Writes: Vivek Chhetri
Vishu Maini at Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan in Darjeeling on Friday. Picture by Mohan Lama
Darjeeling, Nov. 11: The chairperson of a central committee to look into the demand of ST status to 11 hill communities today said the panel would submit its report in Delhi by the second week of December.
The statement by Vishu Maini, the head of the committee, could have sounded like music to the ears of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha ahead of elections to the GTA, panchayats and municipalities next year.
The cry for the ST status for the 11 communities is next only to the statehood demand in terms of mass appeal in the hills. The Morcha has been vigorously and consistently pursuing the ST demand and the statement by Maini comes at a time Trinamul is spreading its organisational network in the hills.
Today, the GTA organised a programme at Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan to showcase the “tribal character” of the hill population before Maini and other members of the panel. The unique identity of each of the 11 communities was presented in terms of attire, food, art and various other things.
The other members of the panel are B. Sasmal, director, ministry of tribal affairs, Kakoli Chakraborty, the deputy director, and Rabindra Das, a research assistant at the Anthropological Survey of India. The panel members will also visit places such as Sitong, Latpanchar and Selphu in Kurseong subdivision tomorrow to get first-hand information on the communities.
Speaking on the sidelines of the GTA programme today, Maini said: “We have collected a lot of information. The field visit is of much importance, to come to the site and see things. We have come across a lot of materials and need to study them now. We will submit the report by mid-December.”
She didn’t make any promise. Nor did she give any hint at what the report would contain.
“The announcement augurs well for our party,” said a senior Morcha leader who was present at the event.
Ahead of the polls, Mamata Banerjee has been trying her best to woo the hill population with a slew of measures, including the formation of development boards for different communities.
The chief minister has already announced 14 development boards. The benefits that come along with the ST tag are more than those of the development boards.
At the moment, tribal people constitute over 30 per cent of the 8.75 lakh hill population. If the ST tag is given to the 11 communities, the rate will be over 90 per cent.
Representatives of all the 11 communities – Bhujel, Gurung, Mangar, Newar, Jogi, Khas, Rai, Sunuwar, Thami, Yakka (Dewan) and Dhimal – met the committee members today. the hills , whose support base has dwindled over the past couple of years – the Morcha’s victory margin in the victory margin, made it clear that “political pressure” was important to get the demand through.
Even though Gurung sounded hopeful that the bill would be placed during the winter session of Parliament, Morcha leaders said that the fact that the committee was working and that it would submit its report by December would come as a major boost. The winter session starts from November 26 to December 23. A Morcha leader said even if the bill was not placed during the winter session, the submission of a report would be a win-win situation for the party.
[Via: The Telegraph]
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