Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Darjeeling Accord


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Peace returns to hills

By Insaf

From Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in 1988 to Darjeeling Territorial Administration in 2011, indeed the salubrious hill station in West Bengal has travelled a long way. In a historic and unprecedented tripartite accord between the Centre, West Bengal Government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), Darjeeling is all set for “maximum possible autonomy”. According to the agreement, the GTA will get 59 subjects including agriculture and revenue of tea gardens, setting up super specialty hospitals, 1000 acre as special economic zone, water supply et al. Towards that end, it will get Rs.250 crores annually from the Centre. Significantly, the accord also gives the GTA powers to frame rules under State Acts to run these departments. Clearly, the ice may have been broken but the thaw will take time as both sides wait to see how peace pans out.

Notwithstanding, the tripartite agreement the GJM President Gurung continued to hoot for a separate Gorkhaland State. His demand resonated among the people who saw it as the beginning of a new face of movement for separate Statehood. Importantly, he underscored that the contentious Dooars and Terai regions would also be included in the GTA despite Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee assertion that “Bengal will not be divided”. Countered Gurang, the new boundary demarcation would soon begin in the Dooars and Terai, where the GJM had demanded a total of 196 and 199 mouzas respectively. Predictably, the GTA has added to the Centre’s troubles as other than Telangana demands for a new State have risen in UP for Harit Pradesh, Bundelkhand and Poorvanchal. Has the State and the Centre bitten of more than they can chew?

CBI Probe In UP

Bad news seems to be following UP Chief Minister Mayawati these days. On the heels of the Supreme Court striking down land acquisitions in Greater Noida following farmers’ unrest, the CBI is now all set to probe the murders of two Chief Medical Officers in a span of six months. As also, the financial irregularities in the Lucknow CMOs office. Adding to her discomfiture are reports of blatant misuse of the National Rural Health Mission Funds (NRHM) to the tune of over Rs.3000 crores. Among the findings of the Central team that reviewed the NRHM in the State it found 779 ambulance costing over Rs.55 crores languishing unused for over six months. All eyes are on how Mayawati wriggles out of this unseemly controversy.

Nagaland Extortion Racket

Extortion is slowly but surely proving to be Nagaland’s nemesis. The traders in the North-eastern State fed up the ‘tax menace’ from different underground groups downed their shutters last week and warned Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio’s Government to ensure that tax collection stops forthwith. At a hurriedly convened emergency meeting the State Government decided to strengthen the district police and intelligence operations to arrest the extortion racket. The Government has also advised the trading community to report all extortion notes to the police. Recall, extortion has become a way of life in Nagaland for decades where politicians, businessmen, shopkeepers etc have to pay huge sums as tax to at least six different underground groups. It is no secret that even the Governor is not spared and is sent extortion notes to ensure his own safety. Over the years, some organizations even have an annual tax structure. Those who refuse to pay tax are then abducted and families held to ransom. Time for the State to wake up and say no to the tax menace.

Freebies In Bihar

‘Clean’ Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is in the eye of the storm following reports of allotment by the Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA) to the kith and kin of at least two ministers and sons of MPs and daughters of MLCs and IAS officers. Most scandalously, instead of following the land allotment process through open tenders the Chief Minister ‘gifted away’ the land to appease VVIPs and VIPS. The modus operandi adopted was simple: The BIADA gave land on a 99-year lease after the State Investment Promotion Board approved a detail project report of the interested company. Significantly, of the 400 allottees of the BIADA land, a majority are those with the right political connections. With the Opposition stalling the State Assembly, Nitish Kumar has asked the Chief Secretary to submit a report on the allotment and the criteria adopted. Clearly another instance that favouritism entails heavy cost!

Jharkhand Warns Bureaucrats

Taking a leaf from neighbour Bihar, the Jharkhand Government is all set with a new law Jharkhand Rajya Seva Dene Ki Guarantee Vidheyak-2011 (Right to Service Bill) which proposes penalty of Rs 500 to 5,000 against Government officials who fail to deliver services to the common man. Importantly, the penalties would be deducted from the bureaucrats salary for inaction. That the Chief Minister means business is clear as the services falling under the Draft Bill are to be notified soon. Clearly, the State’s aam aadmi can now look forward to happy days: Police verification reports for passports, arms or character certificates will take only seven days, a driving licence 30 days and an international driving licence seven days, a residence proof certificate in 15 days and a caste certificate within 30 days and social pension applications within 21 days etc. Sounds too good to be true.

Karnataka For Gita

Karnataka seems to be in the thick of controversies. The latest is a furor over teaching the Bhagwat Gita in primary and higher secondary schools in the State. Launched with much fan fare in January this year in the Kolar district, the scheme already covers all schools in 26 districts. Predictably, several minority groups including the State Minority Educational Institutions Management and NGOs’ have raised the ante against this measure and plan to move court. The Students Federation of India too is opposing it on the ground that teaching of one religious group cannot be allowed in a secular country. Complicating matters is the State Education Minister’s statement that “those who have no respect for the Gita must leave the country”. True, the Gita is also taught in another BJP-ruled State Madhya Pradesh but it is not compulsory there. All eyes are now on the State Administration of how it resolves this logjam. —INFA

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