Bimal – Rajnath to talk ‘other issues’

Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia with GTA chief Bimal Gurung a file photo

Ahluwalia hopes for tribal status for 11 Hill communities during House winter session

Darjeeling Member of Parliament SS Ahluwalia on Wednesday said Home Minister Rajnath Singh and leaders of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM), Bimal Gurung camp, will talk “other issues” pertaining to the Hills in an “official-level” meeting to be held in September. Mr Ahluwalia also expressed hope that the winter session of Parliament will do the needful, like amending the constitution, about granting tribal status to 11 Gorkha communities in the Hills.

Asked if the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland will be discussed in the meeting with the Home Minister, Mr Ahluwalia, who is on a two-day visit here, said there are “other issues” that can be discussed, like the tribal status for the 11 communities.

“In a meeting with the Home Minister on Tuesday, the Morcha leaders apprised him of the deceit and onesided decisions being taken in the Hills, like the names of leaders and their families being struck off the voter rolls…,” the MP, who is also the union minister of state for Electronics and Information Technology, said.

According to him, the Morcha delegation also talked about the Home Minister’s plea on 26 September last year to withdraw the protracted Hill shutdown and his offer to hold talks within a fortnight then.

“However, when the Centre asked the state government to communicate as to who would represent the state in the tripartite talks to be held then, the state refused to attend such talks and asked us not to hold the talks too,” the MP clarified.

On the demand for tribal status for the Gorkha communities, Mr Ahluwalia said that Union Tribal Minister Jual Oram has assured he would have a full report, with recommendations, from the committee studying the same in six weeks’ time.

He also slammed chief minister Mamata Banerjee for her Hill policies and said that peace cannot be restored by “picking lame horses (a veiled reference to Morcha leader Binoy Tamang and his group of leaders) breaking houses, breaking political parties and creating a divide in society.”

He further expressed concern about the alleged Rohingya Muslims settling down in Bengal, including in Kalimpong areas. “An effort to make a demographic change in the Hills is a dangerous trend, and not good for national security,” he said. On the issue of minimum wages for tea workers, Mr Ahluwalia said he is for implementing the Minimum Wages Act in tea plantations.

“The salary is rising in every sector and the prices of commodities are ever rising, but nothing is happening in the gardens,” he said, adding that he also demands Hindi or English schools for children of tea workers so that they can learn the “language of opportunity.” He further demanded retirement benefits and provident funds for workers.

Alleging that massive corruption was happening in West Bengal in the Prime Minister’s Aawas Yojana (housing scheme), he sought investigations into it. He also came down on the land mafia that is active in Bengal and which has been grabbing plots of land.

“There was action on some persons regarding this, but the mafia is still there,” he said. Asked where fugitive Morcha leader Bimal Gurung was, he said he is very much in India and “in Darjeeing and Dooars.”

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