Kolkata: The West Bengal government today announced the formation of Board of Administrators in place of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) for Darjeeling hills and appointed rebel GJM leader Binay Tamang as its chairman.
The move can be construed as a major blow to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung who has been spearheading the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state for over three months.
"Today, we have taken an important decision to form a nine-member board of administrators. The BoA will enjoy the same power as that was enjoyed by the members of the GTA and look into the development works supervised by them," Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters at the secretariat.
Instead of the chief executive of the GTA, the BoA would have one chairman, vice chairman and other members, she added.
Rebel GJM members Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa were made the chairman and vice chairman of the board respectively, while the six other members were Man Ghisingh of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), L B Rai (Mirik), Amar Singh Rai (Darjeeling, GJM MLA), Anu Chhetri, Jaitun Khatun and Sanchabir Subba, besides the GTA principal secretary, Ms Banerjee said.
The state government had appointed one IAS as per the GTA Act after members of the GTA had resigned en masse following the agitation in the Hills in demand of a separate Gorkhaland, the chief minister said adding "the notification for the same will be issued by her government today itself".
"After all members of the GTA had resigned, we as per the GTA Act had appointed IAS Barun Roy as an administrator to run it. He has run the GTA administration for six months. If they had not resigned then they could have run the GTA administration for another year but they had dissolved the elected body so we had appointed an administrator," she said.
"Today, we have decided to form a BoA...and they are from the Hill areas, because it was becoming very difficult for one administrator to manage the GTA. Also with more number of people there, responsibilities will be carried out in a better manner," she said.
Asked about the tenure of the BoA, Ms Banerjee said it would continue work until the "situation in the Hill areas improves to hold elections for the GTA".
"The BoA has been formed because the situation is not conducive to hold elections to the GTA. It will function till the elections for the GTA are held as soon as the situation in the Hills improves. We want the elections to the GTA is held as quickly as possibly," Ms Banerjee said.
The move, the chief minister hoped, will be welcomed by the people of the Hills though "a few may not like it personally".
"I think this will definitely be a good news for the people of the Hills. A few people personally may not like it but we had never asked anybody to resign from the GTA ever," she stated.
Soon after the announcement, GJM remonstrated against Mr Tamang and Mr Thapa's inclusion in the administrative panel as they had been expelled by their own party.
"Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa have been expelled from the party. The proposal to form a board of administrators was not discussed in our party. We are not in its favour.
"We had unanimously rejected the idea of the GTA, so what is the use of administrators? We feel the solution to the crisis in the hills lies in tripartite talks on the issue of Gorkhaland," GJM vice president Kalyan Dewan said in Darjeeling.
Though the situation in Darjeeling hills remained tense, no violence was reported from anywhere today, the 98th day of the shutdown called by a conglomeration of pro-Gorkhaland parties led by the GJM.