and with the formation of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, it was envisaged that the DGHC would act like the third tier, the Zilla Parishad. Therefore the need to make amendments to implement the three tier panchayati raj system in District Darjeeling was not considered to be essential. Now that the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council has been repealed via the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Act, 2011, the structure of the panchayati raj in Darjeeling warrants a revisit and new negotiation put in place for conducting three tier panchayati raj in Darjeeling, which has by far many more administrative and financial power than the two tier, which the West Bengal Government is hurriedly trying to implement in the district, further depriving the people of self governance.
It also points to the fact that the West Bengal Government has been insincere towards the people of the hills. They are trying to hoodwink the people and the politicians, preciously because they do things without preparation. If the people were to do things in full preparedness then the Public Interest Litigation would had been crystal clear in the three tier panchayati raj rather than letting the Government interpret the verdict and order of the court. The Gorkhaland Territorial Administrative Act, 2011, Article 34. (1) clearly says
‘Notwithstanding the provisions of West Bengal Panchayat Act, 1973 or the West Bengal Municipal Act, 1993, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration shall exercise general powers of supervision over Zilla Parishad, Panchayat Samities, Gram Panchayats and municipalities in the region constituted in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of India, and it shall be duty of every such Zilla Parishad, Panchayat Samiti, Gram Panchayat or municiipality to give effect to any direction of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration on matters of policy or planning for development.’ (emphasis mine).
This provision makes it clear that the agreement is for three tier panchayati raj system in Darjeeling. The Government in trying to hastily conduct the election of two tier panchayat in Darjeeling hills, which reflects that the West Bengal Government do not want to confer upon us the fulfledged independence for self governance. This provision further grants GTA the general powers to supervising these institutions of self governance. As a consequence, GTA is much larger than the DGHC which many people have failed to understand. Some vested interests have now and again tired to demean the significance of GTA. Therefore people should think twice in the light of these things facts, about the TMC’s presence in the hills and supporting them in the coming elections, both the municipality and the GTA.
The GNLF through their spokeperson Mr. Neeraj Zimba has made a statement saying “3-teir panchayat elections under GTA is impossible… even if Gods descent they don’t be able to make that happen… only 2-teir panchayat polls is possible, and when that is held, the path to reestablishing DGHC will be made clear.” Reflecting what Mr. Zimba has said in the light of the above argument makes it clear that GNLF is shallow and hollow and is only trying to please TMC and nothing more.
On the other hand Dr. Chettri says that 3-tier panchayati raj is possible in Kalimpong District, which also reflects under preparedness in understanding the issue at hand. I am not denying his intelligence. But he needs to understand that the provision has been made only for Darjeeling District and not for any other districts. If he lets go the 3-tier panchayat system then the people will lose a lot. As for the creation of Kalimpong district, it should be created as soon as possible, but it should not undermine the significance of GTA. Kalimpong is now part of the GTA jurisdiction. It is the duty of the Government to consult GTA when it wants to take away a part of it. The by passing of GTA in deciding the formation of Kalimpong district is a clear sign of un-statesmanship and flouts the norms of propriety and undermines the authority of GTA. This undermining of GTA in turn reflects the dismissive attitude of the West Bengal Government not just towards the elected representatives of Gorkhas but the people as a whole. We have to make the West Bengal Government conduct 3-tier election in Darjeeling and also pass the Kalimpong District formation notification via the GTA. If we can do this, it will be a major victory, moral, intellectual and political, of the Gorkha people over the Government of West Bengal. Therefore, it is imperative on our part to fight these injustices through the legal institutions of the country and file petitions against these two dictatorial process.
Binu Sundas (Ph.D, JNU)
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