Writes: Vivek Chhetri
Kurseong yesterday got its first hill cultural board backed by the state government in a move indicative of Trinamul’s aspiration to spread its wings wider in the region.
Hill cultural develop-ment boards are the vehicle using which Trinamul has made some inroads in Darjeeling, much to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s annoyance.
Nine of the 12 development boards for various hill communities that were notified by the state government are headquartered in Kalimpong. Boards for the Sherpa and the Bhutia communities are headquartered in Darjeeling.
Yesterday, Sunil Pradhan, who was yesterday made the chairperson of West Bengal Newar Development Board under the backward classes welfare department, said the board would be headquartered in Kurseong.
“We have been told that the board will be headquartered in Kurseong. We are 200 percent sure of the board functioning from Kurseong. This is the first time that a development board will be functioning from Kurseong,” Sunil said.
Sunil said that the demand for a Newar board was raised in 2015 and community members had submitted 18 memorandums and met Mamata 42 times with their demand.
Dipak Pradhan has been made the vice-chairperson of the board.
The board will have Shekar Chandra Pradhan, Prem Kumar Pradhan, Gita Pradhan and Nita Pradhan as executive members in a 24-member general body.
Sunil, who was the president of the Kurseong based Newar (Pradhan) Kalyan Sangathan, has handed over the baton to Shekar following his appointment as the chairperson of the board.
He said the total population of the Newar community in the three hill subdivisions was around 55,000.
“The membership of our Sangathan is growing and we have 7,200 registered members as of now,” Sunil added.
A political observer said: “The boards are mostly headquartered in Kalimpong and this gave a feeling that all the boards were predominately being administered from there. However, the government seems to be forming boards in other places such as Kurseong.
“The official stand of the government is that the largest organisation of a particular community would be involved in running the board and that particular organisation could be headquarted in any of the three subdivision of the hills.”
Kalimpong is set to be declared a new district soon.
Shekar admitted that he is a Trinamul functionary. “I was the president of the TMC Kurseong block and now I have been made the general secretary of the party’s trade union. We admit we are with the TMC,” he said.
Asked about the Morcha’s allegation of a divide-and-rule policy of the state government, Shekar said: “We do not believe in the allegation.”
The development board members did not give a direct answer when asked if various communities were propelled to demand boards for themselves because they felt the GTA had been a failure. “When everyone is demanding and getting a board, it would have been foolish not to demand a Newar board for the uplift of our community,” Shekar said.
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